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November 29, 2010

The Latest Wikileaks Release and What We Should Do About It

The emotional reaction to all of the "document dumps" by Wikileaks is to send a group of specially trained people over there to kill Julian Assange and his cohorts. Or hire someone or some group of whatever reputation. Maybe we should just tell Sweden, where I think he he is now, to hand him over, shoot him themselves, or we'll make life in their pipsqueak country miserable.

Julian Assange

But of course we can't do that. Assange has a special spot in hell reserved for him anyway, though I can't figure out exactly where that will be. Dante famously divided hell into nine circles, some of which are divided further.

The ninth circle, the lowest before getting to Satan himself, would seem appropriate, as this is for those who have committed acts of treachery. Dante seemed to have in mind personal acts of one person to another, so I don't know if that's quite right.

But it does satisfy to think of Assange trapped in the ice for all eternity.

Dante's 9th Circle of Hell

Perhaps better is the 6th Bolgia of the 8th circle. The 8th circle is reserved for "the fraudulent--those guilty of deliberate, knowing evil."

The 6th Bolgia of the 8th circle is for the hypocrites, who walk along listlessly "wearing gilded lead cloaks, which represent the falsity behind the surface appearance of their actions - falsity that weighs them down and makes spiritual progress impossible for them."

Assange is a hypocrite because he would not want his private correspondence made public, nor that of anyone at Wikileaks. After all, as Victor Davis Hanson points out, would we not need to see the internal communications of the board of directors at Wikileaks in order to assess the "context" in which they released the documents? "Context" is one reason they give for releasing our secret documents.


OK, Let's Get Serious

The Obama Administration is suitably alarmed:

Moving full bore to contain the damage from the latest WikiLeaks document dump, the Obama White House on Monday ordered a top-down review on safeguarding classified data while Attorney General Eric Holder announced a criminal investigation into the website and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved to soothe ruffled feathers abroad.

Describing it as no laughing matter, Clinton suggested any hurt feelings or embarrassment from the release may blow over. Saying "nothing laudable" came from WikiLeaks' action, she recalled that one counterpart told her, "Well don't worry about it. You should see what we say about you."

"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community -- the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity," Clinton said.

Well no, it's an attack on the United States, but never mind. We expect our public officials to say these types of things because it's what the wine, cheese and PBS crowd want to hear. And if that's what it takes to move us to action then so be it.

More seriously, the Administration knows how much harder diplomacy is going to be going forward.

The Media, or at least the New York Times

Long gone, apparently, are the days when liberals snickered when the New York Times revealed something classified about what the Bush Administration was doing. Hey, that's our guy in the White House now! You can't do this to him!

But of course the liberal press, or at least the Times, is in fact undermining the Obama Administration by publishing the purloined documents. This is a matter of high principle, you see. Undermining the government of the United States is always a matter of principle of the highest degree.

We know this because when the Times refused to publish the Climagegate emails the excuse was that "The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won't be posted here."

So what is the excuse then, for publishing the illegally acquired Wikileaks documents? The Times explains that they "serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."

Huh? So publishing illegally obtained documents is ok in one instance but not in another, because only in the latter the served "an important public interest?" Anything that might make the global-warming crowd look bad is apparently not an important public interest, but embarrassing the United States is.

Got it.

Max Boot adds this important observation

One can understand if the editors of the New York Times, Guardian, and Der Spiegel have no respect for the secrecy needed to wage war successfully -- especially unpopular wars like those in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are, after all, the sorts of people who, over a few drinks, would no doubt tell you that diplomacy is far preferable to war-making. But it seems that they have no respect for the secrecy that must accompany successful diplomacy either. That, at least, is the only conclusion I can draw from their decision to once again collaborate with an accused rapist to publicize a giant batch of stolen State Department cables gathered by his disreputable organization, WikiLeaks.

So What Should We Do?

Bill Krystol has some of the best advice for what to say - nothing:

From now on, a policy of no comment about anything in any of these documents should be the absolute rule. No apologies, no complaints, no explanations, no excuses. No present or former government official should deign to discuss anything in these documents. No one in the executive branch should confirm or deny the accuracy of any document. No one should hasten to reassure any foreign leader of anything, or seek to put any cable in context. No one in Congress should cite anything in these documents to make a point about any issue. The entire American government and political class should simply go about its important foreign policy business, and treat these leaks as beneath contempt, and beneath comment.

Krystol goes on to recommend "criminal prosecution or covert action or cyber-warfare against WikiLeaks." But as for a public position, I'd say he's just on target.

James Carafano has two good and in my mind common-sense suggestions:

First, it can embrace a foreign policy that our adversaries fear and our friends respect. Nobody gets more cooperation than a winner. For starters, the president should dump the New START treaty -- its one-sidedness makes the U.S. look like a lousy negotiator in the eyes of the world... and a patsy in the eyes of the Russians. He should also reject out of hand calls to gut the defense budget and just flat out declare that America will stick it out in Iraq and Afghanistan until the job is done. And while he's at it, he could stand up to China and stop extending the hand of friendship to regimes interested in a world without freedom or America.

Second, the administration can hunt down any American connected with these leaks, try them for treason, and seek the death penalty. They deserve nothing less. Ordered liberty rejects the notion that any one citizen can jeopardize lives and give away America's secrets -- just because they feel like it.

Good ideas all and let's pursue them.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 27, 2010

What to do About the North Korean Artillery Attack

Why did the North Koreans shell Yeonpyeong Island? For a variety of reasons, most likely. As I said on Tuesday,, maybe it was the young Kim Jong-un, heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, exercising his power. Maybe it was Kim Jong-il who gave the order to show that he was still in control. Or maybe Kim Jong-il just got ronery, started feeling sorry for himself, and decided to teach the world a lesson.

Another reason is that they have learned that extortion pays. Every time they make noise we come running to the negotiating table, and whatever we may say, they see this alone as a reward. They want attention, and when we give it to them it makes them happy. They also want our food aid, and are willing to pretend like they will negotiate away their nuclear program, knowing they can string us along for a bit. Sadly, both Republican and Democrat administrations have fallen victim to this racket.

Let's review what happened, the risks and consequences of war, what President Obama is doing right, and what he is doing wrong.

What Happened

On Tuesday November 23 2010 North Korean forces fired some 170 artillery shells at Yeonpyong Island. The South Korean military had previously staged exercises on the Island. The stated justification for the shelling by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or North Korea) was retaliation for claimed firing of artillery rounds by ROK (Republic of Korea, or South Korea) forces into North Korean waters. The DPRK rounds did much property damage, knocked out electrical power on the island, and killed 4 people and wounded 19. In retaliation, ROK forces fired some 80 artillery rounds at DPRK targets, but the extend of damage they caused, if any, is unknown.

Map of Yeonpyeong Area

Yeonpyeong Island

The Shelling of Yeonpyeong

Yeonpyeong, Shelling of

As one might imagine, the South Korean government went ballistic, strongly condemning the attack, as did the United States. The North, for it's part, issued the usual statements about a "reckless military provocation" by the South for the military exercises it held days before the DPRK shelling.

Most countries around the world also condemned the DPRK shelling. China, on the other hand, simply urged both sides "to do things conducive to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula," and not specifically mention or condemn the North Korean shelling.

The Risks and Consequences of War

As could be seen from the map above, the South Korean capital city of Seoul is almost on the border with North Korea. The city and it's northern suburbs are within artillery range of Northern forces. Global Security explains what this means:

North Korea has about 500 long-range artillery tubes within range of Seoul, double the levels of a the mid-1990s. Seoul is within range of the 170mm Koksan gun and two hundred 240mm multiple-rocket launchers. The proximity of these long-range systems to the Demilitarized Zone threatens all of Seoul with devastating attacks. Most of the rest of North Korea's artillery pieces are old and have limited range. North Korea fields an artillery force of over 12,000 self-propelled and towed weapon systems. Without moving any artillery pieces, the North could sustain up to 500,000 rounds an hour against Combined Forces Command defenses for several hours.

More, "Approximately forty percent of the South Korean population resides within 40 miles of Seoul."

World War I artillery is just as devastating as the most modern pieces (well, almost) if you're just firing randomly into built-up modern civilian cities and suburbs. The destruction and loss of life would be tremendous.

To be sure, if the North Koreans unleash their artillery we and our South Korean allies will stop at nothing to do to Pyongyang what we did to Baghdad in 2003. The more sane North Korean generals must know that such an attack would mean the end of their world.

The United States Reaction - What Obama is Doing Right

On the good side, President Obama immediately condemned the attack, with the White House demanding that the DPRK "halt its belligerent action". It also immediately dispatched the USS George Washington and it's associated battle group to previously scheduled exercises with the South.

The USS George Washington is Navy's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier. Her home port is Yokosuka Naval Base-Yokosuka, Japan. It would be the "tip of the spear" in any confrontation with China or North Korea.

USS George Washington CVN-73


Most importantly, the carrier is being deployed to the Yellow Sea. Sailing directly into the Yellow Sea was apparently not part of the previously scheduled exercises.

This is very important for several reasons. Last August the Administration canceled planned exercises with the ROK navy in the Yellow Sea, after both North Korea and China objected. The Administration claimed that the change of venue to waters east of South Korea was not due to their objection. Readers may make of this what they will, but I criticized the Administration for their action at the time.

The exercises will begin this Sunday and will continue for four days, ending Wednesday December 1.

Yellow Sea

Essentially, China likes to call the Yellow Sea it's "front yard," and therefore gets touchy about a capital ship so close to it. The United States believes that 1) it is essential to maintain freedom of of the seas, which means the ability to sail at any time in international waters, and 2) we are the primary force for good in the world and therefore we need to use freedom of the seas and our Navy to keep bad actors in check.

Richard Fernandez, writing at his Belmont Club blog at Pajamas Media, has the background and implications of deploying a carrier to the restricted waters of the Yellow Sea.

Essentially, Fernandez points out that one of the biggest dangers to our ships are Chinese and North Korean diesel-electric submarines. While these subs don't have to speed or range to chase military ships on the high seas, they can sit silently in constricted waters, and like a mine strike when a target gets within range. The "sit and wait" strategy doesn't work on the high seas unless you have an awful lot of submarines (hoping an enemy would stumble across one by accident).

So on the one hand it is dangerous for us to send our carriers and other surface ships into the Yellow Sea, but on the other it's the only way for us to gain valuable intelligence about PLAN (People's Liberation Army-Navy; or the Chinese Navy) and DPRK submarines. There's been a lot of speculation about each side's capability, and there are conflicting reports about the results of exercises which have pitted our carriers against South Korean and Japanese diesel-electric subs.

When the George Washington Battle Group does enter the Yellow Sea, the goal of all sides will be to gather more information about the other sides capabilities than they give up about their own. Who is the cat and who is the mouse?

An Aircraft Carrier and a typical battle group


The United States Reaction - What Obama is Doing Wrong

President Obama's foreign policy has been marked by weakness. His "apology tour" was aq disgrace. His complaining about the Arizona law to the Chinese wrong-headed. The Cairo speech an exercise in naivete. His obvious hatred of Israel, contemptuous treatment of Netanyahu during the latter's visit to the White House, and general pandering to Palestinians/Islam/Muslims shameful. Stopping production of the F-22 Raptor dangerous to our security. His assumption that anti-Americanism is because of George W. Bush and his supposed "unilateralism" was the cause of hour problems naive in the extreme. He listened to a 50 minute diatribe by the Nicaraguan communist Daniel Ortega, who insulted the United States time and again and responded by saying... nothing.

As for his Afghanistan policy, McChrystal requested 40,000 additional troops and Obama only gave him 30,000. Obama also proclaimed a withdrawal date, which was a mistake because it signaled to Afghans and enemy alike that our hearts weren't in the fight. Why do we think Karzai is making nice with the Taliban? The man is simply hedging his bets.

More, it has recently been revealed that the North Koreans have a "modern, clean centrifuge plant" for uranium enrichment to complement their known plutonium cycle program. This is doubly dangerous for it allows them to make more weapons of a greater variety. Further, that they have been doing this in the midst of negotiations and receiving aid shows again how useless our approach with them over the past 15 or so years has been.

History shows that weakness brings on aggression. Witness the last two years of the Carter Administration when we were challenged around the world, mostly without answer. The Iranian revolutionaries took our embassy personnel hostage without consequence. The Soviets felt safe invading Afghanistan, and spread their influence throughout Africa. Various communist insurgencies sprang up in Central America, achieving their aim in Nicaragua.

Seeing these actions by Obama and knowing their history, the North Koreans are testing us. Will we respond strongly or weakly? Will we crawl on our knees to China, begging them to use their influence, or will we deal with the situation ourselves?

Rather, here is what we should do:

First and foremost our openly stated goal and objective must become regime change. This strategy is not without risks, but I believe it has less risks than our current approach, and it is the only approach that will resolve the situation. It was one thing to practice "containment" before North Korea got nuclear weapons, now that they have them the situation is intolerable. What they have now is probably a small and barely deliverable nuclear arsenal; in time that will change to more capable weaponry.

Second, Obama must stop negotiating with North Korea. Contrary to what some people say, the North Koreans do see the simple fact of negotiations as a reward. The six-party talks (North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan) have gone nowhere.

Third, Obama must end his naive pursuit of "a world without nuclear weapons." It was silly enough when Reagan said it, but at least he seemed to know it could not be achieved until we got rid of the bad actors of the world; Obama seems to want to do it despite them.

Fourth is to crank up the psychological warfare, and fifth is to scare them militarly, both courtesy of John Noonan, writing at The Weekly Standard:

The North Korean regime is shaky and concerned about the upcoming transition of power. President Obama should attack those fears directly. America must foster the idea that we can hurt Kim Jong-Il at will, both internally and externally. Messaging into a regime that goes completely dark at night due to lack of power is difficult, but it's not impossible. We have psychological warfare tools at our disposal. They should be used aggressively. Jam his communications, interfere with radio broadcasts, seize cargo shipments -- do anything and everything available to make life for the Hermit Kingdom's power brokers miserable.

Most importantly, remind Kim Jong Il that we have the means to bypass his massive military infrastructure. A flight of stealthy F-22s, likely to breeze past the antiquated North Korean air defense network, would send a very strong message flying over Pyongyang at noon. The jets wouldn't have to drop anything, just serve as a gentle, non-kinetic reminder that next time we buzz Jong-Il's house, we might be packing iron. Sometimes a scalpel can send just as strong of a message as a broad sword.

Of course the second idea is risky, but enough actions along those lines might also lead to regime collapse. And as I said earlier, I think the current policy is quite risky enough.

Other ideas developed by Christian Whiton, writing at Fox News that are worth pursuing:

1. Dramatically increasing defector-led radio broadcasting from outside North Korea. The truth is Kim Jong Il's greatest foe, and dissent movements thrive on factual information that undermine the dictators' propaganda. Defector broadcasts exist but need real resources.

2. Halt all foreign aid and other funds flows to North Korea, which the regime uses to survive. We should also deny any financial organization or central bank that deals with North Korea the ability to clear transactions in U.S. dollars--essentially a death penalty for banks that would end the regime's ability to move funds and reward those who keep it in power.

3. Stop trade and seaborne proliferation. China has demonstrated it will not cooperate with us or comply with U.N. resolutions that restrict trade or call for inspections of goods going to North Korea. However, ships going to or from North Korea can be impounded.

4. Wage economic warfare. The North Korean government is the first regime since the Third Reich to counterfeit U.S. currency. We should return the favor by dumping bales of North Korea currency just off Korean and Chinese shores. The resulting economic tailspin would penalize the North Korean elite most.

5. Allied militaries should broadcast a clear message to North Korea's military seeking to separate it from the Kim family. The USS Pueblo, which North Korea hijacked in 1968 and currently holds captive, should be sunk. We have every right to do this to our own property, and every military officer in North Korea would perceive the regime is running out of lives.

Pick whichever of the above you like; all or a few will do for me. Talking has proven to be useless. Surely we must tread carefully, because a war would cause tremendous loss of life. But our current course is fraught with danger too, for as time goes the North builds more and more nuclear weapons and missiles to mount them on, ensuring that future wars would be even more destructive. We must end this regime; we can and we must.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 26, 2010

The Government Minority-Preference Contracting Scam

Some years ago I worked for a privately-held company that got most of its business through contracts with the federal government. Almost from the beginning of my employment there, they made a big deal out of being both women and "Native American" owned. It took me awhile to figure it out, but eventually I realized that the owners were a husband and wife, and that it was the wife that had the American Indian er, "Native American" in her blood. She was president and he was Vice President, or something like that.

I was not privy to the decision making process at the top levels, but the arrangement made me wonder, especially since by that point in my life I had figured out that minority-owned businesses got preferential treatment in government contracts, at least at the federal level.

I mentioned this to a relative of mine who had experience in this sort of thing, and he said "oh yeah, a lot of my friends who do a lot of government contracting put their companies in their wife's name." They stay at home and take care of the kids, but it helps get them more government business.

To be sure, I have no way of verifying whether any of the assumptions above are true. But they do certainly ring true.

I thought of these things when I saw Heather MacDonald's post today over at National Review's The Corner blog:

The Set-Aside Boondoggle
by Heather MacDonald
November 26, 2010 9:00 A.M.
Here's a fat target for any member of the new Congress who wants to make his mark rooting out government waste, fraud, and abuse: minority set-asides. Two major construction companies are under federal investigation for using minority front companies in New York subway and water treatment-projects. Skanska USA and Schiavone Construction Company hired government-designated "struggling" minority sub-contractors that merely wrote checks to other subcontractors hired on their professional credentials; those qualified subcontractors actually did the work. Big surprise. Minority quota programs virtually force companies into deception, since there are not enough competent minority-owned companies to fill the quotas. And when "disadvantaged" companies do actually participate on a project, rather than just acting as fronts, their suboptimal skills can require the hiring of additional workers to oversee or redo the quota employees' contribution. New York City has long been afflicted with extortion outfits that show up at construction sites demanding payoff money to not sue for an affirmative-action violation.

Government set-aside programs actually require ineffiency in infrastructure projects by demanding that the least competitive contractors be hired to work on them. Success in a contracting business disqualifies a contractor from being designated as a "minority business enterprise." Only contractors with a net worth below $750,000 and a relatively low annual income may participate.

But the bureaucracy required to oversee these programs is reason enough to cut them out, even if they did not guarantee waste in the actual operation of a project. Federal, state, and local governments all have employees on their payroll whose only job is to certify "disadvantaged" companies for quota reception and to oversee the quota programs. And the costs to contractors of complying with the set-aside paperwork and mandates inflate the price tag of government projects.

Bias is not preventing minorities and women from entering the contracting field and prospering within it. Banks are under mandate to loan to minorities and women. To be sure, family connections undoubtedly create a barrier to outsiders in some sub-specialties. But the real problem underlying minority underrepresentation in the construction business is inadequate skills. Running a contracting business requires reading, math, and management capacity. Black males lag far behind whites on at least the first two requirements. In eighth grade, only 8 percent of black males living in large cities performed at or above the proficient level in reading, compared with 33 percent of white males nationwide, according to a report published in October by the Council of Great City Schools. Eighth-grade math scores are similarly skewed. Black males' SAT reading scores are over 100 points lower than white males'. With such disparities, every profession with any cognitive content is going to have fewer black participants than whites.

As for women, their continuing appetite for quotas is nauseating. Females outnumber males in the nation's colleges; every graduate program in the country recruits them as assiduously as they do blacks. They can write their ticket anywhere. If they are not proportionally represented in the building trades, it's because they are going to law and medical school instead.

Construction quotas are just one layer in the mother lode of affirmative-action waste that deficit hawks should be attacking. Municipal-bond issuers have to pay a toll to firms that exist solely because of minority-underwriting requirements. And then there's the humongous "Equal Employment Opportunity" infrastructure within each government agency, made up of hacks whose only job is to count the number of minority and female employees in that agency -- something a computer could do -- and pretend eternal vigilance against the alleged menace of bias that threatens at every moment to break out among white-collar government employees, many of whom are minorities themselves. Perhaps as a temporary emergency-deficit-reduction measure, governments could dismantle their EEO empires on a five-year experimental basis, and see if a vast eruption of discrimination occurs. My guess is that the only change would be a significant decrease in paperwork and an increase in efficiency.

Posted by Tom at 1:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 23, 2010

The Norks Lash Out... Again

On March 26 of this year the North Koreans most likely sank the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan, killing some 46 sailors. Regardless of what sank the Cheonan, there has been a series of armed conflicts between the two nations since the end of the Korean War, and most recently a series of naval battles that have resulted in the sinking of several ships, mostly from the North. The number of incidents along the Korean Demilitarized Zone, many of which turned violent, is staggering. And of course let's not forget the USS Pueblo.

Earlier today, the North Koreans fired artillery shells into the South, the first time this has occurred since 1953


The story from Fox News:

North Korea bombarded a South Korean island near their disputed western border Tuesday, setting buildings ablaze and killing at least two marines and injuring 16 others after warning the South to halt military drills in the area, South Korean officials said.

South Korea said it returned fire and scrambled fighter jets in response, and said the "inhumane" attack on civilian areas violated the 1953 armistice halting the Korean War. The two sides technically remain at war because a peace treaty was never negotiated.
The North's artillery struck the small South Korean-held island of Yeonpyeong, which houses military installations and a small civilian population and which has been the focus of two previous deadly battles between the Koreas.

A senior military official tells Fox News "no one is interested in escalating this, but we are taking this very seriously."

Two South Korean marines were killed, three were seriously wounded and 10 slightly wounded, a Joint Chiefs of Staff official said. Island residents were escaping to about 20 shelters in the island while sporadic shelling continued, the military official said.

North Korea's supreme military command threatened to continue military strikes against South Korea if it violated their disputed sea border "even 0.001 millimeter," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

The firing came amid South Korean military drills in the area. North Korea's military had sent a message to South Korea's armed forces early Tuesday to demand that the drills stop, but the South continued them, another military official said.

These are not idle threats from the North. As mentioned above the North has carried out many attacks on the South over the years, ranging from naval actions, to commando raids, to even hijacking a South Korean airliner in 1969. They have built tunnels under the demilitarized zone separating the two nations, some of which were almost wide enough to drive a jeep through, which after much effort we have found and destroyed.

In recent years the North has tested a series of short and medium range missiles, always doing so at a time calculated for maximum political effect, such as July 4 of 2006 and 2009. In October of 2006 they exploded a nuclear weapon. Who knows how many they have or how weaponized they are.

Why the Artillery?

Your guess is as good as mine as to why they launched the attacks. Maybe it was the young Kim Jong-un, heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, exercising his power. Maybe it was Kim Jong-il who gave the order to show that he was still in control.

Or maybe Kim Jong-il just got ronery, started feeling sorry for himself, and decided to teach the world a lesson.

The U.S Response

What is it, and what should it be?

The response is that the U.S. and our allies will try and get China to talk to the North Koreans. From Reuters:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States was seeking a unified diplomatic front with North Korea's neighbors, including China, Pyongyang's sole remaining major backer, which has in the past resisted international efforts to get tough with its isolated ally.

"We're going to take a measured and unified approach," said Toner, adding, "We're not going to respond willy nilly."

This certainly serves China's interests. They want hegemony in the region, and this gives them the power they want. China doesn't want full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, but neither does it want the conflict settled. Keeping it simmering distracts the U.S. and keeps them in control.

Richard Fernadez
sees the long-term consequences of our policy:

The US has been dealing itself out its global commitments. Whether that is good depends on your point of view. One thing that is undeniable, however, is that an American retreat will have consequences, ones that will not be easily reversed.

It's easy to throw up your hands after every such act by the North and say "what can we do?" , for if you focus on reacting then indeed there is not much we can do.

But a wise leader sets the tone and other nations react to him. It's hard to imagine Chazez, Ahmadinejad, or Kim Jong-whoever is in charge provoking the United States if Reagan was in charge, or in 2003 after our invasion of Iraq.

We've also learned recently that the North had an advanced uranium enrichment facility to complement their plutonium program, which as Charles Krauthammer observed should have been "the final demonstration of the uselessness and the futility of our negotiations with Pyongyang."

But to return to our quote from Mr. Fernandez, there is more at stake here than the possibility of full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula, as terrifying as that might be. Victor Davis Hanson explains that the rest of the world is watching:

...the more sinister regions of the world are watching the U.S. response to the shelling, for either a yellow or a green light for their own agendas. More enlightened states are watching, too, for indications of the American reaction should the trouble spread to their corners of the world.

But after 22 months of apologizing, bowing, and contextualizing supposed American sins from the trivial (lamenting the Arizona law in a meeting with the Chinese) to the profound (the mythical Cairo speech, unilaterally pressing Israel right out of the starting gate), the Obama administration has sent the message that it may not be so comfortable with America's past unilateral responsibilities to its allies, and may even sympathize with some of the grievances of our purported enemies. Whether this assessment is fair or not, that's the message they've sent.

Dismissing the idea that past global problems might transcend George W. Bush, this administration operated as if a charismatic world citizen, with reset magic, could win over the globe to a U.N.-sponsored utopia. These false assumptions intrigued the curious abroad -- why would Obama seek to advance such absurd notions about global problems having originated with U.S. belligerence circa 2001-2009 and being resolved by U.S. empathy in 2009-2010? Apparently, as we are now learning, North Korea wants to find out the answer.

In general, listlessness and misdirection in Washington always ripple out to the world abroad within a year or two. Sanctimonious Carterism had confirmed the image of a paralytic America by 1979, which may be why that year saw the Chinese in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, Communists on the rise in Central America, hostages in Tehran, the end of the Shah, and the rise of an emboldened radical Islam. When Nixon and his congressional opponents wrecked U.S. foreign policy in the long dark days of Watergate, by 1973-4 the world became a very unstable place, with the Yom Kippur War, oil embargoes, an imploding Southeast Asia, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

The tragedy of all this is that, once a sense of American self-confidence is lost, the result is usually a lot of post facto, herky-jerky catch-up efforts to restore credibility. E.g., a once-sermonizing Carter suddenly boycotting the Olympics and establishing the Carter doctrine in the Middle East, or the U.S. 1973 global alert during the Yom Kippur War, or Gerald Ford and the 1975 Mayaguez incident.

To deter North Korea, we should now express and follow through on the sort of solidarity that is unquestioned, a kind of solidarity that has been sorely lacking in the last two years with Israel, Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

And, in a larger sense, the commander-in-chief needs to stop his contextualizing and apologizing, especially this pernicious messianic notion that, as an empathetic and post-national president, his mission is to redeem a previously culpable America. Otherwise, in the next two years that nonsense is going to get people killed.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 20, 2010

Book Review - Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight

Courage and Consequence by Karl Rove

On of the best things about this review will be reading the comments. While Karl Rove is not nearly as controversial as someone like Sarah Palin, he certainly does have his enemies. Those on the left say that his style of campaigning has helped lead to the alleged increasing divisiveness and negative campaigning of American politics, and those on the far right see him as part of the "establishment" that helped lose the GOP congress in 2008 and the White House in 2010.

Neither extreme has it right. Rove's tactics were no different than what Democrat strategists do, and it is simply false to say that his main technique was to smear opponents. On the right, the term "establishment" has just about come to mean "someone in office or who holds an official position that I don't like." For both sides, he's the enemy mostly because he helped get George W. Bush elected.

Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight is Karl Rove's account of his life and career in politics. Unlike most of my book reviews this one will be relatively short, mostly because I just don't have the time.

Because the concept of a "Rovian campaign" has been so misunderstood, following are some excerpts from chapter 6: What is a Rovian Campaign?

1. The campaign must be centered on big ideas that reflect the candidate's philosophy and view that are perceived by vote3rs as important and relevant.

2. The campaign needs to be persistent in pursuing this strong, persuasive theme in a way that resonates with what voters know. This requires a campaign to have a clear awareness of the electorate's attitudes, and its candidate's strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of its opponent.

3. The third hallmark of a Rovian campaign is that it is driven by historical data. Past races can help you understand what might happen in the next. Democrats dominated Texas in the late 1980s. To find voters who might be drawn to a Republican candidate, I studied election patterns to find countries with strong support for Reagan in 1980 or 1984 but whose voters also chose Democrats in local races or for governor or senator. In 2000, hoping to pull some state s away from the Democrats for George W/ Bush's presidential race, I looked at places in Tennessee and Arkansas that had voted for GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates in the 1990s while voting for Clinton-Gore in 1992 and 1996.

4. The fourth hallmark of a Rovian campaign is the use of sophisticated modeling to identify potential supporters and match them with issues that will persuade and turn them out. All kinds of publicly available information about voters can be used to predict which party or candidate someone will support, what issues will win them over, and the likelihood they will actually vote. That information can include, for example, their age, what kind of car they have... whether they have a gun... if or where they go to church.... There is no one piece of data that can predict the behavior of a voter: it's the relationship between all kinds of data points that can be revealing. So the modeling is complex and difficult to do, but it can make a huge impact by allowing a campaign to focus its energies on voters who are truly up for grabs and on those who need extra encouragement to turn out.

5. The fifth hallmark of a Rovian campaign is that it understands that there are right and wrong ways to criticize an opponent. Too many campaigns spend too much time going after their opponents in a scattershot way and on trivial issues. Bob Dole's 1996 campaign against Bill Clinton suffered from this problem. He attacked Clinton for, among other tings, cheating at golf. And the campaign of George H. W. Bush in 1992 also made the mistake of attacking Clinton's running mate, Al Gore, as an environmental extremist by calling him "Ozone Man."

6. The sixth hallmark of a Rovian campaign is that the campaign has a strategic plan, discipline, and a bias for action. It is structured to keep momentum. Second-guessing, or allowing warring factions to develop inside a campaign, is destructive. A Rovian campaign sets goals and repeatedly checks performance against those goals.

7. The seventh hallmark of a Rovian campaign is that it depends on the broadest possible use of volunteer-friendly technology. As one pair of journalists put it, "This may sound prosaic, but there is no way to overstate its relevance to Rove's success. His campaigns always had the most advanced gizmos." I have enormous respect for Net nerds, Applications Junkies, Tech Heads, and Data Dudes.

8. Finally a Rovian campaign is focused on collecting three vital resources:
a. Knowledge and information for the candidate
b. Volunteers to persuade and get out the vote
c. The money to make the other elements of the campaign possible.

Of these eight hallmarks, the first four are the most important, with the first being primas inter pares (first among equals). A campaign needs to be centered on a big theme that is in turn made up of big ideas that will capture the support and imagination of voters.

So as you can see a Rovian campaign is not about dishonest negative campaigning, underhanded dealings, and going all out to destroy your opponent, or any such nonsense.

Final Thoughts

I don't generally read these types of books, generally preferring more academic and analytical books on the issues of our day, especially when they're coupled with a lot of history. At least this isn't a 'kiss and tell' book, whereby the author has a major ax to grind. I find those impossible to deal with, because one of the basic rules of life is that you never get the full story or truth until you've heard both sides.

But this book was given to me by a friend, and given that I do somewhat admire Karl Rove, I decided to read it.

The book does provide a good history of the Bush years, and Rove relates in some detail most of the major episodes. His writing is clear and concise, although there were a few times I found myself skipping ahead. Even at 500 pages it's not a long read.

Although as mentioned Rove does not spend a lot of time settling scores, he does defend himself where necessary. Some on the left have seen him as the devil himself, accusing him of all sorts of dirty dealings during campaigns. As such Rove does go through some of the accusations, giving his side of the story.

All in all a good book, and a necessary read for anyone wanting perspective on the presidency of George W. Bush.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 18, 2010

The Trial of Ahmed Ghailani: The Obama Administration's "Oops" Moment

Guantanamo Bay detainee - read "terrorist" - Ahmed Ghailani was found not guilty of 284 counts and guilty on only one. This after a trial by jury in civilian court.

A Washington Post story tells the tale:

Terror detainee largely acquitted
By Peter Finn
Thursday, November 18, 2010

The first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court was found guilty on a single conspiracy charge Wednesday but cleared on 284 other counts. The outcome, a surprise, seriously undermines - and could doom - the Obama administration's plans to put other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.

After deliberating for five days, a jury of six men and six women found Ahmed Ghailani, 36, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property but acquitted him of multiple murder and attempted-murder charges for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

The Obama administration had hoped that a conviction on most, if not all, of the charges would help clear the way for federal prosecutions of other Guantanamo detainees - including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.


This is what happens, folks, when you elect a community activist as president on the basis of "hope and change."

Let's not have an naive talk, either, about how Ghailani is still probably going to jail for the rest of his life so the verdicts don't matter. This will be seen int the Islamic world as a terrible humiliation of the United States and a sign from Allah that he is on their side.

Too bad the judge in this case doesn't understand that we're in a War of Ideas with the radical Islamists:

"You deserve a lot of credit," U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told the jurors after the verdicts were announced. "You have demonstrated also that American justice can be delivered calmly, deliberately and fairly, by ordinary people - people who are not beholden to any government, including this one."

Can someone really be so stupid? Can anyone actually believe that Muslims around the world are applauding American justice? Put another way, can anyone actually believe they're not rolling on the ground laughing at what idiots we are and how we're ripe for the picking?

via Belmont Club, Jack Smith of the New York Times has the right solution:

The real lesson of the ruling, however, is that prosecution in either criminal court or a tribunal is the wrong approach. The administration should instead embrace what has been the main mechanism for terrorist incapacitation since 9/11: military detention without charge or trial.

Military detention was once legally controversial but now is not. District and appellate judges have repeatedly ruled -- most recently on Thursday -- that Congress, in its September 2001 authorization of force, empowered the president to detain members of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces until the end of the military conflict.

Former assistant U.S. attorney Andy McCarthy has more along these lines.

So what is the administration to do? During the campaign and after, Obama trashed the military tribunals set up during the Bush Administration. His anti-war base will not let him go back on that. But he also cannot proceed with civilian trials. He can't risk having the next Ghailani being found not guilty on all charges. Given that no less a liberal than Senator Chuck Schumer opposes a New York trial for 9-11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (not to mention almost all other New York politicians, Republican or Democrat), it's hard to see that happening too.

The bottom line is that the administration has painted itself into a corner. The political side of me will enjoy watching them squirm, but the patriot in me is saddened for our country.

Saturday Update

It has some to my attention that some on the left are saying that... it's all Bush's fault!

The prosecution was handicapped in the trial when Judge Lewis Kaplan refused to let it's star witness, Hussein Abebe, testify. Adebe is a Tanzanian who sold the dynamite to Ghailani that he used to blow up the U.S. embassy in that country in 1998. The issue is that the government found out about Abebe from Ghailani himself while the latter was undergoing "enhanced interrogation" techniques. All of which occurred during the administration of George W. Bush. These techniques violated Ghailani's constitutional rights, thus anything found out during these techniques was inadmissible in court.

The left is spinning these enhanced interrogation techniques as "torture," which is utter balderdash.

Andy McCarthy explains that no, coercion is not torture:

Commentators are saying that the witness was barred and the confessions were not introduced because Ghailani was "tortured."

This is not true. It is also a slanderous allegation, and I'm surprised to hear normally careful people throw it around so casually. Torture is a crime with a specific definition in law, involving the infliction of severe pain and suffering. We don't know exactly what was done to Ghailani, but we have heard he wasn't waterboarded. Waterboarding was the tactic closest to torture, and it was used on three detainees by the CIA. But under their fastidious guidelines, it clearly did not meet the legal test for torture. That's undoubtedly why the Obama Justice Department has never prosecuted anyone over it, despite ceremoniously reopening torture investigations against the CIA. In any event, while we can stipulate that Ghailani was made very uncomfortable, there is no colorable evidence that he was "tortured" in the legal sense of that term.

Sunday Update

Another point that I forgot to make in my original post: Attorney General Eric Holder said before the trail that we were not going to set Ghailani free even if he was acquitted on all of the charges. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 18, 2009 Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) asked Holder the relevant question:

"[Y]ou're not suggesting if, by some one-in-a-million fluke, one of these defendants were acquitted or given a short sentence, that they would be released anywhere, are you?" Graham asked.

"No," Holder responded. And the attorney general explained: "I certainly think that under the regime that we are contemplating, the potential for detaining people under the laws of war, we would retain that ability."

In other words, even if acquitted on all charges we weren't going to let him go anyway. So the entire trial was a sham. A "show trial."

You'd think the left would be outraged.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 16, 2010

U.S. Pacific Bases Vulnerable to Chinese Conventional Missiles

Most of my posts on the military threat from China have concentrated on:

  • Methods the Chinese could subdue Taiwan
  • US Navy/Air Force v People's Liberation Army/People's Liberation Army-Navy
  • The ongoing Chinese attempt to achieve hegemony in the southwestern Pacific

All very real, but I've been missing a large piece; the ability of the Chinese to destroy many U.S. bases in the Pacific with their large inventory of medium-range conventionally-armed ballistic missiles. I've been aware of their ability to use them to destroy Taiwan's ability and will to resist, but had underestimated the threat to U.S. bases from these weapons.

A story in yesterday's Washington Times tells the tale. The chart below is from a report released last summer by the Department of Defense titled "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China."

Chinese Missile Ranges

Chinese missiles can ravage U.S. bases
by Bill Gertz
Sunday, November 14, 2010 (appeared in Monday's paper)

China's military an destroy five out of six U.S. bases in Asia with waves of missile strikes as the result of its large-scale military buildup that threatens U.S. access and freedom of navigation in East Asia, according to a forthcoming congressional report.

"The main implication of China's improved air and conventional missile capabilities is a dramatic increase in the [People's Liberation Army's] ability to inhibit U.S. military operations in the region," a late draft of the report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission concludes.

The U.S. government has growing concerns over what the report says are "China's improving capabilities to challenge the U.S. military's freedom of access in East Asia." ...

The United States also could face a Chinese missile strike on its bases and ships in a future conflict with China over Taiwan, according to the China commission report.

The report says that in the event of a conflict, China missiles alone would be enough to attack and shut down five of the six major U.S. military bases in the region. Guam is the exception because it is 1,800 miles from China.

China's growing long-range bomber arsenal, however, means the "PLA Air Force's bomber fleet soon could allow it to target Guam, where the sixth U.S. Air Force base is located," the report says.

Guam is the site of a major U.S. military buildup in Asia, with the addition of new submarines and bombers and spy aircraft.

U.S. bases vulnerable to Chinese missile attack include two in South Korea, namely Osan and Kunsan air bases, the report says. Each could be destroyed with attacks by 480 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and 350 ground-launched cruise missiles for each base. The bases are some 240 to 400 miles from China.

In Japan, U.S. bases at Kadena, Misawa and Yokota could be knocked out with 80 medium- and short-range ballistic missiles and 350 ground-launched cruise missiles, the report says. Those bases are between 525 miles and 680 miles from China.

For the past 20 years, China's missile and naval forces have been transformed from an outdated military to "one with modern aircraft and air defenses and a large, growing arsenal of conventional ballistic and land-attack cruise missiles," the report says.

China is thought to have 1,150 short-range missiles with ranges between 180 and 375 miles, and 115 medium-range missiles with ranges between 1,000 and 1,800 miles.

Those who automatically assume that "we're the United States, no one can defeat us" would be in for a rude surprise if push came to shove with China.

Our military is large, and capable, no doubt about it. But there's not anything we could do about a rain of conventionally-armed Chinese ballistic missiles raining down on our Pacific bases. Our anti-ballistic missile capability is very limited, and we have no similar weapons with which to hit China with, even if we were inclined to do so.

So while our carriers and subs might win a war against the Chinese Navy, they would have no regional bases to go back to.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 14, 2010

Can the Deficit be Reduced by Spending Cuts Alone?

Everyone pays lip service to balancing the federal budget, or at least reducing the deficit. But with the election of the 112th Congress, the issue has taken on a new seriousness not seen before. The Republicans seem determined to make a dent in the deficit, and even the Democrats in the last election cycle talked about getting spending under control.

The doctrinaire right says that spending cuts alone are the answer, and that far from reducing receipts tax cuts will bring in additional revenue. Others on the right say no, that won't do it.

First, let's take a look at the FY 2010 federal budget so we know what we're dealing with:

Federal Budget FY 2010

Now for Revenues v Expenditures:

Federal Receipts v Expenditures FY 2010

Follow the link above if the charts don't fit well on your screen. Also follow the link for dollar figures of each spending category.

The bottom line is this; the deficit will be somewhere around $1.3 billion. Can we close the gap entirely with spending cuts?

Symbols Count

Before liberal commenters point it out, yes I know that eliminating earmarks won't do squat towards reducing the deficit. They account for less than 1 percent of spending, and even without the earmark process much of the money would be spent anyway.

But earmarks are still worth eliminating because the process behind them stinks so bad. There is value in eliminating them for that reason alone.

For that matter, I think that we ought to entirely eliminate the Department of Education and zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but again, neither are going to get us very far towards reducing the deficit.

A Serious Thinker

What prompted this debate were several posts by Kevin D. Williamson at National Review's Exchequer blog. I'm going to post a few in their entirely and commenters can make of them what they will.

I'll tell you up front that I am sympathetic to Williamson's arguments, and that for a variety of reasons (including this one) I'm not a fan of Grover Norquist.

Grover Norquist Is Living in Candyland
October 18, 2010 1:11 P.M.
By Kevin D. Williamson

Tags: Debt, Deficits, Despair, Fiscal Armageddon, Mitch Daniels, Republicans, Taxes

So it turns out that the cure for "epistemic closure" is great quantities of crystal meth. The things you learn from Grover Norquist.

In case you missed it, Norquist came down like a runaway gravel truck on Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, a favorite around these parts. Governor Daniels's offense was declaring himself open to the possibility that a value-added tax might be an acceptable part of a wide-ranging reform of the federal tax system. Norquist replied, in a Politico interview:

"This is outside the bounds of acceptable modern Republican thought, and it is only the zone of extremely left-wing Democrats who publicly talk about those things because all Democrats pretending to be moderates wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot poll. Absent some explanation, such as large quantities of crystal meth, this is disqualifying. This is beyond the pale."

Here's the problem: The deficit is, by my always-suspect English-major math, about 36.3 percent of federal spending ($1.29 trillion deficit out of $3.55 trillion spending). For comparison: Defense accounts for about 18 percent of federal spending. So you could cut out the entire national-security budget, and another Pentagon-sized chunk of non-military spending, and not quite close that deficit. You could cut the Pentagon to $0.00 and eliminate Social Security entirely and just barely get there.

Even great heaping quantities of crystal meth would not be enough to convince me that is going to happen.

Don't get me wrong: In a perfect world, Exchequer would love to see the budget balanced and some tax cuts enabled through spending reductions alone. Exchequer would also like to be dating Marisa Miller, driving a Morgan Aero, and running a four-minute mile, developments that are about as plausible as Congress's cutting 36.3 percent of federal spending. Not going to happen.

So, our choices are this: 1. Hold out for the best-case scenario, in which a newly elected Speaker Boehner gives President Obama the complete works of Milton Friedman and everybody agrees to cutting federal spending by more than a third. 2. Keep running deficits and piling up debt. 3. Raise taxes. My preferences, in order, go: 1, 3, 2. And No. 2 is not really acceptable.

Like it or not, taxes are going up: If not today, then in the near future. Even once the deficit is under control, that debt is still going to have to be paid down, lest debt service alone overwhelm the federal budget, necessitating even more tax hikes. If Grover Norquist thinks there's a tax-free way out of this mess that is both politically and economically realistic, he is living in a fantasy. There's an old joke that goes: Neurotics build castles in the sky; psychotics live in them. And Grover Norquist seeks tax protection for them.

Norquist's outfit, Americans for Tax Reform, does a lot of good things. (And so has Grover Norquist, over the years.) But here's how it describes itself:

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.

That's not a campaign against Big Government -- it's a campaign against math. As ye spend, so shall ye tax. Denying that is not a principle -- it's a tantrum. ATR's pledge reads:

"I _____ pledge to the taxpayers of the __________ district, of the state of __________, and to all the people of this state, that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes."

And here is how it should read:

"I _____ pledge to the taxpayers of the __________ district, of the state of __________, and to all the people of this state, that I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase spending."

Spending is the issue, not taxes. Spending is the virus, taxes are the symptom. Norquistism, by focusing on the taxing side of the ledger rather than on the spending side, has for decades enabled Republican spending shenanigans of the sort that helped put the party in the minority and ruined its reputation for fiscal sobriety; it is of a piece with naïve supply-siderism. The Bush-era deficits, and the subsequent discrediting of Republicans' fiscal conservatism, are the product.

Give me the grown-up despair of Mitch Daniels any day over the happy-talk daydream that says we're getting out of this mess without paying for it.


Real Deficit Reduction vs. Theoretical Deficit Reduction
November 10, 2010 8:11 P.M.
By Kevin D. Williamson

A reader asks: "So an Obama commission proposes a $1 trillion-plus tax hike, and you, a managing editor at the flagship conservative publication, endorse it? Exactly how or why is this a conservative position?"

Answer: A conservative's first duty is to deal with reality -- not with the theoretical world we wish existed, not with ideology, and not with wishful thinking. We are running a deficit of 40 percent, and it is implausible to think that a government with a Republican House, a Democratic Senate, and Obama in the White House is going to balance the budget by cutting 40 percent of spending.

I think it is equally implausible that a government with a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and Ron Paul/Sarah Palin/Mitch Daniels/Rush Limbaugh/The Ghost of Ronald Reagan in the White House is going to balance the budget with spending cuts alone. Why should I rely on the performance of theoretical Republicans when I have the evidence of actual Republican Congresses and actual Republican administrations to inform me that radical spending cuts are unlikely under a unified Republican government?

The burden of taxation is not equal to what the government collects; it is equal to what the government spends. Deficit spending just greases the skids for ever-more-incontinent fiscal shenanigans -- I'd rather the taxpayers bear the pain of government spending as the money is spent than evade it, kicking the taxes down the road to the next generation. We can either pay the taxes today or pay them in the future -- with interest, trillions of dollars in interest. The Bowles-Simpson proposal is far from perfect, but it is three-and-a-half times better than anything I expected from a panel with any political proximity to Barack Obama. It's a good start, and it's politically viable. If the Republicans are smart, they'll run with it and remind voters every five minutes that this is the proposal of the Obama deficit commission's co-chairmen.

If I see a better plan with a real chance of being enacted, it will have my support. But given a choice between an ideologically pure program that never is enacted and a problematic one that gets the job done, albeit imperfectly, I'll take real deficit reduction over theoretical deficit reduction every time.

Nancy Pelosi hates it. That's a useful piece of evidence, too.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 11, 2010

The Growth of Government Salaries and the Breaking of an Age-old Agreement

It used to be that there was a trade off between public sector and private sector jobs that everyone more or less understood and agreed on.

The trade-off was between income and job security. You got more money in the private sector, but at the cost of a lack of job security. Stated the other way around, you made less money in a government job, but in return you got job security.

Today, however, government workers get it all. They want both salaries equal to or higher than their counterparts in the private sector, and job security to boot.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the growth of government workers has increased rapidly in recent years. via NRO:

But wait, there's more:

Earlier this year USA Today ran a series of articles on how much the pay of federal workers had increased, and that these workers now make more than their typical counterpart in the private sector. Google for something like "USA Today federal workers pay" and you'll be richly rewarded.

Following are a few sample articles, some more recent:

More federal workers' pay tops $150,000
USA Today
November 10, 2010
By Dennis Cauchon

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Federal pay ahead of private sector
USA Today
March 8, 2010
By Dennis Cauchon

Federal employees earn higher average salaries than private-sector workers in more than eight out of 10 occupations, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data finds.

Accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector.

Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.

These salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Federal Salaries Soaring Above Private Sector
CBS News
August 10, 2010
By Sharyl Attkisson

(CBS) For those fortunate enough to have a job in this tough economy, there's a growing gap in salary between government employees and those who work for private companies.

While many Americans have suffered pay cuts or job losses, one group is bucking the trend: federal workers, CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports. A USA Today analysis finds that federal employees have gotten bigger pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years straight.

"It made me think, man, I should be a federal employee," one woman said on the streets of the capital.

Federal salaries have grown 33 percent faster than inflation. Their pay and benefits averaged $123,049 in 2009, up 36.9 percent since 2000. Private workers averaged $61,051, up just 8.8 percent during the same time.

I don't deny government workers at any level a decent income. But it seems to violate basic fairness for government workers to have both higher incomes than that those of us in the private sector and virtually absolute job security.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 9, 2010

Why Government Handout Programs and Affirmative Action Must be Scaled Back or Ended

Writing in the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum makes an argument that you often hear from the left:

In Alaska, a preview of the GOP's future By Anne Applebaum Tuesday, November 9, 2010

...For whatever the reason, the hypocrisy at the heart of the (Republican)party - and at the heart of American politics - is at its starkest in Alaska. For decades, Alaskans have lived off federal welfare. Taxpayers' money subsidizes everything from Alaska's roads and bridges to its myriad programs for Native Americans. Federal funding accounts for one-third of Alaskan jobs. Nevertheless, Alaskans love to think of themselves as the last frontiersmen, the inhabitants of a land "beyond the horizon of urban clutter," a state with no use for Washington and its wicked ways.

Poor Boehner must feel pulled in two directions, particularly because so many Republicans - and so many Americans - don't practice what they preach. They want lower taxes, higher defense spending, more Social Security and, yes, balanced budgets. They want the government to leave them alone, but at the same time they aren't averse to the odd federal subsidy.

Harde har har! Those hypocritical Republicans! They criticize government programs yet they take money from them!

And it 's just this sort of attitude from liberals that is the very reason we must end these programs now.

We see a similar argument used against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas; he was the beneficiary of affirmative action at Yale, yet now he opposes said benefit, ergo he is a hypocrite.

A Liberal Plot?

If I didn't believe in conspiracy theories then I would say that the entire purpose behind extensive government handout, welfare er, "benefits" programs and quota, racial preference, I mean "affirmative action" is to ensnare people so that they are not allowed to protest.

Let's run through how liberals think:

  • Massive government benefits and affirmative action programs are good
  • The best way to win an argument is to disallow your opponent from making theirs
  • If you receive a benefit you are not allowed to protest it

The solution, eureka!, is to make sure that

  1. The benefits are so widespread and part of the fabric of the economy that unless people are willing to live as recluses they must participate in them
  2. Structure the programs so that no one can really be sure if they are a direct beneficiary or not, and thus cannot really opt out

Applebaum is a hack liberal making a shallow argument, but there are a lot of those in the pages of the Washington Post (Richard Cohen and Eugene Robinson come to mind). That every-day liberals take their cues from these people is what's truly disturbing.

If liberals wish to debate the merits of this or that "benefit" or "affirmative action" program then fine, state your case. But this insanity of creating huge programs that everyone is more or less forced to participate in (think Social Security) and then attacking anyone who dares speak a word against them has got to stop.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 8, 2010

Nancy Pelosi Has My Vote for Minority Leader

Incredibly, outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi is going to run for minority leader when the 112th Congress reconvenes next year.

As a good Republican I cheer this decision and wants her to get the position...

Nancy Pelosi

... but if I was a Democrat I'd be despondent.

At least two Democrats, Heath Schuler (NC-10) and Jim Matheson (UT-2) agree. Said Schuler:

"We weren't successful with me as quarterback, so I lost my job," said Shuler, a former Washington Redskins quarterback whose team won four games and lost nine with him as a starter. She's so smart she recognizes that it will be difficult to recruit the candidates she needs to win back the House," added Shuler, a member of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition that lost more than two dozen members Tuesday.

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), a moderate, also called for a new direction. "We need to shake things up," he said in an interview with Bloomberg News.

Having made many mistakes over the years, I've gotten to be pretty hardheaded in the candidates I choose to support. In the past I've let my heart overrule my head, and I wasted time working for and cheering on people who didn't have a snowball's chance of winning anything. This year, for example, I saw right from the start that Christine O'Donnell didn't stand a chance, and I wouldn't have wanted her in the Senate anyway. I said this in the comments at a few conservative blogs and took some heat for it, but I didn't back down and was proven right.

Nationally, there are people I love and cheer, but wouldn't want to see run for political office.

I admire Sarah Palin for many things. It was one of the thrills of my life to see her from maybe 40 feet away at a when she came to my home town for a campaign rally a week before the 2008 election. I gave her book, Going Rogue, a good review. And I'd pay money to go see her again at a rally or fundraising event again. But there's no way I want her to run for political office again. If she foolishly runs for president next year, I'll pull out all the stops to prevent her from getting the nomination.

The reason is that her negatives are sky high (negatives, a polling thing). She's terribly controversial, loved by many and hated by many. The Democrats could run a wino off the street and she'd still lose because people would come out of the woodwork just to vote against her. Palin is best just where she is; as opinion shaper on the right, and headliner for rallies.

Ditto for Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is probably one of the smartest people on the plant. He knows his history backward and forward, and he can speak with authority on virtually any subject. Intellectually he runs rings around just about anyone.

But like Palin, his negatives are sky high. Newt is the person you want as a policy adviser, but not as the candidate.

They're what are called "lighting rods" for criticism.

Lightning Rod Strike

In 1995 Oliver North ran for U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket from my home state of Virginia against a weak incumbent Democrat, Chuck Robb. North lost not because anyone liked Robb, but because they didn't want North. I remember the "North Never!" (they went something like that, anyway) bumper stickers.

Back to San Fran Gran Nan

Whether Democrats and liberals (not always the same thing) like Pelosi or not is not relevant. The question they have to ask themselves is "Will she be effective as the minority leader?" Frankly, I can't see how that answer could possibly be "Yes."

The fact is that she is damaged goods, and has become that lightning rod for criticism that is fatal to a political career. She's easily mocked, and is just the face of the Democrat Party that we on the right so want to present to the public in our next campaign.

In 2006 and 2008, my local Congressman, Frank Wolf (R-VA-10) ran against Georgetown professor Judy Feder. Feder was the picture of the angry liberal woman who thought herself smarter than anyone else. She was strident and unlikable. Wolf easily beat her each time, and by slightly more in 2008 than in 2006, if you can believe that.

In an entertaining editorial today, the editors of the Washington Times agree with me that Pelosi is the best choice for the job of minority leader. Following are excerpts:

EDITORIAL: Run, Nancy, run Pelosi gets the Republican vote for House minority leader The Washington Times

After last week's midterm meltdown for Democrats, outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would seek the position of House minority leader in the new Congress. The Washington Times enthusiastically endorses her candidacy.

Mrs. Pelosi will bring the same clarity of vision to the position of minority leader that she did to the speaker's chair. For those voters confused about the state of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill, Mrs. Pelosi will reassure them that it doesn't exist. For those who ask if Democrats are interested in responsible fiscal policies to draw down deficits, Mrs. Pelosi will banish any such thoughts. For those wondering whether Democrats in Congress can move further to the left without control of both chambers, Mrs. Pelosi will respond with a resounding "Yes we can."

Mrs. Pelosi is the perfect symbol of strident resistance to the will of the American people that Democrats seem eager to project. She can be counted on to fight to the last trench to defend all of the wretched excesses - or as Democrats stubbornly call them, "accomplishments" - of the rejected 111th Congress. She is fully in tune with the hard-line liberal rump leftover from the previous governing majority and can better give President Obama the opportunity to continue along the path that has seen both his party's fortunes and his job approval ratings fall from historic heights. Mrs. Pelosi brings the outlook, the track record and the public approval ratings to keep Democrats solidly on their current course toward oblivion.

Mrs. Pelosi promises more of the same for Democrats, especially with Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, continuing to mismanage the Senate and Mr. Obama digging in his heels at the White House. If recent experience from their midterm shellacking is a guide, this familiar Democrat leadership team will be very good for the new Republican majority. The least popular, most polarizing speaker in memory can bring the same qualities to the role of minority leader and present the American people with painfully clear choices going into the 2012 election. If Nancy Pelosi didn't exist, Republicans would have to invent her.

Fortunately, we don't have to.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 6, 2010

John Boehner Promises to do the Right Thing

Yes I know, promises are one thing, deeds another. And liberals are consoling themselves with the notion that Republicans will not hold true to their promises. Nevertheless, it is good to see Republican House Leader John Boehner (OH-8) say the right things.

In an interview with Fox News "Special Report," on November 4, 2010 (h/t Mike's America)

Excerpts below the fold

BAIER: First, let's start with the news of the day. The president is signaling he will be willing to make the middle class tax cuts permanent, but perhaps only extend temporarily the tax cuts for top earners for one or two years.

Would you accept a temporary extension on the top tax cuts?

BOEHNER: Bret, in our Pledge to America, we made clear that we believe that all the current tax rates should be extended for all Americans and permanently. And the American people spoke on election night. They elected Republicans in droves. And what we're going to fight for is -- is for all the current rates to be extended. We don't want to increase taxes on any Americans.

BAIER: So there's no compromise here?

BOEHNER: We do not want to raise taxes on any American.

BAIER: Do you see elements -- when you do take control -- that you can compromise with the president on?

BOEHNER: Bret, I am not going to compromise on my principles nor am I going to compromise the will of the American people. To the extent that the president wants to work with us on reducing the size, scope and the intrusion of the federal government, we're willing to work with him.

The American people spoke pretty loudly the other night. They want us to stop the spending. And it's going to be our principal goal.

The second goal is that they want jobs in America. And you can't have jobs in America when -- when you have all this uncertainty coming out of Washington. And when you extend tax rates for a year, you leave all the uncertainty hanging out there. People are going to invest. Like me, when I ran my small business, they want some certainty about what the future is going to look like so they can calculate a return on investments. You can't do that by these temporary extensions and other gimmicks.

BAIER: But the guys in line to be chairmen (of the House Appropriations Committee), they're big fans of earmarks.

BOEHNER: There's going to be an earmark moratorium, it's pretty clear.

BAIER: Why not an outright ban?

BOEHNER: Only because some things that people call earmarks here wouldn't -- wouldn't classify as an earmark to the American people. I've made it pretty clear, this process is going to stop. As you're well aware, I've been here 20 years. I've never asked for an earmark. And I'm never going to ask for one. I told my constituents in 1990 when they elected me that if they thought my job was to come to Washington and rob the public treasury on their behalf, they were voting for the wrong guy.

BAIER: Health care -- the president says he's willing to tweak the health care law. You say you're committed to repealing it. There's a big distance between tweaking and repealing.

BOEHNER: Oh, that's a very big difference.

BAIER: You're still committed to repealing it?

BOEHNER: This health care bill will ruin the best health care system in the world and it will bankrupt our country.....We are going to repeal Obama Care and replace it with common sense reforms that will bring down the costs of health insurance.

Boehner knows that conservative activists will be watching him closely and will hold his feet to the fire if he wavers. This marks a big difference from 1994, 2000, or 2002 for that matter.

The hard part will be the tactics. Boehner and his colleagues cannot have anything like the government shutdown of 1995 that Gingrich and company precipitated. This backfired terribly on Republicans and we paid the price. The good news is that I think Boehner and Cantor have better political instincts and are less arrogant than Gingrich and Armey.

But in any event we are off to a good start and we will try and stall and overturn as much of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda as possible.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 5, 2010

The Election by the Numbers: The Electorate Moves Right

Many Democrats and liberals will try and console themselves by saying that the election results were not precipitated by a rejection of President Obama's agenda. Others will say that it was all about enthusiasm, and that the Republicans showed up at the polls while the Democrats did not. Some, such as the president himself, say that the problem was with the process they followed in passing their legislation, not the bills themselves. Those with an historical bent will brush it off by saying that this always happens in a president's first mid-term. Finally, there are those who say that it was because significant portions of the electorate were brainwashed by Fox News, or that the voters were just stupid, or some such.

None of these are satisfactory, and all are incorrect. At least the first set of reasons make a pretense at analysis. Blaming a media outlet or saying that voters are stupid is just plain anti-intellectual.

First, let's look at some recent first mid-term elections

Carter 1978
House -15
Senate +3

Reagan 1982
House -27
Senate 0

Bush 1990
House -8
Senate -1

Clinton 1994
House -54
Senate -8

Bush 2002
House +8
Senate +2

Obama 2010
House -61
Senate -6

So while the shellacking the Democrats took this time was not completely unique in that it was by and large matched by 1994, neither was it par for a president's first mid-term election cycle.

Even worse for the Democrats this time, they lose a huge number of state houses and governorships. Although most attention is on the national scene, local races are also a good barometer of what the electorate is thinking. If they split their vote one could say that they were divided in their loyalties, and while that certainly happened in some instances by and large the electorate voted Republican.

Polling Data

The best and most comprehensive article I've seen so far was one by William Galston, which I first saw on Real Clear Politics yesterday:

It's the Ideology, Stupid
The New Republic
William Galston
November 4, 2010

...Let's begin with the basics. In the midterm election of 2006, Democrats received 52.0 percent of the popular vote cast for House candidates, while Republicans received 45.6 percent. This year, projections indicate that the Republicans will end up with 51.8 percent, versus 45.1 percent for the Democrats--in short, a Republican gain of 6.2 percent and a Democratic loss of 6.9 percent since 2006.

One might hypothesize that these results reflect a selective partisan mobilization: Enthusiastic Republicans showed up to vote while depressed Democrats stayed home and pulled the covers over their heads. Not so. According to the 2006 exit poll, those who voted were 38 percent Democratic, 36 percent Republican, and 28 percent Independent. This year the split was very similar--36/36/28--which accounts for only a small portion of the popular vote shift.

Or maybe some Democrats were so disgruntled that they broke ranks and supported Republican candidates. No again: 93 percent voted for Democratic candidates in 2006; 92 percent in 2010. And by the way, 91 percent of Republicans for voted candidates of their own party in 2006, and 95 percent in 2010. Partisan polarization is alive and well.

What about age? The conventional wisdom before November 2 was that seniors enraged or terrified by changes in Medicare would turn out in droves to punish those who voted for health reform while young people disillusioned by Obama's failure to create the New Jerusalem would abstain. That did happen, but only to a modest degree. Voters of ages 18-29 constituted 12 percent of the electorate in 2006; 11 percent in 2010. Voters over 65 were 19 percent of the total in 2006; 23 percent in 2010--noticeable but hardly decisive. If 65 and overs had constituted the same share of the electorate in 2010 as in 2006, the Republicans' share would have declined by only .7 percent--about one-tenth of their actual gains.

We get more significant results when we examine the choices Independents made. Although their share of the electorate was virtually unchanged from 2006, their behavior was very different. In 2006, Democrats received 57 percent of the Independent vote, versus only 39 percent for Republicans. In 2010 this margin was reversed: 55 percent Republican, 39 percent Democratic. If Independents had split their vote between the parties this year the way they did in 2006, the Republicans share would have been 4.7 percent lower--a huge difference.

But why did they change? Here we reach the nub of the matter: The ideological composition of the electorate shifted dramatically. In 2006, those who voted were 32 percent conservative, 47 percent moderate, and 20 percent liberal. In 2010, by contrast, conservatives had risen to 41 percent of the total and moderates declined to 39 percent, while liberals remained constant at 20 percent. And because, in today's polarized politics, liberals vote almost exclusively for Democrats and conservatives for Republicans, the ideological shift matters a lot.

To complete the argument, there's one more step: Did independents shift toward Republicans because they had become significantly more conservative between 2006 and 2010? Fortunately we don't have to speculate about this. According to the Pew Research Center, conservatives as a share of total Independents rose from 29 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2010. Gallup finds exactly the same thing: The conservative share rose from 28 percent to 36 percent while moderates declined from 46 percent to 41 percent.

This shift is part of a broader trend: Over the past two decades, moderates have trended down as share of the total electorate while conservatives have gone up. In 1992, moderates were 43 percent of the total; in 2006, 38 percent; today, only 35 percent. For conservatives, the comparable numbers are 36 percent, 37 percent, and 42 percent, respectively. So the 2010 electorate does not represent a disproportional mobilization of conservatives: If the 2010 electorate had perfectly reflected the voting-age population, it would actually have been a bit more conservative and less moderate than was the population that showed up at the polls. Unless the long-term decline of moderates and rise of conservatives is reversed during the next two years, the ideological balance of the electorate in 2012 could look a lot like it did this year.

Granted,this analysis is between 2006 and 2010, not against 2008. One can argue both ways as to which comparison is more indicative of trends. But having worked for campaigns ranging from town to presidential elections, I can tell you from personal experience that comparing one type of election to another is an exercise in apples and oranges.

At any rate, summarizing the comparison, we find that:

  1. Turnout was not the key to Republican success
  2. Those who voted Democrat in the past mostly did so again this time
  3. Seniors did not turn out in greater numbers

  4. Although their share of the electorate was the same as in 2006, independents shifted dramatically from Democrat to Republican in their voting
  5. Independents became more conservative and less liberal
  6. The electorate as a whole has become more conservative and less liberal over the past twenty years

None of this is to suggest that a Republican is a shoo-in for president in 2012. If nothing else, we have seen that the voting public will turn on a dime from one party to another. What it does show is that Democrats and liberals are fooling only themselves if they persist in believing that the reason they lost wasn't because of the extreme liberal policies they pushed on us in the past two years.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 4, 2010

John Boehner Strikes the Right Tone

Washington DC (Nov 3)

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) made the following remarks today at a press conference with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS):

Excerpt below the fold.

"As you heard me say last night, we are humbled by the trust that the American people have placed in us and we recognize this is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people's priorities:creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its business. It's not just what the American people are demanding - it's what they are expecting from us.

"And the real question now is this: are we going to listen to the American people? Republicans have made a pledge to America, and our pledge is to listen to the American people and to focus on their priorities, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

"Last night, the President was kind enough to call me. We discussed working together on the American people's priorities: creating jobs and cutting spending. We hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those priorities.

"But as I said last night, the new majority here in Congress will be the voice of the American people, and I think we clearly expressed that last night. We're going to continue to renew our efforts for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government here in Washington, DC."

Posted by Tom at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 3, 2010

An Historic Victory... With Some Humility for All, Please

The Founders would have smiled.

An arrogant president and his partners in Congress were humbled. A true people's movement tossed out their majority in the House of Representatives. At the same time the Senate proved harder to change, with many incumbents maintaining their positions.

One of the reasons we ended up with Congress structured the way it is is that the Founders wanted one house to be more sensitive to the immediate passions of the people, and the other to temper those passions (there were more reasons, of course, one of them being a simple compromise between large and small states). The results of last night fell right in line with what the Founders would have wanted.

Independents had been critical to Obama's victory in 2008, and they shifted en masse to the GOP.

What Happened

The 61 seats the GOP won last night wipe out Democrat gains in 2006 and beat their 1994 pickup of 54 seats. This was, I believe, the biggest GOP gain since 1938.

Election results via Real Clear Politics and the Washington Post

In the House, the pre-election balance was

Republicans 179
Democrats 256

Post election* it is

Republicans 242 +63
Democrats 192 -63

In the Senate, the pre-election balance was

Republicans 41
Democrats 59 (includes 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats)

Post election it is

Republicans 47 +6
Democrats 53 -6 (includes 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats)

For Governorships, the pre-election balance was

Republicans 24
Democrats 26

Post election it is

Republicans 29 +6
Democrats 20 -7
Independent 1

* As of Nov 25 there is one House race still unsettled

The Untold GOP Victory

Understandably, most attention has focused on the House and the high-profile Senate races. Governorships, and especially state houses, seem unexciting by comparison.

But this is a redistricting year, the party that controls the state legislature and governorship controls redistricting. Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics explains:

The National Conference of State Legislatures estimates that Democrats had the worst night in state legislative seats since 1928. With races outstanding in New York, Washington and Oregon, Republicans have flipped at least 14 chambers, and have unified control of 25 state legislatures. They have picked up over five hundred state legislative seats, including over 100 in New Hampshire alone.

This hurts Democrats in two ways. First, it wipes out the prospective farm team for future runs for Congress and statewide office.

But more importantly, it allows a party to control the decennial redistricting....

What Will or Can the New GOP Victors Do?

Democrat sympathizers are complaining that "now nothing will get done," and/or that "the GOP has no ideas or agenda."

But simply stopping more bad Democrat legislation will be an achievement in itself. Having only won the House, the GOP cannot make policy anyway. What they can do is stop more bad legislation. If Obama and Reid now want to work with Speaker-elect Boehner, fine. But the GOP must not agree to pass "Democrat lite" legislation, because no legislation is always better than bad legislation.

The other day on This Week George Will reminded us that gridlock was not a bad thing:

The Republican Party is being told to be the party of no. No more stimulus spending. No cap-and-trade. No card check. None of this other stuff. Gridlock is not an American problem. It's an American achievement. The framers of our Constitution didn't want an efficient government; they wanted a safe government. To which end they filled it with slowing and blocking mechanisms. Three branches of government, two branches of the legislative branch, veto, veto override, supermajority, judicial review.

Although the Democrats still control the Senate, they cannot ram through bad foreign treaties or unacceptable judges. Republicans cannot and must not try to filibuster everything, but can and should use their political capital in this matter wisely. More importantly, moderate Democrats, and especially those up for reelection in 2012, will not want to sign on to any more radical pieces of legislation.

What Did the People Say

The heading of this is of course to some degree mis-titled, in that "the people" do not exist as a single entity but more as disparate groups with differing interests. And even these groups are quite diverse. Many people in America are quite happy with President Obama and his agenda. Nevertheless, it's still valid to speak of "the people" after an election because majorities count, and because it keeps all this a bit more simple, so that's what I'm going to do.

The mantra of not just the Tea Party movement but conservatives in general has been that we need to "take our country back." I've seen Democrats try to mock this, asking "take it back from whom?" The answer, of course, is take it back from the neo-socialist running our country and his allies in Congress.

The people have spoken and they have said that in 2008 they did not sign up for the radical transformation of America that Obama and his allies in Congress had in store for us. This does not mean that they want to go back to George W Bush and his allies in Congress. This has implications for both parties, which leads to my next two sections.

Some Humility for the Democrats

Admit it, although you ended up winning in California and Nevada, you still lost big.

President Obama and Democrat congressional leaders thought they had an absolute mandate to ram through radical legislation on straight party-line votes, and they have been proven wrong. Unlike other major pieces of legislation in our nation's history, the stimulus and health care bills were passed without any bipartisan support. The lesson here is that although the American people wanted a change from George W Bush and congressional Republicans, they did not sign up for a radical transformation of their country.

The question is whether Obama will learn the lesson Bill Clinton did. After the 1994 election Clinton "triangulated," adopting many Republican proposals such as welfare reform and made them his own. He was therefore able to make the best of a bad situation (from his perspective) and The conventional wisdom on the right is that he will not.

Some Humility for the Republicans

Although Republican gains were large by any measure, predictions by some of a 70+ seat gain in the House and a takeover of the Senate didn't pan out. More, some races we expected to win, such as Nevada, were didn't.

More, it's hard to imagine the large gains the GOP did get without the help of the Tea Party. The energy, and money, they brought to the table was impressive. The Republicans didn't do it alone, but had tremendous help from a movement they did not create.

The first lesson is that although the people sent a strong message that they rejected the radical agenda of President Obama and his allies in Congress, they didn't had the country over to the Republicans. This means that we can't behave like Newt Gingrich did after 1994 and precipitate a government shutdown.

Second, they can't go back to business-as-usual. If they do not hold true to their promises the people will toss them in 2012. The biggest difference between now and 1994 is that today there is the Tea Party movement which will hold the Republicans accountable.

What this means is that the Republican attitude should be "thank you for trusting us again, we know we screwed up in the past, and we will hold true to our promises this time."

Some Humility for the Tea Party Movement

The Tea Party did not completely rule, but neither did it completely fail. Rand Paul won in Kentucky, Pat Toomey won in Pennsylvania, and Marco Robio won in Florida, but Christine O'Donnell lost in Delaware, Sharon Angle lost in Nevada, and Joe Miller lost in Alaska.

The lesson is that it is not enough to nominate ideologically pure candidates. Rush Limbaugh is dead wrong when he says that conservatism wins every time if you only explain it properly (or something like that). If you don't have good, solid, candidates, then you're going to lose any but the safest of districts.

Christine O'Donnell was a flawed candidate, which in my humble opinion was obvious from the beginning. There are some candidates that are flat-out unelectable and I'm sorry to say that she was one of them.

The Tea Party movement is new and therefore will make some mistakes in terms of rallying behind flawed candidates. This doesn't worry me. Given time, I believe the movement will mature into an even more formidable force whose influence will mostly be good. Democrats and liberals who satisfy themselves by writing them off as kooks or racists are going to be in for some nasty surprises.

For the time being, at least there will be no formal Tea Party political party. They have shown that they are willing to work within the Republican party, which is a good thing. In Europe third-way movements tend to turn into parties, in America they are absorbed by one or another party. So unless John Boehner and his new Republican majority in the House blow it big time, and I don't think that they will, then there will be no Tea Party Party in 2019.

More Analysis

Off the top of my head, my recollection of history is that in the 19th and most of the 20th century one party dominated for long periods of time. In the past 20 or so years, however, we have seen more dramatic shifts from one to the other. The lessons are that neither party has been able to forge a governing philosophy that a majority coalition accepts. We now have a large group of independents whose loyalties are largely non-existent and will shift from one party to another on a dime.

One of the biggest bits of nonsense I heard during the election was when Democrat challenger Jeffrey Barnett (VA-10) claimed that over the past two years Democrats had reached across the isle again and again and were rebuffed every time. The truth is that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid did nothing of the sort, which was reflected in the fact that every single Republican voted against health care and almost every one against the stimulus. As I showed in a post last March, Obama is the most divisive president in modern American history.

My Local Congressional Races

In local races, the good news is that incumbent Frank Wolf (R-VA-10) smashed his Democrat opponent by an almost 2 to 1 margin:

Frank R. Wolf 136,703 63.95%

Jeffery R. Barnett 72,272 33.81%

I don't talk about local politics on this blog, but suffice it to say that I campaigned hard for Mr. Wolf and so I was especially pleased by the outcome.

The bad news is that it looks like in neighboring 11th district Democrat incumbent Gerry Connolly has barely hung on:

Gerald E. "Gerry" Connolly 110,401 49.11%

Keith S. Fimian 109,914 48.90%

Results do not add up to 100% because of third parties

Final Thoughts

Speaker-to-be John Boehner was quite sober and non-triumphalist today. Senator-elect Marco Rubio said that

"We make a great mistake if we believe that these results tonight are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party," Rubio declared. "What they are is a second chance. A second chance for the Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago."

Who knows, maybe this will be short lived. But I don't think so.

On the other hand, President Obama seemed to take a different attitude today

"We'd be misreading the election if we thought the American people want to see us, for the next two years, relitigate arguments we had over the last two years," Obama said when asked about Republican promises to dismantle the health-care legislation.

When he was reminded that one in two voters said they opposed the health-care bill, Obama shot back that the statistic "also means one out of two voters thinks it was the right thing to do."

Obama signaled he is unwilling to compromise on his support for allowing tax cuts for those making $250,000 and above to expire on Jan. 1.

When asked whether he "didn't get it," Obama bristled.

"I'm doing a whole lot of reflecting," he said.

It's easy to read too much into a few statements, but can't be encouraging to sober Democrats.

President Clinton "triangulated" and came back to a tremendous victory in 1996. But he was quite the pragmatist, as they didn't call him "slick willie" in Arkansas for nothing. Obama, on the other hand, is quite the ideologue, it's hard to see him adopting Republican issues and making them his own. He also has no Dick Morris around to help him out.

As for the Republicans, I think the current leadership team of Boehner-Cantor is smarter and less arrogant than 1994's Gingrich-Armey. They also have the Tea Party movement to hold them accountable. I am optimistic they - we - will perform well in Congress, and will be in a good position as we head into the all important 2012 elections.

Posted by Tom at 1:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack