August 10, 2012

1200 Days Since Senate Democrats Passed a Budget, and $5 Trillion Deeper in Debt

No wonder Harry Reid wants to talk about Mitt Romney's tax returns:

'1,200 Days and $5 Trillion in New Debt Since Senate Dems Passed a Budget'
The Weekly Standard
by David Halper
August 8, 2010

Tomorrow will mark a milestone: It will be 1,200 days since Senate Democrats passed a budget, during which time Congress amassed $4.8 trillion in new debt.

Later today, the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee will release this chart, detailing these startling numbers:

Photobucket

Congress has spent $11.2 trillion since passing its last budget on April 29, 2009, according to the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee. The new debt since that date is $4.8 trillion.

"Since the last budget resolution was passed 1,200 days ago, the government has borrowed 42 cents of every dollar spent," the chart notes. The chart is based on Treasury Department figures.

In a joint statement, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions and House Budget Committee chair Paul Ryan mark the milestone.

"Tomorrow marks another disappointing record for the United States Senate: Senate Majority Leader Reid and his Democrat conference will have gone an unprecedented 1,200 days without adopting a budget plan as required by law," write Sessions and Ryan. "Not only have they failed to adopt a budget, but with America under threat of financial calamity, they have refused to even present a plan for public scrutiny. Last year, Majority Leader Reid said it would be 'foolish' to do a budget and the legally required Budget Committee mark-up was cancelled. No plan from his conference has seen the light of day. He refuses to disclose who he plans to tax and how he plans to spend taxpayers' money."

This year, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad committed to bringing forth a budget plan and conducting a mark-up, and was shut down by the Majority Leader. Once again, the conference put forward no proposal and offered nothing on the Senate floor. The Senate Majority did not offer up a single plan or even cast a vote in support of a single plan. By contrast, House Republicans laid out and adopted a credible, responsible plan that avoids this looming debt crisis with spending cuts and pro-growth tax reform while preserving the safety net.

Never before has our nation needed a budget and a long-term financial plan as badly as it needs one now. The Congressional Budget Office stated this week that the federal government is on track to run another trillion-dollar deficit this year and our debt will continue to explode with this continued lack of leadership. In addition to huge deficits, we face a $4 trillion tax increase at the end of this year and a sequester that Defense Secretary Panetta said will 'do catastrophic damage to the military.' Responsible and moral leadership requires the Senate to meet its legal obligation to pass a budget and to begin to address the fiscal crisis that is fast approaching our nation.


Posted by Tom at 6:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 9, 2011

Say No to the Dem's October Surprise

Say No to the Dem's October Surprise
Powerline
by John Hinderacker

Many times in the past, Congress has voted to raise the nation's debt ceiling with little or no controversy. Not so this year. The Republicans turned the vote on the debt ceiling into a major political issue by threatening to vote No, at least unless the Democrats made significant spending concessions. Initially, the Democrats squealed. Over time, however, they realized that the situation presents, for them, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Thus, they developed the strategy that we now see at work: First, publicize a purported deadline for an agreement to raise the ceiling, and promote the claim-false, in my view-that a fiscal disaster will ensue if a deal is not reached by that supposed deadline. Second, engage in secret negotiations with the Republican leadership that are expanded to include future tax increases and limited entitlement reform. That is the stage we are in now. Third, announce a deal-a cosmic, bipartisan budget agreement that ostensibly saves the Republic from a sea of debt-48 hours or so before the bogus debt ceiling deadline. Fourth, commit the deal to writing and rush it through Congress before anyone has a chance to read it or understand what is in it. Sound familiar?

...

The Democrats stand to gain enormously from this strategy. As things are now, they are stuck with a fiscal record that is utterly indefensible. In a mere two and a half years, the Obama administration has rung up deficits that dwarf any in our history. Trillions of dollars have been added to the national debt. We have gone for more than two years without having a federal budget in place-which is not only scandalous, but illegal. And President Obama proposed a budget for FY 2012 that was so absurd that it couldn't garner a single vote in the Senate. The Democrats, based on their dismal record, deserve to go down to a resounding defeat in 2012.
...

Over time, of course, the truth about the deal will leak out. Voters will learn that the ballyhooed trillions of dollars in spending cuts are more or less nonexistent: First, the "cuts" will consist entirely of smaller increases, not actual reductions. Second, they will occur mostly or exclusively in the "out years," and therefore will probably never take place at all, since whoever is in Congress eight or ten years from now will not be bound to the slightest degree by any purported deal the Republicans may agree to later this month. Third, many of the supposed cuts will prove to be nothing but accounting legerdemain.

Likewise, voters will slowly realize that the cosmic bipartisan budget agreement does little or nothing to control our burgeoning federal debt. But that understanding will come later; hopefully, from the Democrats' standpoint, after the November 2012 elections return President Obama for a second term and sustain their majority in the Senate, while-who knows?-perhaps returning the House to Democratic control.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2011

Labor Union Madness in Wisconsin: Coming to a Legislature Near You?

I don't have much time, but this situation in Wisconsin is too much to ignore. The state is broke and labor unions are the big part of the problem. The story, in brief is this:

Union protesters and Democrat lawmakers will attempt to prevent for a second day a vote in the Wisconsin Senate that would increase public employees' contributions to retirement and health benefits and strip unions of the power to bargain for higher salaries.


Wisconsin 1


The grassroots political operation of President Obama, who on Wednesday denounced the austerity legislation as an "attack on unions," has swung in behind the government workers. Organizing for America, the activist organizing wing of the Democratic National Committee is helping keep the pressure on Republican lawmakers who plan to pass the legislation today.

Members of the Service Employees International Union, the most influential union in national Democratic circles, have also joined the fray in support of the government workers. The SEIU is helping man an around-the-clock occupation of the central halls of the state capital.

SEIU, of course, is the labor union that spawned ACORN, which is as near a criminal organization as I can tell

And instead of demanding civility from the union thugs, Obama is egging them on.

Instead of doing their duty, Democrat lawmakers have fled so as to prevent a quorum, which prevents a vote on a bill designed to reign in the excesses of public sector labor unions.

The measure would increase the contributions of public employees to their own retirement and medical benefits. The plan, put forward by new Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisc., would have public workers make equal contributions to their retirement funds (teachers currently contribute $1 for every $56.94 from the state) and increase workers' share of health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent. Teachers in most districts currently pay less than 5 percent of their insurance costs. The national average for workers is 27 percent.

While the increased contributions are a sore spot, the greatest anger among demonstrators is over the portion of the bill that would strip public workers of the right to bargain for higher wages, benefits and changes to job duties. Pay raises for public workers would be subject to voter approval. Under the law, the state would also stop withholding union dues from government paychecks and make due payments strictly voluntary.

I see little reason for public sector labor unions in the first place. They certainly should not have collective bargaining power, or the ability to require dues from workers.

Sure, if it was 1911 I'd not only be a big fan or labor unions, I'd be an organizer myself. You don't have to believe everything Upton Sinclair said about how terrible the situation was in factories to believe that workers needed unions to protect them. Labor unions have a history to be proud of, because they were once needed. And even today, I'm ok with labor unions for coal miners and the like. But for the most part unions have outlived their usefulness, and cause more harm than good.

Although they are not allowed by law to strike, it appears that many of them are doing just that with a mass campaign to "call in sick." Many teachers are protesting the proposed legislation "by taking sick days in massive numbers, shutting down schools across the state."


The obligatory comparison of a Republican to Hitler:

Wisconsin 2


A few thoughts by writers I like. Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, quoting an email he received from a reader:

1)"What Walker is doing isn't unprecedented--18 states deny collective bargaining rights to some classes of public workers, or allow municipalities to do so. Virginia and North Carolina have outright bans on public sector collective bargaining. And nearly every state has some sort of restrictions on the scope of collective bargaining- for example, in New York, pension benefits are an excluded subject from collective bargaining."

2) "Boosting pensions is an especially attractive way for unions to increase members' overall compensation because pensions are commitments that come home to roost far in the future, when the politicians negotiating them will no longer be in office. Getting wage raises is harder because the must be factored into budgets immediately. So, reducing collective bargaining to wages only is a big deal."

Coming to a legislature near you?

Wisconsin 3


Victor Davis Hanson, on the union thuggery in Wisconsin and Obama's hypocrisy on the issue of "civility":

When President Obama called for a new civility, I was somewhat confused. In 2004-7, the uncivil demagoguery of the Left damaged Bush; immediately after Obama's call for civility, someone wrote an "I hate Joe Lieberman" column; now, Governor Walker-Nazi signs have appeared in Madison. Given that the country polls center-right, the hysterical style is something that the modern Left uses to counteract public opinion; Obama has condemned a methodology that is predominately embraced by his own hard-core base. (Indeed, swarming someone's private home, or using terms like "enemy" and "punish," are not unknown to either the younger or older Obama.) The result is the hypocrisy of condemning the incivility that will only become more useful to the Left as the election nears.


Photobucket


More from Hanson's post:

At some point, Obama will have to see what Gov. Jerry Brown here in California has already realized: Out-of-whack public-employee compensation and pensions drain the treasury and preclude grandiose green projects and other dubious liberal programs. To put it rather crassly, the liberal calculus often works out as mostly older white guys wanting their unsustainable pension and benefit payouts while the "other" and the more needy are shorted from receiving proper public attention. Since the states cannot print money and often lose population to other states when they raise taxes, the reality is that the well-off are enjoying perks that younger and private-sector workers lack while social services and the green visions of an Al Gore or a 2008 Obama are defunded.


Of course, the teachers are recruiting their students to go and protest at the state capital. Think they'll face any discipline? Of course not.

On Valentine's Day, over 100 students in tiny Stoughton, Wis., marched out of their classrooms and into the unseasonably warm air. They had decided to protest Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's new bill to require higher pension and health-care contributions from state and local government employees.

As a student "union" leader barked into a megaphone in the background, one high-school junior expressed his concern for his teachers. "A lot of my teachers have been really concerned about this -- they don't know if they're going to have jobs next year or not," he worried.

Two days later, schools in Madison canceled classes so teachers could join 20,000 people in picketing the capitol building. A 700-student entourage from Madison East High School, urged on by their teachers, marched the three miles from their school to the capitol. Wisconsin's MacIver Institute, armed with a video camera, asked one of the students what the group was there to protest. "We're trying to stop whatever this dude is doing," he eruditely explained.

This "dude" is trying to fill a $3.6 billion hole in the state's budget by requiring state and local government employees to pay 5.8 percent of their salary towards their pensions (most currently pay nothing), and increasing their share of health-care premiums to 12 percent (double their current share). Governor Walker's plan would also eliminate collective bargaining for almost everything except salary for government employees.

States around the union are finding that the cost curve of generous benefits to unionized workers is simply not sustainable. Politicians, mostly liberal, promised the moon in return for votes and figured they'd be out of office when the bills came due. They are coming due now. The entitlements crunch is hitting us, and it's being played out before our eyes.

We can either cave to the unions and go the route of Europe, whereby we enter the long slow slide of ever slower economic growth with permanent high unemployment, or we can take the hard decisions, break the unions, and put our country back on a sound financial footing. I wish that Governor Walker and the Republicans didn't have to do what they are doing. But they won the election because the people in Wisconsin saw what was happening to their state, and they are trying to make good on their campaign promises. The labor unions are trying to subvert the vote. Let's hope that the governor succeeds, and the unions fail.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 24, 2011

The Civility Charade

There's a movement afoot, led be Democrats, to have "bipartisan seating" during tomorrow's State of the Union speech. We're supposed to think this kumbaya moment will be a good thing and lead to greater civility.

What a load of bunk.

It's all fake bipartisanship and fake civility. Before the shell casings had even hit the floor after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the left unleashed a torrent of hate and vitriol on Sarah Palin, but also conservative talk radio and Fox News, and the Tea Party movement. Mad that they had lost the Nov 2010 elections, they decided that this was the time to get even. Their objective was to silence Palin and shot down the conservative media outlets that had led the charge against Obama and the Democrats.

The civility charade is in the same vein. The liberals are still spewing their vitriol in congress and on the airwaves. It's only conservatives that must obey the new mandate.

It's also an attempt to divert us from the issues. The Republicans in Congress want to scale back Obama's agenda, and the Dems are desperately trying to stop that from happening. Polls show that as many as 60 percent of the American people want ObamaCare repealed. The more people hear about ObamaCare the more they dislike it

Obama's Mandela Moment
January 22, 2011
Victor Davis Hanson

...the current rise (in Obama's popularity in the polls) is exclusively a direct result of three interrelated phenomena: 1) the tragic January 8, 2011, Tucson shootings; 2) the hysterical left-wing scapegoating of everyone from the Tea Party to Sarah Palin for the violence; and 3) the sudden emergence of a sober and judicious Mandela-like Obama, quite admirably calling for calm on all sides -- while suggesting simultaneously that the horrific killings had no connection with the right wing, but also that the horrific killings offer an appropriate moment to reconsider all political zealotry in general.

In the ensuing ten days, Obama's polls and approval have skyrocketed.

However politically brilliant all of this was, it remains in some sense quite morbid, in a creepy sort of never-waste-a-tragedy sense. The reaction to the killings almost instantly blotted out information about and concern for the dead and maimed. Yet in this entire confusing media circus, questions simply were not only not answered, but in fact never raised...

How can a president subtly distance himself from the macabre and revolting behavior of his left-wing base while simultaneously editorializing on unhinged invective in general (e.g., without an embarrassing extreme, there is no occasion to call for moderation from others)?

Why did five days of presidential silence follow the shootings (so unlike instant editorializing about the Mutallab and Hasan incidents), when the likes of Paul Krugman, Frank Rich, Andrew Sullivan, Sheriff Dupnik, and the New York Times rushed in to scavenge political capital amid the carnage?...

And why not some therapeutic confessional of past (and in many cases quite recent) presidential culpability (e.g., the president's own metaphorical use of knives, guns, enemies, punishing, kicking ass, relegation to backseat, get angry, getting in their face, hostage takers, trigger fingers, tearing up)?

The way ahead

We all know what is coming in 2012 -- the most well-financed, Wall Street-subsidized, vitriolic camping in modern memory, in which Obama's rivals will be metaphorically reduced to caricatures of racist, selfish, and cruel nativists. The 2011 Tucson speech will have about as much resonance with Obama's impending campaign style as the 2004 oration affected his 2004-9 political behavior.

Rhetoric in the new age of tolerance

And finally, why not an iota of presidential follow-up when in nanoseconds Obama's own progressive supporters returned to form and took up the old successful hate tropes? Rep. Cohen (D-TN) was soon comparing conservative opponents to Nazis in their Goebbels-like propaganda that likewise would, we were to believe, result in a Holocaust-like denial of basic human compassion. Columnists in Slate were back to the old Jonathan Chait-style ("I hate George Bush. There, I said it") of declaring their unabashed loathing for political opponents ("Why I Loathe my Connecticut Senator"). All that was left was the reemergence from his Atlanta peace center of a smiling Jimmy Carter, quoting scripture as he might yet again remind us that the elder Bush was "effeminate," Vice President Cheney was a "militant," the younger Bush was the "worst" president, and Israel is an "apartheid" state.

Yup, 2012 is going to be ugly, folks, so hang onto your seats. If they're this bad now, imagine how it'll get if they think Obama will lose.

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

January 13, 2011

One More Post on The Gabrielle Giffords Shooting and the Question of Blame

Unless there are major new developments this is going to be it about this incident and then we're moving on.

No, I did not watch President Obama's speech last night, nor do I plan on watching it or reading the text. Most conservative commentators that I trust said 1) His speech was very good,he said the right things and hit the right notes, and 2) the festival-campaign atmosphere with all the whooping and hollering and cheering was entirely inappropriate.

Assuming these commentators have it right, it speaks well of our president but poorly of his supporters. Given liberal behavior this week, I am not surprised.

I first heard of the shooting while at the gym. I saw it on the TV and thought to myself, what a terrible tragedy. We'll have to put up with some calls for more gun control, but that's standard operating procedure for the Sarah Brady bunch and we'll get through it. I had no idea that the left would unleash such a torrent of hate.

Let's start with this amazing video of Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik:

Now, I'm no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but even I know that it's evidence first, conclusion second.

The tragic shooting of Rep Giffords taught us a lot about our political scene, it just isn't the "heated and threatening rhetoric" that the media is now talking about. The left unleashed a torrent of hate against Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement, Fox News, and conservatives in general almost immediately after the shooting, and well before any of the facts about the motives of the shooter were known. And by "left," we're not just talking about obscure bloggers, but media people in print and on TV, and politicians.

The shooting taught us about the monumental level of raw hate that the left has for Sarah Palin and the lengths they will go in attacking her. The idea that she is to blame because of some ad that used crosshairs is insane. Reaction is summarized around the Internet, but two good pieces are at Powerline: A Disgrace to Nuts Everywhere and A Disgrace to Nuts Everywhere Part 2.

Before the motives or political affiliation of the shooter were known, a full scale assault was mounted on Palin, the Tea Party movement, conservative talk radio, and Fox News.

Throughout the first eight years of this decade conservatives listed to the left issue the most vile statements about George W Bush; "selected, not elected," "Bush lied, people died," a billion references to Bush as Hitler, usually in the form of something like "BusHitler" or "ChimpyMcHitler." Assassination chic, films about his assassination, and all manner of over-the-top statements were all the rage.

And let's be clear; the hateful, overheated, and sometimes even violent imagery in the rhetoric didn't just come from obscure bloggers. Democrats in Congress and media commentators were guilty as well.

Would you like evidence? Two quickies: Michelle Malkin has put together a progressive "climate of hate:" An illustrated primer, 2000-2010. The Washington Times editorial Taking advantage of tragedy: Hate crimes are down, but liberals use violence to target conservatism provides examples of some pretty big-name Democrats and liberals using rhetoric with some awfully violent rhetoric in it.

Last August James Jay Lee took three people hostage at the Discovery Channel building in Montgomery County, just outside of Washington DC. After a four hour standoff, a tactical squad shot and killed Lee after he pointed his pistol at a hostage. Lee specifically said that he had been inspired by former Vice President Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Fortunately in this case no one else was killed, but they could easily have been.

Did we see a media campaign to urge environmentalists to "tone down the rhetoric?" Stop their hysterical claims that "the earth has a fever" and that there was "a planetary emergency?" Anyone tell Al Gore to apologize? Of course not. In fact, the reaction of the right was to NOT exploit this, but rather to say "if this had been the other way around the left would exploit it." Sure enough, they have.

Conclusion

What happened in Tucson was that a lone nutcase went on a terrible rampage and killed a wounded many people. Maybe we need to ban the extra large magazines, I'm actually sympathetic to that, although that's a knee jerk reaction that won't prevent diddly.

We've got to find a way to identify and isolate mentally ill people, and keep them from buying guns, but that's a complex issue. Besides what's mentioned in this article on the subject, the other issue is that if someone doesn't want to go to treatment you can't make them. I'm no lawyer, but even basic research shows that you can't incarcerate people against their will most of the time. And anyway, what constitutes mental illness, and who makes the determination? It all seems to obvious after one of these incidents, but there are genuine civil rights concerns.

My heart goes out to the victims of this tragedy. I do hope they knew God so that they are in a better place. You never know when your time will end. Have you said all the things you need to say to your loved ones? Have you gotten in good with your maker?

Finally; what is going on here is clear: The left is mad that they lost the Nov 2010 elections and is trying to get even. They want to shut down conservative talk radio and Fox News, and marginalize the Tea Party movement.

It won't work.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 22, 2010

Our Lame Duck Congress

For the first 140 or so years after ratification of the Constitution, the the new President and Congress took their offices March 4 after the elections in November. Without going into detail, although the date of March 4 was not explicitly spelled out, that's what the 12th Amendment of 1804, and custom, added up to.

Given travel difficulties of the 18th and 19th centuries, it took a lot of time to assemble a new government, and travel to and from one's home state to Washington DC. By the 20th century travel time had been reduced, and everyone could see that it would only get faster. As such, the 20th Amendment to the Constitution stipulated that the President and new Congress would take office in January. Relevant are sections one and two of the amendment:

Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Section 2. The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

The issues, however, go beyond travel. The writer of this Wikipedia article on the 20th Amendment spells it out:

From the early 19th century onward, it also meant that the lame duck Congress and/or Presidential administration could, as in the case of the Congress, convene or fail to convene. In the case of the administration, to act or to fail to act, or to meet significant national crises in a timely manner. Each institution could do this on the theory that at best, a lame duck Congress or administration had neither the time nor the mandate to tackle problems. Where as the incoming administration or Congress would have both the time, and a fresh electoral mandate, to examine and address the problems that the nation faced. These problems very likely would have been at the center of the debate of the just completed election cycle.

Take it for what it's worth. But the issue of mandate is an interesting one, given how active our current lame-duck Congress has been:

Tax Cuts - Passed - Interestingly, both the extreme right and extreme left didn't like the deal Obama worked out with Republican leaders. I'd have held my nose and voted for it as the best of a series of bad choices.

Omnibus Budget - Failed - Fortunately, Republicans were able to stop the Democrats from digging us further into debt by forcing a continuing resolution instead of a full scale budget for next year. You don't have to look far to find the usual tales of woe in the liberal press about how government agencies will be starved of funds for "vital" upgrades. Sure. It was worth it to stop funding for ObamaCare and the usual pork programs.

Gays in the Military - Passed - The debate about gay marriage in the civilian world is about a lot of things, but marriage isn't one of them. Likewise, the issue is not whether gays can serve without disrupting military readiness. Progressives couldn't care less about the military or marriage. What they want is to force the acceptance of the gay lifestyle as equal to hetrosexuals. They want to forbid discussion of these issues, and shut down businesses and churches that refuse to play ball.

New START - Passed - Irrelevant at best, harmful at worst, the main purpose of this treaty is to make it look like Obama has achieved something. We're assured by the striped-pants set that the treaty is good for us, and you little people should just do as your told. They also assure us that the preamble to the treaty does not inhibit U.S. missile defense systems, but the Russians say otherwise.

DREAM Act - Failed - Otherwise known as the "let's create more Democrat voters bill," yet another attempt to pass what amounts to mass amnesty for illegal aliens was thwarted.

Food Safety Modernization Act - Pending - I haven't really followed this one, but it basically gives the FDA power to regulate "all foods sold, distributed, or imported within the US."

Net Neutrality - Pending - The issue is complicated, but the guiding principle of how government regulation should work isn't: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Internet works just fine, and giving the FCC additional power is asking for trouble down the road. My general guideline to the FCC would be something like "make sure radio station signals don't overlap, and after that you're done." The FCC has no business telling broadband companies how to handle their traffic.

The Progressive Plan

Progresssives realize that their large majorities in the 111th Congress, coupled with the administration of Barack Obama, present the best chance of getting their agenda enacted into law that they'll ever probably see in their lifetimes. It's now or never.

Further, they realize that an law, once enacted, is hard to completely repeal. They know that once the cat is out of the bag on things such as universal health care, or gays in the military, its hard to stuff it back in. And once an illegal alien has been made a citizen, and thus a Democrat voter, you can't take that citizenship away.

Thus their method of ramming as much legislation through as possible while they're still in office.

The Republican Response

There's not much we can do now. Contrary to the dreams of some Tea Party and conservative extremists, we're never going to have anything but a spectrum of Republicans in Congress that run from moderate-liberal to hard right. We're paying the price for screwing up in the early part of this decade.

Once the new 112th Congress is seated we can get to work. We can't repeal ObamaCare, but we can starve it of funds, and refuse to pass any enabling legislation.

What Can Be Done?

It may well be time to revise the 20th Amendment. This Congress has been rejected by the American people, and they have no business passing anything but emergency legislation. If Republicans did this in the past then shame on them, and two wrongs don't make a right.

But given the herculean task of passing an amendment to the Constitution, the 112th Congress would do well to concentrate on practical matters of reducing government spending and rolling back ObamaCare. If they can simply prevent the progressives from doing any more damage I'll be happy. Let's set ourselves up for a bigger victory in 2012, and then we can really set about the true business of reform.

Update - Additional Research

The Heritage Foundation has a paper on treaty ratification during lame duck sessions of Congress that sheds some additional light on the matter:

While recognizing that such sessions were necessary under extraordinary circumstances, proponents of the (20th) Amendment argued that laws made by lame duck sessions were less democratically legitimate because those laws were promulgated by individuals different from those chosen by a popular election immediately preceding the session. In cases where there were changes in the control of Congress or the presidency, significant binding actions--such as the ratification of treaties--may violate the principle of the consent of the governed
.

There have only been 18 lame duck sessions since 1933, out of a possible 38. That is, there have been 38 elections since 1933, and Congress has only met after the election and before the new Congress was seated 18 times. Six of those took place from 1940 to 1954, mostly to pass emergency World War II and Cold War legislation. There were only four lame duck sessions from 1956 to 1994, but eight since then, including the current one.

Several observations flow from this.

One, Lame duck sessions during World War II and the early days of the Cold War could be justified by military necessity. That rationale has mostly not existed since then.

Two, lame duck Congresses are somewhat of a bipartisan phenomenon. Two wrongs never make a right.

Three, this current lame duck Congress has been unusual in the number and type of bills it has passed. There has been nothing like it since the 1940s. The conclusion of the Heritage paper:

The Senate date of treaty ratification cross-checked with the dates of each lame duck session of Congress confirms the general assertion that no major treaty has ever been ratified by the Senate during a lame duck session of Congress. ...

The recent midterm elections created significant ramifications for passing New START during the lame duck session. The ratification of New START by a lame duck Senate would not only ignore the message sent by voters in November but also break a significant precedent, consistent with the principle of consent, maintained by Presidents and Congresses since the passage of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933.

Posted by Tom at 8:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 7, 2010

The Tax Deal is a Good Deal

President Obama and Congressional Republicans reached a deal which will extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels while also extending unemployment benefits. There were spending reductions to match the tax cuts, and there is no plan to pay for the unemployment benefits:

* Extends unemployment insurance for 13 months. Two million workers in December, and 7 million over the next year, would have lost benefits otherwise.
* Provides a one-year, 2% reduction in employees' Social Security payroll taxes, lowering the rate from 6.2% to 4.2%, at a cost of $120 billion.
* Keeps the Earned Income Tax Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit increases from last year's economic stimulus law, for another $40 billion in tax cuts for families and students.
* Allows business to write off 100% of their capital purchases next year.
* Sets the estate tax at 35% for two years, with a $5 million asset limit that's higher than last year's $3.5 million.

Economically, the tax cuts will help the economy, or at least not extending them would certainly hurt it. At (I think) 99 weeks unemployment benefits are too long anyway, and at that point I think all they do is reduce the incentive to find work.

Contrary to what some knee-jerk supply siders say, tax cuts do not always pay for themselves. In the long run sometimes they do, but not always, because it depends where you are on the Phillips Curve.

Politically, you don't have to go far to see that most Republicans and conservatives generally like the compromise, while Democrats and the liberal base hate it. Much, much, more importantly, Obama doesn't seem to like it.

That alone tells me it was a good deal!

Obama's Base Seems to Hate the Deal

Powerline reports that

A poll conducted by Survey USA provides a sense of the left's dismay at the tax deal President Obama agreed to. Survey USA polled 1,000 people who contributed time or money to the Obama presidential campaign. 74 percent strongly oppose the deal and 57 percent say they are less likely to contribute in 2012 to Democrats who support it.

President Obama Gets Angry!

I haven't found a video that I can post here, but I will post excerpts of the transcript of his press conference on the deal. Various news reports describe the president as "visibly angry." I have underlined the most interesting parts, where Obama describes Republicans as hostage takers and bomb throwers and says that he is itching for a fight:

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Before I answer a few questions, I just wanted to say a few words about the agreement we've reached on tax cuts.

My number one priority is to do what's right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth. I'm focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.
...

Q (Chuck Todd) Mr. President, what do you say to Democrats who say you're rewarding Republican obstruction here? You yourself used in your opening statement they were unwilling to budge on this. A lot of progressive Democrats are saying they're unwilling to budge, and you're asking them to get off the fence and budge. Why should they be rewarding Republican obstruction?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me use a couple of analogies. I've said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.
,,,

Q Tell that to the left -- they weren't happy --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, but that's my point. My point is I don't make judgments based on what the conventional wisdom is at any given time. I make my judgments based on what I think is right for the country and for the American people right now.

And I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I'm itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am. And I think the American people will be on my side on a whole bunch of these fights. But right now I want to make sure that the American people aren't hurt because we're having a political fight, and I think that this agreement accomplishes that.
...

Q (Marc Ambinder)Just in the sense that they'll say essentially we're not going to raise the -- we're not going to agree to it unless the White House is able to or willing to agree to significant spending cuts across the board that probably go deeper and further than what you're willing to do. I mean, what leverage would you have --

THE PRESIDENT: Look, here's my expectation -- and I'll take John Boehner at his word -- that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That's something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he's going to have responsibilities to govern. You can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

What language! How angry! How... prickly.

The Root of Obama's Problem

Barack Obama never had any difficult election races, and is used to people adoring him. No, he's used to them fawning over him. So when the going gets tough, he has no idea what to do. He's not used to having to negotiate from a position of relative weakness and doesn't know how to do it.

Most conservatives and happy with the deal and most liberals are angry because, as Ezra Klein points out, Republicans got that the things that "they really, really wanted," wheras liberals are angry because "Obama and the Democrats didn't fight" for what they gave up but simply caved at the first opportunity. Klein tries to put a happy face on the whole thing, but he's not convincing.

Will Congress Support The Deal?

In the end the leadership of both sides can make any deal they want, but if the rank and file won't support it the whole thing collapses. I don't think we have a solid feel for where this is going, but my guess is it'll probably pass, though it may get changed a bit.

Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint opposes the deal, objecting that the unemployment benefits must be paid for, and that the tax cuts should be paid for.

But just as important, Rep. Ryan (R., Wis.), who is very influential in conservative-Tea Party circles, likes the deal, reasoning that "All things considered, I think it's the best deal we were going to get. It's clearly not a good as we would've wanted, but far better than the alternative route."

House Speaker and Minority-Leader to be Nancy Pelosi says she opposes the deal, saying that "the estate tax in the bill is a bridge too far."

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) doesn't like it either: "I don't think it's a fair deal. I think a ransom was paid, and it was a very high price."

As for the rest of the Democrats, NRO reports that "Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) tells reporters that the just-complete Democratic conference lunch with Vice President Biden was "difficult," but there is "no rebellion . . . not yet.""

Conclusion

I'm happier with the politics than the economics of the deal, although extending the tax cuts for all income earners will help the economy (or keep it from getting worse). The politics count, because getting that right paves the way to future victories.

Byron York explains how the Democrats were hoist by their own petard, having boxed themselves into this position by refusing to pass a budget this year. Essentially, they outsmarted themselves and are paying the price.

The Republicans look like they're in a better spot, but that will change if Boehner and McConnell can't keep their troops in order. But the leftist Obama base is angry, and that can only be a good thing.


Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (6) | 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 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

August 19, 2010

Nancy Pelosi to Bring Back House Un-American Affairs Committee

So Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says that "There is no question that there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some, and I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque (is) being funded."

And just as Obama had to "clarify" his remarks on the Cordoba House "Ground Zero mosque" after they raised a stink, the Speaker had to "clarify" a few days later, insisting that no, she did not mean to say that she wanted a congressional inquiry." Like, you know, the House Un-American Affairs Committee.

House Un-American Affairs Committee

Worse, she evidently forgot that some rather prominent Democrats have come out against the mosque, such as former governor of Vermont and DNC Chairman Howard Dean and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Oops.

This sort of kookery, dear reader, is one reason why the Democrats are going to lose big this November. It's bad enough that they ram through unpopular legislation after a smorgasbord of deal-making that would make even Bismark wince, but they have incompetent leaders to boot.

Don't get me wrong; the GOP has had it share of nincompoops in charge as well. Speaker of the House Denny Haskert and Chair of the RNC Michael Steele come to mind, as does Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. But the Democrats are the ones in charge now, and it is they who will be held to account.

How is it that Pelosi can say something so obviously stupid and wrong?

One of if not the most insightful bloggers anywhere is Richard Fernandez, who writes the Belmont Club blog, now at Pajamas Media. Read his entire post on the matter, but here is the gist of it:

Nancy Pelosi thinks the reason why questions about the Ground Zero mosque are following her around is because it's been "all ginned up" and she has called for an investigation into who is funding those raising the questions. Pelosi's remarks provide an insight into a world in which nothing happens unless it is bought and paid for. Since these are the rules the denizens of that universe have lived by, they cannot conceive of a world that does not run on pure corruption.

In the world they live in, everything has a price. Whenever anything is observed to happen, the question is always "who sent you"?

The Ground Zero mosque issue serves two functions, both of which are important. The first is to raise the question of how accountable the administration and the cultural elites are to the sensibilities of the country; and the second is to draw attention to the particular interests that are driving this issue.

The important thing to remember is that Pelosi's call for an investigation into those opposed to building of the mosque are geared towards preventing any further discussion on the subject, not expanding it. Since the administration and its allies control vast prosecutorial resources and powers of publicity, an investigation of the Ground Zero mosque's backers and those opposed will certainly focus on the opposition. The backers will be given a free ride.

We see the same thing with the Tea Party. Rather than discuss the issues that brought about the Tea Parties in the first place; of spending and the role of government in determining health care delivery, they try and change the subject with the McCarthyite charge that the Tea Partiers are all a bunch of racists.

As I said in my last post, the way Obama has handled the issue of the Ground Zero mosque shows him to be wildly out of touch with mainstream America. The way Nancy Pelosi has reacted shows her to be out of sync as well. That Harry Reid responded in a normal manner wont' save them.

Note that my analysis is not so much based on that Obama and Pelosi are for the mosque and Reid against it. Anyone with a lick of political sense knows that being in favor of the mosque is a losing political issue, so if you must be in favor of it just make a few bland statements and move on. Obama and Pelosi have gone off the deep end, though, and this is something the American people will not forget.

__________________

Finally... yes I know Nancy Pelosi isn't going to bring back HUAC, so shoot me. It's an attention-getting title and it got you to read the post.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 8, 2010

Obama Flails

In this interview our president inadvertently makes clear hehas no idea what he's doing

No doubt the lefties don't see it that way, because he's going to stick it to those evil oil companies! And it's all Bush's fault anyway! Yeah! And Dick Cheney! And probably Halliburton!

President Obama's response has been all politics and no management. He and his followers seem content to blame Bush and use the incident to attack BP, who we are now to believe is the worst company in the world, apparently surpassing Halliburton. Those with long memories, and these days that means over a few weeks, will recall that it wasn't too many years ago that the pharmaceutical industry was public enemy number one. But their usefulness as whipping boys diminished when the Democrats passed ObamaCare, starting us on the road to socialized medicine.

It's not that I think Obama should dive down 5,000 feet and cap the thing himself. Or that he has the technical expertise to figure out how to do it. It's more that the man has shown no real concern for anything other than using the crisis to get in a few good photo ops for himself and bashing the GOP. He's adept at holding White House parties and being serenaded by washed up rock stars but not at taking care of a serious crisis.

Instead of fixing the problem first and afixing blame later, the Obama Administration has proceeded in typical leftist fashion, taking Rahm Emanuel's advice of "never let a serious crisis go to waste." Robert Alt & Brian Walsh have the story:

As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, what the region needs most is the nation's best experts to plug the well and clean up the mess. It doesn't need Justice Department prosecutors threatening criminal charges. Yet that's exactly what it's getting.

The Obama administration has launched a criminal investigation and may prosecute BP and others for their roles in the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster. At best, this is premature. It is also predictable and disturbing.

Buffeted by accusations that President Obama has failed to take decisive action, his administration is seeking shelter from the real issues raised by the oil spill by playing up to the call to "do something." After all, there's nothing like prosecuting someone to show that you are "doing something."

The catastrophe in the Gulf must be taken seriously, which is why the Justice Department shouldn't float the idea of criminal punishment unless and until there's good evidence of actual criminal wrongdoing. The potential civil fines and liability for financial damages alone could be crippling for BP. Dangling the Damocles sword of criminal liability over the heads of those who are now trying to contain the spill only multiplies the difficulties of the tasks they face. It puts the fear of incarceration and personal destruction upon people who, so far as anyone knows, have tried hard to comply with the (often conflicting) requirements of the thousands of federal laws, rules, and regulations that govern oil exploration.

As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, Attorney General Eric Holder "declined to specify the target of the investigation because he said authorities aren't 'clear on who should ultimately be held liable.'"

This is criminal prosecution as fishing expedition -- scouring the federal code to find anything that might possibly work to provide criminal penalties. That's counterproductive to the number-one priority, which must be stopping and containing the oil spill. Announcing criminal investigations to score political points or stave off political damage is an abuse of one of the most awesome powers of the state, the power to deprive an individual of his or her personal liberty."

The purpose of the Obama-Holder investigation is not to find fault as traditionally defined. It is to 1) divert attention from Obama's own incompetence, and 2) use this crisis as an excuse to over-regulate the hated oil industry. Of course Obama and Holder are abusing the Department of Justice to achieve a political goal; it's who they are.

And let's be clear by what I mean "over-regulation." We're not talking safety, folks. That's not what the Obama Administration has in mind. We're talking de facto control of private enterprise, government ownership in everything but name. Obama has made clear his utter contempt for the private sector, and his desire for redistribution of wealth to anyone who bothers to listen to him. This is just one more step towards his goal.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 28, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Oppose ObamaCare!

Being busy, I'm a bit late on this, but since I saved the links it's better late than never.

Taking McCarthyism to a new level, Democrat Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) says that people who oppose ObamaCare are racists who are aiding and abetting terrorism.

Ah yes, win a vote, the other side objects, and you accuse them of bring on violence. Over the past week we've seen all sorts of insane charges from the Democrats about how they've supposedly received all these threats, about how black Democrats have been called the n word, yada yada yada.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is warning that some of his Democratic colleagues are being threatened with violence when they go back to their districts -- and he wants Republicans to stand up and condemn the threats.

The Maryland Democrat said more than 10 House Democrats have reported incidents of threats or other forms of harassment about their support of the highly divisive health insurance overhaul vote. Hoyer emphasized that he didn't have a specific number of threats and that was just an estimate.

TheFederal Bureau of Investigation, Capitol Police and sergeant at arms briefed Democrats behind closed doors today about the incidents of violence -- the most high profile of which have been toward Democratic Reps. Thomas Perriello of Virginia, Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Louise Slaughter of New York.

Hoyer hinted that Republicans should do more to condemn these threats of violence.

Yawn.

Not. Impressed.

Politicians, journalists, high-profile bloggers, radio-talk show hosts and the like get death threats every day. Some are serious, some not so much. All perpetrators should be prosecuted.

But it's pretty obvious that the Democrats are using this to change the subject. Their bill is unpopular and they know it. And this from t he party that never condemned the assassination chic rampant on the left when George W Bush was the target?

Eric Cantor Calls out the Democrats - by Name

Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA) nails it when he condemned the Democrats for their tactics, saying that "It is reckless to use these incidents as a media vehicle for political gains." What I like is that he denounces Democrats by name, not content is he to just issue the standard blanket statement.

As for the bullet allegedly fired into one of his offices, neither he nor I are hanging our hates on any tit-for-tat argument, so commenters are advised not to try and waste keystrokes on that one, because I'm not falling for it.

Victor Davis Hanson reviews the hypocrisy of how a book and docudrama fantasizing about about assassinating George W Bush are excused but when the Democrats are (allegedly) on the receiving end it's suddenly all serious, and laments that

Like it or not, between 2001 and 2008, the "progressive" community redefined what is acceptable and not acceptable in political and public discourse about their elected officials. Slurs like "Nazi" and "fascist" and "I hate" were no longer the old street-theater derangement of the 1960s, but were elevated to high-society novels, films, political journalism, and vein-bulging outbursts of our elites. If one were to take the word "Bush" and replace it with "Obama" in the work of a Nicholson Baker, or director Gabriel Range, or Garrison Keillor or Jonathan Chait, or in the rhetoric of a Gore or Moore, we would be presently in a national crisis, witnessing summits on the epidemic of "hate speech."

Yup. After eight years of "Bush Lied, People Died!" a zillion references to Bush as the new Hitler by leftist bloggers ("bushitler," chimpy McHitler"), feting Michael Moore and a whole lot else, it's awfully rich for the left to start demanding civility now that their guy is in office.

John Hinderacker wonders "what was that line about the tree of liberty and the blood of tyrants?" and says that the media and Dem focus is on alleged threats against anyone who voted for ObamaCare. These are disgusting scare tactics and McCarthyism pure and simple. And this from the "Bush Lied, People Died!" crowd.

The current threats (assuming they are real, as I assume some of them are) are being played up in the press because the Democrats want to dampen the anger that has erupted over their adoption of a government medicine program through a series of legislative maneuvers that are in some respects unprecedented. It is important for the Democrats and their press minions to understand that there are many millions of Americans who regard Obamacare not just as misguided public policy, but as an illegitimate usurpation of power. I am one of the many millions who are outraged at the Left's attempt to destroy the private health care system that has served my family so well, and who regard Obamacare as illegitimate. ...

In large part, the current focus on threats of violence is aimed at the tea partiers, just as they were accused, apparently falsely, of racism. It is not hard to understand the Democrats' motives; the tea parties are the most vital force, and likely the most popular force, in American politics, so smearing them is mandatory. But anyone who has attended a tea party rally will consider laughable the idea that the movement somehow tends toward violence.

I've been to lots of protests in and around Washington DC; many to counterprotest and observe leftist anti-war groups such as ANSWER, Code Pink, and United for Peace and Justice. I've also been to conservative rallies such as the Gathering of Eagles, the March for Life, and a Tea Party. There are kooks on each side, but the conservative ones are definitely family-friendly where as the leftist ones are just about X rated for profanity, vulgarity, and sexual innuendos. Check out "Rallies and Protests" under "Categories" at right.

Bottom line I don't take the Democrat claims seriously as anything more than an attempt to divert attention from the issue at hand; the massive unpopularity of their health care legislation. Let them rant all they want, we'll defeat them at the polls this November and in 2012.

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

February 25, 2010

The Hypocrisy of the Liberal Call for "Unity"

So we read that Hillary Clinton tells us that we are weaker because we have political fights between Republicans and Democrats:

Clinton: Political fights hurt U.S. image: Wants world to see 'unity and strength'
The Washington Times
By Nicholas Kralev

President Obama's diminished political power as a result of fights between the White House and Congress has damaged both his and the country's image abroad, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday.

Even as she thanked Congress for its bipartisan support for many of the Obama administration's foreign policy goals, Mrs. Clinton said during two Senate committee hearings that recent bickering on domestic issues concerns her and that she hopes "we can figure out a better way to address it."

We hear this line often from Democrats these days. It's a lot of nonsense, and here's why:

It's really the very definition to hear this from the party that for years told us that "Bush Lied, people died!" This from the party whose spokesmen told us that "Bush lied us into war." This from the party that undermined our efforts in the war on terror in general and in Iraq in particular at every turn. This from the party that spent more time complaining about the Patriot Act than about trying to help us defeat the jihadist threat. This from the party whose bloggers regularly referred to our president as "BusHitler," "Chimpy McHitler," and all the rest of it.

And this from the party whose entire leadership attended the opening of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11

The liberals resort to this tactic all the time when they have trouble getting their agenda enacted.

George Will nailed it when he said that

I don't know quite what his complaint is, but, Terry, with metronomic regularity, we go through these moments in Washington where we complain about the government being broken. These moments have one thing in common: The Left is having trouble enacting its agenda. No one when George W. Bush had trouble reforming Social Security said, "Oh, that's terrible - the government's broken."

There's another reason too; those who call for "unity" think that things alike healthcare are a giant math problem, and if only we can get enough experts in the same room together we can solve it. This is false, because it presumes that everyone agrees on the fundamentals.

But we don't. What you have is one side that thinks that government should guarantee health insurance coverage for everyone, and the other thinks that it's primarily the individual's responsibility.

As a conservative, I am not interested in some compromise that will inevitably result in a slow but sure incremental path toward single-payer, or more and more government involvement. History decisively shows that once a program is put into place it grows and grows and benefits, and thus taxes, go nowhere but up.

Obama and other progressives want to set the overall structure of the healthcare bill and throw Republicans a few bones, letting us tweak a percentage here and there or a small amendment or two. This is unacceptable.

The bottom line is there are going to be political differences and fights because we disagree on the fundamentals. Get used to it. And anyway, my reading of history shows that it is false and silly to think that the disagreements are worse today than they were in the past. The best thing is to try and convince the public you are right, and if you win don't push too much too fast or act arrogant in power. Be responsible to the people and implement your agenda one step at a time.

But for today we'll have to listen to Hillary and the liberals complain. Just don't take them seriously.

Posted by Tom at 9:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 4, 2010

President Obama Calls for Civility

No joke. From the Washington Post:

Obama pleads for civility, cooperation in politics

By BEN FELLER
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 28, 2010; 11:57 PM

TAMPA, Fla. -- Trying to bury a year of polarization, President Barack Obama on Thursday escalated his appeal for politicians and voters alike to settle differences without tearing each other apart. His plea: "Let's start thinking of each other as Americans first."
...

Coming one day after his State of the Union address, and one day before meeting with House Republican leaders with whom he continues to battle, Obama's emphasis on civility was a nod to political reality. He needs Republicans more than ever to get his agenda passed, and he is getting saddled with more public blame for the partisanship he promised to change.

Even the AP reporter couldn't report this one with a straight face.

It's a typical Democrat/liberal ploy. Attack, vilify, and slander, then as soon as you suffer a setback demand "civility" from the other side.

The level of hypocrisy is stunning, even for Obama

A call for civility from the party that spent 6 or more years saying "Bush Lied!" at every opportunity, and otherwise savaging him in all manner of ways. This from the party whose senators (John Kerry and Chuck Schumer) have started to use the vulgar term "teabagger" to describe the Tea Party movement. Of course anyone who criticizes Obama too effectively risks being labeled a racist, something we saw quite often during the campaign. And this from the movement of a zillion "Bushitler" and "ChimpyMcHitler" references.

Barack Obama himself is hardly civil, treating anyone who doesn't agree with him as worthy of contempt.

Finally, there was the insane level of attacks on Sarah Palin and her family.

It just like the schoolyard bully; tough and mean when he's on top, but the first to cry foul when he's received a good knock on the head.

But don't Republicans attack and vilify their opponents, you ask? Yes we do. But with rare exceptions we don't then demand civility when the tables are turned.

Also, don't suddenly call for civility when you've been out of power and then win the White House, as Democrats did after Obama won. After years and years of "Bush Lied!" and all the rest of it, I'm in no mood to listen to such hypocrisy.

Look, political discourse is what it is. Yes each side does bad things. But don't be a hypocrite about it and suddenly demand civility from the other side when you suddenly the tables are turned.

Posted by Tom at 9:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Scott Brown Sworn In as 41st Republican Senator
Democrat Plan to Bring Socialism to American on Hold

Scott Brown was sworn in at approximately 5pm today by Vice-President Biden as the new Senator from Massachusetts. His upset victory was a tremendous blow to Democrats, who have lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Not that they had been able to capitalize on it. Via ABC News, here is the swearing in ceremonyL

And here is Senator Brown taking questions from the press. He handles himself well, I think

Brown's victory demonstrates several things.

Republicans and conservatives from around the country do not insist on ideological purity, but will support a moderate if that's what it takes to win. Brown is a fiscal conservative but moderate on social issues, supposedly the death-knell for Republican candidates. It also shows that there are no safe seats or safe areas for Democrats, and that if Republicans put forth good candidates who play their cards right, we can win anywhere.

Of course, Republicans should not become overconfident. President Clinton staged one of the most impressive comebacks in modern history after 1994. Obama's poll ratings are going down, but he's still floating at 50%, which is not too bad. But then again, his poll ratings were about that in Virginia and New Jersey, and fat lot of good it did the Democrats there.

Finishing up, the liberal's favorite conservative, Newt Gingrich, offers these 9 lessons from Brown's victory that I think are largely correct:

Lesson One: Run Candidates Everywhere The first lesson Republicans should take from last night's victory is the GOP should run candidates everywhere this year and not worry about whether the district used to vote Republican.

In the last five days a poll has shown Tim Griffin beating incumbent Democrat Vic Snyder by 17 points in Arkansas's 2nd congressional district. In Cincinnati, former Republican Congressman Steve Chabot is now up 17 points over the Democratic incumbent, Steve Driehaus, who beat Chabot in the 2008 election. In Michigan, former Republican Congressman Tim Walberg is now 7 points ahead of the Democrat Mark Schauer who beat him in 2008.

There are moments when history changes and the American people decide to shake things up. This may be such a moment and it means Republicans should fill in the ticket at every level in every state.

Lesson Two: Being Positive Matters and Congressional Republicans Should Take Note
In the three winning campaigns (Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts) the Republican candidate has been issue-oriented and had a positive message. In each case, Republicans drew a principled, issue-oriented difference between themselves and the Democrats.

The American people are genuinely frightened about the economy, about terrorism, about the loss of honesty and transparency in their government. The American people want a party which is trying to solve the things they fear, not a party which is trying to use their fear to remain negative. An alternative party can win huge victories in 2010 and 2012; an opposition party will have far fewer victories.

Lesson Three: President Obama Has Had Two Bad Anniversaries and Now is the Moment for Him to Rethink What He Has Been Doing
The anniversary of the President's victory in the 2008 election saw decisive Republican gubernatorial victories in two states he had carried. Wednesday was the anniversary of his inauguration, and it was the date a new Republican senator was sent to Washington to fill the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat, which Senator-elect Brown made clear is the "people's seat" .

The President now has an excuse to stop, rethink, recalibrate, and learn some painful lessons. No more secret deals. No more Pelosi-Reid machine votes. No more leftwing, Democrats-only strategies. The leftwing leadership in the House and Senate would hate and fight such a change in course. Moderate Democrats (and most Americans) would breathe a sigh of relief.

Lesson Four: Republicans Should Offer To Help Solve America's Jobs, Security, Deficit, and Health Challenges through an Open, Transparent Legislative Process
This is the right moment for House and Senate Republicans to offer to meet with the President and start a new health reform process, as well as America's other challenges. This offer to work together to help the nation would be well received by the American people and would represent a real shift from an opposition party attitude to an alternative governing party attitude.

Lesson Five: The Tea Parties and Populism Are Real
The Tea Party movement is going to be a major force in 2010 and 2012. It represents a real uprising of angry and frightened Americans who are fed up with both parties.

It's no accident Scott Brown spent so much of his victory speech emphasizing his independence. This was not a Republican victory. Only 12% of Massachusetts is registered Republican. This was a people's victory--a genuine alliance of Republicans, Independents, and moderate Democrats.

Lesson Six: Trucks Beat Lobbyists
The strangest thing about President Obama's ill-advised, last minute visit to Massachusetts on Sunday was his fixation with Scott Brown's truck. FDR, who was a genuine Hudson Valley aristocrat, would have instinctively understood to be on the side of trucks. Bill Clinton might have driven up in a truck.

However the elitism of the new leftwing Democratic Party--the party of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine--is so ingrown and so out of touch it did not understand what Scott Brown was doing.

Lesson Seven: National Security Matters
Andy McCarthy has a superb article this morning on National Review Online that discusses the role national security played in the election. Every American concerned about our safety in an age of terrorism ought to look at Brown's campaign and take heart that safety is a winning issue, and the left is absurdly on the side of putting terrorists' rights above protecting American lives.

If you agree, I also encourage you to sign the Human Events petition protesting the civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Lesson Eight: Secular Radicalism is a Losing Theme ...Even in Massachusetts
In one of the strangest moments in Attorney General Coakley's march to defeat, on the Thursday before the election in a radio interview, she said although "you can have religious freedom ... you probably shouldn't work in an emergency room". As the left has grown more secular and more militant in its hostility to religion it has begun to arouse strong opposition. Among Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons, and Orthodox Jews, Coakley's position represented an anti-religious bigotry which they fear.

Defining conscience and religion as legitimate parts of America is an enormous winning position, and Scott Brown's career had a strong component of defending faith and conscience even in Massachusetts.

Lesson Nine: The American People are Sovereign and When Their Leaders Infuriate Them They will Rise Up and Fire The Leaders
As it was with Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, the Progressive movement (especially Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan -- again and again the American people find a way to overwhelm the establishment.

In America the people are sovereign. Last night reminded us it is still true. We remain an exceptional country of freedom and opportunity despite the politicians and bureaucrats and academics and elite news media.

Your friend,
Newt Gingrich

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 28, 2010

Krauthammer: Obama's "Spending Freeze" is a Fraud

I don't have time to cover much of last night's State of the Union speech, but here's one part that deserves attention:

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don't. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

Charles Krauthammer makes mincemeat of it:

Text of Krauthammer below the fold

The reason it's a fraud is that what Obama is doing here is not just excluding all the other spending we know about, discretionary spending, social security and the military, and it doesn't include the stimulus. What he's saying is, 'I'm going to do a freeze on the regular departments.' But what he doesn't tell you is that last year, in their first year in office when they had a free ride in spending, they ratcheted up the spending for all of these departments astronomically, an average over the last half of fiscal '09 and all of fiscal '10 an average of about 20%. Now that's huge because normally year over year you'd increase a department's spending by 3%, 4%, especially with low inflation.

So for example, last year alone they increased the EPA budget by 35%. So if you're instituting a freeze, what you're doing is you're ratcheting in, you're locking in the higher spending that Obama slid in last year.

So after hiking up spending to unheard of levels, Obama now poses as a fiscal hawk. Note also that his "freeze" won't even go into effect until 2011.

I suppose you can say that "all politicians dissemble," or blame Bush, but Obama is president and we were told he was going to change Washington and all that. I guess not.

Update

Veronique de Rugy explains that

...the centerpiece of his plan is a three-year freeze on everything but 84 percent of the budget. That's right -- it affects only 16 percent of the budget in FY2011. Plus, there are so many caveats and loopholes that this plan is little more than a joke. For instance, the freeze won't apply to the half-trillion in unspent stimulus funds. Nor will it apply to the $247 billion of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds or to any of the programs that cash from repaid TARP funds will pay for, such as the $30 billion to prop up community bank lending to small businesses proposed by the president during his speech.

FY 2011 Projected Spending

Posted by Tom at 7:45 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 27, 2010

Pew Poll: Top Priorities for 2010

Keep this poll in mind as you listen to the State of the Union speech tonight

Pew Poll Top Priorities for 2010

The lessons for liberals are obvious; the people don't think health care or alleged global warming are nearly as important as you do. Terrorism ranks higher than any of your big concerns, and most of you act like it's a non-threat that was blown out of proportion by George W Bush and company.

But there is a lesson for conservatives too

And that lesson is that while most people don't want their taxes raised they're not looking for tax cuts either. Bob McDonnell won in my home state of Virginia because he ran as "the jobs governor." Focus on obs and the economy and we'll win.

The lesson for both sides is that immigration isn't a big issue with anyone, so spending a lot of time on it one way or the other won't help you much.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 19, 2010

Scott Brown Wins in Massachusetts!


Scott Brown 3

In a huge victory for Republicans and a tremendous loss for Democrats, Scott Brown has won the special election for U.S. Senate against Martha Coakley. Not more than two weeks ago it was assumed that Coakely would win in what seemed a safe seat for Democrats. When Brown pulled closer and closer in the polls, national attention focused on the race. It was seen as especially important because the Democrats need all 60 Senate seats to maintain a filibuster in the face of united Republican opposition to their healthcare proposals.

Massachusetts has not elected a Republican as senator since 1972.

As of this writing, Fox News reports that "with 97 percent of precincts reporting, returns showed Brown leading Coakley 52-47 percent, by a margin of 120,000 votes. Independent candidate Joseph Kennedy was pulling 1 percent."

Watching the returns

Scott Brown 2

Here's the "Massachusetts Miracle" video that made the rounds recently.


Why Did Democrats Lose?

Democrats may comfort themselves over their losses in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts by telling themselves that Corzine, Deeds, and Coakley were miserable candidates. They can console themselves by pointing out that McDonnell and Brown were excellent candidates. They can do so and be accurate in these observations.

But if that's all they do they they're missing the boat (so good for my side). All three of these elections were nationalized. Tip O'Neil's maxim that "all politics is local" is not nearly as true as it was 40 years ago. These races were run on national issues more than local ones.

More, the Republican candidates all explicitly ran against Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and their agenda. Not only did this not cost them, it very much worked to their benefit. I can tell you from my experience in Virginia that our side was energized not just to work and vote for Bob McDonnell, but to work and vote against Obama-Pelosi-Reid.

Lessons for Republicans

Run against the policies of Obama-Pelosi-Reid, but do so carefully. Do NOT personally attack the president. Do not lead with social issues. Fiscal responsibility, jobs and the economy, and national security are your primary winning issues.

Good candidates also matter tremendously. Bob McDonnell and Scott Brown are charismatic and attractive to voters. Chris Christie was less so, but he didn't turn off voters as much as Corzine did.

When we do get back into power, we must not behave like Obama-Pelosi-Reid ourselves, or for that matter the Republican leaders in Congress under George W. Bush. Radio talk show attitudes are all very fine for the airwaves, but the general public isn't into that sort fo thing.

Winning take good candidates, good ideas, and a good ground game. it also taks a bit of luck and some timing. Put them all together and we can win anywhere. Let's not "write off" any state or any district.

Lessons for Democrats

Trying to ram through your healthcare package on a straight party-line vote is a bad idea. Compromise with the Republicans or face more defeats. Let C-SPAN broadcast your healthcare negotiations. Springing 1,800 page bills on us and then hurriedly voting on them before anyone has had a chance to go through them does not encourage trust. No more "stimulus" packages. And stop nominating such lackluster candidates.

Update

Part Two
Part Three

Posted by Tom at 11:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 11, 2010

Guide to The Politics of Offensive Statements

In the wake of Senator Harry Reid's "unfortunate comment," Pillage Idiot provides a helpful guide for anyone unable to predict the consequences of public officials who make offensive statements:

Offensive_Statements_Chart2.jpg

click here for larger version

What Harry Reid said:

From Game Change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, as quoted in The Atlantic

On page 37, a remark, said "privately" by Sen. Harry Reid, about Barack Obama's racial appeal. Though Reid would later say that he was neutral in the presidential race, the truth, the authors write, was that his
encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a "light-skinned" African American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

In December of 2002, while at a birthday party for Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott said

I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either

Republican Trent Lott was forced to resign as majority leader of the Democrats, after most, though not all, Republicans and conservatives threw him under the bus. President Obama, the "Reverand" Al Sharpton, the the vast majority of liberals have rallied around Democrat Majority Leader Reid.

"Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today," Obama said. "I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed."

Ah yes, well, as long as he's in favor of "social justice" such statements are a simple "unfortunate comment." The ends justify the...racism.

Before we go, Alvin S. Felzenberg asks the relevant question and give the appropriate answer:

Once again, the Democratic party that bought "identity politics" into the public square is about to teach the rest of us a lesson. So long as those who lead it raise taxes on the rest of us to promote social engineering, they can be as brazen as they like in their comments and as hypocritical as they dare in their public and private behavior...

Why should Reid not be allowed to keep his job? After all, his party elevated former Klansman Robert Byrd to the very post Reid now holds only a few years after the West Virginian led a filibuster (the second longest in history) against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Democrats continued to laud Byrd as recently as 2001, the year Byrd used the "N" word in a Fox News Sunday interview with the late Tony Snow. As long as he provides the 60th vote for his party, they will continue throwing bouquets his way.


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

November 12, 2009

The Cost of Obama's Dithering on Afghanistan

We sometimes hear from the left how wonderful it is that we have a president who takes issues of war so seriously that he takes his time to gather all the facts and consult with all the experts before coming to a decision. He doesn't rush, we are told, but thinks through everything carefully.

It's a crock, of course. The real reasons for the delay are simple. President Obama doesn't really care about Afghanistan, and all of his promises to fight and win there as Senator were just so much hot air.

What he really does care about is his healthcare bill. He knows that if he adopts Geneeral McChrystal's full set of recommendations it will make the anti-war left very mad at him, so much so that it could jeopardize his healthcare initiative. Given that it is priority number one, he's delaying a decision on Afghanistan as long as he can, hoping that Pelosi and Reid will get something, anything, passed.

The problem is that there are real costs to this delay. Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the former the intellectual author of the surge in Iraq and the latter his scholar-wife, lay them out in The Weekly Standard. Following are excerpts:

General Stanley McChrystal's assessment and force-requirement studies were largely complete by the beginning of August. The White House has stated that the president will not be announcing a decision until the end of November at the earliest. White House officials claim that the delay does not affect the movement of U.S. forces or our prospects for military success next year. These claims are inaccurate. The delay in White House decision-making is protracting and complicating the campaign in Afghanistan and has reduced General McChrystal's ability to prepare for and conduct decisive operations next year.

When McChrystal took command of the Afghan war in June, the White House made it clear that he was expected to make dramatic progress within a year--by the summer of 2010. McChrystal worked quickly both to understand the situation and to develop an appropriate course of action that would meet the goals of the White House strategy. His concept of operations aimed to reverse the enemy's momentum and address important problems in Afghan governance. At the same time, he oversaw the establishment of a new three-star headquarters, the deployment of the last of the additional forces his predecessor had requested for election security, the securing of the elections themselves, and major operations in Helmand and elsewhere. He also made the painful decision to pull U.S. forces back from isolated outposts that required too much manpower and were in danger of being overrun. He sought to create conditions for decisive operations.

in time to meet the expectations of the White House. He was supported in that effort by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and by CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus.

The White House has not done its part to allow General McChrystal to meet its own deadline. It was slow to receive and act on the assessment he sent, and it deliberately refused even to review his force recommendations for weeks after they were complete. In the intervening months the White House has held a series of seminars on Afghanistan and the region that should have been conducted before the new strategy was announced in March.

If the White House had immediately received and acted on General McChrystal's recommendations--which were specifically tailored to meet the objectives described in the president's March 27 speech--the following critical initiatives could already be underway:

* Expanding the Afghan National Security Forces as rapidly as possible toward the goal of 400,000 total, a figure agreed-upon by the Afghan Ministers of Defense and Interior and by the U.S. military's own reviews;

* Preparing infrastructure within Afghanistan and the region to accommodate a large and rapid surge of U.S. forces;

* Sending more forces immediately to support ongoing operations in Helmand;

* Issuing orders to deploy all of the forces McChrystal requested as rapidly as possible.

The White House could have begun all of those initiatives and still conducted a thoughtful review over the ensuing weeks.
...

White House preoccupation with troop levels has also hindered the development and implementation of a coherent political strategy to improve Afghan governance to match McChrystal's military strategy. The administration's response to the predictably flawed elections has been reactive and defensive. Even now that the election crisis has ended, the White House appears more intent on micromanaging the deployment of forces down to the last soldier than on developing a coherent approach to improving Afghan governance. The White House is now considering three, four, or five different force-level options, depending on the (official or anonymous) source. It has yet to show that it has developed any serious options for political strategy.
...

But the administration must also buy more time for its commander. The White House cannot sit on the general's proposals and requests for months and still expect him to meet a deadline set when he took command. It is still possible, if the White House sends General McChrystal the forces he needs, to see a significant improvement in Afghanistan in a year--but the year begins when the additional resources start flowing. That, in turn, means that Afghanistan may not seem to be doing that well next summer when both the Taliban fighting season and the congressional campaign season are at their heights. The president has a responsibility to keep Washington politics from derailing the effort in Afghanistan at a critical moment next year.

Unfortunately, it seems to be Washington politics that is keeping the Administration from taking a decision on Afghanistan.

Worse, if news reports turn out to be accurate, Obama will "split the difference," that is, given General McChrystal only some of what he requested. The result will be the worst of both worlds; not enough to win but enough to get more Americans killed.

I do sincerely hope that our president does the right thing and adopts General McChrystal's entire recommendation. I think we'll know soon.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 8, 2009

Pelosicare Passes the House

So the Democrats narrowly passed their massive healthcare bill in the House with a vote of 220-215. One Republican voted in support, Louisiana Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao. 39 Democrats voted against the bill, as did 176 Republicans.

This makes it a partisan bill with bipartisan opposition. How unique.

Otherwise, I think that Mark Steyn has it about right:

I don't like to say I told you so, but I've been saying for months now that the trick is to drag this thing across the finish line with 50.0000000000001 percent of the vote as soon as possible. From my "Happy Warrior" column in NR back in July:
Obama believes in "the fierce urgency of now", and fierce it is. That's where all the poor befuddled sober centrists who can't understand why the Democrats keep passing incoherent 1,200-page bills every week are missing the point. If "health care" were about health care, the devil would be in the details. But it's not about health or costs or coverage; it's about getting over the river and burning the bridge. It doesn't matter what form of governmentalized health care gets passed as long as it passes. Once it's in place, it will be "reformed", endlessly, but it will never be undone.
Right now, they can trade anything -- abortion, death panels, whatever. The trick is to plant the seed and let the ratchet effect of Big Government take care of the rest. I said on Rush's show on Friday that if Barack Obama had been Bill Clinton he'd have woken up on Wednesday morning and begun triangulating. Instead, Obama woke up and figured that he needed more fierce urgency, and right now. The short-term hit in 2010 is worth it for the long-term benefits: Obscure congressmen will be just as happy as obscure ambassadors or obscure chairmen of obscure agencies. And the prize of permanent irreversible statist annexation merits the risk: Governmentalized "health care" puts us on the fast track to Euro-sclerosis and redefines the relationship between citizen and state in ways that make genuine conservative politics all but impossible.

Will the Senate stop it? And, if they don't, will a post-2010 GOP Congress reverse it? The way they reversed, say, the federal Department of Education?

Yesterday was a tragedy for America. Hence, the Bard in the headline. And while I'm quoting Macbeth, let me cite Mrs. Thatcher on who gets stuck with the tab for all of this:

'To borrow and to borrow and to borrow' is not Macbeth with a heavy cold. It is Labour Party policy. Most people do not want to mortgage the future and leave their children to pick up the bill.

"Most" people? We'll see about that.

Indeed you don't have to be too familiar with groups like the AARP to know that they really couldn't care less about the generation that follows as long as they get theirs. Ditto for many of the other groups the agitate for more and more government benefits.

But I think that the average Obamabot on the street actually believes the spin about how their healthcare bill will be deficit neutral. They'll whistle a different tune in a few years, but most have invested too much in Obama to abandon that ship just yet.

Sure, the finances of this bill are important, but as Steyn points out, who are we kidding? This thing is going to be changed every year from hear on out, and in one direction only; more and more and more and more spending which will increase the deficit more and more and more and more. Once these government programs are in place they're almost impossible to reverse.

For those unfamiliar with another reference above, Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education as a payoff to the teachers unions. President Reagan came into office promising to eliminate it. It's still around. In the 1990s Newt Gingrich and his cohorts promised to end federal funding of the arts. They're still being funded.

It's also why I'm not at all impressed with the Stupak amendment, which bans spending on abortion as part of this bill. Either the Democrats will reverse it at the first opportunity and we'll fight this battle every single year, or Obama will pack the Supreme Court with leftists who will declare it unconstitutional.

All of this is why it's so important to stop Obamacare, Pelosicare, and Reidcare. Some on the right may think that if it passes it'll be the deathknell of the current Democrat party are probably right, but by the same token we'll still be stuck with most of their healthcare bill for the rest of our lives and then some. Even a Repubican president and a GOP majority in each house won't be able to get rid of it entirely.

The battle is joined.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 4, 2009

Victory in Virginia, Republicans Sweep State
Washington Post, Loudoun Independent, Concede Defeat

A tremendous victory, and one of the largest in modern Virginia history

Bob, Bill, Ken, victory

As of this writing, the State Board of Elections unofficial results shows that with 99.76% of precincts reporting, former Attorney General Bob McDonnell received 1,158,871 votes, for 58.65%, with Senator Creigh Deeds taking 814,582 votes, for 41.23%

For Lieutenant Governor, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has 1,102,159 votes, for 56.41%, with Jody Wagner at 849,958, for 43.50%.

In the race for Attorney General, Senator Ken Cuccinelli won with 1,118,287 votes for 57.53%, and former Delegate Steve Shannon was at 823,734 votes for 42.38%

In Loudoun County where I live, with 100% of the precincts reporting, Tag Greason defeated Delegate David Poisson, receiving 14,520 votes for 57.45%, to Poisson's 10,723 and 42.42% to become the new delegate for Virginia's 32nd District.

Tag Greason

The entire 32nd district is within Loudoun. Four other districts carry over into Loudoun. Three were occupied by incumbent Republicans, and they all won handily, one being unopposed. The other was occupied by a Democrat who was also defeated.

For what it matters, yes, I campaigned for all of these Republicans. Long and hard, in fact. This year it paid off, big time.

The media defeated

The Washington Post went after McDonnell from the outset, mostly after a thesis he wrote twenty years ago in which he speculated as to whether it was best for women to work outside the home, etc. A few days before the election they called Cuccinelli a bigot; and yes they used that word. A local paper published an old charge against Greason that had been dismissed by the prosecutor without ever having gone to trial. I'm not going to set up links to all these because they don't deserve the attention.,

The Deeds campaign made much of the thesis, and the Post obsessed over it for weeks.

None of it worked in the slightest. Voters were interested in jobs and the economy, and solving our transportation problems. They voted for the candidates that offered solutions.

A bit of Virginia and Loudoun voting history

In 2000, Bush/Cheney won Virginia with 52.5%, and Loudoun with 56.12%

In 2001, Democrat Mark Warner (now a U.S. Senator) won the governor's race with 52.16%, though he lost Loudoun with 45.84%

In 2004, Bush/Cheney won Virginia with 53.68%, and Loudoun with 55.69%

In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine won the governor's race with 51.72%, and Loudoun with 51.64%

In 2008, Obama/Biden won Virginia with 52.62%, and Loudoun with 53.66%

This year, McDonnell won Virginia with 58.65%, and Loudoun with 61.05%, a tremendous achievement by any measure.

Before you conclude too much from the above, a few caveats are in order. I ignored the House of Representatives and Senate, mostly because I don't have all night to write this. Also, Loudoun is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, having almost doubled in population every ten years for the past few decades. This makes it hard to tell how much of the swings are due to people voting differently or new blood in the county. Again, I just don't have time to do a complete analysis.

What does it all mean?

I found the insights that follow are exactly right:

At National Review:
Kirstin Soltis

The big lesson from last night's election results is this: Creating a majority coalition matters. Both McDonnell and Christie won independent voters by large margins. Christie presented himself as an electable alternative. McDonnell ran a positive campaign that emphasized concrete ideas to solve problems confronting Virginians. He gave voters something to vote for. He was a thoroughly conservative candidate who, rather than focusing on "firing up his base," emphasized modern ideas and fiscal responsibility in order to attract independent voters. His model should inspire Republican campaigns across the country. In the end, we live in a center-right nation, and it is critical that we remember to bring together both the "center" and "right."

Rich Lowry on what the Democrats need to do to assure continued GOP victories

If you're a Republican campaign official, you have to be thinking tonight, please, Democrats, keep doing what you're doing. Please, keep governing like you can't pile up enough debt fast enough. Please, keep exposing Obama's faux moderation from the 2008 campaign for what it was. Please, keep trying to jam through an unpopular, utterly unwieldy health-care bill sold on serial dishonesties. Please, keep dismissing your opposition as irrational and illegitimate. Please, keep up with the prickly arrogance. Please, keep sweeping Democratic ethics problems in Congress under the rug, making a mockery of your talk of reform. Please, keep piling on the initiatives to increase the middle-class cost-of-living, with huge, broad-based tax increases inevitably to come. Please, keep focusing on health care and global warming when what people care about most is jobs. Please, please, please, keep doing what you're doing right now -- all the way to November 2010.

Ramesh Ponnuru, after speaking with a political consultant:

He pours cold water on the idea that the elections were a referendum on Obama. "Obama's numbers in Virginia are not that bad. He's not upside-down, that's for sure." (That is, more people rate him favorably than unfavorably.) "I guarantee you that McDonnell got a lot of votes from people who approve of [the job Obama is doing]." He takes the vote to be a rejection of many of Obama's policies. But he adds, "I don't think that Republicans should come away from this and think that all that we have to do in 2010 is run against Obama. McDonnell had a very vigorous policy agenda."

The key, then, is to run against Obama's policies but not the man itself. As reprehensible as it is for Barack Obama to have associated with Bill Ayers and to have been a member of Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United church for twenty years, they don't matter to independent voters. May a hundred Bob McDonnells shine.

The White House doesn't seem to understand any of this, though, if this story in the Washington Post is to be believed, anyway:

As they woke up this morning on the one-year anniversary of President Obama's historic election, senior West Wing aides proclaimed themselves largely unconcerned about what last night's Democratic losses might portend for their boss or his agenda.

White House officials rejected what they said was over-hyped conclusions about the impact on Obama of losing the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, and instead sought to focus attention on the Democratic victory in New York's 23rd Congressional District.

"We won a congressional seat that's been in Republican hands since Ulysses S. Grant was president, in part because of the disunity in the Republican Party," senior adviser David Axelrod said in an early-morning phone interview. "That was the only truly national
contest on the ballot."

Axelrod said the intervention of national conservatives in pushing the moderate GOP candidate out of the New York race will be the only lasting impact of the night.

"The most portentous thing that happened yesterday was that the right wing of the Republican Party ran a moderate Republican essentially out of the race, and lost a seat they had held for more than 100 years," he said. "I don't take that as discouragement."

I do hope this is an accurate story, because if it is these Democrats are digging their own graves.

Note - one more issue to resolve but it'll be back to blogging again very soon.

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

July 19, 2009

"States Hit Hardest by Recession Get Least Stimulus Money"

If a state wants a bridge, normally they would raise the necessary funds from tax revenue. If a county wants to build another homeless shelter, they would do likewise. If either is too poor, it may be a good for another state to give them the money. We are, after all, one country and all in it together.

The mechanism by which states give each other money is the federal government. Instead of the tax money being routed through the county or state, it goes through the federal government. If the federal government does not have the money, but the need is great, it can engage in deficit spending, the theory being that we'll pay ourselves back when times get better.

Of course, it's all nonsense. The reality is that federal revenues do not go to the states or localities that need them the most, but are divided up according to how powerful your senator or representative is.

Fox News did a study and the fact is there is an inverse relationship between stimulus spending and need.

The stimulus bill "includes help for those hardest hit by our economic crisis," President Obama promised when he signed the bill into law on Feb. 17. "As a whole, this plan will help poor and working Americans."

But FOXNews.com has analyzed data tracking how the stimulus money is being given out across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and it has found a perverse pattern: the states hardest hit by the recession received the least money. States with higher bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment rates got less money. And higher income states received more....

The spending data come from two reliable sources: the Wall Street Journal and the Federal government's Recovery.gov....

Charts and Graphs Below the Fold

The first graph shows stimulus spending per capita as related to the per capita income by state. If stimulus money was going to those with low incomes, we would expect to see the line go steeply from lower left to upper right. As it is, it's clear that states with the lower per capita incomes are not receiving more money:

Stimulus spending to per capita income by State


Next we see stimulus spending as related to bankruptcy rates. Again, the trend line goes in exactly the opposite direction it should if money was allocated by need:

Stimulus to Bankruptcy by State


Next is stimulus spending as related to foreclosure rates. Ditto to what we saw above.

Stimulus spending to forecloseure by State


Finally, stimulus spending as related to unemployment. Big surprise, states with higher unemployment rates do not get more money than those who don't:

Stimulus spending to Unemployment by State


Two more paragraphs from the story

Breaking down the data by type of spending shows that money for infrastructure was much more likely than social spending to go to high-income states with low bankruptcy and foreclosure rates. Federal spending on construction and repairs to federal buildings as well as repairs to highways and public transit projects drives much of this perverse relationship between economic distress and infrastructure stimulus spending....

Lee Ohanian, an economics professor at UCLA who has extensively studied New Deal policies and depressions, told FOXNews.com that the spending patterns our study found "certainly don't fit what you would think that they would be from the standpoint of government spending as a social safety net.... The pattern does seem quite odd. It is certainly not the way the program was advertised."

Yup. The stimulus money was not allocated based on need, but on political power.

But the stimulus was never about stimulating the economy. It was about two things:


  1. Moving us in the direction of a European-style statist economy. Obama knows that once these programs are in place they're almost impossible to eliminate. The objective of the Democrats was to set up programs that would require future spending, knowing full well that again once in place these programs take on a life of their own

  2. Creating a class of permanent Democrat voters by creating dependency. Once hooked on a program it becomes hard to break the habit. People dependent on the government will tend to vote Democrat.

The Fox story therefore is unfortunately no surprise.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 10, 2009

Pelosi Knew About the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Last week we saw a rash of stories that pretty much proved that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi knew all about the waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques that we were using against terrorists. Both the Washington Post and Washington Times had stories to this effect on Friday. From the Post:

Intelligence officials released documents yesterday saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda suspects, seeming to contradict her repeated statements that she was never told the techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress briefed on the tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House intelligence committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The memo, issued to Capitol Hill by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency, notes that the Pelosi-Goss briefing covered "EITs including the use of EITs" on Abu Zubaida. EIT is an acronym for enhanced interrogation technique, and Abu Zubaida, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, was one of the earliest valuable al-Qaeda members captured. He also was the first to have the controversial tactic of simulated drowning, or waterboarding, used against him.

She knew. I think most of these Democrats who now act so indignant over our use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques knew about them all along.

The story in the Times adds that "a classified CIA briefing of Mrs. Pelosi included specific details of the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," or EITs, on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaydah.

She knew.

Via Jeb Babbin at Human Events, here is the relevant page from the briefing schedule that shows she was briefed on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques:

Pelosi Knew

From the Post article linked to above, Pelosi's defense was issued by her spokesman

"As this document shows, the speaker was briefed only once, in September 2002. The briefers described these techniques, said they were legal, but said that waterboarding had not yet been used," said Brendan Daly, Pelosi's spokesman.

From a Friday story on Fox News, Pelosi offers a lame defense that is immediately swatted down:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Friday that she was briefed only once about the "enhanced" interrogation techniques being used on terrorism suspects and that she was assured by lawyers with the CIA and the Department of Justice that the methods were legal.

Pelosi issued a statement after CIA records released this week showed that Pelosi was briefed in September 2002 on the interrogation methods. The briefings memo appeared to contradict the speaker's claims that she was never told that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation methods were being used.

"We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used," Pelosi said on April 23.

The emphasis seems to be on "were used," even though she conceded in a statement released Friday that she was told they would be used.

"As I said in my statement of December 9, 2007: 'I was briefed on interrogation techniques the (Bush) administration was considering using in the future. The administration advised that legal counsel for both the CIA and the Department of Justice had concluded that the techniques were legal,'" she said.

But even that statement is at odds with the official record of the briefings recorded in the CIA memo dated to Sept. 4, 2002. That memo says Pelosi received a "briefing on EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques), including use of EITs on Abu Zubaydah, background on authorities and a description of particular EITs that had been employed."


Another Washington Post story from Saturday goes farther:

A top aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attended a CIA briefing in early 2003 in which it was made clear that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were being used in the interrogation of an alleged al-Qaeda operative, according to documents the CIA released to Congress on Thursday.

Pelosi has insisted that she was not directly briefed by Bush administration officials that the practice was being actively employed. But Michael Sheehy, a top Pelosi aide, was present for a classified briefing that included Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), then the ranking minority member of the House intelligence committee, at which agency officials discussed the use of waterboarding on terrorism suspect Abu Zubaida.

A Democratic source acknowledged yesterday that it is almost certain that Pelosi would have learned about the use of waterboarding from Sheehy. Pelosi herself acknowledged in a December 2007 statement that she was aware that Harman had learned of the waterboarding and had objected in a letter to the CIA's top counsel....

Republicans have accused Pelosi and other Democrats who attended the earliest classified briefings of knowing what CIA operatives were doing and offering their support for the methods, including waterboarding. They argue that Pelosi, who served as the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee until January 2003, objected only after the use of the techniques became public several years later.

Also on Saturday, David Freddoso reported on NRO's The Corner that he

...spoke to a senior Republican aide who feels that the speaker is getting an awfully easy ride on this -- that the briefing of the Speaker's aide clearly demonstrates that she knew what was going on in 2003, even if Pelosi is disputing exactly what was mentioned in the 2002 briefing.

"Look, the claim that a Pelosi staffer was briefed on these techniques but not Pelosi herself is absurd," he said. "That's just not the way the system works. Staff are not briefed on anything a Member wouldn't be briefed on."

She knew. Why does her defense make no sense? Dr Krauthammer nails it:

If you are told about torture that has already occurred, you might justify silence on the grounds that what's done is done and you are simply being used in a post-facto exercise to cover the CIA's rear end. The time to protest torture, if you really are as outraged as you now pretend to be, is when the CIA tells you what it is planning to do "in the future."

What I Think Happened

In the days after 9-11 most Americans thought we would get hit again, and soon. The attack had so taken us by surprise that we realized just how much we didn't know. We can track aircraft and missiles coming at use. With them, you have some idea as to what to expect. Terrorist attacks are not just bolts from the blue, but you don't even know what form it will take. Will the next one be a car bomb? An attempt to breach a dam? A bio-chemical attack? Or another hijacking? There was just no way to tell.

Our political leaders knew that the public would forgive them for one attack, but that would be it. The public never held anyone accountable for 9-11 because they - we - realized that no one could have really predicted it (I'm leaving the 9-11 Truthers whackjobs out of this).

But by the same token political leaders realized that the public would not be forgiving the next time. The would demand to know why stern measures had not been taken to prevent it. And, frankly, in the days after 9-11, any poll would have shown strong support for "enhanced interrogation techniques."

So at the time the Democrats wanted to protect our country and they did what they thought was the right thing to do. They were briefed on and approved the use of stern interrogation techniques. Now, however, they're pretending like they didn't have anything to do with it.

Nancy Pelosi and some of her fellow Democrats are playing the same game with EITs that they did with Iraq; support it when the polls show support for it, oppose it when the polls show support lagging. We're on to the game, though, and aren't going to let them get away with it.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter Leaves the GOP

Here is is a portion of Sentator Specter's statement:

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans....

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

Translation: "I'm behind in the polls and just want to stay in office"

An April 24 Rasmussen poll has him down by a whopping 21 points to former Rep Pat Toomey. 51% of Pennsylvania Republican voters said they would support Toomey, with just 30% supporting Specter.

Assuming Al Franken wins in Minnesota, which is virtually certain, this will give Democrats their 60 seat filibuster proof majority

The joke making the rounds is "I read that Specter was switching parties, but I was disappointed to learn he's still a Democrat."

The editors of National Review have it about right

Arlen Specter belongs to a type familiar to Congress: the time-serving hack devoid of any principle save arrogance. He has spent three decades in the Senate but is associated with no great cause, no prescient warning, no landmark legislation. Yet he imagines that the Senate needs his wisdom and judgment for a sixth term. He joined the Republican party out of expediency in the 1960s, and leaves it out of expediency this week.

I don't buy idea that the GOP has moved to the right, or "too far" to the right The reason we've lost elections recently is 1) Iraq, and 2) We didn't hold true to our own principles. It's the Democrats who have moved steadily to the left. President Obama makes Bill Clinton look positively Reaganesque.

So It's not that Republicans need to become more or less conservative. What they need to do is adhere to their principles, whatever they are. The one thing the public will not tolerate is saying one thing and doing another. Authenticity is valued more than anything.

Specter is mostly without principles. A politician with principles would have run in his parties primary anyway, and then if he lost either retired or do what Joe Lieberman did and simply become an independent.

Further, Specter's contention that the GOP abandoned him does not stand up.

When Toomey lost to Specter in the GOP primary in 2004 he endorsed Specter

In 2004 President Bush and other Republicans campaigned for Specter.

Barely two weeks ago National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn released a letter endorsing Specter in his primary race against Toomey.

Despite this, Specter is so unpopular in the GOP that he figures he has a better chance in the Democrat primary. He will already have one declared opponent, businessman Joe Torsella, and Rep. Joe Sestak may run as well. It would be ironic, not to mention sweet justice, if he lost this one as well. If he does, though, I'm sure he'll file to run as an independent.

Senator Olympia Snowe wrote in The New York Times today that "it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash," but that's nonsense. The GOP hasn't made social issues the centerpiece of it's message since 2002 or 2004 at the latest. They were mostly ignored in the last campaign. When it was brought up, it was by the media or liberals who wanted to bash Sarah Palin. To be sure, there are conservative groups that hit Obama on his pro-abortion record, but those were independent groups, not Republican candidates themselves.

Snowe also writes that

It is for this reason that we should heed the words of President Ronald Reagan, who urged, "We should emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only 'litmus test' of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty." He continued, "As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.

But she's no fiscal conservative, having voted for President Obama's massive stimulus bill.

On the other side, Republican Senator Jim DeMint is wrong too when he said

I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don't have a set of beliefs.

Sorry, but I'd rather have 60 Republicans of just about any stripe, as long as maybe 30 of them were true conservatives. If you have a majority you control the agenda because you control the committees.

Big Tent Or No?

In the end I'm pretty much a big-tent conservative. So I won't fall to temptation and say "good riddance" to Senator Specter. I'd just as soon he had stayed. That said, I'm not at all sad to see him go, and I would have rooted for Pat Toomey to beat him in the primary. As it is, I think Toomey stands an excellent chance to win this November in the general.

You should not want your party to be purist because if you do you'll never get a majority. That said, there are limits to what can be tolerated. In 1988 William F. Buckley Jr. famously organized "BucPac" to defeat liberal Republican Senator Lowell Weicker (it worked and Joe Leiberman won that year). There have been other liberal Republicans I've been happy to see leave too.

Democrats who are welcoming Specter into their fold ought to be cautious, for he'll turn on you just as well when it suits his purposes.

Larger, I've followed and more recently participated in politics for over 30 years. I've seen numerous turns and twists. I've seen a lot of party switches. Each time a party wins big they proclaim that theirs is a permanent majority and the other party will soon wither away. Of course it never happens. Within a few short years the other party reorganizes and starts winning again. So while I'm certainly not happy with the current political landscape, neither am I demoralized. After all, we've got an election to win in Virginia this year, and it's time to get on with it.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2009

The Democrat "Truth Commissions"

Yesterday I lambasted President Obama for deciding to allow prosecution of Bush Administration officials who approved harsh interrogation techniques. I also quoted from several news stories that showed that congressional Democrats knew full well years ago what was happening, but for political reasons are choosing to lie about it now.

Today I've got a few additional thoughts on the matter.

If this actually goes forward, Obama will have gone too far, and all in less than 100 days. His 'stimulus' program will set us on the road to long-term economic ruin. Using the economic crisis as an excuse to effectively take over businesses sets us on the road to socialism. Cutting spending for the Navy and Air Force is dangerous. His serial apologies, insults to our country really, while overseas are disgraceful. That he refuses to even use the term "war on terror" is a scandal in and of itself. But these truth commissions, inquiries, whatever you want to call them, put us on the road to becoming a banana republic.

These prosecutions are nothing more than politically motivated witch hunts. Obama is throwing a bone to the kook left. It's not really even about guilt or innocence in any meaningful sense. It's about the criminalization of policy differences.

This is about intimidating any future advisers into only issuing the most bland, politically correct opinions. Anyone who seriously considers anything in an opinion other than the liberal party line risks prosecution. It's an attempt to shut down discussion on certain matters, sort of like what happened recently to Carrie Prejean and the Miss USA pagent.

This is what goes on in a banana republic; the guy who seizes power, or wins an election immediately sets about bringing the losers to trial.

I think the Democrats are also doing this because they think it's politically popular. Kind of like when they supported the invasion of Iraq when that was popular, and then opposed the war when the opinion polls turned south.

As a candidate, and until last week, Obama said that he was against these prosecutions. Apparently he has caved to political pressure. So much for his being a strong leader able to introduce a new type of politics. Whatever happened to "looking to the future?" This seems like concentrating on the past to me. The editors of the Wall Street Journal:

One major concern here is what Mr. Obama's decision to release these memos says about his own political leadership. He claims that one of his goals as President is to restore more comity to our politics, especially concerning national security. He also knows he needs a CIA willing to take risks to keep the country safe. Yet Mr. Obama seems more than willing to indulge the revenge fantasies of the left, as long as its potential victims served a different President. And while he is willing to release classified documents about interrogation techniques, Mr. Obama refuses to release documents that more fully discuss their results.

Apparently civility will have to wait.

All of this also shows the pernicious influence of groups like Movon.org. If they don't want to like Bush Administration policies, fine. What's going on here though is a policy dispute dressed up as criminal acts. This is similar to calls by environmentalists for prosecution of anyone involved in contributing to "global warming," or anti-gun groups or cities suing gun manufactures because their products allegedly violate consumer safety laws.

This makes what Obama and the Democrats are doing just the opposite of what happened to President Clinton. Whether you think his perjury rose to the level of an impeachable offense or not (and it is debatable), it was not a simple policy dispute and it wasn't the popular thing for the Republicans to do (the media at the time warning darkly that they would pay in the next election).

History

If you want to get down to it, it's no different than what any other president has done in times of war. They all do things that are later said to be 'going too far'

President Lincoln suspended habeus corpus three times during the Civil War. Here's one

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in the confederate border state of Maryland (also a slave state) due to the fear that Maryland might secede from the Union. If secession occurred, it would result in Washington DC being completely surrounded by Confederate states.

His action was challenged in the U.S. Circuit Court in Maryland and overturned, but Lincoln ignored the court's ruling. In 1866 (5 years later), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to suspend habeas corpus since the President did not have that power.

Well that sounds pretty serious. Shall we demolish the Lincoln Memorial?

Now revered by almost all Americans, at the time Lincoln was lambasted by critics for what the liberals today call "shredding the Constitution. "

During World War I, Woodrow Wilson's Postmaster General was given the authority to refuse to deliver any publication he deemed seditious, and there was no appeal to his decision. At least seventy-five periodicals were effectively banned when the post office refused to deliver them.

FDR is worshiped by liberals and yet he "interned" some 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.

My message here again is that during time of national emergency American leaders all do what seems right at the time. We have never prosecuted any of them. We must not start now.

So these "truth commissions," investigatations, or whatever the Democrats want to call them represent childishness and naivete on an unparalleled level. The only people who will be impressed are the ones who don't really matter; the Europeans, who have refused to help us in Afghanistan and are in the process of surrendering their nations to Islam.

Our enemies, on the other hand, are laughing at us.

They also know that Obama has done nothing, and I mean nothing, to actually fight terrorism, let alone jihadism. This despite that for the past several years the mantra from the left was "Bush has done nothing to make us safer" or "We aren't any safer now than on Sept 10."

Perhaps it's time for Mark Steyn to update the pronouns in what he said a few years ago:

I think when we listen to terrorists talking about the new caliphate, and there are a bunch of guys sitting in the cave, we think they're nuts. When a guy is sitting in the cave listening to (editor of The New York Times) Bill Keller explain proudly why he betrayed America's national security interests, that guy in the cave would rightly conclude that we're the ones that are nuts.

They must think we're nuts right about now.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Changing his position, President Obama has now decided to open the door to prosecution of Bush Administration officials who approved harsh interrogation techniques. From the New York Times on Wednesday:

President Obama left the door open Tuesday to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and did not rule out action by the Justice Department against those who fashioned the legal rationale for those techniques.

Obama is caving to pressure from his fellow Democrats. On March 4 Marc A. Thiessen reported this on National Review:

In an interview last week with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that she "absolutely" supports the criminal investigation and potential prosecution of Bush officials, stating: "We have to have the facts. . . . We are unhappy about certain things; we anecdotally know about certain things....

The investigative train leaves the station this morning, as Sen. Whitehouse and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy hold the first hearing on Leahy's proposal for a "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush administration. Leahy presents his commission as a "middle ground" between those "who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past" and those "who say that, regardless of the cost in time, resources, and unity, we must prosecute Bush administration officials to lay down a marker."

I hear they've selected their chief prosecutor, er, "investigator:"

Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinskiy

Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinskiy (Russian: Андре́й Януа́рьевич Выши́нский, Andrej Januar'evič Vyšinskij) (December 10 [O.S. November 28] 1883, Odessa, Imperial Russia -November 22, 1954, New York), was a Russian and Soviet jurist and diplomat. He is mostly known as a state prosecutor of Stalin's show trials. He served as the Soviet Foreign Minister from 1949 to 1953. Vyshinsky was of Polish and Russian descent and spoke some English and excellent French...

In 1935 he became Prosecutor General of the USSR, the legal mastermind of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. He is widely cited for the principle that "confession of the accused is the queen of evidence". His monograph that justifies this postulate, Theory of Judicial Proofs in Soviet Justice, was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1947. He was the prosecutor at the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge, lashing its defenseless victims with vituperative, sometimes cruelly witty rhetoric.

Democrats are full of moral righteousness these days, imagining themselves to be as pure as the wind driven snow.

They're not. They're in on this too. A Dec 9, 2007 story in the Washington Post is most revealing

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange....

Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Well well. They knew all along.

A story this past Thursday in The Washington Times reports much the same thing:

The CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees more than 30 times about enhanced interrogation techniques, according to intelligence sources who said the lawmakers tacitly approved the techniques that some Democrats in Congress now say should land Bush administration officials in jail.

Between 2002 and 2006, the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees "each got complete, benchmark briefings on the program," said one of the intelligence sources who is familiar with the briefings.

"If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the closed-door briefings.

Those who were briefed included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Rep. Jane Harman of California, all Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, all Republicans.

The Democratic and Republican staff directors for both committees also were briefed, according to the intelligence source and to a declassified memo released Wednesday that detailed some of the Senate committee briefings.

Speaker Pelosi is in full backtrack mode. In a press conference on Thusday she said

"It is not appropriate for me to talk about what happens at briefings. It is very interesting that people are talking so freely. But I can say this: they have been talking about it for a while. At that or any other briefing, and that was the only briefing that I was briefed on in that regard, we were not -- I repeat, we were not -- told that water boarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.

"What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel -- the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would. And they further -- further, the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time, A.

This is hotly disputed by Republicans. As reported today in the Times


Rep. Peter Hoekstra, currently the ranking Republican on the House intelligence panel, described her comments as the "lamest of lame excuses," saying she could have gone to then-Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt to discuss her concerns.

and

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner on Thursday chided Democrats for seeking an investigation of the Bush administration's treatment of captured terror suspects, noting a long list of lawmakers from both parties were briefed about the use of harsh interrogation methods years ago.

"Not a word was raised at the time," said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, adding that he has seen a partial list of Democrats and Republicans briefed on CIA interrogation techniques as far back as 2002.

"There is nothing here that should surprise them," he said.

Very simply, I think Pelosi is lying through her teeth.

It is all very fine for her to say these things to reporters at a press briefing. If she allows her party to push forward with this, our attorneys will supoena her, get a deposition, and under oath she'll have to tell the truth. She'll be confronted with the records, statements of the CIA officers who briefed them, and the Republicans who were also present.

These Democrats were in on this from the beginning. Now they are trying to pretend that they didn't know.

They are playing to the polls. Their policy is whatever the latest poll or focus group shows. After 9-11 the polls said to be tough, so they were tough. Like everyone else, they were scared of another attack, and pulled out all the stops to prevent it. But not that the memory of that awful day has faded, they look at the polls and they show a public that doesn't like George W Bush, ignoring that it's for reasons other than actions taken fighting the GWOT. So they get ontheir moral high horse and sanctimoniously cry "torture!"

It's all like the Iraq war; they were for it when it was popular, and turned against it when the war went south and support sank in the polls.

They allowed kook groups like Movon.org to exert undue inlfuence over their party, and we are seeing the result; the criminalization of foreign policy differences. This is what banana republics do; the winner puts his defeated opponents in jail.

And the vast right-wing conspiracy, which is waiting for all this to unfold, will be out in full force. We've got the finest legal minds in the country lined up around the block to defend anyone they dare put through their show trials.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 26, 2009

Do I Want Obama to Succeed?

Do you want Obama to succeed?

This has become a test question for conservatives. The only correct answer, of course, is "yes." Heaven forbid you should answer otherwise. Rush Limbaugh said that "Obama failing is a victory for the America I've always known," a statement that has sent the left into a tizzy. There's even a page on the Democrat Congressional Committee's website, where you can "express your outrage about Rush's comments today."

I went to the site and entered my name, and what I wrote is similar to what I write below. What's funny, though, is that conservatives have raided the DCCC blog post on it and from what I can see 90% of the comments support Rush. Heh heh.

So do I want President Obama to succeed? Here's my response:

I want Obama to fail; fail to implement the specifics of his program.

This "do you want Obama to succeed" is one of the most dishonest questions I've ever heard. If Republicans answer "yes," then we'll be required to support each of his proposals, otherwise we'll be told "he can't succeed unless what he proposes is voted into law." If we say "no," we're accused of subverting the country.

So if you mean "succeed" in some vague, general sense of "make the economy better" or "keep us safe from terrorism" then yes, I want him to succeed.

But candidates don't run on vague generalities, they run on specifics. Obama has a whole list of specific proposals in the Agenda section of the White House website. I think that most of his specific proposals would be bad for the country, so I want him to fail to get them implemented into law.

If you really need specifics;

I want Obama to fail to confiscate the wealth of the producers in this country.

I want him to fail to set up a permanent Democrat majority through instituting government programs that create a need for funding year after year, and thus government employees, most all of whom will vote Democrat so as to keep their taxpayer funded jobs. This is why I opposed the so-called "stimulus" bill.

I want Obama to fail to radically transform our country into a French style dirigisme relationship between the government and the economy.

I want Obama to fail to get the so-called "assault weapons ban" through congress that his Attorney General announced today.

I want Obama to fail to get "comprehensive immigration reform" passed, which he says will "allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens."

I want Obama to fail to get the additional "hate crime" statutes passed that he wants. These laws are at best Orwellian and at worst ridiculously unconstutional.

I want Obama to fail to get any sort of government run universal coverage health care system passed.

I want Obama to fail to get his pro-abortion agenda passed into law.

I want Obama to fail to pressure Israel into giving up territory in a foolish "land for peace" deal.

I want Obama to fail to get the defense cuts through congress that I'm sure he will propose.

I want Obama to fail to "Create a Green Jobs Corps" or raise the minimum wage, or any of another hundred things.

In fact I want Obama to fail to impliment just about all of the proposals I see at the White House website.

So rather than go on, in closing I'll quote the great Rush Limbaugh as he response to a question to him by James Carville;

There's not going to be cooperation here, James. Why do I want this to work? Why do I want an attack on capitalism to succeed? Why should any of us want that? Why should anybody want a fundamental restructuring of the United States of America to succeed? What is so hard to understand about this? Let's say that you're a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've just come back and scored the touchdown that puts them up four points with 15 seconds to go, and Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals drops back. You damn well better believe I wanted Warner to fail. I wanted Warner to screw it up. I wanted him to fumble. I wanted him to get tackled on his backside. The last thing I wanted was Warner to succeed in beating the Steelers. Now, what is so unusual about this?

When was the last time we ever heard the Democrats say, "Gosh, I hope Bush succeeds"? Do you realize what a straw dog this is? And here come a bunch of cowardly Republicans who know exactly what I said and know exactly what I mean, but because of the historical nature and the aura and the power of The One, "Oh, no, we can't... We can't... We gotta hope he succeeds." Do you realize what a hypocrite it makes all of you on our side, when you say you "hope he succeeds" means? Do you realize how your own voters hear that? What does both of my succeeding mean? Somebody tell me. Some of you on our side, I want to hear from you on the phones. If you can't find it within yourself that you hope he fails. Because, you see, Obama failing is a victory for the America I've always known, the America I grew up in.

Obama failing to socialize this country is success for the country. It's a victory for the country. Obama failing to confiscate the wealth of the achievers and the producers in this country, that's success. That's victory for America.

Ditto that.

Update

Well well, look what ace reporter Bill Sammon has unearthed:

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: "I certainly hope he doesn't succeed."

Yup. James Carville wanted President George W. Bush to fail.

Make sure you read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 8, 2009

Obama's New Politics of Fear

Last March, the International Herald Tribune wrote this about candidate Obama

At the core of Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign is a promise that he can transcend the starkly red-and-blue politics of the last 15 years, end the partisan and ideological wars, and build a new governing majority.

To achieve the change the country wants, he says, "we need a leader who can finally move beyond the divisive politics of Washington and bring Democrats, independents and Republicans together to get things done."

IN Des Moines, a week before the January 3 caucuses in Iowa, he criticized his opponent Hillary Clinton, "urging the crowd to reject the Clintons' politics of cynicism and fear."

And finally, let's go back to his 2004 address to the Democrat National Convention he asked

Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

Then, from today's Washington Times, here's the politics he has actually brought:

President Obama on Saturday morning warned of a "national catastrophe" if Congress does not move quickly to pass and implement his economic-stimulus plan, praising the Senate's tentative deal on an $827 billion version of the bill.

"If we don't move swiftly to put this plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe. Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes and their health care. Millions more will have to put their dreams on hold," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address.

In Williamsburg last week he delivered an bitterly partisan speech in an angry tone before fellow Democrats. Watch the whole thing and see how he talks out of both sides of his mouth the whole time:

Incredible, isn't it?

The Democrat's big criticism of President Bush is that he used "the politics of fear" to divide us. Obama was supposed to end all that.

But we're less than three weeks into his presidency and he's engaged in some of the worse fearmongering I've ever seen.

What's maddening is that Obama's attack on anyone who opposes his super spending stimulus package as trotting out "failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis." The only solution he can conceive of is an old-fashioned massive spending bill filled with pork-barrel spending. This is new?

In the video above he chastises opponents, telling them "don't come to the table with the same tired arguments and worn out ideas that helped create this crisis." Never mind that the idea that tax cuts got us into this crisis is ridiculous, but he seems to be saying the only acceptable ideas from the opposition are ones that involve massive spending.

What's most interesting is that he's doing all this because he seems panicked that the stimulus, his first policy initiative, if you can call it that, has become a hugely divisive bill that the GOP opposes en masse. Worse, a good portion of the public have mobilized against it and are flooding capital hill switchboards. That it will eventually pass is not the point, because the episode has shown that Obama is spectacularly politically inept.

I think that in addition, this episode has revealed that Obama is not used to opposition and doesn't know how to handle it other than lashing out in campaign mode.

Consider; before 2008 he never faced a serious political opponent in any of his races. When he finally did, he had a sycophantic media on his side, blatantly cheering him on. His background and record were not examined by the mainstream media, and we'd never know about Jeremiah Wright or William Ayers were it not for Sean Hannity and others. He allowed a cult-like following to develop in which many of his followers saw him almost as a demi-god.

Halfway through the video above he complains that he and his staff are tired. This is revealing, because it shows that he expected everyone to just bow down and accept whatever he proposed. He can't understand opposition. The idea that he has to engage in persuasion and compromise is unfathomable to him. The world used to be at his feet, and he can't understand the change.

Well, if he thinks this is rough going, wait until he tries to get his health-care proposals through. Or he meets with Ahmadinejad. Or Putin.

Forbes' Peter Robinson details the catastrophe that resulted (h/t Sister Toldljah):

President Bush's moment of nakedness took place more than four years and eight months into his administration. In office less than three weeks, President Obama has already provided a naked moment of his own.

The episode, of course, concerns the legislation now referred to only laughingly as an "economic stimulus." Drafted by the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives, the bill represents a sham and an outrage. Of the more than $800 billion in spending that the legislation authorizes, less than $100 billion would go to highways, the electricity grid or destinations that might-might-produce genuine economic growth. The rest? Transfer payments to interest groups. More than half the "emergency" spending would not even take place until fiscal year 2010....

As Washington observers recognize, this entire debacle became predictable the moment the then president-elect decided to permit the House leadership to draft his stimulus legislation. While Obama was behaving like a professor, holding seminars with economists Lawrence Summers, Paul Volcker and Christina Romer, Democrats in the House were behaving like politicians, using Obama's call for a stimulus as cover for forking over tens of billions of dollars to Democratic interest groups.

You didn't even have to be a practicing politician to see what would happen. Even an intellectual like Obama himself ought to have been able to figure it out-any intellectual, that is, who had bothered to read the work of Nobel laureate James Buchanan. As Buchanan long ago noticed, economists who support Keynesian spending programs in theory tend to overlook the self-interested behavior of the politicians who must spend all the money in practice.

Permit House Democrats to draft his stimulus legislation? What could Obama have been thinking? Only one answer fits: Obama wasn't thinking....

The glee among Republicans right now is only to be expected. The long faces among Obama's startled supporters in Washington are a lot more telling.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 6, 2009

"The Impending Obama Meltdown"

I think Victor Davis Hanson may have nailed it exactly with this one:

Some of us have been warning that it was not healthy for the U.S. media to have deified rather than questioned Obama, especially given that they tore apart Bush, ridiculed Palin, and caricatured Hillary. And now we can see the results of their two years of advocacy rather than scrutiny.

We are quite literally after two weeks teetering on an Obama implosion--and with no Dick Morris to bail him out--brought on by messianic delusions of grandeur, hubris, and a strange naivete that soaring rhetoric and a multiracial profile can add requisite cover to good old-fashioned Chicago politicking.

First, there were the sermons on ethics, belied by the appointments of tax dodgers, crass lobbyists, and wheeler-dealers like Richardson--with the relish of the Blago tapes still to come. (And why does Richardson/Daschle go, but not Geithner?).

Second, was the "stimulus" (the euphemism for "borrow/print money") that was simply a way to go into debt for a generation to shower Democratic constituencies with cash.

Then third, there were the inflated lectures on historic foreign policy to be made by the clumsy political novice who trashed his own country and his predecessor in the most ungracious manner overseas to a censored Saudi-run press organ (e.g., Bush is dictatorial, the Saudi king is courageous; Obama can mend bridges that America broke to aggrieved Muslims--apparently Tehran hostages, Rushdie, serial attacks in the 1990s, 9/11, Madrid, London never apparently occurred; and neither did feeding Somalis, saving Kuwait, protesting Chechnya, Bosnia/Kosovo, billions to Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinians, help in two Afghan wars, and on and on).

Fourth, there was the campaign rhetoric of Bush shredding the Constitution--FISA, Guantánamo, the Patriot Act, Iraq, renditions, etc.--followed by "all that for now stays the same" inasmuch as we haven't ben hit in over seven years and can't risk another attack.

Fifth, Gibbs as press secretary is a Scott McClellan nightmare that won't go away, given his long McClellan-like relationship with Obama (McClellan should have been fired on day hour one on the job). Blaming Fox News for Obama's calamities is McClellan to the core and doesn't work. He already reminds me of Reverend Wright's undoing at the National Press Club--and he will get worse.

Six, Biden is being Biden. Already, he's ridiculed the chief justice, trashed the former VP, bragged on himself ad nauseam in Bidenesque weird ways, and it's only been two weeks.

And the result of all this?

At home, Obama is becoming laughable and laying the groundwork for the greatest conservative populist reaction since the Reagan Revolution.

Abroad, some really creepy people are lining up to test Obama's world view of "Bush did it/but I am the world": The North Koreans are readying their missiles; the Iranians are calling us passive, bragging on nukes and satellites; Russia is declaring missile defense is over and the Euros in real need of iffy Russian gas; Pakistanis say no more drone attacks (and then our friends the Indians say "shut up" about Kashmir and the Euros order no more "buy American").

This is quite serious. I can't recall a similarly disastrous start in a half-century (far worse than Bill Clinton's initial slips). Obama immediately must lower the hope-and-change rhetoric, ignore Reid/Pelosi, drop the therapy, and accept the tragic view that the world abroad is not misunderstood but quite dangerous. And he must listen on foreign policy to his National Security Advisor, Billary, and the Secretary of Defense. If he doesn't quit the messianic style and perpetual campaign mode, and begin humbly governing, then he will devolve into Carterism--angry that the once-fawning press betrayed him while we the people, due to our American malaise, are to blame.

This indeed serious and our president needs to come to the realization that the campaign is over and the world will not automatically bend to his wishes. There is a difference between a fawning audience and press corps and the reality of political life. Western European leaders may be happy he's in office but our enemies will still behave like our enemies. He may overcome the fiascos of his first few weeks in office but so far it is not so good.

Posted by Tom at 7:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 1, 2009

The Stimulus and the GOP

Every single Republican in Congress voted against the "stimulus," or American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan (HR-1 in the House), as it's officially called. All 178 GOP Representatives, and all 41 GOP Senators.

I am both proud and glad that they did so, and for three reasons.

One, it is bad economics. I'm not at all convinced that government spending boosts the economy, whether it's for infrastructure or anything else. There's a good deal of scholarship which has concluded the Roosevelt's New Deal didn't get us out of the depression, and perhaps made it worse (here and here for starters) Even if it does, most of the spending will not take place for several years. Further, as has been widely reported, much of the bill is simple pork barrel politics which in no way can be described as economic stimulus. Little of the Democrat stimulus bill consists of tax cuts, the only thing that will really boost the economy. Worst, it does not cut the most important taxes, capital gains and corporate taxes as Larry Kudlow advises, the two that would do the most benefit. The bill would massively increase our deficit, something we absolutely do not need.

Second, I don't think primary the point of the bill is even economic stimulus. What you have is a bunch of Democrats paying off their constituents after 8 years of being out of power. As shown below, most of the spending doesn't take place immediately, and most of it isn't on infrastructure. The Democrats are simply trying to consolidate their majority and implement other parts of their agenda.

In other words, it's old-time politics writ large for the Democrats. Not at all the "new kind of politics" that candidate Obama promised.

Third, the GOP badly needs a rallying point and this is as good a place to start as any. The bill goes against everything we believe in, or say we believe in, so to vote for it would once again tell the people we are not serious. Congressional Republicans didn't just say "no, no, no," however, but offered a credible alternative. Tie this to the election of Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican National Committee, and we may have a winning combination.

I also see almost no downside to our current course of action. There is near zero chance this bill will perform as advertised, so it's not as if we're missing out on enjoying the political benefits of success. Further, when the effect on the budget deficit becomes clear we have to be on record as having opposed it. For the past several years we have been on the wrong side of this issue. Better now than never.

As for President Obama's much ballyhooed attempt at bipartisanship with Republicans, please. He couldn't even keep all Democrats on board. 11 Democrats in the House, including my favorite, former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler (D - NC, 11th District)., voted against the bill.

It is therefore amusing to see some liberals and Democrats so upset about Republican opposition. If their bill does what they say it will, then they'll be able to say "see I told you so," won't they? What I think is driving their rage is more just incomprehension that anyone could not be wild about their messiah. I encountered this attitude a week ago while supporting our troops at our weekly rally outside Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and it is indeed a thing to behold.

Details, Details

A few tidbits on the Democrat bill from the website of the House GOP

  • The legislation's spending portion contains $355.9 billion in discretionary domestic spending to expand existing programs throughout the federal government. Spending meant to stimulate the economy under this title includes funding for a wide variety of programs ranging from climate change research, federal building repair, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Federal Highway Administration, AmeriCorps, and nurse and physician training.
  • The refundable spending, which is scored by CBO as direct spending, totals $79.9 billion over five years. Unlike long-term, growth-oriented tax cuts that have been offered by Republicans as an alternative to this plan, these refundable tax credits are more akin to increased spending through the tax code.
  • According to CBO, the federal deficit will rise to a record $1.2 trillion, or 8.3% of GDP, in 2009. Even without this massive bill, the deficit will be by far the highest on record nominally and as a percentage of GDP during peacetime, easily exceeding the previousrecord of 6% in 1983 and the highest New Deal level of 5.9% in 1934.
  • According to CBO, most of the $356 billion in discretionary spending provided will not actually be spent until after 2010. In fact, only 8.1% of the spending will take place in 2009.
  • Despite calls by Democrats for increased infrastructure spending to create jobs, a relatively small share of the total $825 billion package is devoted to transportation infrastructure--$44 billion or 5.3% and only $30 billion or 3.6% for highway construction.

Keep in mind that candidate Barack Obama promised to go through the federal budget line by line and cut out wasteful spending. In fact, it's still on his website. Go see for yourself.

Obama and Biden review the federal budget line by line and eliminate programs that don't work or are unnecessary.

Guess that campaign promise is already out the window.

And if you think this level of spending is bad, keep in mind that last week Obama told GOP Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-3rd) that he thought that FDR's problem was that he didn't spend enough money on his New Deal projects. Sheesh.

Now, some details on the GOP alternative:

  • Cut the lowest two income tax rates for 2009 and 2010, from 15 percent to 10 percent and from 10 percent to 5 percent.
  • Extend through 2010 a patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally designed to ensure that wealthy people pay taxes, but instead would hit millions of middle-income families with higher taxes.
  • Expand the $7,500 first-time homebuyers tax credit for a principal residence to all homebuyers while limiting it to purchasers who can make a down payment of at least 5 percent of the purchase price.
  • Provide a tax deduction for small businesses with less than 500 employees equal to 20 percent of their income.
  • Offer new tax deduction for those who do not receive tax-preferred, employer-sponsored health care coverage. And provide assistance to the unemployed who do not qualify for a COBRA premium subsidy.
  • Give tax exemption on unemployment benefits and extend temporary federal unemployment benefits through 2009, phasing it out through mid-2010.
  • Allow companies to write off current losses against previous tax years for up to five years. Companies now can only "carry back" losses for two years. The tax break would not be available to banks and other companies receiving help from the $700 billion bailout package.
  • Extend through 2009 a break for small businesses that allows them to immediately write off up certain capital expenditures.

One time rebate checks do not work. It was wrong when President Bush did it and it would be wrong today. For tax cuts to work they have to incent people to change their behavior in a way that lasts. Only if people think that they will have more money in their pocket in the future will they spend in ways the boost the economy.

A bit more about the Democrat's bill from the editors of National Review

Consider the $18.5 billion proposed for renewable-energy projects, less than $3 billion of which would be spent by 2011. Even if we conceded, for argument's sake, that the initial $3 billion would boost the economy in the short run by putting people to work and increasing demand for things like steel and concrete, why should we agree to spend the additional $15.5 billion when we do not share the green lobby's passion for such projects? Clearly, the extra money is being ramrodded through Congress in the guise of "economic stimulus," though it is actually the opposite of that.

Or consider the $30 billion proposed for highway spending, less than $4 billion of which would be spent by 2011. Again, accepting the questionable premise that the first $4 billion is necessary for economic recovery, why pile on $26 billion needlessly?...

Perhaps most egregious is the $80 billion "State Fiscal Stabilization Fund," intended to bail out those states that promised more in Medicaid and other welfare benefits than they had revenue to pay for. Just over $30 billion of the money would be spent by 2011. The rest is reserved for the years 2011 and 2012, with allocations stretching into the year 2019. This is not a stimulus plan. It is an invitation to states to engage in politically popular but unaffordable overspending for years to come.

Man of Steele

No, he's not "our Barack Obama" and I don't think any conservative sees him that way. He is, rather, a smart, articulate conservative who most of all is the fresh face that we know we need. I think I've got a pretty good ear from what conservatives want, both nationally and here locally, and the vast majority of us want to toss the "old guard" and bring in a new generation.

While driving to work in the morning I have had the chance to hear Michael Steele guest host Bill Bennett's morning radio show, and have been impressed every time. He will be the opposite of Howard Dean or Terry McAuliffe, two DNC chairmen who in my opinion came across poorly. Dean was just a ranting nut and McAuliffe too aggressive in an intimidating way. On the other side, our ourgoing chairman, Mike Duncan, was clearly ineffective.

Here is Steele making his acceptance speech:

His Blueprint for Tomorrow seems pretty on target for what we need. Importantly, he doesn't blame Democrats for our problems:

We squandered the trust of voters with a stunning display of spending and government growth that might have made a Democrat blush.

Public opinion polling is very clear on this point, it can best be summed up by these results from a recent national survey by Gallup:
  • 34% say they have a favorable view of the Republican Party, 61% have an unfavorable view
  • 55% say they have a favorable view of the Democrat party, 39% have an unfavorable view
Just as troubling, a majority of voters view our party as more closely tied to the corruption in Washington and the greed on Wall Street than to the interests on Main Street.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one.

I've observed and more recently participated in politics for over 30 years. It's great when your side wins and it stinks when you lose. I've learned, though, to be careful in both instances because things can turn on a dime. Surveying Bill Clinton's victory in 1992, few if any conservatives would have predicted our stunning success a mere two years later. For that matter we didn't think that we'd lose as bad as we did in 1998.

Perhaps oddly, then, I am optimistic about the future of conservatism and the Republican Party. It's far to early to say where all this will go, as Obama is a smart man who will learn from his mistakes. But this joke of a stimulus was a bad start, written as it was by Democrats in Congress

Monday Evening Update

Democrat Senator Ben Nelson (NB) says that wants to cut tens of billions from the stimulus bill, "rejecting the White House claim that senators are complaining about just a tiny fraction of the package."

President Obama does not seem to know what to do. This bill is spiraling out of control, with half the public not believing it will help the economy. A few Democrats in the Senate seem to have figured this out.

The Democrats need to get this thing passed quickly, because time is not on their side. The more this thing lingers the more information about how much pork it contains will come out.

Kevin Hassett, writing at Bloomberg, has the goods

When the stimulus package, the SCHIP expansion and whatever else our representatives in Washington dream up are on the books, it seems likely that the deficit for this year will approach $1.7 trillion. This is an enormous swing in the U.S. fiscal condition.

Under President George W. Bush -- a big spender in his own right -- the federal budget deficit reached a record $455 billion in fiscal 2008, more than double a year earlier. Government bailouts of banks and other industries that started under Bush, and may accelerate under President Barack Obama, will help push the deficit toward that $1.7 trillion mark.

That is $1.7 trillion in future taxes. Nobody knows exactly when the tax hike will come. It might even be that we shall try to foist the costs on our children. Still, those planning their financial futures should account for the dramatically higher taxes that will be the result of this year's policies.


Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 26, 2008

Obama to Keep Gates at Defense

It seems to be true. From yesterday's New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama has decided to keep Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in his post, a show of bipartisan continuity in a time of war that will be the first time a Pentagon chief has been carried over from a president of a different party, Democrats close to the transition said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama's advisers were nearing a formal agreement with Mr. Gates to stay on for perhaps a year, the Democrats said, and they expected to announce the decision as early as next week, along with other choices for the national security team.

To which I have this to say to all you lefties who thought Obama stood for change;

BRBRRRHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!

So let me get this straight. For the past two years, we have heard from Senator Obama that our military venture in Iraq was a failure, that the surge would not work, and when the violence did go down it wasn't because of the surge or anything our troops did at all, and now he's going to keep as his Secretary of Defense the very man who carried out the surge and has said (I am sure) that it was responsible for the reduction in violence?

Look, for the sake of our nation I'm glad Obama is keeping Robert Gates. I think he's an excellent Secretary of Defense. I think it is a signal that Obama will not precipitously leave Iraq, which would be a very good thing.

But you have to admit that the chutzpah on display by President-elect Obama is breathtaking. His anti-war supporters are surely very disappointed.

Sure, I know that liberals can turn it around and say to me "see, this proves he's not the extreme leftist you said he was." A fair point, though it's far too early to come to that conclusion. But the fact is that Obama ran on a platform of immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and from this history one would have just about thought that he'd appoint Dennis Kucinich to the post, not Robert Gates.

How is the left reacting? I'm not going to do a full survey, but the two diarists at the Daily Kos I found were upset but less than apoplectic. Kos Diarist bugscuffle says

I suppose it's bad news that a neocon warmonger is to remain at the Defense Department. I suppose it's good news that he's not a former member of the Clinton Administration.

Diarist Meteor Blades quotesChris Bowers at OpenLeft as saying that

This should be an open and shut case. If there was one message that Obama ran on loudly, clearly, and indisputably, it is that he was going to bring "change" to Washington, D.C. If Gates were kept on as Secretary of Defense, it apparently would also mean that all of his top advisors would also stay on, and that it all happened because long-time D.C. operatives said it should. Keeping the same guy and all of his advisors at the behest of old establishment types is about as far from change as possible.

Some commenters try and rationalize the decision, others are mad as all get out. No doubt they don't want to give up on their god messiah leader easily.

Jon Soltz, writing at The Huffington Post, likes the pick, saying that

For those who worry that Gates will somehow drag President Obama to the right on Iraq, I think that fear is really unfounded. If the first question one must ask is, "Why is Obama picking Gates?" then the second question has to be "Why does Gates want to stay with Obama?"

It's not because Gates wants to preserve some neo-con view in the administration -- after all, Gates is a Bush I guy, a moderate who sees more eye-to-eye with Brent Scowcroft (an opponent of the war) than Paul Wolfowitz. It's not to preserve the current course, because Gates is smart enough to know that with Hillary Clinton, James Jones, and Barack Obama, staying the course will never win out.

The only reasonable answer is that Gates clearly understands that there will be a new course for our military, that includes redeployment from Iraq, and wants to make it work.

What Soltz even means when he says that "staying the course will never win out" is something of a mystery. Is he referring specifically to Iraq? Anyone who follows this blog knows that our military commanders in Iraq have been talking about a responsible draw down there for months, and that brigades are in fact coming out.

At least they're more honest over at The Nation, where John Nichols, in an article titled "A Secretary of Defense We Can't Believe In," starts off with

Barack Obama in February, 2008: "I don't want to just end the war; I want to end the mindset that got us into war."

Barack Obama in November, 2008: "Never mind."

I think that's more accurate than the rationalizations I've seen elsewhere.

Bill Clinton famously ignored many of his campaign promises, most notably his middle class tax cut, which he reneged on before even taking office. While this and two years of mistakes gained the GOP the Congress, it didn't do us any good in 1996.

On the other hand, Bill Clinton was elected president with a normal campaign. Obama was elected by a cult following who worships his every move. Their expectations are sky-high.

In the end, I think the left will suck this one up. They've invested far too much in Obama to give up this quickly.

Now, if he doesn't close Gitmo that'll be a different story....

My question for now, however, is how could Obama do this after all that he's said about Iraq? Maybe Shelby Steele was right, when he said that

Of of the things that troubles me about Obama's character is that he can get along with anybody. He can articulate a conservative point of view better than many conservatives can. He can be strikingly far left. The problem is not so much that he's going to reveal who he really is, the problem is that he may not be anybody. He may not have strong convictions.

(Follow the link and watch all five segments of Steele's analysis of Obama and the election. It's on par with the best I've seen or read)

Whether Steele is right or not only time will tell. I think what he does with our detention center in Guantanamo will be a telling moment.

Either way, forgive me for chortling a bit here. This post is a bit out of character. Friday I'll be back to my usual geek analysis with a piece on Iraq that you won't want to miss.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 9, 2008

The Gen Petraeus - Amb Crocker Hearings Day 2

Before we get into today's testimony, did you know that today is Iraq Liberation Day?

On April 9, 2003, this image greeted television viewers worldwide:


Saddam_statueFoxNews.jpg

Thank you to all American troops who have participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom, from the invasion to today!

As with yesterday, I listened to the testimony today on and off. Today Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

Following are my impressions.

As with the Senators yesterday, the Representatives give longwinded introductions. Drew Cline says today's took thirteen minutes and 52 seconds between Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) the committee chairman, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, (R-CA) the ranking minority member. Ridiculous. I guess that's better than yesterday's 19 minutes, 57 seconds in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and 22 minutes, 47 seconds in the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, but it still seems like a bit much.

In his opening speech Skelton felt necessary to claim that we started the war on the basis of "false information" (as if WMD was the entire basis of the war, see the actual authorization for details). The supposed purpose for all this is that they're here to find out what's going on in Iraq, but most seem to have their mind made up.

Rep Hunter actually used his intro to tell Petraeus and Crocker what he wanted to find out today. In other words, Hunter laid out his expectations for what information he was looking to obtain. I always knew he was a stand-up guy.

Skelton, like so many others, is myopic when it comes to the war. They see it in the narrowest of terms; a war just against al Qaeda and only in Afghanistan. Frederick Kagan did a good job today of pointing out that the Democrat claim that they want to fight the "real war" against al Qaeda in Afghanistan is a lot of hot air; if they cared so much about the country they could vote for the supplemental defense appropriation that would send much needed money to our troops already there. Development money, not so much more troops, is what that country really needs.

Crocker said that "the era of US funded major infrastructure improvements is over" Congress will want to hear that.

Crocker also said that support from other Arab states "has not been strong" Me: That's because they fear a democracy in Iraq. The left tell us that everyone in the region, including Iran, wants a stable Iraq. Bunk. They may not want violence that spills over into their countries or sends refugees streaming into their countries, but what they really want is a weak Iraq that they can dominate.

Like Petraeus, he stressed the Iranian Quds forces that are causing trouble in Iraq. Wretchard over at The Belmont Club has perhaps the most insightful explanation for all the talk about Iran at the hearings yesterday

If America loses in southern Iraq, Iran will have strangled a nascent rival political power center on its border. But if America wins, then the Ayatollahs will be facing what amounts to a domestic challenge.

That's why I believed that the really big news in the Petraeus/Crocker testimony was their repeated emphasis on Iran. It's no accident. They want to focus the policy attention on Iran. Because the Iran/Southern Iraq phase will be the most important phase in the Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Iraq was always a two-front war, even from the days of the First Fallujah. In those days the US made a strategic decision to leave the south alone and deal with the Sunni insurgency first. Now that has been dealt with and the Syria/AQI front been substantially won. That's what the Petraeus charts are saying. On the clock of World War 2 History the defeat of the Sunni insurgency would correspond to the crossing of the Rhine. VE isn't there yet, but the enemy is in flight. Maybe there's still a Battle of the Bulge ahead for the Sunni insurgency/AQI, but they are essentially beaten, absent a blunder.

In response to a question by Hunter, Petraeus gave the Iraqi Armed Forces a "B minus or B". Some units are very good but some are "new". Says that the Iraqi special ops are very good. Also, that Iraqi deployment to Basra went very well.

Rep John Spratt (D - SC) gave a speech before asking questions. These politicians just can't stop from pontificating. Spratt even had his own cost charts. This is the new Democrat argument against the war, the one that the surge couldn't stop the violence, and that the Iraqis weren't making political progress, having been proven wrong.
Me: So now Freedom has a cost. Hope the Dems remember this. Spratt also complained that Iraq is taking resources from Afghanistan.

Had Spratt read Frederick Kagan on NRO yesterday, he would have learned that compared to past wars, this one's pretty cheap. Larry Kudlow makes similar points. As a percentage of GDP, this war barely registers. It's all that social welfare spending that's killing us.

With a 5 minute rule in the House, you'd think that the Democrats would would want to spend most of the time learning from the General and Ambassador. But that would assume that their purpose was to learn. Most, but not all, Democrats use their time to give speeches, with the question being purfunctory. Most Republicans get right into their questions.

Rep Jim Saxton (R-NJ) asked a real question instead of speechifying

But Rep Solomon Ortiz (D - TX) only speechified more than asked questions. He said that the security gains of the surge were "arguable". He stressed that the military had been stretched by the surge. Me: then authorize more money to expand the size of the force.

Petraeus to Ortiz: The troops "get it" with regard to counterinsurgency doctrine. We have much better equip than when I was a division commander. He also praised the MRAP family of vehicles and thanked Congress for voting the money for them.

Gen Petraeus and Amb Crocker are first-class gentlemen and scholars. They are absolutely unshakable and unperturbable.

Rep John McHugh (R - NY) brought up the British withdrawal from Basra, and how the lessons there may be learned about the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal from all of Iraq. Petraeus somewhat agreed, and also pointed out that this is why he opposes a timetable and wants withdrawal to be conditions based.

The most foolish question I heard was asked by Rep Vic Snyder (D - AR), who said that a commander (I didn't get the name) told him that we need 2,000 more troops in Afghanistan. He asked Petraeus how Congress should respond to that request. Petraeus, looking only barely incredulous at this bizarre question, responded "you're asking the commander in Iraq?" And then said words to the effect that "I only command the troops in Iraq, sir?"

It was clear that Snyder had no idea that the commander of MNF-Iraq doesn't follow the situation in Afghanistan in detail, and can't just order some of his troops to move to there. Sheesh!

Petraeus continued, half asking "I think you're already funding an increase for the Army/Marines?" in what almost looked like an attempt to help Snyder out of his predicament. However, Snyder ignored Petraeus and went on, saying that Afghanistan is not getting the troops they need because of Iraq. Me: oh brother. Snyder showed the "Anaconda Plan" chart (see yesterday's post), and complained that it didn't show social services. Crocker went into social services, and Petraeus "put in a soldier's plug for the PRTs"

Rep Buck McKeon (R - CA) had a fantastic quote from Osama bin Laden and how bin Laden sees the struggle in Iraq as central. I can't find the quote on the Internet, but if you've got the time you can go to McKeon's House webpage and watch the testimony.

McKeon asked Petraeus about troop morale. Petreus said that morale had been going down until sometime in 2007 (I didn't catch the exact date) when it started going up. Today morale is good overall, and the reason is because the troops can see tangible results and that believe that we are making progress. He also pointed out that reenlistment rates among troops in-theater was way up.

Rep Loretta Sanchez (D - CA) gave what must have been the longest speech disguised as a question that I heard all day. She talked about a report by Gen James Jones (USMC Ret) unofficially called the Jones Commission Report, which essentially criticized the new Iraqi Police. She seemed to go on forever. Good question, but she just went on for too long.

Petraeus said he agreed with the report and had in fact acted on it's recommendations. At the end of her question he even joked with her (again he is unflappable). He also said that the IP did need to be cleaned out but has now made much progress. The Italian Caribinieri have been helping out tremendously in training them.

The next rep, who's name I didn't get, asked about the benchmarks, and that the GAO said we'd only met 3 of 18(?) Crocker disagreed with that number, but annoyingly would not give a hard and fast number of how many had been met. But he did say that it's more complicated than just a checkoff. He said that you can check something off but are not getting reconciliation, and vice versa. But Crocker promised to get info on the benchmarks in writing to the committee next week (see this article for a comparison, where Frederick Kagan says that "Government of Iraq has now met 12 out of the original 18 benchmarks set for it, including four
out of the six key legislative benchmarks"). The bottom line is that the issue of reconciliation in Iraq is complicated and it's not a simple check-off of something on a sheet of paper.

Rep Ellen Tauscher (R - CA) brought up lots of polls and how at least her constituents are all against continuing the war etc. Me: So...we change direction every time the polls change? Petraeus tried to answer her question, and she basically cut him off. Petraeus had to then give her a lesson on how the military takes orders from the civilian authorities.

All in all the Democrats gave speeches and the Republicans asked questions. Maybe the Dems should have read Barham Salih's article in today's Washington Post, in which he sees real military and political gains in Iraq, if they don't believe the testimony they heard today.

Gen Petraeus and Amb Crocker? They were magnificent and could not be shaken. I feel good with them in charge over there.

Update

Don't miss the background information, video, slides, and links to editorials and analysis pieces over at Small Wars Journal.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 8, 2008

The Gen Petraeus - Amb Crocker Hearings Day 1

I managed to catch part of the hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee today in which Gen David Petraeus and Amb Ryan Crocker testified. Below the fold are my notes, but first, here are most of the slides that Gen Petraeus used in his testimony (thanks to Michelle Malkin You can also download all them from the Senate website )

PetraeusCongress1.jpg

PetraeusCongress3.jpg


PetraeusCongress7.jpg

For context and explanation see the transcript of Gen Petraeus' opening statement at RealClearPolitics

(also, don't miss the excellent commentary on them at The Belmont Club)

What strikes me is that many of the Senators already seems to have minds made up. Some ask good questions and others just give speeches. The opening statements of the Senators I heard (Levin & McCain) indicate to me that they have their minds made up.

Sen. Kennedy, in particular, used most of his Q & A time to simply give a lecture. Kennedy complained about our "open ended commitment", yet this is the same guy who demands more and more money for an endless "war on poverty" which seems without end or success. Every year we hear the same thing from the libs; the poor are getting poorer and we need to spend more money on anti-poverty programs. Hello?

Did you also notice that Kennedy had the shortest "thank you for your service" of any of the senators? Even the other critical senators seemed genuine in their thanks but for him it was totally pro forma (video here).

Also, notice how the critics are almost totally dismissive of the sacrifices made by loyal patriotic Iraqis? They just totally ignore all this. When this was pointed out to Kennedy, he just brushed it aside with a "well there have been 4,000 Americans killed"

To a large extent that the whole thing is sort of a show, with everything said decided ahead of time. Each side is speaking really to the public.

Senators Leiberman (I-CT) and Inhofe (R-OK) asked good questions, as did Sen Reed (D-RI)

Some of the critics do bring up good points. The issue, it seems to me, is whether they state problems in order to find a way to solve them or are just looking for an excuse to withdraw.

We've all heard about how the Army is stretched too thin, and that troops are not getting enough rest time. This complaint is usually made as a veiled excuse to bring the troops home. Yet when the schools say that they are stretched we spend more money on education, and do not cut back on classes. When the military says it is stretched we cut back on commitments. It seems to me that the obvious solution to is to increase the size of the force.

Sen Collins (R-RI, or is that RINO-RI?) did the same thing. She said that they in congress are always told that progress is being made by Iraqi armed forces, yet problems continue. Again does this apply to other foreign aid? She says that as long as we take the lead in combat operations, the Iraqis will never step up to the plate. Well, as long as we provide handouts to poor countries around the world, why should they step up to the plate? Does the same logic not apply? Yet if the U.S. does not pony up for some new program designed to help Africa or wherever we are attacked as "miserly", and how dare we ask whether the money is well spent.

Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) brought up the "retired general" complaint, saying that he'd heard retired Generals McCaffrey and Odom say that things weren't going swimmingly in Iraq. He did at least admit that the Iraqi parliament had been passed several of the laws required in the "benchmarks", but complained that they had not been implemented?. Again, the goalposts keep moving.

Sen. Warner (R-VA) asked whether the Iraq war made us safer. Gen Petraeus said "I do believe it is worth it", and Amb Crocker said that "Al Qaeda is our mortal and strategic enemy. To the extent that its capabilities have been diminished in Iraq, it makes our country safer." Not the best answers they could have given.

Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on the other hand did well and pointed out the the surge changed the trend lines, which had been going in all the wrong directions. He admitted that the challenges were real, but sees the glass as half full and getting fuller rather than as half empty. Rather than everything falling apart he sees the surge has having reversed the negative trend lines. For all the grief conservatives have given Sen Graham he shone during the hearings. For what it's worth, he's a (Lt Col ? in the Army or Air Force reserve ? ) Graham's main thing was to point out that the trend lines are all in our favor. Also asked if Iraq as a failed state would negatively affect US national security and Petraeus said "yes"

Sen Ben Nelson (D-NE) wants the Iraqis to pay us back at least some of the money we've given Iraq. I've heard this also from the right. Well ok, I understand the complaint, but I see it as very shortsighted and spiteful. btw, are we asking countries who receive food or other assistance to pay us back? Do we even put realistic conditions on them for the aid? Or track it to make sure it isn't wasted, and if it is cut off future aid? And let's ask those on poverty assistance programs to pay us back also once they "step up to the plate" and get self-sustaining jobs.

At 1:55 the hearings adjourned. Code Pink members sang and held signs in the back of the hearing room. Boring....

All in all the Dems seemed less aggressive. There was no "willing suspension of disbelief" moments and no Movon.org "General Betrayus" ads. They seemed to have learned their lesson from a PR perspective, at least.

All in all, I'd say that the Democrats were shooting blanks. They may have satisfied their anti-war base but that's about it. Petraeus and Crocker told it straight; we're winning, success so far is fragile but if we cut-and-run all would probably be lost, and that a failed Iraq harms the U.S. We should listen to them.


Posted by Tom at 8:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2008

Iraqi Perspectives Project - Saddam and Terrorism - The Bush Administration

Yesterday I introduced the latest report from the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP); Saddam and Terrorism. I'll have more about it in later posts, but for now I wanted to discuss something else; the state of the Bush Administration and why they let this report get portrayed in a negative light.

And unless you only read right-wing blogs, it has been portrayed negatively. Many or most press reports have fixated on a single sentence in the Executive Summary, whereby the authors said that "This study found no 'smoking gun' (i.e., direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda." Smugly satisfied that this alone "proved" that "Bush lied", they blithely ignored the rest of the report. As I illustrated yesterday, that single sentence proved nothing of the sort, and even a casual perusal of the rest of the report showed many links between Saddam's regime and all sorts of terrorist regimes, including indirect ones with al Qaeda. Indeed, unless you're a complete Bush-hater, the report quite condemned Saddam Hussein's regime.

There were also a few articles in the conservative press bemoaning the fact that the Bush Administration was nowhere to be found. Indeed, they have been almost completely AWOL in this entire affair, apparently happy to have it released and let events take their course. The administration has been totally silent on the IPP report.

This whole affair got me to thinking; in all the writing I've done about Iraq and the War on Jihadism ("War on Terror", or whatever we're going to call it), the administration has hardly figured at all. For military information I go directly to the source, relying on Pentagon press briefings and journalists in-country. For information on Jihadism and radical Islam, I rely on scholars and writers.

Indeed, most of my discussion of the administration over the past two years has been to criticize it. This post won't be much different.

To be fair, I haven't been universally critical of the administration. They did eventually recognize that the Rumsfeld/Abizaid/Casey strategy in Iraq was failing, and approved the "surge" plan, which was carried out by the winning team of Gates/Petraeus/Odierno.

But in 2006 and 2007 I did take the administration to task for many things; the Harriet Myers fiasco, the prolifigate spending, the belated recognition that our strategy in Iraq wasn't working, the inability to articulate or even try to make the case for Iraq or the wider war, their negligence in using our vast amounts of "soft power" in addition to military force, the fixation on the ridiculous "peace process" in the Middle East, and the refusal to say forthrightly that our enemy is more than just a gang of terrorists but an entire movement of Jihadists.

Obviously much of the media will be focused on the presidential campaign. Nevertheless, the administration should at least be trying to make itself relevant. The fact that it has figured so little in my writing speaks volumes about how they haven't.

Bill Kristol, writing on The Weekly Standard , tells us how and why they have been so absent when this most recent IPP report was released

If you talk to people in the Bush administration, they know the truth about the report. They know that it makes the case convincingly for Saddam's terror connections. But they'll tell you (off the record) it's too hard to try to set the record straight. Any reengagement on the case for war is a loser, they'll say. Furthermore, once the first wave of coverage is bad, you can never catch up: You give the misleading stories more life and your opponents further chances to beat you up in the media. And as for trying to prevent misleading summaries and press leaks in the first place--that's hopeless. Someone will tell the media you're behaving like Scooter Libby, and God knows what might happen next.

Ok, I understand the bit about not wanting to refight the reasons we went to Iraq. We are where we are and unless anyone can produce a time machine the only thing relevant at the moment is what we are going to do next. Most of those who insist on talking about why we went in are only looking to force a precipitous exit anyway. Let's save the histories for the next decade.

But when a major report does come out you have to take the bull by the horns and get out in front of the story. A basic rule of politics is that either you define the situation or your opponents will define it for you, and once they have done so it's almost impossible to get back in control of events.

David Frum
, writing on his blog at National Review, summed it up

This is a psychologically broken administration: exhausted, passive, prematurely aged, self-defeated.

It is lying on the mat moaning as its opponents kick it, unwilling/unable to block a blow or raise a hand in self-defense.

The indifference to quality of personnel - always a problem - has now become the defining characteristic of the administration. The president continues to imagine he is pursuing one set of policies. But because he allows retiring principals to be succeeded by their deputies, and then those deputies to be followed by their deputies, he has passively acquiesced in allowing his administration to be staffed by people who regard his policies as at best impossible, at worst actively wrong. And then he is surprised when his administration does the opposite of what he wished! Of course it does! If you won't steer the car, it won't go where you want!

Frum believes that the moment when things started to go wrong came at the beginning, with the appointment of Condoleezza Rice as National Security Adviser. The reason, he says, was that bush "needed a strong figure at NSC to broker those clashes. Instead, he chose the weakest NSC adviser in that institution's history." The result was "a total breakdown of policy coordination."

I don't know enough about the inner workings of the administration to say whether that analysis is accurate or not. My take is more that the administration simply became exhausted by the Iraq War. The failure to advance Social Security reform in 2005 and the twin disasters of the Katrina hurricane and the appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court derailed his domestic policy.

Either way, the failure to make the case for Iraq and Saddam's link to terror is inexcusable.

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

September 9, 2007

Democrats Behaving Disgracefully III

Via Redstate we have Senator Harry Reid joining Senators Durban and Schumer in an unparalleled showing of disgraceful behavior. ABC News reports this

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in his party's weekly radio address today that he expects the Petraeus report to be nothing more than the Bush administration's selective take on the surge.

"Before the report arrives in Congress, it will pass through the White House spin machine, where facts are often ignored or twisted, and intelligence is cherry-picked," said Reid.

On Friday, Reid went so far as to question not only the true source of the report but also the four-star general's honesty.

"He has made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual," Reid said. "I have every belief that this good man will give us what he feels is the right thing to do in his report, but it's not his report anymore. It's Bush's report."

This is doubletalk. If Gen Petraeus is a "good man" he will not deliver a report as his own that he knows is written by the White House and contains false or misleading information. But Harry Reid is saying that he will deliver such a report, one written by the White House and which contains false or misleading information.

Further, Reid called Petraeus a liar when he said that "he has made a number of statements over the years that have not proven to be factual." He can't be much of a "good man" if he has made false statements, can he?

Reid can't have it both ways. Either the general is a liar and a purveyor of false information, or he is a "good man", but it can't be both.

What Reid is doing is obvious; he is at once trying to discredit the report while not appearing to be "anti-military". It won't work.

Here's more of the same doubletalk from Reid, this time from the New York Times (also via Redstate)

“I have every belief that this good man, General Petraeus, will give us what he feels is the right thing to do in this report, that is now not his report,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “It’s President Bush’s report. President Bush took final ownership of this when he landed in Anbar Province just a few days ago.”

This would be the same Senator Harry Reid who on January 26, 2007, voted along with 81 other Senators (the other 19 simply didn't vote) to confirm then Lt. Gen. David Petraeus to 4 star rank, and commander of MNF-Iraq.

If we were to give Reid every benefit of the doubt, and conclude that he thought Petraeus was an honorable man in January but has since changed his mind, then he is a dolt.

More likely though Reid was playing politics in January and he is playing politics now. He voted to confirm Petraeus because he thought it the politically expedient thing to do. He now disparages the same man because the nutroots have told him that he has to end the war or else. In other words, the Democrats are so invested in an American defeat that they have to make it happen whether it is or not.

Previous

Democrats Behaving Disgracefully
Democrats Behaving Disgracefully II

Posted by Tom at 8:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 8, 2007

Democrats Behaving Disgracefully II

Continuing the Democrats disgraceful attempt tos slander General Petraeus before he makes his report next week to Congress, Senator Chuck Schumer says that U.S. forces had nothing to do with the dramatic turn-around in Anbar. On the floor of the Senate last Wednesday he said that

And let me be clear: the violence in Anbar has gone down despite the Surge, not because of the Surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from Al Qaeda said to these tribes: We have to fight Al Qaeda ourselves. — Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Congressional Record, 9/5/07, p. S 11090

Schumer was one of 81 Senators who voted to confirm Petraeus last January, but the political winds were blowing another direction back then.

As former Marine W Thomas Smith points out over at NRO (link above)

The violence has gone down in Anbar because of the approach to operating joint U.S.-Iraqi military stations in cleared areas of Anbar, especially where it all began up on the Syrian border following Steel Curtain in 2005. And the surge of forces throughout central Iraq and in the west has most certainly played a role in the success of the Anbar turnaround, though the turnaround did indeed begin before the surge.

Additionally, many of the Sunni tribal leaders were in league with Al Qaeda, but over time began switching sides because (a) they were sick of the civilian-targeting and threat tactics of Al Qaeda, and (b) they knew that the only armed elements in the region who were able to protect them and their families were U.S. forces.

Down the Memory Hole

But Schumer's offense goes farther than just not being honest about what's happening in Anbar. He has tried to have his comments erased from history.

Sweetness and Light caught him. Here again, is what he actually said

And let me be clear: the violence in Anbar has gone down despite the Surge, not because of the Surge. The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from Al Qaeda said to these tribes: We have to fight Al Qaeda ourselves.

And here is how Schumer has it on his website

And let me be clear: the violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge. The lack of protection for these tribes from al Qaeda made it clear to these tribes, “We have to fight al Qaeda ourselves.” It wasn’t that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords had to create a temporary peace here on their own. And that is because there was no one else there protecting them.

Not quite the same, is it?

Here's the video to prove it



You're a clear liar is what you are, Schumer. You changed what you said on your website because on the floor of the Senate you said what you really think and later realized that it didn't look good politically. Everyone cleans up speeches to get rid of the occasional "um" and "ah" or when you transpose words, but this is more than that.

The Washington Times had this to say about Senator Schumer and his fellow Democrats yesterday

The most disgraceful player so far is Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who in speech ridiculed as "desperate" the successful strategy implemented by Gen. Petraeus, which has dramatically reduced violence in Anbar province and saved both American and Iraqi lives. The alliance between the U.S. military and Sunni tribesmen has encouraged the Sunnis to stand against al Qaeda. "Are we placing our faith in the future of Iraq in the hands of some warlords?" asked Mr. Schumer with a sour verbal sneer. "Some tribal leaders who at the moment dislike al Qaeda more than they dislike us? Is this the vaunted clarion cry for democracy in the Middle East that the President announced when he started the build-up in Iraq?... This is a policy of desperation."

Only a poisonous partisan — or someone ignorant of history and geopolitical reality — could say something like that. Using the Schumer standard, FDR and Churchill were wrong to form an alliance with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin because he was an evil man who didn't share our regard for "democracy." The World War II leaders of the West rightly judged that Hitler and the Axis powers posed a greater threat to U.S. interests than Stalin at the time — hence the decision to ally the United States and Britain with the Soviet Communists. No one now pretends that Sunni tribesmen have very much in common with Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. But only fools would take Mr. Schumer's advice to give the back of the hand to the Arab Muslims who are willing to join the fight against our mortal enemy.

Churchill and Roosevelt knew exactly what they were doing when they allied with Stalin. They may not have known the full extent of Stalin's mass murders, but they knew that he was an evil dictator. But as the Times said, they also knew that at the time Hitler was the greater danger. Churchill and Roosevelt where right then, and we are right now. Schumer is just a bitter partisan desperate for political advantage. General Petraeus' report is going to be largely positive and they have bet the farm on an American defeat.

Previous

Democrats Behaving Disgracefully

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 6, 2007

Democrats Behaving Disgracefully

The Democrats are already dismissing General Petraeus' report, and he hasn't even given it yet. From today's Washington Times

Congressional Democrats are trying to undermine U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' credibility before he delivers a report on the Iraq war next week, saying the general is a mouthpiece for President Bush and his findings can't be trusted.

"The Bush report?" Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said when asked about the upcoming report from Gen. Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq.
...

The top Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California — also referred to the general's briefing as the "Bush report."

These Democrats are nauseating. They know Petraeus will have good things to say, and they can't have any of that. Captain Ed has it right, they're trying character assassination on him. What's particularly galling is that most of them, including the Senator Durbin quoted above, voted to confirm him 81 - 0 last January. A few abstained, and one wonders if they did so in order to attack him later.

The charge that President Bush is writing the report, or that it will be "tainted" is utter B.S., and here's why:

From Blackfive

There has been some talk in the press and on the blogs that suggests the White House intends to tamper with -- or simply write -- General Petraeus' assessment to Congress. In a discussion today with a DOD Legislative Affairs expert, we got the truth.

Congress itself mandated by law who will assemble each of the several reports due in September. It also, separately, mandated that General Petraeus be available to testify to them at this time.

Public Law 110-28 specifes that "the President, having consulted with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Commander, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, and the Commander of U.S. Central Command, will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress."

The law separately requires that: "[T]he United States Ambassador to Iraq and the Commander, Multi-National Forces Iraq will be made available to testify in open and closed sessions before the relevant committees of the Congress."

So, in answer to the question: there is a report, and there is a separate assessment. The law requires the President to prepare the report, and General Petraeus to consult with him on that. The law also requires the General to testify separately before Congress.

There are no political games here: the US military is simply complying with the law as passed by Congress.

It is Congress who passes laws. The same Congress that is now complaining that the president will prepare the report is the same Congress that passed a law saying that "the president...will prepare the report."

A commenter on Captain's Quarters(link above) said it best

The fact is the "face" on this report is Gen. Petraeus. He played the major role in preparing it and he will be delivering it to congress. It represents to a large degree the view of the military on the ground in Iraq. In contrast we have a GAO report which represents the analysis of bureaucrats in the capitol far from Iraq. Now who do Americans trust more: the military? or Congress? ... This is an imbecilic move by the Dems.

Exactly.

In a related note, Senator McCain stood tall during last night's GOP debate. Unfortuantely it was at Governor Romney's expense, but that's how these things are.

ROMNEY: I don't have a time frame that I've announced. What I've indicated is very consistent with what the president is speaking about and what we're hearing from Iraq right now, and that is that the surge is apparently working.
...

MCCAIN: Governor, the surge is working. The surge is working, sir.

ROMNEY: That's just what I said.

MCCAIN: It is working. No, not "apparently"; it's working. It's working because we've got a great general. We've got a good strategy. Anbar province, things have improved.

The Maliki government is not doing the things we want it to do, the police are not functioning the way we want them to do, but we are succeeding.

And the great debate is not whether it's apparently working or not, the great debate is going to take place on the floor of the United States Senate the middle of this month. And it's going to be whether we set a date for withdrawal, which will be a date for
surrender, or whether we will let this surge continue and succeed.

And I can assure you, it's more than apparent, it is working and we have to rally the American people. People in New Hampshire are saddened and frustrated and angry over our failures in Iraq. I share their anger, their frustration and their failure, and I want them home too. But I want them home for the right reasons. I want our troops home with honor. Otherwise, we will face catastrophe and genocide in the region.

When McCain is good, he's the best. And he's right, it is going to be one knock-down drag out debate.

Posted by Tom at 9:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2007

Why Wait for Petraeus?

General Petraeus is due to make his report to Congress on September 11. It would appear, however, that many in Congress have already made up their minds.

Senator Warner seems to have already made his decision. He's now announced that the President should announce a withdrawal right now. At a press conference in Washington yesterday

Virginia Senator John Warner said President George W. Bush should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq on Sept. 15 to show the Iraqi government that the U.S. commitment there isn't open-ended.

Bush should announce that ``we will start an orderly, carefully planned, thought-out redeployment,'' said Warner, 80, a Republican and former Navy secretary who three times chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Thanks, Senator. Democrats didn't waste anytime using this against the President. From the AP

Democrats say the grim (NIE) report and Warner's conclusion bolster their position that Bush should change course and start bringing troops home this fall. Party leaders this year tried to pass legislation ordering troops home this fall, but repeatedly fell short of the 60 votes needed in the Senate to pass.

In addition, yesterday radio talk-show hostLaura Ingraham played several clips of various media talking heads crowing over Senator Warner's statement. They seem almost joyous that this could lead to the defections of more Republicans

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Division-Center and 3rd Infantry Division, was asked directly about Warner's comments at a press briefing on Friday, and he swatted down the notion that in the short run we can safely withdraw troops.

Q: General, Jim Miklaszewski with NBC. After his visit to Iraq last weekend, Senator John Warner said yesterday that he's recommending to the president that the U.S. begin to withdraw its forces from Iraq as early as December. From somebody who's conducting combat operations on the ground there, what's your reaction to that? How do you think that would affect your ability to conduct those operations?

GEN. LYNCH: Yeah, thanks for that question, Jim. You know, what I find now -- as you all know, I was in Iraq, went away for 10 months, came back again -- and really the difference that's happening right now is twofold. One is, we're not commuting to work. In my battlespace there are 29 patrol bases that we have occupied, and we're out there with the local citizens. Being out with the local citizens allows us to let them know they're going to be secure, and as a result of that, they come to us with all sorts of actionable intelligence. And that's what happens.

And the other piece is the ability of the surge forces. You know, we now have units; we can take the fight to the enemy. If we were to lose that capability, I believe the enemy would just come back. What I've found studying the enemy is, he’s got amazing ability to fill the void. And it takes him about 48 hours. If it's an area that's no longer secure, he's going to fill that void in about 48 hours.

And any of the locals who are helping the coalition secure -- they're now subject to atrocious acts of violence, and we can't let that happen.

This is going to take some time. You know, we've always said the level of coalition forces is a function of three things. It's the level of the insurgency, it's the capability of Iraqi security forces, and it's the capacity of the Iraqi government at the national, provincial and local levels.

And in my battlespace right now, if soldiers were to leave, coalition soldiers were to leave, having fought hard for that terrain, having denied the enemy their sanctuaries, what happens is, the enemy would come back. He'd start building the bombs again, he'd start attacking the locals again, and he'd start exporting that violence into Baghdad, and we would take a giant step backwards.

So in my battlespace, in Multinational Division-Center battlespace, I need the forces I have until I can transition to sustained security presence by the Iraqi security forces. And that's going to take some time.

Earlier Lynch made clear exactly why it is important that Iraqis know that we are not going to pull out anytime soon but are going to stick it out.

We get to an area, the locals there, the first question they ask is, "Are you staying?" And once they're convinced we're staying, the question then becomes, "How can we help?" What we see as a result of that commitment is Iraqi citizens are coming forward and they're indeed saying, "What can we do to help?"

Here's the video, which I encourage you to watch in it's entirety, because he talks about a lot more than I can cover in this post.

Throughout this war various people have said that the President wasn't listening to his generals, that he was letting Secretary Rumsfeld run the war all by himself. The other complaint was that we didn't have enough troops in theater.

With the firing of Rumsfeld and the adoption of the "surge" plan, the President has alleviated both concerns.

But I worry that some in congress have already made up their minds. As a result they want to get out ahead of the general and push their agenda before he shows up. I think this is what Warner was trying to do.

If he had simply recommended that we threaten Maliki et al with withdrawal if his government doesn't get its act together, that would be one thing. Such a recommendation would be premature, I think, but I wouldn't object quite so much. He appears to have gone much further, however, actually saying that we ought to actually start the withdrawal.

Earlier this month I wrote that based on comments by Senators Durbin and Casey, the Democrat line after Petraeus gives his report will be that although military progress has been made, political progress is lacking, so we need to withdraw the troops. If that's going to be the Democrat line, the one for Republicans who follow Warner may be that we need to withdraw to show the central Iraqi government that they need to get their act together or else.

Ralph Peters says that Senator Warner has got "green-zone view"

He's got target-lock on the Baghdad government's failings, and, a titan of government himself, he can't get beyond the perfidy, greed and sectarian viciousness of Iraq's politicians.

But the future of Iraq's government is, frankly, less than half of the equation at this point. Whatever may have been the situation is 2003, today Iraq is the main front in the war against Islamist terror and fanaticism. Our enemies have made it so.

Of the two simultaneous missions under way - maturing a responsible government and advancing our own strategic interests - the latter is far more important. In fact, it's vital. And on that track, we're making stunning progress.

Here is some additional insight on the issue of political progress from the editors of National Review

The new National Intelligence Estimate reports “measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation,” and says a shift from counterinsurgency operations to efforts simply to train Iraqis “would erode security gains achieved so far.” On the other hand, the estimate is grim on the prospects of the Maliki government that, it predicts, “will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months.” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has become a favored target of Democrats this week as they shift the focus from military progress to the failure to meet the political benchmarks set out along with the surge in January. Trying to placate her Democratic critics, Clinton said on Wednesday, “The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution. It has failed.”

This is too simplistic. The surge has failed to enable legislative progress on the part of the central government (i.e., the benchmarks), but important political progress has been taking place in Iraq. The turn of the Sunni tribes away from al Qaeda and toward us is a crucial political development. If anyone had thought this was possible at the beginning of the year (it wasn’t even mentioned in the January 2007 NIE), it might have been included as a benchmark and considered the most important one. Are we really supposed to discount this political progress because it happened in a manner and on a timetable that no one would have predicted?
...

The Democrats’ counsel of despair would only make sense if we had sent another 30,000 troops to Iraq to pursue a new strategy and nothing had come of it. Instead, we have seen results and the NIE forecasts more (“modest”) progress on the military front if we maintain our counter-insurgency operations.

It has become a favorite line of the left that "there can be no military solution". This is not correct. It would be accurate to say that "there can be no purely military solution", but a "pure" military solution has never been our strategy and isn't now. Further, it is just as accurate to say that "there can be no purely political solution".

The question is the proper mix of the two. As I've said many times, I think now that we got it wrong our first several years; we put political progress ahead of military operations. The lesson, I believe, is that political progress can only come after extremist groups have been smashed by smart counter-insurgency tactics, which involves what the military calls kinetic operations. Sitting back, training Iraqis, and letting them go out alone doesn't work, at least not yet.

General Petraeus will give us all the facts when he makes his presentation to congress starting Sept 11. Members of Congress should at least wait until then before making their recommenations. In the meantime, they ought to listen to generals like Rick Lynch.

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

August 13, 2007

The Issue of Political Progress in Iraq

Two things are obvious about Iraq.

One, the "surge" (more properly Operation Phantom Thunder and now Phantom Strike) is making good progress, perhaps even better than expected. General Petraeus will likely give a very positive report on military operations in September.

Second, at the national level at least the Iraqis are not making the progress some in the United States they ought to make. Those who are determined to get US troops out of Iraq ASAP regardless of consequences will use this to make their case. Democrat Senators Durban and Casey said as much last week.

As with all such matters, the issue is terribly complicated and there are no easy answers. I'm going to make a case that we ought to stick it out in Iraq but I can see the other side. Some time ago Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said last November of the Iraqis; "We have given them a republic and they do not seem able to keep it." Krauthammer is right about a lot, but I hope he's wrong here.

I'm going to cut to the chase; I think the editors of National Review had it right when they said that

Ultimately, reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Shiites is crucial. But it wasn’t going to happen in the next two months, whether the Iraqi parliament stayed in session or not. General Petraeus’s September report has come to be seen as a final test for Iraq, which makes sense only for Democrats hell-bent on leaving no matter what, and for nervous Republicans seeking a soft exit. We are beginning to see the fruits of a sound counterinsurgency strategy and, in this context, a debate focused on how to get out rather than how to consolidate our gains is shameful, however easy the sound bites are.

Cliff May points out that we are at least partially to blame for the lack of progress at the national level in Iraq

We are at least partly responsible for the Iraqi government's dysfunction. Watching the debates taking place in Washington — hardly the most inspiring example of democracy in action — Iraqis don't know whether we are going to stay to finish the job or abandon them to al-Qaeda terrorists and Iranian-backed death squads.

And as long as Iraqis think we are heading for the exit, what possible incentive do they have to make painful political compromises?

I think he's on to something and l I'll just quote myself on what I said the other day about why I think so

My thought is that we've had Iraq backward all along. We've put political progress ahead of military progress, and we should have done it the other way 'round. We hurried to set up one provisional government after another, draft a constitution, hold elections, etc. Our hope was that by doing these things we could take the "legitimacy" out of the insurgency.

It didn't work.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but we should have done this "surge" back in 2004 or at least 2005, and only when we'd squashed the terrorists worried about the political side.

The reason we got it wrong, I think, is that we have a tendancy to "mirror image" our thinking. We assume that hey, we can all get along without shooting each other, why can't they? We forget that the reality is that there are a lot of extremists over there who will shoot if they can't get their way politically. And before going in we completely underestimated extremism in Iraq. These people figure they can get what they want through violence, so they don't put much stock in what we consider normal political negotiations. Rather, they'll hold out for a better deal through violence.

Extremists will only negotiate in good faith when all violent options have closed; i.e., when the US military has crushed the insurgency.

All this is also why peace between Israel and Hamas or Fatah is a pipe dream. Or Israel and Lebanon. Until these terrorist organizations are destroyed or physically isolated there will never be peace.

David at The Thunder Run made another point to me in an email (which I won't print since it's private) that Iraqis are in fact making progress on the local level, and that this is in reality how most things get done in the US as well. He sees the war being won on the local level, both against al Qaeda and in the US military (primary leutenant colonels) working with local Iraqi leaders. As always he makes a good point and I tend to agree.

The bottom line is that the NRO editors have it right; Petraeus' Sept report is not a "final" report but an interim one, yes the Iraqis do eventually have to come together, but we ought to be talking about how to consolidate and expand on our victories, not how to cut-and-run.

Only time will tell if I'm right or not, but in the meantime Arnaud de Borchgrave throws some cold water on anyone who still looks at the situation in Iraq through rose-colored glasses

Mr. al-Maliki has little contact with his Cabinet ministers. Half are now off the job. The six Sunni ministers who resigned last week — and five independents who walked out this week — concluded the prime minister is not serious about reconciliation and national unity. They say he sees Iran, where he spent a few years in exile during the Saddam Hussein regime, as "more relevant to Iraq's future than the United States." Iran is here to stay as our neighbor, says Mr. al-Maliki's entourage. And Mr. al-Maliki remains close to Muqtada al-Sadr, the fiery young anti-U.S. cleric who heads the 15,000-strong Mahdi Army militia and also has close ties to Tehran.

With electricity down to an hour or two a day in Baghdad last week when temperatures hit a scorching 58 Celsius (134 Fahrenheit), and much of the city without running water, Mr. al-Maliki and his cronies, with the benefit of generators and air-conditioning, seem far removed from the urgent and monumental task of rebuilding the country. They gave their visitors the impression of being overwhelmed by the challenge. They don't want the U.S. military to abandon them, but at the same time wish them gone, a syndrome that borders on paralysis. Meanwhile, parliament gave itself a month off and many members went to European destinations to cool off.

The rest of the article isn't any better. He notes that "Iranian diplomacy has been diligent in laying the groundwork for an Iraqi satellite", and one of my fears is that we win the war only to end up with an Iraq that is no friend to the U.S.

If you'd like more bad news, there was this story in the Washington Post last Tuesday about how the British have been essentially defeated in Basra. The city is now a lawless place, with the Brits reduced to barracading themselves behind a makeshift fortress outside the city.

On the flip side of that story, though, is that the reason the Brits have lost is that they drew down their forces too soon.

Britain sent about 40,000 troops to Iraq -- the second-largest contingent, after that of the United States, at the time of the March 2003 invasion -- and focused its efforts on the south. With few problems from outside terrorists or sectarian violence, the British began withdrawing, and by early 2005 only 9,000 troops remained. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced further drawdowns early this year before leaving office.

Hello Democrats and wobbly Republicans; we'll get the lawlessness of Basra if we draw down too fast.

The indefatiguable Michael Yon, who has spent a year and a half on the ground in Iraq as an independent journalist, believes that the charge that "there's no political progress" is bogus

False advertising is afoot. I write these words from Indonesia, soaking wet, having just returned from photographing rice paddies in a pouring rain, wearing a Florida Gators shirt. That means there is a green alligator on my chest. While supporting my team, my shirt perpetuates the myth that alligators are green, when in fact they are black when wet, gray when dry.The mantra that “there is no political progress in Iraq” is rapidly becoming the “surge” equivalent of a green alligator: when enough people repeat something that sounds plausible, but also happens to be false, it becomes accepted as fact. The more often it is repeated—and the larger the number of people repeating it—the harder it is to convince anyone of the truth: alligators are not green, and Iraqis are making plenty of political progress.

There may be little progress on political goals crafted in America, to meet American concerns, by politicians who have a cushion of 200 years of democracy. Washington might as well be on the moon. Iraqis don’t respond well to rules imposed from outside their acknowledged authorities, though I have many times seen Iraqi Police and Army of all ranks responding very well to American Marines and soldiers who they have come to respect, and in many cases actually admire and try to emulate. Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit because many Iraqis are increasingly frightened we will abandon them to genocide.

Yon gives three reasons why he thinks the "surge" is working, and as I said earlier I think that if we can make the military side work then we have a chance at the political

1. Iraqis are uniting across sectarian lines to drive al Qaeda in all its disguises out of Iraq, and they are empowered by the success they are having, each one creating a ripple effect of active citizenship.

2. The Iraqi Army is much more capable now than they were in 2005. They are not ready to go it alone, but if we keep working, that day will come soon.

3. General Petraeus is running the show. Petraeus may well prove to be to counterinsurgency warfare what Patton was to tank battles with Rommel, or what Churchill was to the Nazis.

If you don't follow any of the other links in this piece, be sure to visit Yon's site. The photos alone are worth the visit.

Lastly are these thoughts from Jim Geraghty at NRO

Stuart Koehl of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University-SAIS writes in with a good point:

The error being made—on your part as well as by others—is assuming that progress can only be made at the level of the national government. In fact, under the Iraqi constitution, the national government is rather weak, while traditionally real political power has been wielded on the local and regional level. And it is precisely at the local and regional level that we see real progress being made with regard both to power sharing and national reconciliation. Because of the social and constitutional structure of Iraq, political progress cannot be imposed from the top-down, but must percolate from the bottom up. To some extent, the members of the national assembly and the unity government are merely play-acting, posturing for the cameras until such time as a consensus emerges on the local level that will prompt them to act. The success of our counter-insurgency effort on the political front is not measured in the assembly chamber, but in the tribal councils. And there, we are definitely winning.

UPDATE: I should note that I'm hearing a similar vibe from others who have been to Iraq recently — relationships between the local tribal councils are going pretty well, while the national assembly is a mess. "The bottom up strategy is making progress, but the national government is and is going to be a disaster... I think this means we're headed toward a soft partition."

Well, if the Kurds don't declare formal independence, and nobody sponsors al-Qaeda, I say, "hooray, good job everybody, and good luck. We'll be in Kuwait if you need anything. We're outta here."

It might just come down to that.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 9, 2007

The Democrat Line in December

Via NRO, I think that Senators Richard Durbin Bob Casey are floating a trial balloon regarding what the Democrat line in September will be when Gen Petraeus comes to Washington and reports that the surge is making good progress

(though the image here is that of a woman, it quickly goes to Senators Durbin and Casey on CNN)

Note how the CNN anchor seems amazed that Durbin would admit to any military progress at all. It's as if he couldn't quite believe his ears at first.

What's going on here is that the Democrats have learned that the "surge" (more properly Operation Phantom Thunder) is working better than they expected, or as I should say, feared. And I'm not going to go through the evidence here, but all signs point to military success in Iraq, at least right now.

Rep James Clyburn accidentally spoke the truth when he said that it would be a “real big problem for us” if Petraeus’s progress report is good.

Petraeus is not someone they can mock or disparage and get away with it. They know that if they take this tack they'll look stupid and will lose half their party. The nutroots may want to hear that Petraeus is Bush's lapdog, but it won't play with Joe and Jane Average.

What they'll do then is say we should pull out of Iraq because the Iraqis can't get their act together at the federal level.

To a certain extent the Democrats will have a point. Ultimately the Iraqis do have to make political progress. But it's not quite that simple. As the editors of National Review pointed out last week

Ultimately, reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Shiites is crucial. But it wasn’t going to happen in the next two months, whether the Iraqi parliament stayed in session or not. General Petraeus’s September report has come to be seen as a final test for Iraq, which makes sense only for Democrats hell-bent on leaving no matter what, and for nervous Republicans seeking a soft exit. We are beginning to see the fruits of a sound counterinsurgency strategy and, in this context, a debate focused on how to get out rather than how to consolidate our gains is shameful, however easy the sound bites are.

My thought is that we've had Iraq backward all along. We've put political progress ahead of military progress, and we should have done it the other way 'round. We hurried to set up one provisional government after another, draft a constitution, hold elections, etc. Our hope was that by doing these things we could take the "legitimacy" out of the insurgency.

It didn't work.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but we should have done this "surge" back in 2004 or at least 2005, and only when we'd squashed the terrorists worried about the political side.

The reason we got it wrong, I think, is that we have a tendancy to "mirror image" our thinking. We assume that hey, we can all get along without shooting each other, why can't they? We forget that the reality is that there are a lot of extremists over there who will shoot if they can't get their way politically. And before going in we completely underestimated extremism in Iraq. These people figure they can get what they want through violence, so they don't put much stock in what we consider normal political negotiations. Rather, they'll hold out for a better deal through violence.

Extremists will only negotiate in good faith when all violent options have closed; i.e., when the US military has crushed the insurgency.

All this is also why peace between Israel and Hamas or Fatah is a pipe dream. Or Israel and Lebanon. Until these terrorist organizations are destroyed or physically isolated there will never be peace.

David at The Thunder Run made another point to me in an email (which I won't print since it's private) that Iraqis are in fact making progress on the local level, and that this is in reality how most things get done in the US as well. He sees the war being won on the local level, both against al Qaeda and in the US military (primary leutenant colonels) working with local Iraqi leaders. As always he makes a good point and I tend to agree.

The bottom line is that the NRO editors have it right; Petraeus' Sept report is not a "final" report but an interim one, yes the Iraqis do eventually have to come together, but we ought to be talking about how to consolidate and expand on our victories, not how to cut-and-run.

Posted by Tom at 9:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

The Polls! The Polls!

So Senator Webb thinks that we need to pull out of Iraq because a NYT poll says that 55% of enlisted soldiers say we should withdraw from Iraq. He said this in a debate with Sen Graham last weekend on Meet the Press. Webb also used this argument when he made the Democrat rebuttal to President Bush's State of the Union address last January.

It isn't just Sen. Webb, the anti-war folks in general use polling results incessantly to justify their demand that we withdraw now from Iraq.

Logically speaking this type of argument is called an enthymeme, which is a syllogism without one it it's parts; major premise, minor premise, or conclusion. Webb and those like him who use this argument don't spell out their reasoning, but based on what

We should base our policy on the latest poll
The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal
Therefore we should withdraw immediately

If those who use polls as part of their argument deny that this is their argument, which part are they denying? Most likely they'd deny the major premise (line 1). Perhaps what they mean is

We should base Iraq policy on the latest poll
The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal
Therefore we should withdraw immediately

or

We should base military policy on the latest poll The latest poll on Iraq says that most people favor immediate withdrawal Therefore we should withdraw immediately
But syllogisms 2 & 3 seem rather selective. If you're going to base Iraq policy, or military policy on the polls, why not policy in all areas? Why not decide other issues on the polls too, such as abortion, school choice, or illegal immigration? It is not clear why we should choose policy based on polls in one area and not another.

Perhaps, however, those who use polls as part of their argument are saying yet something else.

We should base our policy on poll readings if said poll holds firm over a period of time Polls on Iraq have said for some time that most people favor immediate withdrawal Therefore we should withdraw immediately

This is the only argument that really makes any sense. Unfortunately, those who make their argument based on polls rarely get into this level of detail, so I'm forced to guess.

Truth be told, I realize I am seriously overthinking this. My general observation is that people who make their arguments based on polls, whether they be conservatives or liberals, rarely think through what they are saying to this level. Most of they time they are simply pulling numbers to support a predetermined conclusion and we all know it.

And lets be clear, conservatives can be just as guilty of this as liberals. In the recent debate over the immigration (really amnesty) bill in Congress, some conservatives based their opposition to the bill on poll numbers which showed that the majority of Americans opposed the legislation.

But I think you need to be consistent. If you're going to use poll numbers to justify your position in one area, you've got to do it in others. You can't say, for example, that we should pull out of Iraq because the polls say we should, then take a position against school choice even though polls show the majority of Americans favor it.

We can get into a deep philosophical discussion on this whole matter of public opinion and public policy, and I'm sure it gets rather complicated, but since that isn't really the subject of this post I'll just touch on a few areas.

Of course in any republic public opinion matters. But this opinion gets to be expressed at regularly scheduled intervals called voting. The founding fathers were just as afraid of mob rule as they were of tyranny. They wanted a government somewhat insulated from the passions of the moment. This is one reason why our Congress is divided into two houses, in which the House most closely represents the immediate will of the people with the Senate a bit more insulated.

Once elected, should represenatives take notice of changes in the public mood? My answer is that yes they should take notice but they should be wary of making radical policy changes based on polls and focus groups.

A few months ago I wrote a post on the Democrat Party's "New Rules for Going to War" Two of my mock rules were

• It at any time a poll of the American people show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

• It at any time a poll of active-duty military personnel show that their support for military operations goes below 50% the troops are to be immediately withdrawn

I guess I could call my latter rule the "Senator Jim Webb honorary rule for going to war".

It'd all be funny if it wasn't so pathetic. They didn't poll the troops in the Revolution, Civil War, WWII, or Korea, or any other war to see what they thought. Yes public opinion matters, yes it matters what the troops think. It's rather the modern obsession with polls, especially when they're used selectively and really to bolster predetermined conclusions that bothers me. And you just can't make public policy by turning to the latest poll, whether it's of the general public or the military.

Reasonable people can disagree about what exactly the public thinks we ought to do about Iraq, and how long they've felt that way. On the one hand I don't think it's nearly as clear cut as the anti-war left would have us believe, but at the same time there's no denying that there's a deep frustation and disillusionment.

But enough of my philosophical ramblings. The bottom line is that too many politicians and people in general use polls to justify predetermined positions. They also only use polls when it bolsters their position on an issue, and ignore them when they go against their position. I'm sure I've been guilty of this too on occasion. It's an easy trap to fall into.

The bottom line is that too many politicians, mainly in the Democrat Party but also in the GOP, are completely poll-driven and seem utterly devoid of principle. This needs to change.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 14, 2007

Determined to Lose

Charles Krauthammer, I think, summed up the situation pretty accuratcly when he said that

Finally, after four terribly long years, we know what works. We don't yet know if this strategy will work in mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhoods. Nor can we be certain that this cooperation between essentially Sunni tribal forces and an essentially Shiite central government can endure. But what cannot be said -- although it is now heard daily in Washington -- is that the surge, which is shorthand for Gen. David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, has failed. The tragedy is that, just as a working strategy has been found, some Republicans in the Senate have lost heart and want to pull the plug.

By my count we're in the fifth phase of the war. The first was the original invasion in March and April of 2003. The second was the formation of the insurgency and our slow response to it. We lost much ground later that year and in early 2004. In late 2004 or early 2005 we found a new strategy, and for awhile it seemed to be working. This by my count marked the third phase. The bombing of the "Golden Mosque" (the Great Mosque of Samarra or al-Askari Mosque) in February 2006 ignited simmering sectarian violence that marked the start of the fourth phase. The situation steadily got worse and by the end of the year it was clear that our strategy was failing. President Bush replaced the Secretary of Defence, and the commanders of CENTCOM and MNF-Iraq. The new team immediately embarked upon a new strategy (popularly called the "surge"), with full operations commencing June 15 in Operation Phantom Thunder.

These ups and downs should not be unfamiliar to anyone who's read much history. Rarely do wars proceed in a nice linear fashion. Reverses are quite common, many occuring in the final year or so of fighting.

Kimberly Kagan has a good summary of current operations in the WSJ, and concludes that so far Phantom Thunder is working. However, "In Washington perception is often mistaken for reality", the perception being that operations have failed. Yesterday, for example, the House of Representatives voted 223-201 to demand a withdrawal of troops by April 2008. The view that we are doomed to fail, she says,

... isn't an accurate reflection of what is happening on the ground, as I saw during my visit to Iraq in May. Reports from the field show that remarkable progress is being made. Violence in Baghdad and Anbar Province is down dramatically, grassroots political movements have begun in the Sunni Arab community, and American and Iraqi forces are clearing al Qaeda fighters and Shiite militias out of long-established bases around the country.

This is remarkable because the military operation that is making these changes possible only began in full strength on June 15. To say that the surge is failing is absurd. Instead Congress should be asking this question: Can the current progress continue?

The answer, she believes, is yes. Read the whole thing.

As I think was fairly predictable, the interim report delivered yesterday on the "surge" is mixed. You can read the whole thing at the Washington Post website.

We hear a lot these days about the "benchmarks" that the Iraqi government is supposed to achieve. Of the 18 benchmarks, the interim report gives the Iraqi government a "satisfactory" mark on 10, "not satisfactory" on 7, and "mixed" on one.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador in Iraq, and 36-year career diplomat, says that "the longer I'm here, the more I'm persuaded that Iraq cannot be analyzed by these kinds of discrete benchmarks." The editors of the Wall Street Journal conclude from his remarks to the New York Times's John Burns in an interview on Saturday that

Mr. Crocker's comments are a useful reminder of the irrelevance--and disingenuousness--of much Washington commentary on Iraq. For proponents of early withdrawal, the "benchmarking" issue has provided a handy excuse to make the Iraqi government rather than al Qaeda the main culprit in the violence engulfing their country.

Some say that the reason we need benchmarks is to encourge, indeed force, the Iraqis to take hard decisions. Without them, the argument goes, the Iraqis will squabble endlessly and we will have to do all of the heavy lifting. This argument is not without merit, but I think it unpersuasive. To be sure, I wish the Iraqis had met them. However, the WSJ concludes that political reconciliation in Iraq will not happen

...if Congress insists on using troop withdrawals to punish Iraqis for their supposed political delinquency. The central issue is whether the Iraqis can make those decisions without having to fear assassination as the consequence of political compromise. The more insistent Congress becomes about troop withdrawals, the more unlikely political reconciliation in Iraq becomes.

That said, it's becoming increasingly clear that the issue of reconciliation has become a smokescreen for American politicians who care for their own political fortunes far more than they do about the future of Iraq or the consequences of Iraq's collapse for U.S. interests in the Middle East. Here again, they could stand to listen to Mr. Crocker.

"You can't build a whole policy on a fear of a negative, but, boy, you've really got to account for it," he said. "In the States, it's like we're in the last half of the third reel of a three-reel movie, and all we have to do is decide we're done here . . . and we leave the theater and go on to something else. Whereas out here, you're just getting into the first reel of five reels, and ugly as the first reel has been, the other four and a half are going to be way, way worse."

John Podhoretz also believes the benchmarks to be a smokescreen

(A)sk yourself this: If Iraq's politicians had agreed on a hydrocarbon law, would terrified Senate Republicans suddenly stiffen their spines and support the "surge" - the new military offensive in Iraq - they suddenly decided wasn't working about a week ago? The same "surge" that seems to be paying off with shocking rapidity in the once-left-for-dead province of Anbar?

Of course not.

Instead, as David Ignatius of the Washington Post believes, politicians are coalescing around the recommendations of the Jim Baker/Lee Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which would in opinion guarantee defeat. In my opinion, if Republicans think they can save their skins by hiding behind the ISG, they are sorely mistaken. Some even want to write its recommendations into law (Sens. Ken Salazar D-CO and Lamar Alexander R-TN), which would be a huge mistake.

Rather, as Mario Loyola says, Congress is shirking its responsiblies. They voted for this war, now that we (finally!) have a good strategy they want to abandon the effort. To be sure, it won't be easy, and we have a ways to go: "Phantom Thunder is meant to lay the groundwork for a “clear, hold, and build” operation set to commence in coming weeks. Stay tuned. The real offensive has yet to begin." Loyola concludes that

As things now stand, they (al Qaeda) cannot win. Their only hope is Congress. And now — at the very moment that our troops finally have the chance to prove they can win — a majority of the Congress wants to legislate defeat, by interfering in the strategic and tactical judgments of the constitutional commander-in-chief and his generals, and force them to do things that they are convinced will throw to the winds all that we have gained at such a terrible price.

If there's any good news on the political front, it's that President Bush is holding firm. Unfortunately, even this must be tempered with the distain in which he is held even by conservatives; witness Peggy Noonan's much talked about column yestery in which she is quite put off by his "seemingly effortless high spirits" in the midst of a huge crisis. A good mood and jocular attitude is just not appropriate for our current situation, she says.

Many in Congress seem determined to lose regardless of what happens on the ground. What it all comes down to is whether Gen Petraus and our troops can stabilize Iraq before Congress forces a pullout. Defeating an insurgency takes time, but time is running out.

Posted by Tom at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 22, 2007

Feel Good Politics

Several congressmen from both sides of the isle have introduced something called the Armenian Genocide Resolution(House Resolution 106). There are some 150 bipartisan co-sponsors.

You can read the full text of the resolution by following the link above, but here is it's "Declaration of Policy"

The House of Representatives—

(1) calls upon the President to ensure that the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to human rights, ethnic cleansing, and genocide documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide and the consequences of the failure to realize a just resolution; and

(2) calls upon the President in the President’s annual message commemorating the Armenian Genocide issued on or about April 24, to accurately characterize the systematic and deliberate annihilation of 1,500,000 Armenians as genocide and to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.

I'm going to take a leap and say that the House should not be in the business of passing resolutions of this sort. It is simply feel-good politics and selective indignation.

Just so we're clear, we're talking about something that happened between 1915 and 1917. Here's the Wikipedia entry on it, which I suppose is as good a description of what happened as any.

I see nothing good coming from this resolution. Genocide, or for that matter murder or mass-forced deportation, is certainly to be condemned. But if we're going to pass resolutions condeming this atrocity, why stop there? How many murderous campaigns go on in Africa every year that we vitually ignore?

It has become fashionable these days for people who haven't done anything wrong to apologize to people who haven't been at least directly harmed. President Clinton famously apologized for slavery while in Africa, not knowing or not caring that the Africans themselves were complicit in the crime.

It's all very fine to become indigant and say that "We cannot let realpolitik dictate truth", as Jules Boyadjian of the Armenian Youth Federation France says in a letter printed in the Washington Times today. I understand that Armenians do not want what happened to them to be forgotten. Their organizations deserve to be heard, and we should all become educated on what happened.

By the same token such education should occur in the private sector. Government should become involved only when the atrocity is ongoing or might happen again, for example when the killers are still in office. We should use our power to stop murder and/or punish the perpetrators whenever possible. We should also be generous to victims who survive.

No one who committed the Armenian massacre is alive. No one who was directly harmed is alive. Reasonable people may say that the next generation was harmed and deserves compenstation too, but surely everyone would agree that at some point decendants are not really affected anymore, at least not to the degree that requires government conpensation. We wouldn't compensate descendants of the Anglos, Saxons, or Judes even if we could find them.

Who is beind this resolution? According to a Washington Times editorial on Tuesday, "H. Res. 106 has far more to do with the power of ethnic lobbies" than anything else. Armenian and Greek lobbying organizations in the US are simply out to settle a score with Turkey, and don't care about the consequences.

As Soner Cagaptay points out in today's Washington Times, US-Turkish relations will be seriously harmed if this resolution passes. Among other things, the large Air Base at Incirlik in southern Turkey, is an invaluable asset that we might well lose if this resolution goes though. France passed an "Armenian Resolution" last year, and the Turks have cut military relations with them. To be sure, it's one thing to do without the Frence militay and quite another to be without US protection, but the point is that there should be no doubt that the Turks would retailiate.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems unaware of all this. She supports this resolution. Just as she and her fellows think that passing resolutions against the "surge" will have no effect on the morale of our troops or of the enemy, they seem to think that they can pass this resolution with out serious consequences.

We should also remember that as imperfect as it is, Turkey is the world's only secular Muslim democracy. Some Turks say that what happened in 1915 was not genocide but more a forced deportation to Syria. My guess is that this is mostly cover-up, and that while some of it was deportation there was also a lot of murder. Either way, as the Times editorial points out, passing a congressional resolution would mean that our government is passing judgement on Turkish history. Given that the event in question happened 90 years ago, I don't think we as a government ought to be involved.

But the Democrats, and some Republicans, want to feel good about themselves. They want to pat themselves on the back and say "look at us, we're good people because we condemn genocide". This is feel-good politics and should be avoided. This resolution should not be passed.

Posted by Tom at 8:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

Copperheads in Congress

copperhead1.gif


I don't suppose there's anyone in their right mind today who couldn't imagine not fighting to free people imprisoned in the hell of slavery, especially when it's happening on your own soil.

And if you're like me, when you were younger and less well-read you had this view of events like the American Revolution, Civil War (from the North's perspective), and World War II as glorious crusades in which "of course" we were all in it together.

But it were the truth. Most history books will tell you that only about 1/3 of the colonists supported independence, another 1/3 were loyal to the crown, and the last 1/3rd just didn't care. Up until Dec 7 1941 up to 80% of Americans wanted nothing to do with aiding the British in any shape way or form. Yet who today could imagine not wanting to fight the Nazis?

We all know, I suppose, that the North stumbled many times in the road to victory. Lincoln went through general after general before he found one who could consistently win. And then after the victories of early 1863, came the losses of later in that year and early 1864.

The Federal Army was unable to fill it's ranks with volunteers and resorted to a draft, which proved so unpopular that riots broke out in New York City over it. Many northern Democrats, disappointed in the way the war was being conducted, decided that it wasn't worth it.

These "peace Democrats" became known as Copperheads. By 1864 they had gained effective control of their party.

There was a presidential election in 1864. From the Democrat Party Platform:


Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.

Amazing, isn't it? Yet it's true; the "peace Democrats" of 1864 wanted an immediate end to the fighting and a negotiated peace that would undoubtably have left slavery in peace. Today's Democrats want an immediate withdrawal regardless of consequences, which would be a huge victory for the jihadists.

As with the Civil War Copperheads, today's variety think that they have the public behind them. They are convinced that the results of the last election "prove" that the American people want an unconditional withdrawal. But as a poll published in Investor's Business Daily points out, it isn't that simple (hat tip Power Line)

IBD%20poll%20Surrender%20Nuts.gif

From the accompanying editorial

The party of John Murtha shamelessly seeks to defund and defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Congress the terrorists wanted is doing their bidding ...

As we've noted on several occasions, Democratic talk of "redeployment" has encouraged terrorist groups around the world.

Jihad Jaara, a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said before the 2006 vote: "Americans should vote Democratic," adding that "it is time the American people support those who want to take them out of the Iraqi mud." The statement could have come from Murtha, Kerry, Hillary or any number of Democrats.

We find it scary that the Democratic and terrorist game plans are indistinguishable.

I'd say that's about right. I'm reading Walid Phares' Future Jihad, which is the best book I've read on the terrorists period. He lays it out just as IBD says; that one of OBL's objectives was to get us to become divided and fight each other. Critics will say that it's all President Bush's fault, that if only we hadn't invaded Iraq we'd all be in it together.

Hogwash. The left would still object to the Patriot Act and Gitmo. Take Iraq out of it and the right and left still have fundamentally different views of what the war is even about. The right sees it as a war against fundamentalist Islam, and the left sees it as a police action against criminals. But more on that when I review Phares' book.

John Murtha has become the chief Copperhead and his plan for our defeat is in full swing. The Washington Times explained on Friday that

When the House votes today on the resolution denouncing Mr. Bush's plans for additional troops to combat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq, members should be under no illusions about what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership are trying to do: to make it impossible for American troops to properly do their job in Iraq. In an interview yesterday with MoveCongress.org, a Web site for a coalition of anti-war groups, Mr. Murtha, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, explained that by placing conditions on $93.4 billion in new combat funds, he would make be able to effectively stop the troops in their tracks. "They won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind," Mr. Murtha said.

"We will set benchmarks for readiness," a top Democratic leadership aide told the nonpartisan Politico.com Web site, which summarized the Democrats' strategy this way: "If enacted, these provisions would have the effect of limiting the number of troops available for the Bush surge plan, while blunting the GOP charge that Democrats are cutting funding for the troops in Iraq."

No one should be fooled by Murtha's "readyness standards". They're fraudulent and everyone knows it. If you don't believe me listen to what Murtha himself said as quoted by the IBD article

"We're trying to force a redeployment not by taking money away, (but) by redirecting money,"

The Democrats, and some Republicans, don't just think that the Keane-Kagan plan, "A Plan for Success in Iraq", around which the "surge" is based, won't work, they're trying to ensure that it won't . It's shameful enough that they've given our most vicious enemies aid and comfort with their stupid resolutions, now they're trying to pull the rug out from under our troops feet too.

Copperheads, all of them.

Posted by Tom at 9:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

So the anti-war crowd's new line is that they want to win in Afghanistan but not in Iraq.

Sure.

Last night at the State of the Union speech the Democrats didn't stand up when the President called for victory in Iraq.

How long before they won't stand up when there's a call for victory in Afghanistan?

But the anti-war crowd insists that no, they really and truely want to win in Afghanistan. It's just Iraq that they oppose.

And I believe them, too. I believe that right now that short of the International ANSWER/Code Pink left, they do want to win in Afghanistan. I believe that they want to win, as long as it is politically expedient, that is. Because as soon as it isn't, they'll want to cut-and-run there too.

Supporting the war in Afghanistan has become the latest tool to oppose the war in Iraq.

"We support more troops in Afghanistan!", we are cheerfully told.

Sorry, but I ain't buying it.

Iraq is important in a way that Afghanistan will never be. It is the center of the Middle East, where Afghanistan is a sideshow. I'm not going to review the good reasons we had to invade, suffice it to say that a loss there would be devastating to the West.

Defeat in Iraq will embolden the enemy in Afghanistan. It will also lead to a "redeployment" of forces by the jihadists, who will shift their forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. Do the Democrats realize that a pullout from Iraq will lead to increased attacks on our forces in Afghanistan? Are they ready for additional casualties there?

More to the point, are they willing to commit the money and resources necessary to win in Afghanistan? Sure, leaving Iraq will free up money. But my guess it that before it can be "redeployed" to Afghanistan most of the money be eaten up by domestic spending, with the big-spenders in the GOP happily going along with it. How long before they decide that money can be saved by pulling out of Afghanistan too?

Now, as a matter of record, I think that more troops in Afghanistan would be useful. But anyone who's even taken a cursory look at the situation there knows that as with Iraq it's pretty complicated, and solving it is not just a simple matter of sending more troops.

Besides, the issues in Afghanistan are larger than troop numbers. Let's quickly go over a few of the issues that are preventing a complete victory.

This past summer Pakistan signed an agreement with the Taliban essentially ceding control of North Waziristan to them. Two years ago they signed a similar one giving up South Waziristan. Waziristan is in northwest Pakistan and borders Afghanistan. I can't find the link as present, but have read that the Taliban have 20+ bases there, and al Qaeda at least 5.

So we just go in and take them out, right? Not so fast. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sits precariously atop a government that is full of anti-American and pro-Taliban Islamists, all of whom would like to overthrow him. Fifty years ago, when Pakistan was formed, it's goverment made a de facto agreement with the tribes of their wild northwestern mountainous
regions. This agreement effectively said "you don't bother us and we won't bother you. You don't support people who want to overthrow us and we'll let you govern yourselves."

It worked out fine until the US discovered that Osama bin Laden was probably hiding there, and we asked the Pakistani government to go and get him. They tried to do so, and thus effectively broke the fifty-year old agreement.

The Pakistanis didn't find OBL, and Musharraf was afraid that if he pissed off the tribes and Islamists too much they'd overthrow him. Since his army was being beaten by the tribes who were aided by the Taliban we chased out of Afghanistan, they decided to do the prudent thing and call a truce.

So if we simply flood Waziristan with American troops, we run a serious risk of all hell breaking lose in Pakistan and Musharraf being replaced with a radical Islamic government. Did I mention that Pakistan has nuclear weapons?

My point here: Since the anti-war crowd isn't willing to take risks in Iraq, what makes you think they'll take risks going after the Taliban inside Pakistan?

If this isn't enough for you to digest, there's the fact that we've been betrayed by our NATO "allies". The reason has more to do with changing demographics in Europe than anything else.

If you want one more vexing problem that won't be solved by adding more troops, there's the issue of the poppy fields. The Taliban make a ton of money off the stuff, and getting rid of it isn't easy. Similar to the situation in Central and South America, farmers grow the stuff because they make more money on it than with traditional food crops. Destroy the crops and they'll trade their plow for a gun and come after us. The only way to solve it that I can see is outbid the Taliban or find another more profitable crop for them to grow.

Will the anti-war crowd be willing to spend the money necessary to get rid of the poppy fields? How long before we're told that we need it here at home for a school lunch program?

Bush's Fault, Too

Although I'm sure some readers won't want to believe this, I do go after both sides when I think they are wrong. I make no secret of my distain for the anti-war left, and think that for all our mistakes the neo-cons are mostly right. But I've gone after the President for screwing things up both domestically and in Iraq, and I'm going to do it again.

Here's the bottom line: Bush fooled around for several years, letting Rumsfeld, Abizaid, and Casey continue on with their "light footprint" strategy. It didn't work. Last year saw the bombing of the Mosque/Golden dome and an escallation in sectarian violence. A year ago he should have fired his generals, if not Rumsfeld, and demanded that more troops be sent while he still had the political capital to do so. Now, finally, he's woken up, but at the political 11th hour.

The President gave a great speech last night, clearly and persuasively laying out the case for victory in Iraq. As with a change in war leadership, he should have done this a year ago.

We shouldn't be surprised that he's lost so much support. The American people want to win, but what they hate is a politician that doesn't seem to have the will to win. Now, the truth may be that Bush had the will but simply bought into the "light footprint" strategy, legitimately thinking that it would work. Perception, however, counts, and many Americans perceived that "light footprint" as a lack of will. Now at the final hour he's decided to send more troops, but many are so fed up that they won't give him one last chance.

There's also the fact that there aren't many more to send, because Bush and the GOP congress spent 6 years increasing domestic spending instead of building up the military.

Back to Iraq

The bottom line is that we're there in Iraq and a victory there for the Jihadists would be devastating for both the Middle East and entire Western world. The communist victory in Vietnam emboldened the Soviet Union for another 10 years. Let's not have another round of Carterism, please.

The most immediate effect of a withdrawal would be a slaughter in Iraq, and then an Iranian influenced or controlled Iraq. The Sunni Arab states would be in an uproar, so if you think there's instability now just wait until we pull out. And then, of course, there's the fact that parts of Iraq would become terrorist training centers. All of this would solve nothing, but would rather only mean fighting by American troops at a later date.

At least the Vietnamese didn't come after us here at home. The Jihadists want to convert the world to Islam or destroy us if we refuse. Laugh if you like but it's the truth. So if you think we've lost a lot of people in Iraq so far, we'll lose a lot more later if we don't win now.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

Playing Politics

This morning's Washington Times brought news that the US Senate plans a vote against the Administration's new plan for Iraq

Senators introduced a resolution yesterday disapproving of President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, setting up a confrontation with the White House, which warned that those who vote for it will face charges that they don't support the troops.

The resolution -- written by the top Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- has no binding effect on Mr. Bush, but the authors said they hope an overwhelming vote will prove the president lacks the support to move forward.

So virtually all Democrats and some Republicans are against sending more troops to Iraq. Why are they against it? What do they want to do about Iraq?

I can understand if you thought invading Iraq was a bad idea. I can also understand if you think that the Administration's new plan for victory in Iraq won't work. I can even sort of understand if you think we ought to pull the troops out immediately, and are willing to take action to back that up. What I cannot understand or tolerate are those who say that the new plan won't work, in fact no plan will work, are not willing to take the action that is necessary to force the President to bring the troops home immediately.

What I also will not tolerate are those who insist that we bring the troops home now but refuse to address the issue of what that would mean for the region.

But this group wants to pass a resolution against the troop "surge". They say it won't work. But they also say that no plan will work and that it's all hopeless.

Well if that's the case, why don't they at least try and force the president to pull the troops out immediately? It is true that the funds used to increase troop levels are already in the budget. But they could take measures that would ensure that the troops would not be there for long, because they could cut future funding, or at least promise to do so once the necessary budget items come on the schedule again. Heck, they could even try to impeach the president as a means for forcing the situation. Senator Kennedy and John Edwards at least have the courage of his convictions to demand just that.

So what is going on here?

The Democrats

First the Democrats. To propel themselves into power last November, they encouraged the buildup of a large and powerful anti-war constituency, which is made up of Internet groups such as MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, and consists of activists such as Cindy Sheehan and the gals of Code Pink. These anti-war activists are now demanding that the piper be paid.

On the other hand, these Democrats remember the aftermath of Vietnam, and the slaugher in Cambodia and Vietnam that followed the communist takeover. The right has blamed them for that mess for decades, and they don't want to get tagged with that again.

Then there's Hillary. She's got huge problems now with Barack Obama and John Edwards. So, likea good Clinton, she's trying to have it both ways. On the one hand she doesn't want to be seen as in bed with the anti-war left, on the other she knows that a pro-war Democrat will never get the party's nomination. She's looking at all this in her usual cold and calculating fashion, which has become a problem in itself.

Their plan seems to be to hope that the Administration fails to pacify Iraq before 2008 so that they can reap the political benefits. I think that Democrats want the new plan to fail (see this amazing poll) because a defeat would make them more powerful, and what they really want is to push their socialist domestic agenda. Therefore, to them the entire concept of a "War on Terror" (or whatever we're going to call it) is a distraction, never mind the Iraqi War. It's all about furthering their domestic agenda.

The Republicans

On the GOP side, it's a bit different. Some are simply looking to 2008 and many believe that if they stay pro-war they'll be punished at the polls. Although the GOP does not have what you'd call an anti-war element, it's no secret that many in the party believe that the war is lost.

John McCain seems like a modern-day Churchill, standing tall and all alone. While I disagree with him on issues like illegal immigration and campaign finance reform, he is a man of principle. There are fewer and fewer like him. In a statement on his website he has it right when he says that "the potentially catastrophic consequences of failure demand that we do all we can to prevail in Iraq." Further,

Those who advocate such a policy have a right – even an obligation – to join the debate on this issue. But I believe these individuals also have a responsibility to tell us what they believe are the consequences of withdrawal in Iraq. Do they not fear Iranian, Saudi, and Turkish involvement in Iraq? A wider regional war? A haven for terrorists? A humanitarian catastrophe? Do they truly believe that we can walk away from Iraq?

At this point, Senator, I don't think any of them care. Some are just out to save their political skins, and others see the US as the source of all the world's problems and American intervention is only justified if absolutely no national security issues are at stake and the mission is strictly humanitarian.

Sen Brownback of Kansas is looking to the presidency in '08, and just got back from Iraq convinced that all is lost. He's under the illusion that the problems in Iraq should be addressed by diplomacy. His website states that Sec Rice and VP Cheney should to to Iraq and "lay the groundwork for a meeting of leaders from all three major Iraqi groups to take place outside of Iraq." He says that "we must win in Iraq", so I'll give him partial credit. I just think that diplomacy without security is a fool's erand.

Sen Hagel doesn't even want to win. His statement on Iraq reads like it could have been written by John Murtha. What a disgrace.

Symbolism Over Substance

National Review weighed in today with an editorial appropriately titled "Counterproductive Symbolism". As they correctly note, "the only effect the resolution can possibly have is to weaken the commander in chief and dampen the morale of U.S. troops." One might add that it will also encourage our enemies. Apparently, however, gaining political advantage, or saving one's own skin, is more important. As the editors of NR conclude,

Critics of the war once believed that we needed more troops to succeed in Iraq. Now that they have been shown to be correct, and President Bush is finally acting on that fact, all the critics want to condemn the move. If they think the war is hopeless, they should put their own political necks on the line and try to cut off funds. We think that would be a terrible course to take on the merits, but at least those pushing it would be acting with honesty and a kind of honor — qualities in short supply at the moment in the U.S. Senate.
Both have one thing in common; an unstated desire to see the Bush Administration order home US troops without Congressional intervention. Then they can claim that 1) Bush alone is responsible for the defeat, and 2) "See I told you the plan wouldn't work" But what if the new plan succeeds? I may have been too quick the other day to question the surge. Captain Ed reports that the Mahdi Army is under seige and that Task Force 16 is going after Iranians in Iraq. Both Democrats and Republicans such as Hagel will claim that it was their pressure that forced Bush to fire Rumsfeld and adopt new tactics. They'll say that they gave the plan a chance since they didn't cut off funds. They'll have no more trouble explaining away the resolution against the surge than they currently have explaining away all of their supposedly ernest statements about how certain they were that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD. After all, they know they'll have most all of the media on their side.

The bottom line is that Senator McCain is right; the stakes in Iraq are so high that we have to do all that we can do to win. If you disagree at least have the decency and courage of our convictions to demand an immediate withdrawal.

As you can tell I'm disgusted with the whole situation. The President and his administration may have mishandled the war, but at least they have a clear understanding of the stakes want to win. These hacks in the Senate are just playing politics.

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

January 10, 2007

The President's Speech on a New Plan for Iraq

President Bush gave his much anticipated speech outlining a new strategy for victory in Iraq tonight, and here are my initial thoughts on the matter.

It was shorter than I thought it was going to be, only about 20 minutes by my count. President Clinton took that long just to warm up. Here is the transcript posted at Fox News.

First, if you don't already know, the President is apparently basing some of or much of his new strategy on the plan laid out by Frederick Kagan and Gen Jack Keane (Ret) of the American Enterprise Institute, called "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq". If you haven't already done so, I strongly encourage you to follow the link and download the "Interim Report", which is a 56 slide powerpoint in the form of an Adobe file. At the very least, please read the Executive Summary.

On with the speech. Following are excerpts

But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq - particularly in Baghdad — overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made. Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis. They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam — the Golden Mosque of Samarra — in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today.

Well that's pretty honest. Not that I think he'll win applause from the Kos crowd, but the admission that the enemy's strategy worked is more than I think most presidents in history have been willing to say.


We benefited from the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group...

And later

In keeping with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, we will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units — and partner a Coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division.

Ha. The President dismissed it out of hand is what he did, as well he should. Yes the ISG had a few good ideas, but most of them were bad. What the President did here was just thow them a bone for show.

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities.

Bingo. Look, if you want to criticize the President and the dreaded neocons for mistakes made in the past go ahead. We'll take our lumps. But those who call for immediate withdrawal without a single thought as to the consequences are irresponsible in the extreme. For an example of one of the most mindless rants of this sort, read Senator Kennedy's speech at the National Press Club of earlier today. Rapid withdrawal will likely lead to a collapse of the Iraqi government and mass slaughter, but Kennedy seems not to care at all.

Back to the President:

The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.

Slide 12 of the Keane-Kagan plan (I told you to download it ;-) points out that "Baghdad is now the center of gravity in this conflict", and as such "We must act at once to improve security there." Slides 15-16 are maps of the city showing where the violence is occuring, and slides 17 and 18 outline the Iraqi militias and terrorist groups causing it.

Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have. Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.

In two posts last October (here and here) I discussed this effort, and that it failed partially due to a lack of American troops. We could clear, but we couldn't hold. It depended on the Iraqis to do the holding, and they just weren't up to it. Later in the speech the President admitted just his when he said that

In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents — but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared.

I think that those who believe that we should stick to our "light footprint" strategy, which emphasizes training the Iraqis, are mistaken because Iraq is sliding into chaos faster than we can build up a viable Iraqi army.

The President then talked about deploying more Iraqi units to the fight. However, they can't do it on their own.

Our commanders say the Iraqis will need our help. So America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence - and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I have committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them — five brigades — will be deployed to Baghdad. These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.

ABC News is reporting that the "surge" has already begun.

The phrase "well defined mission" is critical, both for military and political reasons. Many questioned why we should send more troops to do the same thing. The President is trying to tell people that this will not be the case. The Executive Summary to the Keane-Kagan plan makes just this point

We must change our focus from training Iraqi soldiers to securing the Iraqi population and containing the rising violence. Securing the population has never been the primary mission of the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and now it must become the first priority.

As we all know, the Iraqi government not exactly been holding up their end of the bargain. The months-long squabbling to form a government was an embarassment. Many suspect that Maliki would just as soon let the Shia militias kill as many Sunnis as possible.

I have made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people — and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this.

Does he? We should know the answer in a few short months.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering.

Not exactly "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat", but close enough.

Kagan and Keane anticipate enemy reaction on slides 30, 31, and 32, and suggest how we should counter them.

A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities....

To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country's economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis. To show that it is committed to delivering a better life, the Iraqi government will spend 10 billion dollars of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs.

Slides 37-40 discuss such reconstruction. From what I understand, part of our problem with such past efforts is that A) we couldn't adequately secure the reconstruction efforts, leading to a loss of credibility when the terrorists blew something up, and B) We reconstructed everywhere, instead of only doing so in areas willing to cooperate with us. Now, hopefully, we will establish a real carrot-and-stick system; cooperate and you'll get reconstruction money, otherwise you're on your own.

We will double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

I've heard that these have been working out very well in Afghanistan, and have heard some frustration that they had not been used to as good effect in Iraq. Hopefully that will now change.

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity — and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

When I first heard this, and even when I read it later, I thought "that's pretty vague". I wasn't expecting him to announce airstrikes, but was hoping for something more.

But Michael Ledeen points out the sentence "And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq." and asks what else can it mean other than we're going to go after the training and supply bases in Syria and Iran? It does sound like it, and I certainly hope we do it.

The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation. On the other side are extremists who kill the innocent, and have declared their intention to destroy our way of life. In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy — by advancing liberty across a troubled region.

Pretty close. If you think that the war is about "getting bin Laden", put your dunce cap on. It's about defeating radical Islam, plain and simple. We're always told that it can't be done with bombs and bullets alone, so spreading liberty (a bit different than democracy) is the only long term plan that makes sense to me.

Acting on the good advice of Senator Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress, we will form a new, bipartisan working group that will help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.

I have to think that Lieberman is almost persona non grata among Democrats these days when it comes to the war, but it works for me.

Most of the rest of the speech is fluff. The above are the main points.

Final Thoughts

I doubt that the speech will change many minds, at least in the anti-war camp. What will be interesting is to see if they actually have any alternative other than cut-and-run.

Those who want to win are divided on strategy, but at least we have ideas, many of which I outlined in previous installments of this series.

Either way, the President is going to push ahead and let congress squabble. Most anti-war Democrats don't have the courage of their convictions to cut off funds, but they don't have an alternate strategy to win, either. They seem to vaguely hope that the situation will simmer and the president will slowly bring home the troops. Iraq will fall into chaos and they can blame him. It would seem that he's determined not to let that happen, and is going to give it the 'ol college try one more time.

I say we support him on it. I'm going to write my Senators, Warner and Webb, as well as my Congressman Frank Wolf and let them know that I want them to support this effort. Yes I know that Webb will probably come out against it but he's going to hear from me anyway.

Previous
New Plan for Iraq V
New Plan for Iraq IV
New Plan for Iraq III
New Plan for Iraq II
Here's the New Plan for Iraq

Update

I wrote Rep Wolf and Sen Warner, but cannot find any email or web form contact information for newly elected Sen Webb, either on his new Senate web page or his campaign site. If you can find an email contact for him please leave one in comments. Until he gets around to setting this up I'll have to send him snail mail.

Posted by Tom at 10:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 22, 2006

Frank Wolf for Congress

In a time with many good conservative lawmakers across the country are in difficult races, I wanted to take a minute to discuss Frank Wolf, GOP Congressman in Virginia (VA-10). While I realize that 99% of the readers of this blog(few as they are) don't live anywhere near his district, I feel compelled to write a short post in support of Rep Wolf.

I like Frank Wolf because he is a conservative who is a tireless fighter for human rights across the globe. While other congressmen take junkets to Hawaii or Europe, Mr Wolf goes to Sudan or Haiti. In fact, he has been on the forefront of trying to get the world to pay attention to the crisis in Darfur. Although generally a conservative, he is not doctrinaire, for example he generally receives only a C+ or B- from the NRA.

This year, as in most, both the conservative Washington Times and the liberal Washington Post endorsed Frank Wolf for reelection. First, from the Times

Ask human-rights advocates to name their most stalwart friend on Capitol Hill, and Northern Virginia's own Rep. Frank Wolf, co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, is short-listed time and again. The deeply religious conservative Republican and 26-year House veteran has been a tireless defender of the persecuted and abused around the world. ...

It would be hard indeed to single out one achievement. The inveterate Mr. Wolf is credited in no particular order with helping Tibetans, Kurds, Iraqis, Vietnamese, Darfurians, Bosnians, North Koreans, Cubans and too many other oppressed nations to list. He has visited Beijing's Tiananmen-dissident-holding Prison No. 1; talked to political prisoners in Soviet gulags before Communism's fall; and seen teeming Serbian prisons during the war-torn 1990s. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks he has traveled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait and Iraq to highlight human-rights concerns.

Much of Mr. Wolf's achievement is measured in terms of activists not imprisoned, dissidents not murdered and war crimes not committed. Such is the power an American congressman's spotlight throws on the world's otherwise dark corners. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- not normally effusive in her praise for Republican lawmakers -- last year called Mr. Wolf "an unmatched leader in his commitment to human rights," an indication of the cross-party appeal his labors hold. Lately Mr. Wolf has urged Virginians to divest themselves of companies doing business in Sudan, where the bloodshed in Darfur continues.

In a year when a bruising Senate race is leaving many Virginians feeling raw, we can be thankful for the conscientious Mr. Wolf. He reminds us that good people can still succeed in Washington.

Next, excerpts from the Post's endorsement

OVER THE YEARS we have had our disagreements with Rep. Frank R. Wolf , the Republican who has represented Northern Virginia's 10th District since 1981. But those have been outweighed by our respect for his undisputed diligence, candor, active legislative approach and passionate commitment to human rights in some of the world's darkest corners. Those qualities continue to make Mr. Wolf part of a diminishing breed in the House -- of legislators whose independent-mindedness and pragmatic problem-solving outweigh their partisanship. He deserves reelection this year against health-care expert Judy Feder, dean of Georgetown's Public Policy Institute. ...

In addition to his habitual attentiveness to an array of local issues in Northern Virginia -- congested roads, stressed transit systems and the rising threat of Latino gangs -- Mr. Wolf has made a particular mark in this latest congressional term by his constructive national role. It was chiefly at his prodding that Congress established a bipartisan commission on Iraq, led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III...

Ms. Feder (his opponent) is a smart, credible candidate whose broad experience and deep knowledge of health-care policy have given her a prominent role in that national debate for years; she was a senior official in the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration. She makes a reasonable case that Mr. Wolf, by some of the party-line votes he has cast, is complicit in assorted policy failures of the Bush administration, particularly its reckless tax cuts.

But if Mr. Wolf has proved anything in 26 years in Congress, it is that he is more than a party-line Republican. His repeated visits to Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Chechnya and other unlovely hot spots reflect his zeal for human rights. For that he has earned respect on both sides of Capitol Hill's partisan divide and a 14th term in Congress.

As the post notes, Judy Feder is a "health care expert." Her website reveals that "in 1993, she was appointed to the Department of Health and Human Services, where she worked to expand health insurance coverage, effectively manage Medicare and Medicaid, and assure the safety of food and drugs." Uh huh. Just what we don't need; another liberal who wants to socialize our health care system.

Reelect Frank Wolf. I campaigned for him in 2004 and I'm getting out again for him when I can. He's a good man, serves our region and country well, and deserves reelection to another term in Congress.

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

May 16, 2006

Carl Rove is Wrong

Carl Rove blames Bush's poll numbers on the Iraq war.

Karl Rove yesterday said the continuing war in Iraq rather than President Bush's actions on federal spending, immigration and Social Security is driving the president's job-approval ratings to record lows, but that will change by November.

"The war looms over everything, there's no doubt about it," the White House chief political strategist said in fielding questions from reporters after his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank with close ties to the Bush administration.

The public continues to give Mr. Bush high personal approval ratings, but assessments of his job performance are low. The latest Harris-Wall Street Journal poll showed 29 percent of Americans approved of the president's performance.

Mr. Rove, 55, said the reason is that the war has put voters in a "sour" mood. The Iraq situation, he said, is distracting public attention from the robust 4.8 percent annual growth rate of the economy, an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent, the creation of 5.2 million jobs since August 2003 and the strong performance of the stock markets.

No doubt the war in Iraq is part of the problem. The invasion was brilliant, we screwed up the next 18 months, but are now largely on track. Much of the public only sees the 18 months or so after the invasion, and the stories of how we've turned things around don't get through to many people, especially those who depend on traditional media sources for their news.

But Carl Rove has it exactly opposite; the only reason why President Bush has any positive poll ratings at all is precisely because of the war in Iraq. There is a base who supports him because he took the bold and necessary step of taking the strategic offensive against the enemy, and for recognizing that the defensive war that the liberals want us to fight in the War on Terror is dead wrong.

The Real Reason for Low Polls

There are two reasons for Bush's low poll ratings.

One, he has almost completely lost the support of his conservative base. He has alienated us on so many issues I don't have time to list them all this morning. See here and here for details.

Failure to seriously address the problem of illegal immigration is only the latest in a series of disappointments. In last night's speech the president insisted on finding a "third way" on the issue, one what will end up pleasing no one.

The second reason for his low poll numbers is that the administration seems completely unable to communicate their successes to the public. As such, the middle doesn't recoginze that the economy is in very good shape. You can always pick on one or two statistics, but most economic indicators are very positive. Likewise the war in Iraq. If it wasn't for the internet and reports like this one you'd never know that much was going right over there.

The GOP is fixated on the issue of Hispanic voters, and seems convinced that if they do anything at all serious about controlling the southern border they'll face this huge backlash at the polls. But just the opposite is happening. They are facing a huge backlash from their base precisely because they're not doing anything. This idea that the future of the GOP is tied to keeping or gaining Hispanic voters, who presumably don't want to do anything about illegal aliens, is going to cost them dearly at the polls.

Posted by Tom at 8:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 12, 2006

An Election in Vienna

(Note - I had intended for this story to run last week, but I got distracted and haven't had a chance to finish it until now)

Small town elections have a flavor all their own. If you're used to following state and national, you're familiar with their contentious issues and massive media coverage. Candidates are full-time politicians, and have campaign managers and political analyists at their side. Every issue is polled and put before a focus group.

Then there are local elections. Throw out everything you read above. In small towns and jurisdictions, the elected positions are part-time, and it's usually just the candidate and a few close friends. There are few big or controversial issues, and absolutely no polling.

On Tuesday May 2 towns and cities across Virginia held elections. One of them was Vienna, Virginia, the town where I grew up.

It holds special interest to me because my mom is the mayor, and she was up for re-election.

Is is cool or what to have your mom as the mayor? I think it is.

Vienna is a town of just under 15,000 people, and is about 15 or so miles west of Washington DC. It is almost entirely residential, with some strip mall-type stores downdown along it's main street. It is located in Fairfax County, which is one of the wealthiest in the nation. The residents of Vienna, like most everyone else in northern Virgina, pretty well off economically.

The town council consists of 6 people, who serve a 2-year term. Every year 3 seats are up for election. The mayor serves a two year term, so every other year the mayor and three council seats are up for election.

Most of the time the council seats are contested. Rarely is the mayorial race contested. This time my mom faced a challenger, one of the council members whose seat was not up for election this time.

All three town coucil members were running for re-election, and there were two challengers.

How You Get Elected in A Small Town

Generally speaking, in small town elections issues do not matter. There are exceptions, of course. In Herndon VA, not too far from Vienna, politicians who supported a "day laborer" (read "illegal alien) center were thrown out. There are also situations in growing communities whereby the construction of a new school raises controversy.

But generally there are no overriding issues because small towns do not control schools and do not discuss issues like abortion, gun control, or the war in Iraq. The situation changes when you get to cities and counties, but again, this post is about small towns.

Getting elected in a small town is all about knowing a lot of people. It's about being involved in the community for years, preferably decades. It's all about participating in everything from the Boy or Girl Scouts to Little League Baseball to serving on the town planning commission or board of zoning appeals.

In short, people vote for people they trust. And they trust people they either know or see who have been involved in their community.

The reason for this is simple; most people don't pay attention to what goes on at town hall. As long as the trash gets picked up and roads are repaired, and taxes don't go too high, they simply have other things to worry about. The big paper in the nearby city (in this case, the Washington Post), ignores the small towns, and what local papers there are don't really do much of what you'd call investigative journalism, mainly because there's not a lot to investigate. In addition, most people don't pay a lot of attention to the local papers.

In short, Johnny-come-lately's rarely win or hold seats on town councils.

Every 5 or 7 years there's a "throw the bums out" movement in Vienna that runs a few candidates. Over the decades I've seen a few of these groups, and they're all the same; someone get's all bent out of shape over one issue and gets some like-minded friends to go in with him. They raise a big fuss and end up with maybe 30% of the vote. You also never see them again.

Election Day

So bright and early Tuesday May 2 I got up bright and early to help mom get re-elected. First I stopped off at my voting place in Leesburg VA to vote, more about which later. I was at my voting place at 6:05 AM, and was the 6th person to vote. Then it was off to Vienna.

My job was to give mom's handout to people coming to the polls. Helping one or another parent get elected or re-elected is a family tradition which goes back over 20 years, and more about that later too.

Here we are, in order from left to right; my sister, Mayor Mom, and myself.

IM000221.JPG

A Brief Bit of Background

My father was on Vienna Town Council from 1982 until his death in 1996. Mom was appointed to fill his seat, and she won re-election twice after that. In 2000 the mayor, Charlie Robinson died, and the town council appointed mom to fill his seat. The next year she won re-election, as she has done every time since then.

A Family Tradition

For over twenty years it at all possible everyone in the family has helped out election day. We stand outside the polls and hand literature to voters.

I've worked at many elections, not only Vienna town elections but national ones too. Usually, on election day, the candidates and their workers put everything aside and act like old friends. Which, as you might imagine, in small towns they usually are.

In this election one of the council members, George Lovelac,e was challenging my mom. George has been on and off town council for I imagine close to 20 years. Despite the sometimes rivalry, I consider him a family friend. His children were there helping him election day, and a casual observer would never guess that we were running against each other.

It's the same with the council seats. Everything is usually very cordial and friendly among incumbent and challenger alike. Most of the time the challengers are people who are well-known around the community and have served on numerous town boards and commissions. They and the incumbents know each other.

Then there are the "throw the bums out" types that I mentioned earlier. They always keep their distance. This time was no different. Suit yourself, I always say.

Here are some photos from this past May 2

IM000213.JPG


The challengers to the town council seats had their own headquarters

IM000216.JPG


Rep Tom Davis, US Congress (R-Va), showed up to shake some hands.

IM000212.JPG


The Results

Mom won!

Jane Seeman 1358 60%
George Lovelace 922 40%

For Council

Edyth Kelleher 1728
Lori Cole 1581
Mike Polychrones 1460
Susan Stich 769
Blair Jenkins 687

A total fo 2304 votes were cast, which is about 10% of eligible voters, pretty typical for a small town. Kelleher, Cole, and Polychrones were the incumbents on town council.

Congratulations, Mom!

Posted by Tom at 6:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 27, 2006

Tony Snow - An Excellent Choice

Yesterday President Bush selected Fox News and radio talk show host Tony Snow to be his new press secretary.

I think that it is an excellent choice.

The selection of Tony Snow was no doubt meant to shore up the conservative base, which the President has lost by promoting a series of ill-considered domestic policies. Tony Snow is an unabashed conservative and has criticized the administration repeatedly.

He is also temperamentally suited for the job of press secretary. Over the past few months I listened to his radio show, and he is always good-humored, even with the most rabid of left-wing callers. He will be able to deal with the likes of Helen Thomas or David Gregory.

Let's get one thing out of the way; no reasonable selection would have satisfied the Bush-hating left. No selection would make them vote Republican or approve of his policies.

Sure, Bush could have selected someone like David Gergen, a man of no principles who has and will be in any administration, Republican or Democrat, as long as it get's his face in the news. While this would have won accolades from the left, they still wouldn't vote Republican anyway or approve of his policies, so in the end it doesn't matter.

More to the point, Bush's biggest problem now isn't the middle. It's that he's lost his base.

Nevertheless, the left will villify Snow. It's already started. But I wouldn't really worry about it very much. They'll attack anyone Bush picks.

FYI, here's Tony's bio

Tony Snow is the host of Weekend Live with Tony Snow, which airs each Saturday from 11am-1pm on FOX News Channel (FNC). Snow also serves as an FNC political analyst and contributes to the network's political and election news coverage. Snow joined the network in 1996.

Snow previously served as host of FOX News Sunday (FNS), the FOX Broadcasting network's Sunday morning public affairs program. As host of FNS from 1996 to 2003, Snow interviewed numerous world leaders, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice; Secretary of State Colin Powell; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Sen. Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn.; Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf; and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Before joining FOX News, Snow was a nationally syndicated columnist with The Detroit News from 1993 to 2001. He was also a columnist for USA Today from 1994 to 2000. Earlier, he served as an editorial writer at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, VA; editorial page editor of The Daily Press in Newport News, VA; deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News; and editorial page editor of The Washington Times. Snow's career in journalism began in 1979 when he was an editorial writer for The Greensboro Record in North Carolina.

In 1991, Snow took a sabbatical from journalism to work in the White House for President George H. Bush. He first served as the deputy assistant to the president for communications and director of speechwriting, and later as deputy assistant to the president for media affairs.

Snow earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He grew up in Cincinnati and currently resides in Virginia with his wife, son, and two daughters.

Posted by Tom at 8:07 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 15, 2006

A New Legacy for the Clinton Administration

It's bad enough that Bill Clinton disgraced the presidency with the Monika Lewinsky affair, and that Al Gore essentially helped him get away with it. Of course, what did we expect from someone like Bill Clinton, who went on MTV in 1992 and entertained a question on what type of underwear he wore.

All this was bad enough. But now he, and his ex-vice-president have given us another legacy, one that harms our country much more.

As everyone knows, once again Al Gore has slandered his country. Worse, he did it overseas, in Saudi Arabia

Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into al-Qaida's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

and also

Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."

Bill Clinton also keeps himself in the news quite a bit, most recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Way it Used to Be

It used to be that when someone left the presidency, they did not criticize the person who followed them. They stayed out of politics and went about their personal lives. George HW Bush did not criticize Clinton, Reagan did not critize GHW Bush, Carter did not criticize Reagan (only later did he come unglued), and so on at least through the end of World War II.

To be sure, sometimes ex-vice-presidents wanted to run for the presidency, and they stayed involved. But even then they practiced some restraint.

The New Legacy - for the Worse

Al Gore has gone so far overboard so many times these past few years as to set new records for inflamatory rhetoric. His latest outburst can only help our enemies.

Bill Clinton, ever the narcisstic personality who needs media attention to survive, cannot fade away as he should.

The shame is on them. The legacy is one more harmful one that we'll have to deal with.

Posted by Tom at 8:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 6, 2006

McCain Slaps Obama

I'm generally not a fan of John McCain, but sometimes he does come through. When he does, it's usually in a big way.

A friend of mine sent this letter to me, and it was so strong that I had to go check it out to make sure it wasn't a hoax.

But sure enough, there on John McCain's official Senate website, there it was. Read an enjoy:

For Immediate Release
Monday, Feb 06, 2006

Washington D.C. ­– Today, Senator McCain sent the following letter to Senator Obama regarding ongoing Congressional efforts towards bipartisan lobbying reform. The following is the text from that letter:


February 6, 2006

The Honorable Barack Obama

United States Senate

SH-713

Washington, DC 20510


Dear Senator Obama:

I would like to apologize to you for assuming that your private assurances to me regarding your desire to cooperate in our efforts to negotiate bipartisan lobbying reform legislation were sincere. When you approached me and insisted that despite your leadership’s preference to use the issue to gain a political advantage in the 2006 elections, you were personally committed to achieving a result that would reflect credit on the entire Senate and offer the country a better example of political leadership, I concluded your professed concern for the institution and the public interest was genuine and admirable. Thank you for disabusing me of such notions with your letter to me dated February 2, 2006, which explained your decision to withdraw from our bipartisan discussions. I’m embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble. Again, sorry for the confusion, but please be assured I won’t make the same mistake again.

As you know, the Majority Leader has asked Chairman Collins to hold hearings and mark up a bill for floor consideration in early March. I fully support such timely action and I am confident that, together with Senator Lieberman, the Committee on Governmental Affairs will report out a meaningful, bipartisan bill.

You commented in your letter about my “interest in creating a task force to further study” this issue, as if to suggest I support delaying the consideration of much-needed reforms rather than allowing the committees of jurisdiction to hold hearings on the matter. Nothing could be further from the truth. The timely findings of a bipartisan working group could be very helpful to the committee in formulating legislation that will be reported to the full Senate. Since you are new to the Senate, you may not be aware of the fact that I have always supported fully the regular committee and legislative process in the Senate, and routinely urge Committee Chairmen to hold hearings on important issues. In fact, I urged Senator Collins to schedule a hearing upon the Senate’s return in January.

Furthermore, I have consistently maintained that any lobbying reform proposal be bipartisan. The bill Senators Joe Lieberman and Bill Nelson and I have introduced is evidence of that commitment as is my insistence that members of both parties be included in meetings to develop the legislation that will ultimately be considered on the Senate floor. As I explained in a recent letter to Senator Reid, and have publicly said many times, the American people do not see this as just a Republican problem or just a Democratic problem. They see it as yet another run-of-the-mill Washington scandal, and they expect it will generate just another round of partisan gamesmanship and posturing. Senator Lieberman and I, and many other members of this body, hope to exceed the public’s low expectations. We view this as an opportunity to bring transparency and accountability to the Congress, and, most importantly, to show the public that both parties will work together to address our failings.

As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party’s effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn’t always a priority for every one of us. Good luck to you, Senator.

Sincerely,

John McCain

United States Senate

As I said, when McCain is wrong, he's wrong, and often in a big way. His fixation on "soft money" and campaign finance reform is the best example.

But when he's right, he's also often right in a big way. He is right that lobbying reform is an important issue that needs to be addressed, and that politicians that don't come through need to be held accountable. And that means both parties. The Republicans in the house recently elected a new majority leader, and if they don't come through with internal reforms I'll be disappointed in them, too.

Tuesday Morning Update

I've checked Senator Obama's website, but can't find any direct response to McCain's letter. There is a letter on ethics reform dated Feb 2, but posted Feb 6. The title of that section (not the letter) is "Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain Exchange Letters on Ethics Reform" but that's it.

Instapundit says that Obama's letter is a reply, but why then is it dated Feb 2? Perhaps it is a typo.

Update

The Washington Times provides some context:

Mr. Obama, the senator from Arizona said, had pledged privately to support the bipartisan reform plan that Mr. McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman are trying to push through Congress. But on Thursday, Mr. Obama announced in a letter to Mr. McCain that he will support a Democrat-only lobbying-reform bill after all. In an uncommonly harsh response, Mr. McCain called out the junior senator from Illinois for playing politics (which is, of course, what Congress is all about).

Posted by Tom at 9:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

What Republican Theocracy?

This past Friday morning as I was driving to work I saw a pickup that had a sign on the back that said:

Stop The Republican Theocracy!

It was maybe a foot square, perhaps 18", and appeared to be one of those magnetically attached things.

I noticed he also had a personalized licence plate. It said:

NOGODGV

Oh how clever.

I'm not going to rant against the driver, or anyone who would put something like that on their car. It would be pointless and the driver (a man) was obviously in moonbatland, so why bother.

But I've seen this before, that Bush and the Republicans are trying to create a theocracy. And there's one think I've always wondered:

What in the world are they talking about?

"Bush lied!" I get. same with "Stop the illegal war!" the latest, "Bush ordered illegal domestic spying!" I may disagee, but I know what who make these charges are referring to.

But when I hear "Stop the Republican Theocracy!" I don't even know what they're talking about. Because from where I sit, we're moving farther and father away from a theocracy, not towards it.

Half of me says that because the charge that Bush is creating a theocracy is so kooky, I shouldn't even bother with this post. On the other hand, because I don't even know what they're talking about, I'm going to delve into it for a bit.

Defining our Terms

Before we can figure out what these people are talking about when they say they think that George Bush is moving us towards a theocracy, we need to figure out what one is.

Merriam-Webster defines it this way:

1 : government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided 2 : a state governed by a theocracy


Answers.com
repeats 1 &2 above, and adds under the heading "Politics"

A nation or state in which the clergy exercise political power and in which religious law is dominant over civil law. Iran led by the Ayatollah Khomeini was a theocracy under the Islamic clergy. (See Islam.)

The noun theocracy has 2 meanings:

Meaning #1: a political unit governed by a deity (or by officials thought to be divinely guided)

Meaning #2: the belief in government by divine guidance

Meaning #1:
kinds of theocracy:

* church-state — a state ruled by religious authority

Meaning #2:
theocracy is a kind of:

* political orientation, ideology, political theory — an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation

Wikipedia weighs in:

The term theocracy is commonly used to describe a form of government in which a religion or faith plays the dominant role. Properly speaking, it refers to a form of government in which the organs of the religious sphere replace or dominate the organs of the political sphere. The word theocracy originates from the Greek words θεος (theos), “god” and κρατειν (kratein), “to rule”. The term means “rule by God”.

In the most common usage of the term theocracy, some civil rulers are leaders of the dominant religion (e.g., the Byzantine emperor as head of the Church); governmental policies are either identical with, or strongly influenced by, the principles of a religion (often the majority religion), and typically; the government claims to rule on behalf of God or a higher power, as specified by the local religion.

...
Theocracy and ecclesiocracy should be distinguished from governments that are influenced by religious concepts, or in which religious believers have positions of power gained by political means. An ecclesiocracy or theocracy is rule by the hierarchy of a specific church or sect, not simply a government influenced by religious concepts.

There's more, of course, but I think you get the point. And while people may wish to quibble over details, I think the definitions above are as good as any. So now that we know what a theocracy is, let's move on.

A Top-Down Imposition?

I think to myself, "What has George Bush done that might convince someone he's trying to create a theocracy?"

He's made it known he's a devout Christian, but that hardly fits in with the definitions above. Further, I see very few expressions of faith from his top advisors. Besides, both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton engaged in more "God-talk" than George Bush. Clinton had ministers to the White House to pray with him during the Monika Lewinski affair, and made a point to carry a large bible with him everytime he went to church. As for Carter, well, we know about him.

So if you're going to try and tell me that "God talk" is dangerous, a threat to our democracy, and a sign of coming theocracy, get prepared for me to laugh at you. And when I'm done laughing, I'll ask you why such talk coming from the left doesn't count.

How about government programs? Well, there are a few faith based programs. The White House has an Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and the Department of Labor a Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives, which basically allows religious groups to bid on an equal footing with other groups for government contracts and grants. The services to be provided are for things like prisoner re-entry help programs, disaster relief, and the like. I hardly see where this is creating a theocracy.

The State of America

Let's take a look around our nation and see what we find.

I don't see a whole lot of evidence that religion exists in this country in the public square. No crosses or Ten Commandments allowed in government buildings or most business establishments. The ACLU is everywhere successful in having these items removed from all government offices and schools.

If you read any history textbook commonly in use in our public schools you'll find little evidence for religion in this country. You'd hardly guess at the important role it played in shaping the views and politics of many great Americans, from the founders to the present day. I remember back when I was a public school teacher (7th grade) and while the history book devoted almost three pages to Martin Luther King Jr, the only reference to his Christianity was a brief mention that he had been a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

I also read that our local Victoria's Secret store in Tyson's Corner Virginia has set up mannequins in highly sexually explicit poses. A few articles were written, a few religious leaders complained, but as usual no one does anything, as everyone knows a boycot would fizzle.

Television? The movies? I watch little of it these days, but have in the past, and I'm sure that what's on the networks during prime time hasn't changed much. The bottom line is that I don't see much evidence to suggest that Christians are trying to take over the country through propaganda being spread through the mass media.

I also see millions of Americans who go to church regularly, and I'm sure pray regularly also. Some are more involved in church affairs than others, but they all believe in God. Some are Republicans, some Democrats. Some are conservative and some liberal. Few, however, want to bring their religion to work in any overt fashion.

I also see people for whom religion and God are nonexistant in their lives. To some religion is invisible, and to others, like our pickup driver above, see it as a hostile force.

Bottom line is that I look around our country and see the militant secularists (or whatever we want to call them) as winning most of the battles. If there's a coming theocracy, it's pretty far underground.

The Clergy in Politics

One way, perhaps, to determine if we're headed towards theocracy is to see whether a high number of clergymen were entering politics with an aim to creating a government based on religion.

The Republicans have...no one. Pat Robertson ran for the GOP nomination in 1988 but didn't get very far. His 700 Club commands a large audience, to be sure, and I've no doubt that several Republcan Congressmen regard him as their friend and perhaps a political confidant.

But anyone who has observed the national political scene over the past 10 - 15 years, and who is not completely blinded by anti-Bush hatred, will have to admit that the religious right lost, not gained, influence. Robertson and Falwell are denounced regluarly by mainstream conservative pundits. Falwell may make an appearance at a GOP National Convention, but he is kept far from the podium.

And what of the Democrats? Well, we have the Rev Jesse Jackson and the Rev Al Sharpton, for starters. I also seem to recall more than a few black ministers who served in Congress, but I don't have time to research that right now. And, of course, the leadership of several mainstream protestant churches, such as the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians (PCUSA) are very left wing.

But I don't want to get into a pissing match over "who has more ministers". The point is that people of faith are found among conservatives and liberals, and a few participate in or comment on politics. This, too, hardly constitutes a theocracy. The bottom line is that there is a religious left, just as their is a religious right. Unfortuantely, the religious left doesn't get talked about enough. But having come from a Presbyterian background, I assure you it's alive and well.

Religion as a Source of Morality

One thing, I think, is that some people just don't like it when Christians say that they get their morality from the Bible. Note that I said "Christian", because it only seems to be applied in force to the dominant religion in this country. In the 2000 presidential election campaign, Joe Lieberman talked about God quite often, and didn't pay any price for it. If a Christian Republican had done that the left would have gone bonkers.

So the standard in this country seems to be this: if you're on the right, you can't say that the source of your morality and political beliefs is from the Bible. But if you're on the left you can say that you get your morality and political beliefs from the Bible, any other religious text, or from a secular source. I just don't see where liberals get upset when left-wing religious leaders issue political pronouncements, as the Presbyterian Church USA does quite often (and here).

So What Do they Mean?

Ok, I give up. Time for some reasearch, because for the life of me I don't see any evidence of a theocracy.

Byron York took this issue up in his 2005 book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy.

Left-wing authors, York says, have been writing about this for years.

Recently, however, Mark Crispin York has recently become one of the most influential proponents of this view. His monologue/play, A Patriot Act(available on DVD), is apparently influential in far-left circles.

The short version of Miller's thesis seems to be that any reference to religion at all from a conservative (liberals get a free ride) is evidence of a coming theocracy. But don't believe me, go visit his website yourself. It's pretty kooky, in his latest post he claims that the Pentagon is trying to censor the Washington Post for the crime of writing a letter complaining about a recent political cartoon by Tom Toles. Yeah ok.

Otherwise, York says, there's the Chalcedon Foundation which is supposed to be at the center of the Republican theocratic movement. While even a brief visit to their site is enough to convince me that they are indeed theocrats, you'd have to be in moonbatland to think that they have any real influence in conservative circles.

There's also some group called the Ahmansan Foundation who is supposed to be influential, but ditto for them what I said about Chalcedon.

Hmmm. So far, no theocracy.

Let's try Google

Ok, let's play with Google for a bit and see what we can find. maybe we can find evidence of a coming Republican theocracy here. I'll look for organizations, not just individual bloggers.

Here's one: Source Watch. They have a page on "The Bush Theocracy" that bears an uncally resemblance to Wikipedia.

Their biggest piece of "evidence" seems to a quote from Alan M. Dershowitz:

"The very first act of the new Bush administration was to have a Protestant Evangelist minister officially dedicate the inauguration to Jesus Christ, whom he declared to be 'our savior.' Invoking 'the Father, the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ' and 'the Holy Spirit,' Billy Graham's son, the man selected by President George W. Bush to bless his presidency, excluded the tens of millions of Americans who are Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Unitarians, agnostics, and atheists from his blessing by his particularistic and parochial language.

"The plain message conveyed by the new administration is that George W. Bush's America is a Christian nation and that non-Christians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully equal citizens. In effect, Bush is saying: 'This is our home, and in our home we pray to Jesus as our savior. If you want to be a guest in our home, you must accept the way we pray.'"

Apparently all those times Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter went to church while they were president didn't have the same effect.

Then there's "Theocracy Watch", another group of lovelies convinced that we are following Iran into religious hell.

Among other bits of evidence, Theocracy Watch tells us that "One way to measure the political strength of dominionists is to study voting patterns of members of Congress." According to them, a vote in favor of House bill HR 2123 is a vote in favor of theocracy. The bill itself states as its purpose that this "Amendment exempts religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies from certain nondiscrimination provisions of the bill." In other words, a church that applies for a DOL contract does not have to hire Muslims and Buddists. Normally, government contractors are subject to all manner of rules and regulations. Theocracy Watch, predictably, misrepresents the bill entirely.

Other than that there's all sorts of whack stuff out there. But I'm still no closer to an answer now than I was at the beginning. So when people say that Georeg W Bush and the Republicans are trying to creat a theocracy in the United States, what in the world are they talking about?

Posted by Tom at 8:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2006

State Of the Union 2006

All of the SOTU speeches that I've seen are well done. Bill Clinton, I admit, gave some of the best. And they do give a good idea of where the president wants to go, what his policy prescriptions are. And they are great American moments. Unlike in so many countries, there are no catcalls, and very little booing. Everyone stands and applauds at the beginning and the end. These are very good things, for they are one more bit of evidence that we are the most mature and stable democracy on the planet.

Often more interesting than the speech itself, though, is the reaction from Republicans and Democrats, who gives a standing ovation to what part and who sits silently.

Unfortunately Bush does have a way of looking like he's smirking when he means to grin. It's a look that drives the left insane, which kind of amuses me, I'll admit. All in all, though, I wish he could somehow change it. Not gonna happen, though.

The full text of the speech can be found here. LGF had it up seconds after it ended. Amazing.

The President started off with a strong defense of the war in Iraq, as he should have. Contrary to the naysayers, we are making steady progress, and we must stay until the job is finished.

I'm glad he spoke so strongly about Iran. He made it clear that he will not accept an Iranian nuclear weapon. Just as important he was conciliatory to the Iranian people, maiking it clear that our argument is not with them.

The Democrats certainly didn't like it when Bush asked Congress to renew the Patriot Act. Their misfortune, because I think that while Americans may be uncomfortable with some aspects of it, they definately want most of it reauthorized.

Hillary grinned and shook her head ever so slightly when Bush said "If there are people inside our country who are talking with al-Qaida, we want to know about it because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.". She couldn't even bring herself to laugh when he said that "This year, the first of about 78 million Baby Boomers turn 60, including two of my Dads favorite people me, and President Bill Clinton". And she wants to be president? First she needs to become human.

The Democrats outright booed when Bush urged them to make his tax cuts permanent. W justgrinned.

Says he'll cut the deficit in half by 2009. I'll believe that when I see it. As every conservative knows, Bush has let us down on this and other domestic policy issues. Our only consolation is that the Democrats would spend more. Anyway, it was the Democrats turn to smirk.

The Democrats cheered when Bush said that "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security", showing once again that they are the party of Alfred E Newman "what me worry". The bad news is that he recommended another commission to study the issue. We don't need another commission. What we need is for politicians of both parties to recognize that there is a problem, and to form some bipartisan way to fix it (see, I can be reasonable).

Overall I thought the speech was pretty non-confrontational and not terribly partisan. Bill Kristol on FoxNews said it was "conciliatory", which I think was going to far. Bush didn't throw out a lot of red meat for conservatives, but it was a SOTU speech, after all.

The new governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, gave the Democrat response. Interestingly, it was fairly tepid affair, with lots of calls for bipartisanship. I imagine the Kos crowd will skewer him. His recommendation that we should "restrict corporate profits to encourage greater investment in energy resources and lower energy prices, however, would be a disaster.

Nice try on both sides, but it won't happen. Nor, on many issues, should it.

Oh, and apparently that whackjob Cindy Sheehan was arrested for unfurling a banner in the Congressional gallery just before the speech started.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 12, 2005

Stupid or Lazy?

Kat, writing on her blog The Middle Ground, asks whether the Democrats who have joined the "Bush Lied" bandwagon were being stupid or lazy when they viewed pre-war intelligence:

Maybe they were so stupid that, not only could the President give them a speech and a presentation that would convince them to go to war without asking any questions. Maybe they were also too lazy to read intelligence briefings, ask for and get intelligence information or briefings, talk to the members of the intelligence committees to get their input.

Many prominent Democrats have now taken to claiming that they were "duped" by the Bush administration, that either the intelligence was manipulated or they didn't receive all of it. As Kat says, the only logical conclusion one can reach from this is that the Democrats were either stupid or lazy.

The other conclusion is that they are just liars seeking political advantage. But of course, that would be to question their motives, and we all know that liberals are as pure as the wind driven snow.

So let's take a little poll here; do you think that Democrats were stupid or lazy?

Posted by Tom at 3:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

Katrina Roundup

Michael Kinsley says hindsight is always 20/20:

Recriminations are all the rage today. But really, does anyone ever pay attention to the prophets of doom until it's too late?"

"As a good American, you no doubt have been worried sick for years about the levees around New Orleans. Or you've been worried at least since you read that official report in August 2001 -- the one that ranked a biblical flood of the Big Easy as one of our top three potential national emergencies. No? You didn't read that report in 2001? You just read about it in the newspapers this last week?" Mr. Kinsley said.

"Well, how about that prescient New Orleans Times-Picayune series in 2002 that laid out the whole likely catastrophe? Everybody read that one. Or at least it sure seems that way now. I was not aware that the Times-Picayune had such a large readership in places like Washington, D.C., and California. And surely you have been badgering public officials at every level of government to spend whatever it takes to reinforce those levees -- and to raise your taxes if necessary to pay for it."

Yes, I know what you're going to say; "but the people in charge should have read these reports. Well....yes. And no. People in these positions get a hundred warnings of this and that. Which one will come true?

Meanwhile, Fred Barnes agrees with me that the Democrats have overplayed their hand:


"In trashing President Bush, Democrats have overplayed their hand as never before," the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes writes, referring to Hurricane Katrina.

"Their criticism of Bush began soon after the levees broke in New Orleans and picked up steam once it became clear that thousands of people were stranded in New Orleans without food, medicine, or imminent prospects of being rescued. And the media, more hostile to Bush than ever, adopted the Democratic line that the slowness of rescue and recovery efforts was the fault of Bush and [Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael D.] Brown," Mr. Barnes said.

"Now, after politicizing Katrina and dividing the country, Democrats insist, disingenuously, that Bush depoliticize the issue and unify the country. He should go about this, Democrats argue, by choosing a 'unity' nominee for the second Supreme Court vacancy. Unity in this case means a candidate Democrats like. And he should jettison his domestic agenda, especially tax cuts. If Bush falls for this, he deserves to have his job rating drop (I suspect he won't).


I suspect he won't either.

Posted by Tom at 8:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 5, 2005

Thoughts on Katrina

I've categorized this post under "politics", which even as I type seems odd. It should, of course, go under something like "natural disasters", or simply "tragedy".

I also haven't written much about it, partially due to lack of time, but mostly because I don't like to do instant analysis on somthing this complicated. It will take time before all of the facts become known, and much of we think to be true now will doubtless be shattered.

And indeed if the hurricane and it's devastating aftermath were simply a technical matter, I probably wouldn't be writing anything at all.

But the speed and ferocity with which the left has used the hurricane to attack President Bush is breathtaking. It is also completely inexcuseable and disgusting.

No doubt that any diasater of this magnitude will become a political issue sooner or later. Blame, or credit, will be assigned to various political leaders. This is fine. Elected leaders, who are expected to take primary role in planning for and executing disaster plans, should expect to face scrutiny.

Indeed, with so many people suffering so badly, it is only to be expected that they, at least, will lash out at political leaders. This is fine. No problem.

And, let's be blunt, the Bush Administration made mistakes, perhaps many. Republicans are supposed to be the "can do" party, and this image has been tarnished. So no, I'm not excusing George Bush or everyone in his administration for everything that has happened.

Raw Political Opportunism

Let's call is what it is; raw political opportunism. I've surveyed enough of the blogosphere, listened to enough news broadcasts, to see that these people have absolutely no shame.
David Frum puts it well:

Is there not something bizarre about their willingness to fire off accusation after accusation, each contradicting the last? The disaster was caused by the Bush administration's failure to protect the environment from global warming .... no, no, it was caused by the administration's refusal to manipulate the environment by funding more levees to control the Mississippi River .... it's Iraq, no it's budget cuts, no it's wetlands, and on and on and on.

Good God, what is wrong with these people? Will they ever learn to see somebody else's misfortune as something more than their political opportunity?



"Worst Example Yet of Media Bias"

Of the many news stories that I could have selected, consider just this one from the BBC, posted just this morning:

As President Bush scurries back to the Gulf Coast, it is clear that this is the greatest challenge to politics-as-usual in America since the fall of Richard Nixon in the 1970s.

Then as now, good reporting lies at the heart of what is changing.

But unlike Watergate, "Katrinagate" was public service journalism ruthlessly exposing the truth on a live and continuous basis.

Instead of secretive "Deep Throat" meetings in car-parks, cameras captured the immediate reality of what was happening at the New Orleans Convention Center, making a mockery of the stalling and excuses being put forward by those in power.

Amidst the horror, American broadcast journalism just might have grown its spine back, thanks to Katrina.

Such reporting is at the level of self-parody, and only those who are completely lost in the fever swamps of hate-Bush leftism cannot but fail to see the bias. I had to check twice to make sure I wasn't on the website of theonion.com, or National Lampoon.

Powerline tells it like it is:

The mainstream media's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the disasters in New Orleans is a disgrace, possibly the worst instance yet of media bias. Insane claims by left-wing nuts that President Bush botched the recovery effort on purpose so as to kill black people are repeated by the MSM in a chin-stroking mode, as if to say, "It's an interesting question--they might be on to something." Meanwhile, no one points out that it was President Bush who implored Governor Blanco to issue a first-ever mandatory evacuation order for the city, an action by the President that probably saved tens of thousands of lives.

Similarly, the media yammmer on and on about the allegedly slow federal response to the hurricane, without noting that the Governor of Louisiana has the power to call out the National Guard. Accusations that lawlessness and looting in New Orleans are somehow the federal government's fault are repeated endlessly; hardly anyone bothers to criticize the looters and other criminals themselves. And where is the outrage that should be directed toward the New Orleans Police Department? They were the authorities on the scene, and they, under the direction of the city's Mayor--who had an emergency plan in place, but apparently made no attempt to implement it--had the responsibility to maintain law and order. Yet some policemen reportedly joined in the looting, while a great many others turned tail and abandoned their responsibilities.



Timing is Everything

If liberals had waited until the next election cycle, or at least a few months, before launching their attacks, then I would not be writing this. I may disagree with the substance of their attacks, but could fault them then for bringing the issue to the forefront.

But no, they just couldn't wait. They hate the President so much that in their zeal they launched attacks virtually unprecedented in their ferocity. Some immediate criticism is only to be expected, especially in the blogosphere. But this has gone way, way, too far, way too fast.

Look Who isn't Talking

Just as with 9/11, the one person who isn't criticizing the President is Bill Clinton.

Indeed, he came to Bush's defense at a press conference last week. The President had recruited both his father and Bill Clinton to aid in soliticing disaster relief funds, just as he did during the tsunami earlier this year. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, however, decided to play politics:

MALVEAUX: Let me ask you this: There are some people at the New Orleans Convention Center who say that they have been living like animals -- no food, no water, no power. And they are the ones who are saying: Where are the buses? Where are the planes? Why did it take three days to see a real federal response here? Mr. Bush, you, whether it's fair or not, had gone through some administration criticism about your handling of Hurricane Andrew.

G.H.W. BUSH: I sure did.

MALVEAUX: Do you believe that this is legitimate?

G.H.W. BUSH: Yes, I do. What happened? We all sighed with -- not legitimate. I believe that they ought not to be as upset, but I can understand why they are. We thought, a lot of people thought, that when the hurricane went to the right a little bit, New Orleans was going to be spared. And it was only the next day that, you know, there were these horrible problems with the levee. But, look, if I were sitting there with no shower, no ability to use bathroom facilities, worried about my family, not knowing where they were, I'd blame anybody and so you have to expect that.

MALVEAUX: But do you think this administration responded quickly enough?

G.H.W. BUSH: Of course I do.

CLINTON: Let me answer this. The people in the Superdome are in a special position. And let me say, I've been going to New Orleans for over 50 years. There's no place on earth I love more. They went into the Superdome, not because of the flooding, but because we thought the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans smack dab and they'd be safe in there if they didn't leave town.

What happened was, when the levee broke and the town flooded, what did it do? It knocked out the electricity and it knocked out the sewage. They're living in hellacious conditions. They would be better off under a tree than being stuck there. You can't even breathe in that place now.

So I understand why they're so anxiety-ridden. But they have to understand, by the time it became obvious that they were in the fix they were in, there were a lot of other problems, too. There were people -- they were worried about people drowning that had to be taken off roofs.

MALVEAUX: So you two believe that the federal response was fast enough?

CLINTON: All I'm saying is what I know the facts are today. There are hundreds of buses now engaged in the act of taking people from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston. And you and I are not in a position to make any judgment because we weren't there.

All I'm saying is the way they got stuck there, I see why they feel the way they do. But the people that put them there did it because they thought they were saving their lives. And then when the problems showed up, they had a lot of other people to save. Now they've got hundreds of buses. We just need to get them out. I think they'll all be out by tomorrow. Didn't they say they would all be out by tomorrow morning?

G.H.W. BUSH: Yes.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, thank you very much. I'm sorry. We've run out of time. Thank you.

G.H.W. BUSH: Let me -- I just to want finish. I believe the administration is doing the right thing, and I believe they have acted in a timely fashion. And I understand people being critical. That happens all the time. And I understand some people wanted to make, you know, a little difficulty by criticizing the president and the team. But I don't want to sit here and not defend the administration which, in my view, has taken all the right steps. And they're facing problems that nobody could foresee: breaking of the levees and the whole dome thing over in New Orleans coming apart. People couldn't foresee that.

CLINTON: Yes, I think that's important to point out. Because when you say that they should have done this, that or the other thing first, you can look at that problem in isolation, and you can say that.

But look at all the other things they had to deal with. I'm telling you, nobody thought this was going to happen like this. But what happened here is they escaped -- New Orleans escaped Katrina. But it brought all the water up the Mississippi River and all in the Pontchartrain, and then when it started running and that levee broke, they had problems they never could have foreseen.

And so I just think that we need to recognize right now there's a confident effort under way. People are doing the best they can. And I just don't think it's the time to worry about that. We need to keep people alive and get them back to life -- normal life.

(transcript courtesy of Captain's Quarters)

Bill Clinton knows perfectly well that had this occured under his watch his administration would have responded much as President Bush's did. He also knows that in his eight years he didn't get the levees in New Orleans fixed, either. One thing that amazes me about the left is how they forget who was president before George W Bush. Are we to believe that the idea that a category 5 hurricane might hit New Orleans is a recent one?

Either Way He gets Criticized

If Bush doesn't go to the disaster area, he is said to be insulated and uncaring. If he does go, then he's only looking for the photo op.

If Bush proposes large funding increases for the military, including guard and reserves, then he's "feeding the imperialist war machine" and starving "badly needed funds" for education or child care. If he doesn't, then he's blamed for not having enough resources on hand to respond to disasters like Katrina.

If he doesn't fire someone, then he doesn't recognize that federal relief efforts have failed. If he does, then it's an "ah ha!" moment for the left; Bush has finally admitted he's a failure as a leader.

This is the worst natural disaster in our nations history, why isn't more being done faster?

Not our Finest Hour

When New Yorkers faced a crisis of unimaginable proportions 4 years ago, they responded with grace and dignity. "Everyone pulled together" became more than a cliche.

The scenes of looting and mayhem in New Orleans will haunt us for some time. One can not fail to be nothing but appalled at how all too many of the residents who stayed behind reacted.

Yes, yes, I know, the situations were different; all of NYC was not affected, many of those who stayed in NO were doubtless criminals anyway who did so precisely because they thought there would be an opportunity to loot, etc. Nevertheless one cannot help but be struck by the vast disparity between the two.

Oh, by the way, do you own a gun? If you don't, I'll bet you're thinking about getting one now. Of course, the Redhunter already has that base well covered.

Overplaying their Hand?

It may well turn out that by coming on so strong, so quickly, the left has overplayed their hand. Arthur Chrenkoff has done an excellent job at compiling extreme statements made by Bush bashers, see here and here. .

Mainstream Democrats may be embarassed by some of these attacks, and will hold their fire for a more opportune moment. But one of the problems they face is that their party has been captured by far left groups such as moveon.org, America Coming Together, by people such as Michael Moore and George Soros. Byron York has documented this well in his 2005 book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy. Democrats who should know better have become so dependant on money and publicity from these fringe groups and people that they cannot or will not disavow them. Because of this they may well end up tarnished themselves.

Either way, this is only going get more ugly.

Posted by Tom at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

A New Quota?

Just when you think the liberals can't get any worse, this comes up.

The last thing they tried was to try and portray Supreme Court nominee John Roberts as "anti-woman".

Now, he doesn't have enough black friends:

Some Congressional Black Caucus members and civil rights advocates are concerned about Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s "secluded" northern Indiana upbringing and want senators to ask the Supreme Court nominee about his history of interactions with minorities.

Asking a nominee about his personal history with minorities is rare in judicial nominations, and there is disagreement even among black leaders on whether those questions are fair and how much weight should be given to the answers.
...
Ron Walters, chairman of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, said questions about Judge Roberts' background can serve a purpose.

"The context would have to be explanatory, and that would be, how did his growing up shape his conservatism and his outlook on social issues and society," he said.

He said it is likely that Judge Roberts had few "multicultural experiences" at Harvard University, and so he would have kept the same views and attitudes he had growing up in a mostly white, conservative state.

I'd say this was unbelieveable, but I've come to believe that anything is possible for the left when it comes to stopping John Roberts.

They're scared, folks, very scared. The last branch of government where they have significant influence is the Supreme Court, and they see it slipping away.

What really gets me is how Republicans, properly, gave Clinton nominees Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer an easy time during the nominations. Both were qualified in the sense of academic credentials, and after all, Bill Clinton did win election, so deserved to have all reasonable nominees approved.

But we now seem to have a new standard. Take Ginsburg, for example. She may have been qualified academically, but any honest examination of her record shows her to be a left-wing ideologue.

We'll see what actually happens once the hearings start. But if Democrats go after Roberts like they're hinting they might do, then it will be them setting the new standard. And this is going to come back to haunt them the next time there's a democrat in the White House

Posted by Tom at 8:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

The Uselessness of Most Press Conferences

I used to watch or listen to press conferences on C-Span or the radio. Whether a Republican or Democrat was in office, my impression was the same; one got the most information from the spokesperson's original statement, but once the reporters started asking questions it went downhill from there.

A seemingly endless series of questions would revolve one word or phrase, in a game of "gotcha" in which the reporters would try to catch the spokesperson up with something they had said earlier.

Sometimes it takes a foreign reporter to point out how absurd it all is.

As Greg Pierce of the Washington Times reports, it took a reporter from the Asia Today & India Globe to do just that:

Raghubir Goyal is called on at every briefing by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, and yesterday was no exception. He is normally counted on to be the fly in the ointment, asking detailed questions about the intricacies of U.S.-Indian relations and the ongoing conflict between Pakistan and India over the disputed Kashmir region -- issues that are far off the minds of most Americans, let alone politics-obsessed White House reporters.

Yesterday, however, Mr. Goyal had good reason to bring up such topics because President Bush was hosting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for an official state visit, not exactly an everyday occurrence for the Indian people.

Yet with the leader of 1 billion people standing next to the president in the White House, the American press peppered Mr. Bush with questions only about contemporary politics -- in this case his impending Supreme Court nomination and the kerfuffle surrounding Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. This follows a pattern of questions no matter which foreign leader Mr. Bush is hosting.

Yesterday, Mr. Goyal decided he'd had enough of this, and he let the White House press corps and viewers of C-SPAN know it.

"Scott first of all, I have a great respect for this White House press corps and they're very nice and kind to me," Mr. Goyal said. "When the leaders visit the White House, and they have press availability in the East Room -- not only the Indian [prime minister] today, but any prime minister or president -- I feel it's kind of insult to that leader; he's standing there, only two questions, but only his own people are asking about his visit or his nation.

"Other questions are always on different topics," he said. "I feel, personally, it's insult to that leader and that if it's the Indian leader visiting here, that press availability should be only on India."

"Your opinion is noted," Mr. McClellan replied, before taking a question from Mr. Goyal about -- what else? -- the Indian prime minister's visit.

And they wonder why we blog.

Posted by Tom at 8:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2005

All the Right Enemies II

Well, well, so the liberals are all in a huff over President Bush' mention of 9/11 in his speech Tuesday night.

Fine. What's important is who is upset, and who is happy. The invaluable Victor Davis Hanson pointed this out some time ago in a must-read article.

And it appears that all the right people are upset. All those who I never agree with anyway didn't like it.

Such as David Gergen, the man who will serve in any administration as long as they stroke his ego.

Like the Washington Post, who is still off on the bogus he "missed an opportunity to fully level with Americans" line that I dealt with a post or so ago.

Like the New York Times, which makes the Post look positively reactionary by comparison. Their editorial is beyond pathetic.

Like the Democrat's response to the speech. That they don't get it has been obvious for a long time.

The editors of National Review, typically, do:

The September 11 attacks were so important and so horrific that they never should be mentioned again. That at least seems to be the position of the Left and establishment media. Images of the planes hitting the towers on that day have been all but banned from the public airwaves. And the president of the United States cannot mention 9/11 when explaining the stakes in a fight against jihadists supported by Osama bin Laden in Iraq without prompting howls of outrage. Bush was absolutely justified in invoking repeatedly Sept. 11 and the fight against terrorism in his speech from Fort Bragg Tuesday night. Let's count the ways:
There never would have been an Iraq war without 9/11, which drastically reduced the country's tolerance for a hostile Arab who had sought weapons of mass destruction before and was likely to do so again.

Saddam's regime had a web of connections to Islamic extremists and terrorists, as explained by Andy McCarthy elsewhere on NRO.

Foreign jihadists are now pouring into Iraq to fight on behalf of Abu Zarqawi, who has explicitly allied himself with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The case for a connection between the Iraq war and the sort of terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 is — sadly — stronger than ever.

Bin Laden himself has, as Bush noted Tuesday night, called the Iraq war a crucial front in the war on terror. He has said that the war will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”

If we lose in Iraq, a Sunni rump state could emerge that would provide a haven for terrorists, the same way Afghanistan provided a haven for the 9/11 terrorists.

If we fail in Iraq, it will be a blow to America's prestige. One reason the terrorists struck on 9/11 is that they thought America was weak and making it bleed would prompt it to abandon its allies in the Middle East. The signal of weakness sent by a loss in Iraq wouldn't placate our enemies, but invite more attacks.

Supporters of a radical Islamic ideology struck American on 9/11. The war on terror is not a fight against a tactic (as the name falsely suggests), but against that ideology. The appeal of an ideology ebbs and flows with perceptions of its success. Communism advanced in the third world after its victory in Vietnam. The Islamists would get a similar boost if they were to prevail in Iraq.

Competing interpretations of Islam are at war in Iraq — that of Aytollah Sistani, who says Islam is compatible with democracy, and that of Zarqawi, who believes like bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers that Islam is a religion of violence. It is imperative that Sistani win out.

Islamic extremists justifiably fear a Middle East that turns away from radicalism and anti-Americanism. Victory in Iraq will be a step toward that goal.

In short, not only was it defensible for Bush to talk of 9/11 Tuesday night, it would be impossible for him to make the case for the Iraq war without reference to it. The war on terror began in earnest on that day, and Iraq is properly understood as a front in that larger, necessary war.

As mentioned by the NR editors, Andrew McCarthy outlined the links between Saddam and terrorism (for the umpteenth time, one might add):

It is not the war for democratization. It is not the war for stability. Democratization and stability are not unimportant. They are among a host of developments that could help defeat the enemy.

But they are not the primary goal of this war, which is to destroy the network of Islamic militants who declared war against the United States when they bombed the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, and finally jarred us into an appropriate response when they demolished that complex, struck the Pentagon, and killed 3000 of us on September 11, 2001.

That is why we are in Iraq.

On September 12, 2001, no one in America cared about whether there would be enough Sunni participation in a fledgling Iraqi democracy if Saddam were ever toppled. No one in lower Manhattan cared whether the electricity would work in Baghdad, or whether Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shiite militia could be coaxed into a political process. They cared about smashing terrorists and the states that supported them for the purpose of promoting American national security.

Saddam Hussein’s regime was a crucial part of that response because it was a safety net for al Qaeda. A place where terror attacks against the United States and the West were planned. A place where Saddam’s intelligence service aided and abetted al Qaeda terrorists planning operations. A place where terrorists could hide safely between attacks. A place where terrorists could lick their wounds. A place where committed terrorists could receive vital training in weapons construction and paramilitary tactics. In short, a platform of precisely the type without which an international terror network cannot succeed.
...
On that score, nobody should worry about anything the Times or David Gergen or Senator Reid has to say about all this until they have some straight answers on questions like these. What does the “nothing whatsoever” crowd have to say about:

Ahmed Hikmat Shakir — the Iraqi Intelligence operative who facilitated a 9/11 hijacker into Malaysia and was in attendance at the Kuala Lampur meeting with two of the hijackers, and other conspirators, at what is roundly acknowledged to be the initial 9/11 planning session in January 2000? Who was arrested after the 9/11 attacks in possession of contact information for several known terrorists? Who managed to make his way out of Jordanian custody over our objections after the 9/11 attacks because of special pleading by Saddam’s regime?

Saddam's intelligence agency's efforts to recruit jihadists to bomb Radio Free Europe in Prague in the late 1990's?

Mohammed Atta's unexplained visits to Prague in 2000, and his alleged visit there in April 2001 which — notwithstanding the 9/11 Commission's dismissal of it (based on interviewing exactly zero relevant witnesses) — the Czechs have not retracted?

The Clinton Justice Department's allegation in a 1998 indictment (two months before the embassy bombings) against bin Laden, to wit: In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.

Seized Iraq Intelligence Service records indicating that Saddam's henchmen regarded bin Laden as an asset as early as 1992?

Saddam's hosting of al Qaeda No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri beginning in the early 1990’s, and reports of a large payment of money to Zawahiri in 1998?

Saddam’s ten years of harboring of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Abdul Rahman Yasin?

Iraqi Intelligence Service operatives being dispatched to meet with bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998 (the year of bin Laden’s fatwa demanding the killing of all Americans, as well as the embassy bombings)?

Saddam’s official press lionizing bin Laden as “an Arab and Islamic hero” following the 1998 embassy bombing attacks?

The continued insistence of high-ranking Clinton administration officials to the 9/11 Commission that the 1998 retaliatory strikes (after the embassy bombings) against a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory were justified because the factory was a chemical weapons hub tied to Iraq and bin Laden?

Top Clinton administration counterterrorism official Richard Clarke’s assertions, based on intelligence reports in 1999, that Saddam had offered bin Laden asylum after the embassy bombings, and Clarke’s memo to then-National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, advising him not to fly U-2 missions against bin Laden in Afghanistan because he might be tipped off by Pakistani Intelligence, and “[a]rmed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad”? (See 9/11 Commission Final Report, p. 134 & n.135.)

Terror master Abu Musab Zarqawi's choice to boogie to Baghdad of all places when he needed surgery after fighting American forces in Afghanistan in 2001?

Saddam's Intelligence Service running a training camp at Salman Pak, were terrorists were instructed in tactics for assassination, kidnapping and hijacking?

Former CIA Director George Tenet’s October 7, 2002 letter to Congress, which asserted: Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

There's more. Stephen Hayes’s book, The Connection, remains required reading. But these are just the questions; the answers — if someone will just investigate the questions rather than pretending there’s “nothing whatsoever” there — will provide more still.

So Gergen, Reid, the Times, and the rest are “offended” at the president's reminding us of 9/11? The rest of us should be offended, too. Offended at the “nothing whatsoever” crowd’s inexplicable lack of curiosity about these ties, and about the answers to these questions.

Just tell us one thing: Do you have any good answer to what Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was doing with the 9/11 hijackers in Kuala Lampur? Can you explain it?

If not, why aren't you moving heaven and earth to find out the answer?

Update

I was doing a google search for some other information and look at what I found. The article, by CNS, is about a year old, so is not exactly news. But as with the information above, it is useful to throw at people who still insist that there were few ties between Saddam and terrorism:

Iraqi intelligence documents, confiscated by U.S. forces and obtained by CNSNews.com, show numerous efforts by Saddam Hussein's regime to work with some of the world's most notorious terror organizations, including al Qaeda, to target Americans. They demonstrate that Saddam's government possessed mustard gas and anthrax, both considered weapons of mass destruction, in the summer of 2000, during the period in which United Nations weapons inspectors were not present in Iraq. And the papers show that Iraq trained dozens of terrorists inside its borders.

One of the Iraqi memos contains an order from Saddam for his intelligence service to support terrorist attacks against Americans in Somalia. The memo was written nine months before U.S. Army Rangers were ambushed in Mogadishu by forces loyal to a warlord with alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Other memos provide a list of terrorist groups with whom Iraq had relationships and considered available for terror operations against the United States.

Among the organizations mentioned are those affiliated with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri, two of the world's most wanted terrorists.

As always, read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2005

The Speech Kerry wanted Bush to Give

And here, in the New York Times, is the speech that John Kerry says the president should have given:

The reality is that the Bush administration's choices have made Iraq into what it wasn't before the war - a breeding ground for jihadists. Today there are 16,000 to 20,000 jihadists and the number is growing. The administration has put itself - and, tragically, our troops, who pay the price every day - in a box of its own making. Getting out of this box won't be easy, but we owe it to our soldiers to make our best effort.

So getting out is the objective? No, fool, winning is the objective.

So what should the president say tonight? The first thing he should do is tell the truth to the American people. Happy talk about the insurgency being in "the last throes" leads to frustrated expectations at home.

I covered this lie in the post below. What he really wants is the president to say that we're losing, so that he can have his Vietnam II.

The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq. Erasing suspicions that the occupation is indefinite is critical to eroding support for the insurgency.

The president has only said this about a million times.

And the insurgent terrorists hate us and the new Iraqi government because it represents democracy, an idea that is antithetical to their Jihadist fanatacism.

He should also say that the United States will insist that the Iraqis establish a truly inclusive political process and meet the deadlines for finishing the Constitution and holding elections in December.

Someone get this guy a newspaper subscription.

He also needs to put the training of Iraqi troops on a true six-month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget needed to deploy them.

Ditto my last comment.

The administration must immediately draw up a detailed plan with clear milestones and deadlines for the transfer of military and police responsibilities to Iraqis after the December elections. The plan should be shared with Congress.

Why, so your pals can compare it to concentration camps and gulags?

Iraq's Sunni neighbors, who complain they are left out, could do more to help.

Uh, like the Saudis? Oh yeah, that'll help. The Saudis are well-known promoters of democracy. None of their people ever commit terrorist acts.

Further, does he not realize that Sunni troops would inflame the Shi'ites? Sure "Sunni" Arab countries want to send in troops. They want to "protect" their co-religionists. These Sunni nations; Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, are not exactly known for promoting democracy. Far from helping the situation, they would make it worse.

The next months are critical to Iraq's future and our security.

Yes they are. And thank heaven that since you weren't elected president Iraq stands a chance.

Posted by Tom at 10:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The President's Speech

The short version is simple - the president hit a home run.

The longer take is to ask why he doesn't do this more often. When he wants to be on he's on. There are other times, like during the first two debates with John Kerry, that he looked positively aweful. Ok, he only looked aweful in the first debate. Bad enough.

The most telling aspect is how members of the military feel. After the speech Carl Cameron, of Fox News, talked about the audience. It was made up of members of the 82nd airborne, as well as some special ops forces at Fort Bragg, where the president spoke.

Cameron told of how they had been admonished beforehand by their officers not to clap or cheer during the speech, as it wasn't appropriate for this type of speech. It was obvious, however, he said, that they were full of approval and about ready to burst from holding back. At one point, some GOP staffers at the back of the room clapped after Bush made a point, and they took this as a signal to let loose.

The point is obvious; if we're in such an unwinnable quagmire in Iraq, don't you think that members of the military would be the first to know? The enlisted and junior officers, I mean, not the generals.

Let's go into what Bush actually said tonight.

You can find the entire text here.

At this point let me say that I'm not going to rehash the history of our involvement in Iraq, as I've done that so many times on this blog interested parties can do the research themselves.

The bottom line is that Bush didn't pull any punches tonight. He didn't sugarcoat the situation, but neither did he (nor should he) apologize for mistakes. He didn't give an inch, nor should he have

What the Liberals Wanted

The latest lie from the left is that "the president needs to come clean with the American people".

Let me translate this into English: "We want the president to apologize and say he's sorry for invading Iraq. We also want him to say that we're losing the war and that we should pull out our troops."

Our president's not stupid enough to give the libs what they want. Instead, tonight he basically threw it in their faces. Good for him.

And good for us. Because like all people, Americans don't want some wishy-washy "maybe we'll be able to do this maybe not, and gee I'm sorry won't you please forgive me" weakness. We had our fill of that with Jimmy Carter. Americans like strength and resolve, just like the Brits did some sixty-five years ago.

Building up the Iraqi Forces

Today Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions. Iraqi forces have fought bravely — helping to capture terrorists and insurgents in Najaf, Samarra, Fallujah, and Mosul. And in the past month, Iraqi forces have led a major anti-terrorist campaign in Baghdad called Operation Lightning — which has led to the capture of hundreds of suspected insurgents. Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended by their own countrymen — and we are helping Iraqis assume those duties.

No doubt that the naysayers will dispute the figure cited above. And they'll be partially correct.

But am I the only one to notice that the left has totally ignored the sacrifice of the Iraqis? This first hit me during the vice-presidential debate, when Cheney rightfully admonished Senator Edwards over this issue. And they still haven't learned.

Why We are There

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of Coalition operations in Iraq — who is also senior commander at this base — General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said: “We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us.”

Yes yes, we all know that we didn't find any of the WMD that we expected that we would. But I've dealt with the idiotic Bush Lied! nonsense extensively in other posts.

The fact is that without the invasion of Iraq a huge cancer would still be festering in the Middle East, one that stymied pluralistic government and supported terrorism (again, I've covered this).

The Idiocy of a Deadline

Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis — who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops — who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy — who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed — and not a day longer.

Well of course. To anyone who wants to win the war this is obvious. Hmmm. That would mean that anyone who does not see this...wants us to lose. Or just doesn't care.

After two long years, the Iraqis more and more are standing with us, or at least against the terrorists (two different things, I know, but for purposes of winning the war the same thing). As one commenter on lgf said, "They want an exit strategy? That's it, when the Iraqis are ready to stand alone we leave."

or, in a slightly more colorful comment:

Dec 7 1942. White House press conference.

A CNN reporter askes: President Rosevelt, we have been fighting Germany and Japan for a year now. This is clearly a quagmire. What is you exit strategy for bringing the troops home?

FDR replies: Whats my exit strategy? Win you stupid f**k, by any means necessary!

I swear I laughed so hard I almost dropped the laptop when I read that one. BTW, you've got to follow lgf during these events.

FINALLY; the "I" Word

After two years of using the somewhat nonsensical "War on Terror", the president told it like it is:

Some of the violence you see in Iraq is being carried out by ruthless killers who are converging on Iraq to fight the advance of peace and freedom. Our military reports that we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and other nations. They are making common cause with criminal elements, Iraqi insurgents, and remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime who want to restore the old order. They fight because they know that the survival of their hateful ideology is at stake. They know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy, prosperity, and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world.

Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: “This Third World War … is raging” in Iraq. “The whole world is watching this war.” He says it will end in “victory and glory or misery and humiliation.”

The terrorists know that the outcome will leave them emboldened, or defeated. So, they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction. And there is no limit to the innocent lives they are willing to take.

Wars are often begun for one reason, and then later justified or remembered by another. Lincoln did not fight the Civil War to free the slaves, and we didn't fight World War II to liberate concentration camps. Yet that is how we remember them now. It will be the legacy of this war that it was begun mostly over WMD, yet it's benefit was to begin a process of liberation throughout the region. How ironic that those in this country who always tell us that they are the most concerned with freedome cannot or will not see this.

Democracy, or at least a version of it, has come to Iraq. The Purple Revolution was a watershed event. The president mentioned Libya giving up it's WMD program, liberaliztions in Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian elections. Egypt and Lebanon have seen progress. Small steps, to be sure, but real ones. Our own country was hardly perfect in 1793, and isn't now.

Listen

After September 11, 2001, I told the American people that the road ahead would be difficult — and that we would prevail. Well, it has been difficult. And we are prevailing.

Well yes you did. And some people weren't listening when they should have. Here and overseas.

Sixty four years ago someone listened, heard, and understood us.

"I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve"

Those words were spoken by Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy, to his aides following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Posted by Tom at 8:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2005

The Gitmo Investigation Fraud

So now the Democrats have decided that the most important thing to do in the War on Terror is to provide Al-Jazeera with more anti-American propaganda. As such, they've demanded an independent investigation to look into alleged abuses at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, where we are holding several hundred terrorists.

Of course, as it is Al-Jazzera covers in detail the attempt by far-left Congressman John Conyers' and other Democrats to impeach President Bush. That network is full of stories about our supposedly regular torture of prisoners at the camp. Don't think they don't follow what goes on over here.

The Democrats aren't the only ones in the business of trying to make us look bad, as the UN is trying to get in the game too, demanding access to the prison "to check out conditions there." That's rich. This from the same organization that has Cuba, Egypt, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe as members on it's Commission on Human Rights.

I've gone over many times the fallacy of treating the prisoners there as if they were criminals, and interested readers need only select "Guantanamo Bay and the Geneva Convention" at right for the full story.

Right now I'm going to deal with this latest Democrat diversion.

And let us have no doubt, for it is indeed a diversion from the War on Terror. Let me stop right here and point out the obvious; about half of the Democrats are sincere in wanting to win the War on Terror. We and they may disagree on this or that, but it's all an argument within the family.

But Ted Kennedy, Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers, Jim McDermott and crowd, they do not seem to care at all if we win. To them it's all a diversion from their plan to put us all under the rule of the EPA (this is HUMOR, trolls).

I've got other posts to write, and since the editors of National Review say it best, I'll just quote them:

It is argued that a commission will help clear the country’s good name. Put aside that the portion of the foreign audience that hates us won’t be swayed by a commission’s findings one way or another. A commission will, in political terms, never clear the Bush administration of anything. The Robb-Silberman Commission cleared Bush officials of the charge that they pressured intelligence officials to hype intelligence about Iraq’s WMD. Democrats and swaths of the media dismissed the report for exactly that reason.

The Pentagon has investigated its detainee practices repeatedly. Air Force Lt. General Randall Schmidt’s investigation into Gitmo — it is his forthcoming report that Newsweek falsely said would contain the toilet-flushing incident — will just be the latest. There is no reason to believe that violations of the rules at the facility, including of the minute procedures for handling the Koran, haven’t resulted in discipline for the violators. And numerous congressional hearings have been held about the detentions there.

An independent commission is not just unnecessary, it’s a cop out. Democrats should simply say what they would do with the detainees, and offer a congressional resolution to that effect and vote on it. Do they oppose tough interrogation techniques for the 20th hijacker? Then they should put themselves on record against them, even if it’s only in a symbolic resolution. Do they think terrorists deserve Geneva Convention protections? That we should attempt (futilely) to try the detainees in the American courts and — failing that — release them? If they are such fans of “accountability,” Democrats shouldn’t blanch at putting such positions in black and white and voting on them.

Of course, they will do no such thing. They instead want to hide behind a commission that at best will duplicate investigative work that has already been done and at worst replicate the 9/11 Commission at its lowest, most politicized moments. The response to calls for such a commission should be simple: “Hell, no.”

Ditto that.

Posted by Tom at 8:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 18, 2005

The Democrat's New Strategy

Check out my post over at Conserva-Puppies on the Democrats brilliant new strategy:

"America: We're the Bad Guys"

Posted by Tom at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

I Got a Call this Morning

... from a Republican fundraiser.

I told him that I wouldn't be giving any money until we made progress in getting Bush's judicial nominees thought.

I hated to do it but we've got to send a message. Hopefully they'll get enough replies like mine so that it registers with the national leadership.

Don't worry, I was very nice to the guy who called and thanked him for his efforts. There's no excuse for getting angry with the caller, as we should be thankful that we have people willing to donate their time.

Senator George Allen, however, will be receiving a check from me. I got one of his fundraising letters in the mail, and because he's been very strong on this issue, he will be rewarded.

Posted by Tom at 12:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2005

More on the Cave-in

Yeah, some "compromise", eh? Then why are the Democrats claiming victory?

Democratic leaders claimed victory yesterday over the deal senators cut regarding filibusters of judicial nominees, while most Republicans said it violated their principles and conservative activists vowed retribution.

"Our republic stands strong. Our Constitution is solid. Our flag flies over a nation that has reaffirmed its faith in freedom," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, while Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised the deal for averting a crisis.

Just the people I want on my side. When the likes of Kennedy, Schumer, and Pelosi praise something you know there's something wrong.

And what exactly was this "compromise" all about? What did we agree on?

No one seems to know. The Democrats crow that they can still filibuster in "extreme circumstances", a term that was undefined in the agreement:

The primary point of contention is the definition of "extraordinary circumstances" under which the deal permits Democrats to mount future judicial filibusters without facing Republican retribution such as the nuclear option.

"The terms 'extraordinary circumstances' do not lend themselves to any easy interpretation," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said yesterday. "But when the Democratic leader observes that means 'occasional' and 'very infrequent,' that is very reassuring."

Within minutes of the deal's announcement Monday night, NARAL Pro-Choice America announced that "extraordinary circumstances" should include any nominees who don't state their positions on Roe v. Wade, the court case that made abortion a constitutional right. Other liberals have defined "extraordinary circumstances" as any vacancy on the Supreme Court.

And indeed it looks like they will filibuster the nomination of anyone to the supreme court but a complete milquetoast like a David Souter. What this means is that the president either cannot nominate his first choice (or maybe second or even third). Instead, we will be left with wishy-washy nominees who will do heaven know what on the bench.

Andrew McCarthy on NRO sums up the situation:

Let’s say, instead, that they simply gave us the bottom line: (a) three of the president’s nominees get an up-or-down vote (i.e., exactly three of the pending seven left standing after the Democrats — in that spirit of compromise — whittled down from the original ten); (b) the Democrats remain free to filibuster (but only on the strict condition that, uh, well, that the Democrats feel like filibustering); and (c) the Republicans, on the brink of breaking four years of obstruction, decide instead to punt (and on the eve of a likely battle over a Supreme Court vacancy, no less).

Sound familiar? Yes it does: It’s the deal that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid offered a week ago — and that was flatly rejected as paltry and unprincipled.

The deal, moreover, says, “Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith.” Well, their responsibility under the “Consent” part of the Clause is to confirm or reject the president’s nominees. Period.

Ugh.

I went to Senator Warner's website this morning (I live in Virginia) and wrote him a not expressing my displeasure with him. I would encourage everyone to write their senators regardless of whether they are one of the seven who caved or not. Those who hold steadfast need encouragement also. I wrote Senator Allen a few weeks ago and will do so again later today.

You can read a copy of the "agreement" here (thanks to NRO). I won't have time this morning to go over it but will try to do so this evening.

Posted by Tom at 7:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Not one Dime

Like the rest of you I am very unhappy with the Republican Senators who "compromised" (read; caved in) to the Democrats yesterday. I don't have any unique analysis here so I'll leave that to others.

Just so that you see their names again, they are

Mike DeWine of Ohio
Susan Collins of Maine
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island
John McCain of Arizona
John W. Warner of Virginia
Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.

Some of the names on the list do not surprise me; McCain, Chafee, Collins, and Snowe prominent among them. McCain loves being the "maverick", and the other three are just liberals. Graham seems to be a McCain wanna be, and I don't know anything about DeWine. But Warner surprised me. I thought more of him. I live in Virginia, and I can tell you right now that unless he changes his mind on this and votes in favor of the nuclear/constitutional option he will not be receiving my vote, much less my money. Since I can't imagine voting for most Democrats, I'll sit it out.

My other senator, George Allen, has been rock-solid. He has been very forthright in his opposition to the Democrats. I've heard him on several talk-show, including Laura Ingraham, and my admiration for him increases each time.

Last month I wrote both Senators Allen and Warner (through their websites) about both the situation with judicial nominees and John Bolton. Senator Allen (his assistant I'm sure) wrote me an email, which I reprint in part below:

The United States Senate has a very important function of confirming Presidential appointments, particularly to the federal bench. Any qualified individual nominated for a seat on a federal court should get a full and fair hearing both in the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the floor of the Senate. I believe that a vigorous debate about judicial nominees is appropriate, but the blatant obstruction of a judicial appointment is both unfair to the nominee and unfair to the process. It is the role of the Senate to advise and consent, not to delay and obstruct.

As you may be aware, recent discussion has mentioned the possible use of a parliamentary change that would allow for a vote on judicial nominees. This “Constitutional option” or “nuclear option”, as some have referred to it in the media, would allow the Senate to have a simple majority vote as required by the Constitution on a judicial nomination. Currently, some Senators are choosing to filibuster judicial nominations in order to prevent a final vote on their nominations. Under the current rules, filibusters are defeated when a motion of cloture is passed by a supermajority of 60 votes. Therefore, in order to have a simple up or down majority vote on a qualified judicial nominee, the Senate must first pass a motion of cloture which far exceeds the 51 votes required by the Constitution. The Constitutional option would permit the Senate an up or down vote following the ruling of the Senate’s presiding officer. This common-sense approach will allow the Senate to consider the qualifications of a potential judge, while still affording the minority the opportunity to make its views known.

I recognize the importance of debate within the Senate chamber and its longstanding tradition in the Senate. I support the use of the “Constitutional option” should judicial nominations continue to be flagrantly obstructed. I have always encouraged free and open discussion by my colleagues on all of the issues. While I am aware that it is their responsibility to make their views known on behalf of their constituencies, it is also important to recognize that it is our duty to the nation as the Senate to ensure that judicial nominees get a fair up or down vote.

I have yet to hear from Senator Warner.

I've got several GOP fundraising letters that I've been sitting on. Well guess what, I've now decided what to do about them. Every one of them will be sent back with a version of the following letter in them:

Dear Republican Party fund-raiser

There is no money in this envelope for you. You will not receive any money from me until Republicans in the Senate decide to end Democrat filibusters of judicial nominees. The recent "compromise" was in reality a cave-in

What is the point of a GOP majority if we're not going to do anything with it? What is all my money for if all Republican Senators are going to do is "compromise" when they have the votes to override the Democrats? I sent you my money last year so that you could elect Republican Senators who would work approve President Bush's judicial nominees. I have been let down, and until and unless Republican Senators override Democrate filibusters my money will only go to select local Republicans who have proven to me that they can be trusted.

Sincerely,

Tom

I'm going to print several copies of this letter as I have the sinking feeling that I'm going to need them for some time.


June 14 Update

I received a letter from Senator Warner, but it is about the Bolton nomination, not the agreement above. Senator Warner says that he supports John Bolton

Posted by Tom at 7:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 23, 2005

Not One Dime

It's now about 50/50 as to whether John Bolton will be confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations. If he is confirmed, it's a step forward for reform. If he is not confirmed, the ramifications go far beyond the UN.

At this point I have to think that the GOP base is becoming upset at their Senators. As a whole they are simply not standing up for John Bolton. Even worse, they are not forcing the issue on judicial nominations like we hoped they would. "Not one Dime" - no money for the GOP - is a theme I've heard around the Internet. I don't know if contributions have fallen off or not, but I can tell you that I'm a lot more hesitant to respond to GOP fund-raising letters than I was a few months ago. And if we lose on this nomination and on judicial nominations in general, it's going to be a while before the national party gets any money from me.

And now we have Colin Powell coming out against Bolton. From what I read, it's the usual "strategic leak" campaign we've come to expect from him. Sad to say, my opinion of Powell has sunk these past few years. He was a great general, a not-so-good secretary of state, and and now is it going too far to call him a back-stabber? Ugh.

The Democrats, of course, have it all wrong on the United Nations. Their sentimentality for the institution in the face of all of it's scandals is disgusting. Bolton, however, is clear-headed about it and the role of the Secretary General

"... One should not invest excessive hope in any secretary-general. The U.N. Charter describes the secretary-general as the U.N.'s 'chief administrative officer.' He is not the president of the world. He is not a diplomat for all seasons. He is not Mr. Friend of the Earth. And most definitely of all, he is not commander in chief of the World Federalist Army. He is the chief administrative officer. Nothing less than that, to be sure, but, with even greater certainty, nothing more."
This is common sense to me. But, as Mona Charen points out,
Bolton's approach to the United Nations, which was also the approach of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane Kirkpatrick, is anathema to U.S. liberals. During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Barbara Boxer played a tape of Bolton's frank description of the United Nations' top-heavy bureaucracy. "There are 38 floors to the U.N. building in New York. If you lost 10 of them, it wouldn't make a bit of difference," Bolton is heard to say.

Triumphant in her belief that she had caught Bolton out, Boxer declared: "You have nothing but disdain for the United Nations. You can dance around it, you can run away from it, you can put perfume on it, but the bottom line is the bottom line." Sen. Joseph Biden wondered aloud why Bolton even wanted the job.

They just don't get it. At this point any decent person can only but have distain for most of the United Nations. I'm not even going to recite all of the scandals and misdeeds of that institution, as I don't have time. That the left still wants to play nicey-nice shows how blinded by ideology they have become.

As for my side, I'm disappointed in them, and the next week will be telling. We'll see what our money has gotten us. If they don't perform, a google search for "not one dime" is going to bring even more returns than it does now.


Posted by Tom at 11:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2005

Bolton's Battle

The Democrats have now decided that supporting the United Nations is an issue that will lead them back to majority status. As such, John Bolton is anethema and must be opposed at all costs.

This may sound rather curious. After all, aren't we talking about the same UN that is corrupt, anti-democratic, and anti-semetic? Consider this partial list of scandals and misdeeds that I posted last month:

  • Oil-for-Food ('nuf said there)
  • Sex Abuse - Peacekeepers in Congo, Somalia, Kosovo, and elsewhere raping and otherwise sexually abusing the very people they are supposed to be protecting
  • Tsunami Relief - Failure to provide relief to the victims of the recent tsunami, and then attackin the United States for forming a coalition of nations who were successful in bringing aid
  • Sudan - Failure to stop what is just about genocide in Sudan
  • A Security Council that will not enforce its own resolutions
  • A Security Council that passes an ever-increasing number of resolutions to little or no effect on the world scene
  • Human Rights Commission- They put the worst human rights violators on the planet in on the UN Human Rights commission
  • UN Committee on Disarmament - Iraq under Saddam was voted chair of the UN Committee on Disarmament
  • A General Assembly that, in general, is virulently anti-Semitic and shows it in their actions and speech
  • The World Conference on Racism, held in Durban South Africa 2001, turned into an anti-Semitic and anti-American hate-fest
  • Kyoto - They promote fatally flawed treaties such as the Kyoto protocol on "global warming", which would have the effect of crippling the US economy
  • World Court - The promotion of the World Court, whose purpose would be to prosecute Americans and Israelis, while largely ignoring third-world kleptocrats
To top it all off, Kofi Annan, the General Secretary of the UN, shows no sign of taking serious action. His plan for reform is instead a "get rich quick" scheme in which the developing nations would receive money from the developed ones in return for approving security operations.

The situation today is even worse than it was in the 1970's when the excreable Andrew Young was our ambassador to the UN and spent much of his time there apologizing for the United States. Jeane Kirkpatrick, Reagan's appointee, had to clean up his mess. If anything, the next ambassador faces an even bigger task than the one Kirkpatrick had to deal with.

At this point a reasonable person might say that the UN needs a good hard kick in the rear. No more nicey-nice, go-along-get-along, let's-not-say-bad-things-about-each-other.

So what are the Democrats doing? Opposing John Bolton tooth and nail. As Rich Lowry put's it, they're essentially saying "Don't be mean to the United Nations."

And as Lowry further points out, Bolton has been anything but unilateral in his past diplomacy. It's just that he actually looks out for US interests first, something that seems to enrage the left.

Because the Democrats can't find any factual evidence against Bolton, they've taken to decrying his "style". Their entire argument seems to come down to saying that he has not been "respectful" of the UN. Bill Kristol:

...the assault on Bolton has been pathetic. What does it amount to? He's a longtime U.N. skeptic--appropriate, one would think, given the U.N.'s "Zionism is Racism" history during the Cold War, and its ineffectiveness (to be kind) in Rwanda in the '90s and in Sudan in this decade. But he's worse than a skeptic, the critics say: He has been disrespectful of the august body in which he will represent us. Why, he once joked, "The Secretariat Building in New York has 38

stories. If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." Well, truer words were never spoken.
But it's precisely a new style that is needed. Unless the UN kleptocrats are hit over the head they'll never get the message.

If the Democrats want to propose a policy for reforming the UN that is different than the administrations, fine. I would welcome it. But as Kristol says, this is pathetic. John Bolton may or may not be confirmed (although he probably will be), but if the Democrats want to be taken seriously they need to grow up.

Update

In case you haven't gotten your fill of UN corruption, read this piece in today's Washington Post. It's a column by a legal aid worker who went to Sierra Leone in 2003, shortly after Kofi Annan released his "zero tolerance" policy on sexual harassment.

I found abuse of a sexual nature almost every day -- zero compliance with zero tolerance, as one investigator was to write. U.N. leaders had simply not expended any effort beyond lip service to carry out this zero tolerance policy.

In fact, abuse at these camps went beyond sexual violations: Injustices of one sort or another were perpetrated by U.N. missions or their affiliated nongovernmental organizations every day in the camps I visited. Corruption was the norm, in particular the embezzlement of food and funds by NGO officials, which often left camp resources dangerously inadequate. Utterly arbitrary judicial systems in the camps subjected refugees to violent physical punishment or months in prison for trivial offenses -- all at the whim of officials and in the absence of any sort of hearing.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 10:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2005

Democrats Don't Learn

From the Washington Times

Democrats yesterday said they will halt all Senate business except essential operations and national defense if Republicans use the "nuclear option" to unclog President Bush's judicial nominees.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the threat in a letter yesterday to Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has said he has the 51 votes needed for a parliamentary procedure that would force the nominees through the Senate on a simple majority vote.
In 1996 Speaker Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans tried much the same thing. Their beef was with President Clinton's proposed budget. After walking out of talks with the administration, they let all non-essential federal government services stop functioning.

The voters punished the GOP in the 1998 mid-term elections. Although they did not lose either house of congress, they did lose some seats and were severely chastised. Gingrich himself was forced to resign.

The Democrats today seem not to have learned the lesson of 1996; don't shut down the government. I don't think it's so much that voters are enamored of their services (although fear does play a factor with some groups) as it is just disgust at the bickering. Republicans had to learn the hard way in 1996, the Democrats will too unless cooler heads prevail.

Posted by Tom at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack