Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SOTU Preview

We already have a picture of what the State of the Union is going to look like. But the importance of this speech cannot be missed, as this is Bush's final opportunity to set the tone for the remainder of his presidency. And with sagging poll numbers he needs to get support up for his initiatives, or the next three years will be much like the last one for Bush. If he doesn't get this one right, it's game over.

The first thing he must do is pat himself on the back with the Alito nomination. It was a hard fight, and the new Justice would be an excellent symbol of a new breath of energy for the Administration that has much work to do in a second term. And his path to the Court is also a symbol of just how low the Democrats are willing to go in order to oppose this Administration, which is another topic Bush will address.

On foreign policy, Bush must advance all of the positives of Iraq. And he must emphasize the fact that there are many. An Iraqi Army that is stepping up to be able to defend the nation on its own. Three successful elections in a year's time. And Iraqi politicians bickering over the finer points of government rule. A nation where people no longer live in fear of government, but still a place which terrorist forces are unwilling to surrender. He needs to underscore what has been done, troop drawdown, and the realistic outlook. Because the nation next door is knocking. And if Bush is to engage Iran, he needs the political backing of the American people. Failing that, the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs will be able to comfortably laugh off any American threats, knowing that Israel is effectively alone. This is without question the most critical portion of the speech, and he needs to restore and bolster, as the case may be, credibility in this regard.

With respect to energy, if Hurricane Katrina and our current gas prices didn't prove to us that our current energy infrastructure is needing much in the way of improvement, it is hard to say what, short of an unrecoverable hit would convince us. We need to explore domestic energy sources, and we need to technologically update and restructure our energy infrastructure. But decades of environmental legislation based upon unproven hypotheses has essentially tied the hands of research and development. Bush needs to make clear that we need a new paradigm: rather than restrictions that actually bind us to grandfathered technologies and which make innovation prohibitively expensive, we need a new system which permits expansion and modernization of our infrastructure, and which favors clean technologies. We remain in the 1970s insofar as our energy infrastructure is concerned, and leaving it that way is an invitation to disaster. Bush must push energy reform now more than ever, because I believe that this most recent hurricane season was a sobering vulnerability check in this regard.

And taxes. The tax reforms Bush enacted need to become permanent. Period. The Treasury receipts actually increased as the taxes went the other way. The only excuse for not doing it is Democrat class warfare, and more of the same demagoguery about gifts to the rich (ignoring the fact that the lower income folks don't really pay taxes).

And speaking of demagoguery Bush will address the tone in Washington. And just as Alito is a symbol of victory for Bush, the hearings are a symbol of the remarkably cruel divisiveness that pervades Washington. And the tone of the hearings, accusations of lying to America and killing soldiers, of being an idiot, accusing our soldiers of being like the Nazis, etc. are not the acts or the fault of the President. He has stated that he will take some responsibility for not elevating the tone, but if he does that, he must likewise attribute blame to the left. Because Americans need to know that some of the people they are electing are causing remarkable harm by screeching the unsupported talking points of the far left.

The game begins at 9:00. This should be interesting.

Dean: Harry Reid is in Big Trouble

Per Howard Dean, the highest Democrat in office, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is in big trouble for his interaction with Jack Abramoff and Abramoff's Indian tribe clients.

So said he on Fox News Sunday yesterday, per this post. When asked his opinion if it were found that Democrats had written letters on behalf of Indian tribes who Abramoff represented, Dean replied: "That's a big problem, and those Democrats are in trouble, and they should be in trouble."

Per this article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Harry Reid should be in big trouble. On March 5, 2002, Reid among other Senators, wrote Interior Secretary Gale Norton to,


reject an application from the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, which was seeking to open a casino outside its Louisiana reservation.

An Abramoff client fighting the Jena casino, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, donated $5,000 to Reid's political action committee, the Searchlight Leadership Fund, the next day, according to The Associated Press report.



The timing of the payment is indeed uncanny. Of course, it is dismissed as a Senator from a gambling state trying to defend his state's interest in this industry by keeping legalized gambling limited. And that may be true, but by the standards used by Reid, Howard Dean and others, Reid is in no small degree of trouble. Further, his refusal to refund the money to avoid the appearance of impropriety seems not to be in the interests of cleaning up the ethical concerns in Washington.

Interestingly, this is the same Senator Reid who was reported in the Washington Note.com for having rejected a bipartisan ethics reform proposal:

Senator Reid shared with us that just that day an unnamed Democratic Senator had come to him with a proposal on "ethics reform" ala Abramoff that could be bi-partisan. Reid told this person that this was the wrong time to be engaged in construtive "reform" proposals with the other side. He said that this was the time to draw a line and to show how "our side" differed dramatically from "their side."

He is not so interested in reform as he is a political gotcha. And while I'm sure that there are innocent explanations for Reid's behavior vis a vis the Indian tribes and receipt of funds, Reid advancing ethics reform at this point is a bit like Bill Clinton advancing a workplace sexual harassment law.

And now, Tom Harkin has his hands in the Abbramoff matter. He claims that despite hosting two fundraisers in Abramoff's box at the MCI center (for which he failed to properly account), he never met Abramoff. Which leads me to believe that he found the door to the box open and just set up an impromptu fundraiser there.

Harkin is probably fine, but the curious denials do little more than invite investigation. Of course, what it really goes to show is that not all interaction with Abramoff was bad, and that good people may have gotten innocently caught up in it. But I doubt that the Democrats will be so generous to likewise innocent Republicans who find themselves likewise caught in the net. And while there may be innocent explanations for all of it, Dean's rhetoric has left little wiggle room for the Democrats.

ADDENDUM

For more details on the names in the Abramoff scandal check this Wilipedia article which lists all individuals, Republican and Democrat, who are known to have taken money or favors from Abramoff. It is the best thing I have seen so far that tracks the players and references the sources.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Chafee's Last Betrayal

Well, maybe not the last, but certainly the last time the guy will do much of significance in Washington. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) is opposing the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

In this statement, while Chafee acknowledges Alito's judicial credentials, he goes on to list a litany of political concerns, chiefly the fact that in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, that he voted to uphold the entire Pennsylvania law with abortion preconditions, rather than just the 3/4 of it that the rest of the 3rd Circuit supported. He also stands with the left on the validity of Roe v. Wade, and their belief that it can NEVER be overturned.

And then in a very curious misunderstanding of the principle of federalism, questions Alito's views on executive powers, believing them to confer too much power on the executive, but not happy that he chooses to limit Congress's intrusions into people's private lives through the Commerce Clause, which has been used to justify any number of power grabs from the states. He gives a great example regarding environmental legislation, arguing that Alito's honest legal perspective may affect Chafee's pet political goals. If the Supreme Court finds that Congress overreached in environmental regulation of what should be state matters, certain provisions of the Clean Water Act may fall. But what worries Chafee is the political loss, not the correction of the law to meet the requirements of the Constitution.

Chafee has a distinguished career as a wishy-washy New England liberal. Chafee also has an election coming up this year in the fairly blue state of New England. But here's the rub: One needs money to run in an election. And while he'll surely get some, his recent history of remarkably disloyal behavior will likely not get him much in the way of support from the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Likewise, he is looking at a primary challenge from the right which probably won't be much of anything, but will require the expenditure of cash. Regardless of that, Chafee's decision to go off the ranch won't have much affect. Apparently the Republicans have added Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) who does not wish to make any uncomfortable explanations to voters in his very red state this fall, to their list of Alito supporters.

So in light of years of difficult and disloyal behavior, Chafee's seat may be one that the Republicans are willing to let go.

Howard Dean's Mouth Sets Trap For Himself, His Party

Here is the transcript of Howard Dean's exchange with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace. Not much has changed since 2004, as it shows that Dean cannot argue facts, is unaware of them, and is really only able to respond to critical questions with taking points. You should read the whole thing, but here is a paraphrase of what Dean said in response to a bunch of pesky facts:

As far as the State of the Union is concerned, Dean's biggest point, beyond class warfare talking points and accusations that Bush is a liar, and notwithstanding very positive economic indicators, is that people perceive that the State of the Union is not great, and that's what matters. I would have to agree if one is more interested in twisting perceptions than dealing with real problems.

When discussing foreign affairs, Dean takes a remarkable detour in criticizing democracy. He offers that Bush's efforts to democratize the Middle East are somehow not a great move, because the Palestinians, in free elections, selected a Hamas-dominated government. And without stating what better things we can do, other than twice saying that we ought to "prod Hamas into now being a responsible government", he leaves open a very curious assertion that democracy isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Segueing into the war on terror, Dean repeats the talking point that the Iraq War took our eyes off of Usama bin Laden and Al Qaida, and then recommends that we redeploy troops in Iraq to Afghanistan, without addressing how that will affect either theater. He mentions at one point earlier that our troops do not have battle armor, but given that my brother in law who is currently stationed in Samarra allowed me and my son to wear his 40 pound armor vest, I think the Chairman's understanding of this situation--and others--is woefully incorrect.

On NSA wiretaps, Chris Wallace demands evidence of Dean's accusation that the Administration is poking into our private lives. He initially denies that we are poking into people's business per se, and that we have to and should poke around to find Al Qaida, but, of course, he cannot forget to add that the President is breaking the law to do it. Then, again failing to offer the factual basis for his belief, states that we cannot possibly know whether a call involves Al Qaida operatives beforehand, notwithstanding the statement of Gen Michael Hayden that we know that the calls intercepted are from people known to have Al Qaida ties. Dean's final comments, suggesting that it is impossible for us to avoid listening in on conversations about what's for dinner, reveal what he really thinks of the program. He doesn't really understand it, doesn't want to, and wants to demagogue it regardless of its benefit to Americans, if it can bring down Republicans in an election year.

And finally we come to Jack Abramoff. Dean repeats the same quizzical assertion made last week where he emphatically denies any relationship between Democrats and Jack Abramoff, while in the same breath, accuses Republicans of widespread corruption and bribery. But Chris Wallace did his homework. Check out this exchange where Dean likely puts his foot in his mouth:

WALLACE: So if we find, and I just want to, we have to wrap this up. But if we find that there were some Democrats who wrote letters on behalf of some of the Indian tribes that Abramoff represented, then what do you say, sir?

DEAN: That's a big problem, and those Democrats are in trouble, and they should be in trouble. And our party, if the American people will put us back in power in '06, we will have on the president's desk things that outlaw all those kinds of behaviors. Right now it's a Republican scandal. Maybe they'll find that some Democrats did something wrong, too. That hasn't been the case yet.

But our reforms in the Democratic Party are going to be aimed at both Democrats and Republicans. We want to clean up Congress, and we will within 100 days of the new Congress in 2007.

WALLACE: Chairman Dean, we're going to follow up on that. Thank you. Thanks so much for joining us. And don't be a stranger. You're always welcome here.


Wallace asked that question because he knew its answer, and he plans to come back to Dean with it once he confirms everything. Apparently there is evidence that some legislator, perhaps Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-SD), may have taken an act that appeared to be in conformity with the receipt of money from Abramoff's clients. And Chris Wallace allowed Dean to associate a behavior with Democrats and with punishment. It can't get any more perfect than that.

It also shows that Dean really has no idea what is going on with this investigation and with members of his own party. His reflexive denial of Democrat involvement and hyperventilating over the Republicans' culpability has actually left his flank exposed.

The Democrats elected him. And now, he may have done them some real political damage by lowering expectations about Democratic involvement with Abramoff by denying even innocent interaction with him. And while I don't think that this will shift to a primarily Democratic scandal by any means, the denials certainly up the damage if some Democrats are found to be in the mix. Leaving the Democrats with nothing to campaign on other than "Bush lied", "No", and "elect us instead."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dean Defensive on Abramoff

I've never met Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, but I bet his breath smells like Kiwi shoe polish.

Check out this exchange between Dean and CNN's Wolf Blitzer.


DEAN: There are no Democrats who took money from Jack Abramoff, not one, not one single Democrat. Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal. There is no evidence that Jack Abramoff ever gave any Democrat any money. And we've looked through all of those FEC reports to make sure that's true.

BLITZER: But through various Abramoff-related organizations and outfits, a bunch of Democrats did take money that presumably originated with Jack Abramoff.

DEAN: That's not true either. There's no evidence for that either. There is no evidence...

BLITZER: What about Senator Byron Dorgan?

DEAN: Senator Byron Dorgan and some others took money from Indian tribes. They're not agents of Jack Abramoff. There's no evidence that I've seen that Jack Abramoff directed any contributions to Democrats. I know the Republican National Committee would like to get the Democrats involved in this. They're scared. They should be scared. They haven't told the truth. They have misled the American people. And now it appears they're stealing from Indian tribes. The Democrats are not involved in this.

Often wrong but, of course, never in doubt. Apparently he didn't check the FEC reports closely enough, as he would have found the Dorgan donation. And to presume that a corrupt guy like Abramoff is going to report bribes is ridiculous.

This very hyper-defensive and irrational exchange reveals first, that Dean has the self-control of a Jack Russell Terrier, but more importantly just how much the Democrats have invested in this scandal. Rather than being interested in getting to the bottom of it and weeding out all of the corrupt politicians irrespective of their party, Dean needlessly circles the wagons. Probably the best answer would have been "The Abramoff story has yet to be told, and while it seems that the vast majority of the legislators on the take were Republicans, if there are Democrats, they will be dealt with just as appropriately."

But Dean is not one for moderation, and his lack of restraint betrays his intent. His responses indicate that he is salivating. And he also knows that if some Democrats get thrown into the mix, his mantra that this is a purely a Republican scandal goes down the tubes, along with its usefulness for the 2006 elections. And by playing it so hard, he does his efforts damage in at least two ways.

First, we know that some Democrats, including Dorgan, have had their dealings with and receipts from Abramoff. What is most interesting is that Dorgan denies knowledge that he received a $67,000 donation from Abramoff. Just to be very clear, when a candidate gets a donation of that size, he knows when it arrives, from whom it comes, and he is always sure to thank the donor personally. But why deny, as there is nothing illegal with that receipt on its face? Certainly Dorgan returned the cash to avoid the appearance of impropriety, but such a potentially inculpatory denial that flies in the fact of the facts makes one wonder what Dorgan has to hide. And I'm certain that Dorgan wasn't the only Democrat involved with Abramoff. I'm also certain that most of the money given through Abramoff was entirely legal, to both Democrats and Republicans. But for Dean to categorically eliminate the possibility of any Democrats getting swept up in the scandal in the usual terminal language that he uses, creates a second problem.

The scandal might still have had some political value for the Democrats if Dean and his ilk had not played it up to such a fever pitch as an exclusively Republican matter which infects the entire party. Because if it is anything less than the apocalyptic picture that Dean and the Democrats paint, it will not meet expectations and will gain minimal traction. Worse yet, if Abramoff fingers some Dems, Dean and the Democrats have lost the ability to demagogue the issue without looking utterly foolish. It would have been better for him to keep his options open by keeping his historically self-destructive mouth shut.

But the reason that Dean is so adamant about defending this potential scandal is that the Dems have staked their hopes for the 2006 election on the outcome of this matter.

They remain the "party of no" with absolutely nothing to offer America aside of anything but what the Republicans intend to offer. They have no plan but opposition, and so a scandal gives them the opportunity to make some inroads. But absent a bombshell, which seems a little less likely given what we've heard of late, the Dems will actually need to offer a vision other than "The Republicans Are Awful".

And the circling the wagons strategy seen by Dean's frenzied defense of Dorgan and flat denial that any Democrats even took campaign money from Abramoff is exactly what Dean ought not to do. The Republicans are selecting a new House Majority Leader to replace the embattled Tom DeLay who unfortunately has become the poster boy for cozy Congressional/lobbyist relations. In so doing, they leave a very strong impression that they will not tolerate corruption in their midst, or even the perception of it, thus working a potentially successful end run around Dean's fairly feeble opposition. But Dean's comments to Blitzer imply that while he is all too eager to embrace any claims by Abramoff of Republican wrongdoing, he is unwilling to believe similar charges against Democrats, and will defend against them. I could be wrong, but Dean leaves very little wiggle room in his apoplectic rhetoric.

It is not very wise to make terminal pronouncements at this stage of the game, before the facts are revealed and when they can come back to bite. But Dean has never been accused of being able to use wisdom or exercise restraint. And now he's on record.

Dean gets to dig himself in deeper on Fox News Sunday, where he will face a much less relenting inquiry by Chris Wallace. Whatever Dean may think of his ability to reason, he might want to be careful around Mike Wallace's kid, who really doesn't let much get past him. And we may get yet another opportunity to see why Dean frequently refuses any invitations to critically discuss and debate issues on national shows.

It will be little more than a display of ignorance and demagoguery, followed by a bunch of pink talking points. A perfect allegory for what his party has become.

Time For Hamas to Grow Up

In what appeared to be free elections, the Palestinians elected a majority of their legislative seats to Hamas candidates. Yes, Hamas, a terrorist organization whose charter centers around the destruction of the State of Israel. But electing a group of terrorists, while seemingly horrendous, may actually work out well for the Palestinians in the long run.

First, these elections were free. We don't care for the people who were elected, and I can't imagine that we would stoop to dealing with them, especially if they keep up the business about the destruction of Israel. We don't befriend terrorists, and certainly not terrorists who attack our sworn allies. But we must respect it, and allowing things to unfold as they are may bring the Palestinians out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st Century.

And if the Palestinians are to get anywhere with the civilized world, Hamas needs to grow up. They need to provide humane and legitimate government for their people (yes, a terrorist group), and they need to find some way of coexisting with an Israel that now knows where the Palestinian government lives. Previously, Israel, out of an abundance of caution, was very careful about the strikes against Palestinian terror leaders, careful to avoid civilian casualties, as they had to pick out these leaders from among the people. Now, the Palestinian government, and to a very significant degree, the terror leaders, have an address. If they weren't before, they are now officially on the hook for terrorist acts committed by Palestinians, and especially those linked to Hamas. Israel now knows where to hit them.

But if Hamas fails to comport itself as a civilized entity and faces the rebuke of Israel and the rest of the world, the Palestinians will have learned one of the other valuable lessons that people in a democratic society should understand: there are consequences to electing certain kinds of people. It's much like the lesson the Democrats are currently learning by having Howard Dean as their party chairman. If you have a bratty infant leading you who cannot comport himself in a responsible, civil and reasoned manner, you will reap the consequences of it.

Well, now the bad guys have their shot at running the show. Will they rise to the occasion and actually turn the Palestinian State into a peaceful, prosperous and respectable nation, and abandon murder of civilians as a tool of statecraft, or will they just give us more of the same?

If they are to have any success, Hamas needs to behave like adults.

A Funny With a Purpose

Per Drudge, Helen Thomas is really, really mad. The ultra-left former UPI White House correspondent turned columnist really, really doesn't like George W. Bush. In an effort to ask a bunch of strident questions that could just as well have been screeched out of the mouth of Cindy Sheehan at a White House press conference, Thomas was passed over time and again by the President. The thing is, Thomas sits front and center in the press room. There's no missing her.

And here's another thing. The White House controls who gets access to the press room. Thomas had no problem getting a seat as an employee of UPI, but as an individual columnist, she stands on her own. Which means the White House approved her to be there on her own. Now, this is just a guess, but to admit her and to let her just sit there, when she was used to about 57 years of being the queen of the press room, not taking a single one of her shrill questions seems to be the President's way of letting this living symbol of the age of the far left media and all who follow her know that their control over the legitimate press is more or less dead.

And while it may be just a little bit hurtful to Helen Thomas, it's funny to just about anyone else to see that her leftist arrogance has no outlet. It's funny, but funny with a purpose.

Didn't He Lose An Election?

John Kerry is calling for a filibuster (courtesy Drudge) of Judge Alito. And while the talk of a filibuster should not surprise many, as the extremists in the Senate are guaranteed to threaten it, Kerry's injection of himself into this issue tells us a whole lot more about what he is thinking for the future, but it also shows that he is not playing his cards very carefully.

If anyone thinks that this is not related to a 2008 presidential run, they are hopelessly confused. Kerry is nearly a sure thing for re-election to his seat from the same state that reflexively elects the now comically irrelevant Ted Kennedy.

But he needs to listen to the words of Dick Durbin (D-IL) who is his party's whip, and second in command in the Senate. Durbin is a partisan's partisan who is willing to do just about anything for the sake of political gain. But when he publicly claims that his count on a filibuster is short, that is a very loud signal to all other members of his party not to bother blocking the vote.

There is only one way that Kerry's misbegotten gambit could be successful--if he can keep 41 members of his 44 member caucus on board. But here's the rub: all 55 Republicans will vote to confirm, and certainly vote to break any filibuster. Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD) and surprisingly Robert Byrd (D-WV) are also on board, likely because they come from red states with elections looming this year (except for Johnson). Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has indicated that she will oppose any filibuster. That leaves one more Democrat to switch sides. And they probably won't have too much trouble finding one. So Kerry is engaging in a fairly stupid gamble.

Because the Republicans hold the ultimate trigger--they can kill the filibuster power. The more wise of the Dems know that Alito is not the right fight. The real bloodbath will be the retirement or death of John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and they will need something to throw at the Republicans. To blow it all on Alito, who will get a number of crossovers on the full floor vote (maybe 4-6 votes) would be a display of profound political weakness. If the filibuster is broken on a vote, Kerry and the Dems look stupid for picking the wrong fight and for being unprincipled partisans. But worst yet would be if Kerry manages to maintain a filibuster. The nuclear option is triggered, and the Dems walk away emasculated for no good reason. Either way, it's a loser.

But the timing of this is interesting. The vote is set for Monday. The State of the Union Address is set for Tuesday. Bush wants to have the Supreme Court seated before him in the House Chamber, with a Justice Alito among them. It would be quite an excellent PR moment.

But John Kerry, eager to remain relevant against his former opponent, is willing to do anything to get elected. This time, he only threatens to harm himself.

Very Bad News For Hillary

Thanks to my reader and fellow blogger, Eric Ashley who advises of this very unfortunate poll for Hillary Clinton. 51% of voters state that there is no way they would vote for Hillary, as opposed to the 16% who would. If the poll is correct, it spells doom for Hillary.

Of course, many people have come back from low poll numbers. We are witnessing something of a comeback for President Bush from the doldrums of 2005. And it is true that many candidates, as an election year heats up, gain name and face recognition and people begin to get a better picture of them. But this is quite different and therefore much worse for Hillary.

Hillary is a household name. There is almost nobody who does not know who she is, so name and face recognition are not problems. If anything, she is potentially the most visible candidate for the 2008 presidential race in the minds of most Americans. Which means that people are making judgments based upon 14 years of Hillary being in the public eye. She is being judged based upon her known or perceived qualities, which makes the liklihood of regaining any kind of traction slim.

Of course, the Clintons have reinvented themselves several times over to great success, but Hillary does not carry nearly as much of Bill's charisma as she may think. And while Bill can charm the skin off of a snake for his own benefit, Hillary is not possessed of the same personal qualities, and as I said earlier, Bill's qualities will only provide a moderate benefit to Hillary at best.

So "Senator" Clinton may only be as far as she gets. And that's a good thing.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Can Clinton 44 Be Anything Bigger Then Clinton 42?

Guess who's running for president?

After remarks about the House of Representatives being run like a plantation, Hillary Clinton switches gears and does her best Condi Rice impression. She accused the administration of downplaying the threat posed by Iran (contrary to her position that the Administration mislead us into the Iraq war by trumping up false intelligence), and for not being confrontational enough. But given the fact that her husband's treatment of the Department of Defense significantly diminished our ability to engage in and win three simultaneous engagements across the globe, as was our strategy under Reagan and Bush, how does she expect a military stretched so thin by such poor planning on his part to be able to address the Iran and possibly even the North Korea problem? These are matters which she must address, as the threats we now face were known when she and her husband were in the White House.

But those are discussions for another post.

I think Hillary is playing a very dangerous game that should have been learned from Howard Dean's activities of 2003 and 2004: when you are the Democratic frontrunner, shut up and do your job. Anything you say can only hurt you.

Hillary has potentially a two-way gambit. She is trying to seem tough on terror, and is appearing to hold the Administration's feet to the fire on Iran, but is leaving herself some wiggle room. If Bush invades Iran, she can say that she meant for him to use diplomatic pressure, not to once again invade another nation who took no aggressive act against us. And if he fails to do it, she can obviously accuse him of dropping the ball on terror-supporting regimes. And while that sounds clever, the approach is by no means novel, is only partially believable, and carries risks that can outweigh the benefits she is trying to realize.

Hillary has excellent faux-moderate credentials which are certainly enough to give her credibility with the same Iowa voters who left Howard Dean's candidacy to painfully die in a fallow wheat field, because he proved to be just a little too insane to be electable (which he confirmed later that evening with the scream heard 'round the world). But if she plays the fence a little too much, she stands the risk of looking confused, which only turns off voters. And it is a bit hard to run to Bush's right on the terror war. Accusing him of not being confrontational enough on Iran, while accusing him of doing too much in neighboring Iraq, is just a little too inconsistent, and more than just a little silly. It doesn't divorce her enough from the "party of no" image that the Democrats have cultivated over the past six years.

But the other problem is the 230 pound (or so) one that will gain her huge numbers of votes in the primaries, but which could be costly in the general election...Bill. He can help her sweep the primaries with not the least bit of problem. Black voters love him , and he knows how to energize his base for anyone who will allow him. But he carries with him quite a bit of ethical and moral baggage, not to mention that his legacy is being continually reevaluated in light of many national security and foreign policy developments. 9/11/01 was the beginning. Allowing Jimmy Carter to broker a useless agreement with North Korea that turned out to be little more than an opportunity for Kim Jong Il to construct a functional atomic weapon, coupled with the same blackmail coming out of Iran is the most recent sign of the wanting legacy of Clinton. The other problem is that Bill Clinton can never operate in the background. He is a camera hog, and the primaries will become more about Bill than his wife--just what the Republicans want. It's the dilemma that faced Al Gore. He wanted the votes that Bill Clinton could deliver, but he also didn't want the liabilities that a recently-impeached and morally despised president would carry. And he didn't want Bill as the star of his own campaign, having already sat second chair to the aforementioned Hillary for the better part of the Nineties.

But for Hillary, Bill carries other liabilities. He cheated on her. Whether he actually "inhaled" with Monica (among others) or not, I doubt that few wives would find his behavior to be anything less than an outright betrayal. And to have him be her booster is just a tad unseemly, as it lends to the perception which grew during Bill's presidency that they are more business partners than marriage partners.

However it is played, though, and despite both of their very effective media manipulation skills, I doubt that any campaign for a Clinton 44 can escape the stench left by Clinton 42. Between a feckless and therefore dangerous foreign policy of ignoring threats, and a domestic policy that was more or less nonexistent, he did the name of Clinton no real good except among the Georgetown elite. And while the skeletons in Bill's closet(s), if donated to science, could stock every biology and medical school classroom across the nation, Hillary does not approach the White House in her own right with clean hands either. The travelgate problem where she was involved in the firing of the staff of the White House Travel Office, replacing them with cronies, the Rose Law firm and Whitewater (yes, that again), the cattle futures gold mine, the health care takeover plan, and under the category of "she had to know about it", the pardons, packing up White House property, and the Animal House trashing of the place as a welcome for the new Administration. Then there is the guy who otherwise would have been, and may still be her Secretary of State: Sandy Berger. He breaks the law regarding classified documents in order to protect his own rear and Clinton's "legacy". In short, Hillary is someone with some pretty significant ethical baggage, despite the fact that she has spent the past five years trying to seem more moderate than she is.

And she must cross these hurdles in the court of public opinion in order to show America that any Clinton 44 presidency will be something greater than what increasingly seems to be a wasted eight years. In other words, and pardon the poor grammar, but she has to convince America that where her husband and her failed, she and her husband will not.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Katrina Was God's Punishment for...

...you name it. Ray Nagin is not in the prophecy game along with Pat Robertson. Nagin offered that Katrina was God's retribution for our invasion of Iraq. Then he also made the not at all racist comment that he wants New Orleans to be "chocolate" again.

And I'll grant him all of that. But if he can get into the prophecy game, so can I.

I think that the aftermath of Katrina...people not being able to be rescued from the Superdome, the Convention Center, and various flooded structures...was God's wrath against the people of New Orleans for electing two blitheringly incompetent fools to run their state and local government. Or was it perhaps just the natural consequence of having leaders who have not the slightest clue as to how to do their jobs or manage a crisis?

Katrina was also God's punishment against environmentalists for making it impossible to develop demostic energy production. He (er, Katrina) destroyed our petroleum production facilities to make it clear that we needed to change the laws to permit newer and more efficient means of refining, you see. He was also trying to encourage the use of cheaper, more efficient nuclear power.

It was also God's means of bringing another football team to Texas. Given that the Superdome was trashed, God favored the much more red state of Texas by giving them the Saints (which wasn't much of a gift, given that the Saints had a lousy record--probably punishment to the new Texas fans for something they did)

See how easy it is to be a complete idiot?

Perhaps God may be using nature to very visibly and violently intervene in our circumstances, but it is not ours to judge why. Because when we do that, as I did here, rather than glorifying Him, we use him to validate our political beliefs. And that's not prophecy. That's pandering.

Congratulations to Ray Nagin for missing that lesson too.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Legacy of King--On Hold

I meant to release this Monday, but the topic I was dealing with was so huge, that it mattered more to get it right than to release it on Monday.

Today we mark the birth date of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a great civil rights leader who fought the racial injustice that plagued the United States from its founding until the late 1960s. Dr. King, by his life and death, made our country a much, much better place in very substantial ways.

The ending of segregation as the prevailing law, and the instilling of the unfortunately novel idea that people are pretty much all the same, even if some come from Africa and others from Europe was a wake up call for a nation that has sought freedom. America is by no means perfect, and slavery and segregation are two of the best examples that America remains a work in progress. A good work to be certain, but one that, like anything else needs its moral clock reset in big and small ways from time to time. The Civil War taught us that there was an unbelievable cost to mistreating one's own brothers. And so did King's revolution a century later, teaching lessons that should have been second nature.

And while we celebrate the work of King for which he gave his life, we also need to look at the very positive work he did, which appears to have stopped with his death in 1968.

King's movement was not one of static objectives, but one of incremental advancement; encouraging change in law, hearts and minds, and thereby a change in the entire way our nation and the world viewed racial differences. In other words, the movement relied on the assumption that blacks would retain the same energy they had in the 1960s to become equal participants in society, law and the economy on the same terms as everyone else. But the problems start from the top down.

King would likely not recognize the successor to his civil rights movement that exists today and certainly would not accept it as the fulfillment of his vision. Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, Charles Ogletree, Cornell West, Julian Bond, Kweisi Mfume, Louis Farakahn, and the Congressional Black Caucus have taken over. Leadership by example became replaced by self-appointed "black leaders" who leave no moral example to follow. Moral authority and nonviolence have been replaced by unintellectual demagoguery and belligerence, whereby the term "racist" has become a tired trope that has come to be understood to mean anyone/thing who will not give these opportunists whatever they want or who disagrees with them in the slightest. They have become the enablers of violent crime, forgiving the crime (if the criminal is black) and blaming society, or even the victim for the perpetrator's actions, casting it as the perp's understandable reaction to racial (meaning economic) injustice.

And further divorcing themselves from Dr. King, today's "black leaders," rather than discouraging violence, have instead concocted from their intellectual cesspool, the uniquely immoral distinction of "black on black" violence. I really do not know which angle from which I should first attack this misbegotten idea, but I'll give this a shot: Is there anything wrong with advocating the stopping of all violence...or are we just concerned about "black on black" violence? The use of such an exclusive term in such a serious moral argument implies that the races of the persons involved in violent crime affects the significance of the crime. So if the perp is white and the victim is white, is that more, less or of similar seriousness? How about if the victim is black and the perp white or vice versa? I somehow think that those who coined this irresponsible line of thought will deny what I argue, but the very act of inventing it signifies racist thought. Worse yet, it implies that "black on black" violence has anything to do with race.

Because the very idea of "black on black" violence presumes that the violence itself is the problem, rather than the cause that spawns it. Certainly we can use the easy excuse of economic disparity to explain the high rate of crime in urban society, but class warfare has done nothing to ameliorate any of the problems of blacks in the inner city. And it also ignores history.

New York City was the place of origin for both sides of my family: poor people of disfavored ethnicities who were treated like junk simply because of their alienage. But they were hard working people who knew that work is a good thing and that good hard work is eventually rewarded, regardless of your parentage or epidermis. No violence, just employment. As a corollary, I will concede that economics plays a role in certain crimes, but I will not concede a link to poverty. I will however, permit a link to greed, which knows no class boundaries. Enron, Arthur Andersen, Martha Stewart, the current Abramoff scandal, and just about any other white collar crime story involve people who don't need the money. And I would wager that white collar criminals have spirited off more money and assets in the 20th century than in all blue collar criminal acts combined throughout the history of humanity.

So excluding economics as a factor, we are left with people who have moral and structural impediments and disincentives to success. First, Dr. King never imagined that the people for whom he was advocating would settle for a life of dependence on the state. And I would submit that the greatest economic disservice that has ever been done to blacks was to tell them that they would to better to live off of a stipend from the state than by a job that pays them for work done. King would likely have railed against an attitude of economic defeatism where people are relegated to a proletarian status by government officials whom they continue to elect to office who continue to advocate policies of depression and dependence. But one does not get far in employment, equal-opportunity or not, without an education. And it seems, again, that the people in the cities are, out of habit, uncritically electing individuals who subordinate their interests to those wealthy of campaign contributors.

The teachers unions have done more damage to inner city black youth than just about any other group. And the debate over school vouchers and educational standards ought to be a very sobering benchmark as to how callous we have become, when teachers' tenure and seniority take precedence over a child's right to learn to read and have a meaningful education that prepares him for college and the real world. But schools that fail students by failing to educate them are a fact of life in the inner cities, and the fact that same is accepted as a norm is criminal. And the fact that the teachers' unions can argue their members' interests over those of the next generation is grotesque, proving that these people are devoid of any concern for humankind.

And let us not forget what passes for "the arts." Video games like Grand Theft Auto which glorify and reward acts of violence, and "music" which involves people yelling rather than singing, uttering curses and street slang advocating violence, drug use, sex and misogyny. And the fact that the people who make this trash make millions influencing the minds of these youths reflects yet another departure from the ways of King--violence as recreation. Shovelling this worthless and senseless filth on young people for profit is no different than dealing drugs to them.

And while we are on the subject of violence and drugs, gang life is another metasasis of the culture of immorality that festers in an inner city. Illegitimacy and the absence of parents intimately involved with and participating in their children's upbringing has in no small way given rise to the prevalence of gangs. Young people who want a sense of belonging look to gangs when they can't get it from family. And from gangs come other things that are very seductive to adolescent minds. Access to financial resources through the drug trade, and power, through the enforcement of drug territories by the use of firearms in an urban war for economic access. But it is the very rush which they sought that is destroying them either by getting them thrown in jail, or by the more direct means of being killed in violence.

And all of this is largely viewed as a fact of life. Which tells me that King's legacy may be on hold, as the self-appointed standard bearers of civil rights seem to be doing nothing about it--other than blaming the people who are trying to do something about it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

How Dare You!

Now that the inquiries into the racist attitudes and bigoted thoughts of Judge Samuel Alito (in another era called "confirmation hearings") are mercifully over, the besty way to describe their tone is "How Dare You!"

Certainly a well-deserved "how dare you" can be leveled at the Democrats for their singularly inexcusable behavior towards a man whose record is impeccable, whom the ABA finds to be highly qualified for the job for which he was nominated, but who had the misfortune of being nominated by a President whom the Democrats hate with a self-destructive passion unseen in modern politics. How dare they make his wife cry, which will be the defining visual moment of the event, showing the cruel length to which the Democrats are willing to go in order to subordinate judicial fitness, to judicial reliability.

But rebukes for bad behavior aside, it is rather the Democrats who could very appropriately issue a "How Dare You!" from their own lips.

And that admonition could very properly be the title to their playbook for these hearings. How dare you accept a nomination to be on the Supreme Court! How dare you question abortion! How dare you approve restrictions on abortion! How dare you fail to pledge to uphold abortion!How dare you associate yourself with Bush! How dare you, Mr. President, work to leave us in the minority! How dare you, try to shift the balance of the Supreme Court--the only hope we have at changing the law! How dare you appoint someone like John Roberts whom we couldn't touch! How dare you appoint another creepy originalist conservative! How dare you win re-election! How dare you whittle down our numbers in the Senate in two successive elections! How dare you not roll over and let Al Gore steal the election in 2000!

Is any of this becoming clearer? These hearings were the Democrats' means of unconsciously confirming that their relevancy is in jeopardy as a national party. As ineffective as as their attacks were on Alito, they wasted quite a bit of political capital in prosecuting their assault with a series of accusations that were predictable, petty, and far-fetched. And unfortunately for the Democrats, it was abundantly clear that their opposition to Judge Alito had nothing to do with his qualifications, but only with the politics of their special interest financiers, most specifically the abortion and race industry lobbies.

That the Democrats will seek to label any Republican appointee a racist or some other form of bigot should by now be a forgone conclusion. But objecting to character witnesses on the basis that they are colleagues whose testimony may later sway Justice Alito when he reviews opinions of theirs on appeal is the pinnacle of desperation. Which means that the only appropriate character witnesses would be members of the ACLU, Larry Tribe, NARAL members, and some waitress he shorted on a tip last year.

So if anyone thinks that the Democrats sought to test this judge's fitness in these hearings, they are sorely mistaken. When the hearings are more about the Senators themselves than the nominee in question, the hearing has little function. He knows enough about the law and has the experience and temperament to be confirmed.

But tell that to these unscrupulous party who spent a week asking America to sympathize with them and to be angry that their birthright--majority control--has been stripped from their hands by a bunch of voters with the audacity to make their own choices.

And how dare they!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

For Whom Does the New York Times Work?

Notwithstanding my prior post, Ted Kennedy has proven, even to the most blind, that he cares nothing about the facts or about Judge Sam Alito's fitness to serve on the Supreme Court, but only the impressions that he can potentially create in order to harm the nomination.

Yesterday's display between Kennedy and the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Arlen Specter, where the former demanded that they go into an executive session to decide whether to issue subpoenas for the Concerned Alumni for Princeton documents at the Library of Congress, indicates that Kennedy either knows nothing about what his staff is doing, nor what the New York Times reviewed (meaning that he is an idiot), or more likely, he realizes what a disaster his opposition is becoming for him, and needed to add some false drama for the national audience to get some gasps that never took place. He's trying to do as Harry Reid did when he put the Senate into a closed session last fall.

Both the Judiciary Committee Staffers and David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reviewed the documents and found no mention of Alito at all. (H.T. Confirm Them).

If the New York Times had found anything related to Alito, it would have been instantly splattered across the front page for weeks as evidence that Alito was a racist, sexist pig, leaving the Administration to clean up the mess. Of course, the Committee staff would have reported anything to the Senators.

So while Kennedy can recall silly letters that he sent to Arlen Specter and their replies, he misses the big point, which is that despite his posturing and demagoguery, if the documents said anything, both the NYT and the staff would have picked it up.

Brilliant.

Are The Dems Alito's Biggest Allies?

If Ted Kennedy, Pat Leahy or Dick Durbin had any intelligence whatsoever, they would be following the lead of Chuck Schumer. Schumer picks his battles and keeps his questions above a third grade intellectual level. He has asked Alito in a very reasoned manner to describe his views on abortion and how they would play into any decision on abortion, as well as the legal efficacy of Roe v. Wade. Granted, I think it is a major weakness for the Dems to be consistent defenders of abortion, but it is worse, by several orders of magnitude, for them to be nitpicking Alito on anything that they can find. And it seems that they have forgotten the first rule of personal attacks: If you are going to be throwing excrement, you inevitably will get some of it on you.

And the fairly mean level of discourse created by the Democrats was evidenced by this. When Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had his turn with Alito, Graham asked Alito if he was a bigot. Then Graham mentioned the long list of people from across the spectrum of politics and race who feel that Alito is a fair and kind man, then apologized for the truly inexcusable mistreatment he faced from some of the more obnoxious members of the committee. His wife began to cry at that moment and then excused herself from the room.

For anyone who saw the tape, it was moving. She said nothing, but the reaction to the kind words from Graham underscored the really base nature of the behavior of the leftists on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If you make a decent man's wife cry because of your bad behavior, it's you, the accuser who looks bad. Not the accused. Such is evidence of the truth of the aforementioned rule.

But if you want to know what the Dems think of their success in this creepy enterprise, all eyes need to be on Schumer.

Chuck Schumer, whatever one may think of him is probably the smartest (and thereby most effective) member of the Senate Democratic caucus. Ted Kennedy may be a longstanding member of the Senate and may get a good deal of media attention, but he really has become a caricature outside Washington and Hyannis Port. Schumer's attacks (if they can be called that at all), were directed at Alito the judge and Alito the lawyer, not Alito the man. But realizing that his efforts really aren't getting his cause anywhere, Schumer is likely saving the real fight for another day. Sure, he'll vote against Alito with the rest of his dishonest caucus, but he's probably not going to go digging for anything more, and certainly will stay away from the character assassination. And in that vein, there is something particularly ironic about people like Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy giving moral lectures and attacking another person's character by turning irrelevant details into an opportunity to demonize him.

But there are already huge signs that the Democrats' smear effort is imperiled. The only thing they are using to hit him are views on abortion expressed 20 years ago, membership in a group of Princeton alumni who opposed using racial and other quotas in admission to the University, his refusal to recuse himself from a case that involved an investment house where he had money, and the fact that while he concurred with the majority in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case (upholding 3 of 4 state-imposed abortion preconditions), he had the audacity to dissent in part, arguing that the state had the power to require the fourth precondition--the last issue being the chief basis for the abortion demagoguery.

But the problem is the fact that the Dems are in the details (pun intended), which brings us to the next rule: people don't care about the details. If it came out that he was a klansman, a drunk driver who killed someone, a plagiarist, or someone who smeared our troops in time of war for partisan gain, that would be a matter of significant concern to the public, and would bring into question his fitness not just to serve on the Supreme Court, but in any public office at all. But as it is, people generally regard strung-together petty accusations as nothing more than, well, strung-together petty accusations...irrelevant things blown out of proportion in an effort to undeservedly slime an otherwise decent and upstanding individual for partisan purposes.

But the net effect is to make Alito appear to be cleaner and more fir than he appeared before he went into the hearings. Which raises the final question as to whether it was the Democrats and not the Republicans or the Administration who did a more effective job in demonstrating Alito's fitness for the Supreme Court by failing to raise anything but the most ridiculous of concerns.

ADDENDUM

RealClearPolitics zeroes in on the really very funny issue that I mention above about certain Democrats giving lectures about morality and ethics to Sam Alito, by noting that many of them could not survive their own standards. But they remain in office for different reasons. Dianne Feinstein (whom I generally respect despite the fact that she is a flaming liberal) is elected by the same gang that sends barely functional Barbara Boxer to the Senate. Ted Kennedy is elected by the kind of people who would send, well...Ted Kennedy...to the Senate. And John Kerry. Pat Leahy comes from a state that elects a Representative at Large, Bernie Sanders, who is a Socialist independent, and who elected the one-lace-short-of-a-straight-jacket governor, now DNC chair, Howard Dean. Schumer comes from the same state that sends Hillary Clinton to the Senate. And Durbin's voters are the same who elected the corrupt Governor George Ryan, whose last official act was to commute the sentences of all Illinois death row inmates, probably knowing that he'd need some friends on the inside after he was sent to prison.

Remember, if you fail to vote against these people's opponents, you are just as responsible as those who voted the louts in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Russell Tice--Making America Just a Little Less Safe

Per this ABC News report, Russell Tice, a former NSA employee, is one of the people who took the law into his own hands and leaked the anti-terrorist wiretapping activities of the Administration to the New York Times. In so doing, he certainly tipped off terrorists as to the means being used to track them. Likewise, he left us without the secret use of the program. And he did it because he was playing armchair lawyer.

I previously blogged about this, suggesting that the best avenue is to make the problem known within the agency, and then simply to resign, making note of such objections in a resignation letter. Of course, one could follow up, as Tice most recently did, by contacting the chairmen of the Congressional committees overseeing the NSA, and stating that he had concerns that needed addressing, without listing them. And after receiving various assurances that he would only be speaking to people with appropriate security clearances, he could then get into the specifics. That's what a responsible "whistleblower" does when dealing with state secrets.

They don't go to the media and then hide out for over a year. And this whole notion of being a "whistleblower" needs to be debunked. Whistleblowers can save lives. They can put bad guys out of power and in jail. They can stop corruption. And it takes a lot of guts to do that. But in this case, the term is being used as a false rhetorical shield, much like the way that John Kerry and Max Cleland complained that their patriotism was being questioned, when it was really their judgment that was at issue. Indeed, Tice may be a whistleblower, but he may likewise be a traitor. And the criminal nature of what he has done cannot be ignored, especially when there existed a means--the Congressional oversight committees, offices of inspectors general, and the Justice Department, among others--to have such concerns aired while maintaining complete secrecy.

And while the NYT leak was bad enough, the ABC interview is several degrees worse, as a person who wants to retain the clean image of a whistleblower ought to avoid media contact until the matters are resolved, and to the extent that they do not involve classified information.

Which is why I don't consider the guy a hero. He has compromised national security, is making a public name for himself for doing so, all before he actually reports his very specific concerns to the Congress, which at this point, is just a formality to him.

But what I find most interesting is his remarkably cavalier attitude regarding his unauthorized disclosure of classified information, and the relationship between the abuses he alleges and the information he has released. The ABC article lists how the information is gathered, how it is analyzed, and the results of that analysis. But that's what they would have been doing to people whose wiretapping was approved by the FISA court too. So what does that have to do with his concern about "illegal wiretapping?" Or is this person just gratuitously releasing sensitive information to impress his new fans in the media?

He states that his conscience is clear so long as he does not release classified information. But his confusion regarding Constitutional law, apparently extends to his understanding of his responsibilities with state secrets. I cannot imagine the matters revealed in the linked article are not classified, leaving me to wonder whether there is there any other classified material about the program left to leak?

Whatever claims are made about his psychiatric problems, Russell Tice has much for which he must answer. He cannot hide behind the "whistleblower" label to insulate himself from prosecution. There is nothing wrong with whistleblowing, but everything wrong with the way that Tice did it. For his own personal sake, he made America less safe.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

When they Praise O'Connor...

...they mean that she's the lesser of two evils, and that they prefer anyone to Alito. Or else they reveal that they're stupid. Stuart Taylor offers this piece which chronicles the decisions of O'Connor to which the left might take exception.

I wonder if she would be so highly praised if she was a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge nominated for the Supreme Court with this record.

What We Learned About Alito From Day One

Answer: Nothing.

But we learned plenty (albeit nothing new) about the Senators who made their little political speeches. We heard the traditional twaddle from the Dems. Ted Kennedy did an excellent job of underscoring why judicial activism is such a problem, by explaining what he expects from any Supreme Court Justice (courtesy, RCP). He wants predictable results, meaning that Alito needs to balance his percentage of verdicts between people of different races, to give the impression of "fairness". But such "fairness" is patently unfair, as it looks to political ideology and not law--the only thing our society offers us to determine how we ought to behave--to determine outcomes. Kennedy wants the rules on the field, and even the shape of the field itself to change to meet his political views. But that's fiat, and not justice. Skin color, alienage, religion, economic status, gender, sexual orientation and even political affiliation are the only proper considerations in Kennedy's ideal courtroom. Justice indeed.

The Republicans said their peace as well, but I found the remarks of Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in particular to be particularly appropriate in addressing the nature of the dispute over judicial nominations:
The question is why, with so many people from both sides of the aisle and across the ideological spectrum supporting your nomination, are liberal special interest groups and their allies devoting so much time and money to defeat your nomination? The answer, I'm afraid, is that there are a number of groups that do not want honest and fair-minded judges on the Supreme Court. Rather, they want judges who will impose their liberal agenda on the American people. These views are so liberal, of course that they cannot prevail at the ballot box.
Very hard to lay it out more clearly. The electorate doesn't support the left's agenda because it conflicts with their values, the left doesn't care because they believe they know better than Americans what is best for them, and so they will use any means possible to enact their policies, even if it means violating the Constitution's very clear intent that the Congress be the only lawmaker.

The net of these hearings will be that about 22 votes will be against Alito no matter what he says. He'll probably scoot through with a vote just a little under 60. But not before a filibuster is either broken, or more likely defeated by a rule change. Of course, they may choose to abandon one before a rule change vote, but same would be seen as nothing short of an admission of stupidity and a display in flaccidity. Whatever the case, the Democrats lose.

If they fail to filibuster, their financiers and base will be enraged at them, and demoralized just in time for an election year to begin. If they pull out all the stops, they lose the filibuster power against judicial nominations--a power which does not make the kitchen table of most Americans.
This nomination could not have come at a better time.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Bush Economy

The media won't credit Bush with this, but it's worth a note.

The Bush Economy

The media won't credit Bush with this, but it's worth a note.

The Dems Drop the F-Bomb on Alito

We knew it was going to happen. As surely as the sun rises, we knew the Dems were at some point going to mention a filibuster.

This time, Dianne Feinstein drops the bomb. And she dropped it in relation to the abortion issue. Do we really need any further evidence that the Democrats are the Abortion Party, and that they will defend nothing more than Roe v. Wade (as no Constitutional text sanctions abortion), and will do whatever it takes, no matter who it hurts, to defend that procedure which they hold as sacrosanct.

Congratulations to the leftist Dems. They've really sank to that level.

But never fear. If they use that power, they will indeed lose it on a "nuclear" vote.

Getting a Favor for the Alito Hearings

If you like a political bloodbath like I do, the hearings to smear (or possibly confirm) Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court will be a delight.

Alito has already hinted that he will give as good as he gets from the Democratic members of the Committee if he is the victim of an unfair attack.

And just to get a flavor for what he has coming, RealClearPolitics posted the opening remarks of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). I have long said that Schumer is an effective (if not the most effective) member of his caucus because he is intelligent, diplomatic, and reserved. If Democrats want to be the party of the far left--as they are now--they need to take a hint from Schumer, not the intellectual midget, Barbara Boxer.

But read Schumer's commentary carefully. He makes the Supreme Court sound like an oligarchy--they make the kitchen table decisions that affect us. But the last time I checked, Article I of the Constitution covers the making of the laws, and vests that in the Congress--of which Schumer is a member. So I find his reasoning hopelessly flawed in that respect, and same is a reason why one needs to watch out for the left. Courts can't make laws. But the left wants it that way, as their agenda cannot be put into law by any other means. Of course, he later adds this bit of wisdom that was worth a guffaw:
[T]he Court is not a legislature – free to substitute its own judgment for
that of the elected bodies; and the people are not subjects – powerless to
control their own most intimate decisions.

From the Senator who wants the courts to find an abortion right that is nowhere found in the Constitution. I think what he means is that the Court cannot substitute judgment when the result is what Schumer would perceive as right-of-center.

So if anyone thinks that this will be a hearing about Alito's fitness, they are sorely mistaken and will be disappointed. This will be the minority party's opportunity to demagogue their voluminougrievanceses with the Administration and with mainstream voters in general by raising the issues of wiretapping as big brother, abortion as a sacred right, gun control (apart from the pesky wording of the Second Amendment), gay rights as the new civil rights, racial preferences, Bush v. Gore and "voting rights" (meaning the right to add spoiled ballots whenever the election is close and the Democrat is behind), and just about every other item on their agenda. And Alito's failure to endorse (or address for that matter) every aspect of their socialist-secularist platform will be the basis by which they will claim that he is an extremist.

Which brings us back to the whole matter of ideology. This is about political reliability, and not professional fitness. Otherwise, Schumer's statement would not have mentioned "balance" and the importance of maintaining it.

The first shots are flying as I write. Enjoy!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Bush Wishes Death Upon Hugo Chavez

Do I have your attention? Actually, no, but imagine the outcry if he did. The re-elected president of the world's leading democracy wishing death upon a human rights violating dictator who stole an election with Jimmy Carter applauding all the way. The media would play it as a disgrace.

But instead it was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Howard Dean of Iran, who made the exact same wish regarding Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who may indeed be headed in that direction.

The most eerie part about his comments was his addition that he hopes others go with him. For a man whose nation is actively seeking to make nuclear weapons and who has already stated that he wants Israel wiped off the map, such remarks are more than just bluster. Which is why the world community needs to take this man much more seriously than they are. Granted, the new German government under Angela Merkel is taking Ahmadinejad's earlier comments very seriously, but more needs to be done.

Ahmadinejad is a terrorist. He was one of the many who held Americans hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981 while Jimmy Carter (whose name strangely seems to come up in discussions of U.S. foreign policy flaccidity) pleaded for their return. And he is increasingly threatened by the shape that Iraq is taking, which is much more attractive to his very well educated and pro-democracy population. So when Ahmadinejad makes these kinds of comments, it ought to scare people. Because once he has a nuclear device, all he will need is the national equivalent of a slingshot and a long fuse to reach Tel Aviv.

And in all reality, his remarks may actually be provocative. The Israelis didn't hesitate to level the nuclear plant at Osirak, Iraq in 1981, because they knew what horrors would be borne out of it. Likewise, I doubt that they will stand for a nuclear-armed Iran under Ahmadinejad (or anyone else for that matter), because Israel isn't known for its dithering when it comes to its own security. It doesn't live an ocean away from its enemies.

So he may have actually wished the same fate upon himself as he did to Sharon. Funny how that works.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Two Axioms on Hate

Hate clouds judgment. I'll offer that as an axiom.

So in that regard, the left is lost in a cloud of venom and flying excrement when it comes to any effort they make to link anything (good or bad) to the Bush Administration. To wit, this.

The charge is really so insane as to not even be worthy of defense. But Tom Bevan's point was not to argue the really inane charges that Bush caused the mining tragedy, but to show that suspicion, not facts are grist for the mill of the left's message (if it can be called a message). It shows that the left has lost credibility.

And it's the same reason why people find Howard Dean, Al Gore, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, Maureen Dowd, Cindy Sheehan and the like to lack any degree of credibility.

Likewise, it is why people like Joe Lieberman, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Richard Cohen, Bob Beckel, and Alan Colmes are treated as mainstream liberals and reasonable people. Because while many of this latter group may hold many of the same ideas as those in the former group, they have a measure of restraint, and by any reasonable estimation, are more intelligent, and know why they believe what they do. In all fairness, I find those reasons to be hogwash for the most part, but the point is that these people are thinkers rather than angry screamers.

So in that regard, hate is the fool's replacement for and the antithesis of wisdom, just as demagoguery is the same for reason. There's your second axiom.

The left needs to absorb both of those rules in order obtain any degree of respect. But if they did that, would they still be leftists?

Getting Sirius about Fox, Part II

I blogged Wednesday about the relationship between Sirius Satellite Radio and Fox News Channel. My initial inquiries to Sirius (to whom I currently subscribe) were met with unsatisfactory results. So, being the diligent troublemaker that I am, I contacted both Fox and Sirius again yesterday, continuing to probe.

Fox has a recording when you call their corporate offices which states that their contract with Sirius expired on January 1, 2006. The recording directed callers to contact Sirius's customer relations line and ask that Sirius renew the contract with Fox. So, trying again with Sirius, I got a more helpful person on the line. She confirmed the information on the Fox recording, and stated that they are still in negotiations. When I asked what "in negotiations" meant as far as a timeframe, she indicated that they are trying to resolve something by Friday. When asked why CNN took over the Fox spot on the Sirius channel lineup, they said that they needed something to fill that channel.

Wanting a bit more specific information, I e-mailed their media relations people, and received an auto-reply that directed me to call another person, as their head contact was away until Monday. I called and left a message. Then I received a response to my e-mail, asking if I was media or a subscriber. Identifying myself as a blogger and a subscriber, I renewed my question, and again this morning with no response.

And Sirius is still not carrying Fox as of this morning. But never fear, as they are adding a Playboy Channel, which many will tune in to listen for the interviews.

I don't want to read more into this than there is, but if this were a simple matter of contracts and dollars and cents, I don't think Sirius would be so cryptic about it. And allowing a contract to lapse without any kind of interim extension is odd, especially when it involves the top cable news network. As I explained to numerous Sirius representatives this week, I would not have selected them if they didn't have Fox News Channel. And despite the remarks of the Sirius customer service rep, I can't imagine that Sirius replaced Fox's channel with a CNN channel on a temporary basis, as such things are almost certainly also governed by contract.

My only guess is that Fox is gone. The problem for Sirius is that I'll be joining them. It can't survive as the Stern-only satellite radio, and while listening to Hugh Hefner's musings on the benefits of pornography will be a great thing to have the kids listen to as well, Sirius may have made a significant miscalculation about the diversity of their listeners. Because the network of Eason Jordan just doesn't cut it for the news anymore.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Cultivating Heartbreak

I am really torn about this post. I am dismayed about the events of last night in Tallmansville, WV, where 12 miners were reported to be alive and well, and then three hours later confirmed to be dead.

My wife and I were up at midnight when the news came in and we were delighted. My heart leapt at watching the people praise the name of Jesus and thank him for the believed deliverance, only to wake up to hear that 12 of the 13 had died and that the initial reports were wrong. Someone jumped the gun, didn't have their facts straight, and blabbed.

But what really got me was this (H.T. Drudge). The mining company knew within 20 minutes that the reports of survival were horribly incorrect. But they waited another 2 1/2 hours before breaking the news...a whole 2 1/2 hours to get worked up, to plan for celebrations, and to spend all of their emotional energy on a piece of fiction. Their explanation was that they wanted to get all of the correct information before going to the families. But I find that explanation to be entirely stupid.

It reflects the same incompetence with which the corporate officials maintained the mine (again, Drudge). The wisest solution would have been to throttle the fool who called the church, then to immediately contact the families to state that that report was not only unconfirmed, but that it was possibly incorrect. From there, they could confirm what they needed to, and then report the grim news that the families would already have prepared themselves to hear. They would have been spared the false hope and short-lived joy.

They didn't mean to hurt the families just like they didn't mean to leave these miners ill-equipped and unsafe for the disaster that took their lives. But because of their abject stupidity, both happened. A tragedy.

We mourn with you, Tallmansville.

Murtha Crosses The Line--Again

RealClearPolitics has a series of links regarding Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) latest comments that he would not join the military today and would discourage others from doing so because he disagrees with the Iraq War. But per the RCP post, the people who are actually in the military have an overwhelmingly different opinion.

Murtha's military service record is indeed admirable, but it now stands apart from this series of events. He began this string of increasingly outrageous comments in November as part of the Democrats' efforts to block the President's PR offensive on Iraq and the war on terror. It is one thing to disagree with the Iraq war, to question it, to be fairly critical of its execution, and to hold the Administration to account for errors. But it is unethical and yes, unpatriotic to say the kind of things that are designed to discourage people serving overseas and people who might join up, thus hampering an ongoing military effort--if that is Murtha's intention.

Calling for an immediate pullout of our forces in Iraq, as he did in November (his call for a complete abandonment of the Iraqi people and absence in that country within 6 months of November would mean that the pullout would have had to have begun by November or earlier) was irresponsible and reflected a less than informed opinion on Iraq and the war on terror in general. Then he proceeded to say that our military was "worn out". Now this. The totality of it all leaves the impression that Murtha wants us to fail.

Above, I made mention of this behavior as "unpatriotic". I just want to make it clear that I wasn't dropping a charge carelessly. And I am not saying that he is anti-American. But he has allowed uninformed emotion and partisan confusion to cloud his judgment. And he has certainly opened himself to the accusation (fair or not) that he is unpatriotic.

It would be one thing if Michael Moore was right, or, against all reasonable intelligence estimates, Bush invaded Iraq. But even then, it would only be proper to hammer the Administration (which the Democrats are doing anyway), all the while applauding our troops for their loyal service. We'll pull them out and then deal with the unethical politician appropriately.

But given that none of those factors are true, this remains little more than a policy debate and an entirely fair difference of opinion regarding the war on terror which ought to be continually discussed.

So what is Murtha's problem? As I said above, I don't believe that he is anti-American or unpatriotic, but I also don't believe that he understands the gravity of the things he is advocating and how their seriouness is magnified by the power of the office he holds. If he does, of course, that is a very different matter. And if one uses an attack on the American military's morale as a policy tool to cause them to be unsuccessful against an enemy in time of war in order to score a partisan victory, that person is indeed unpatriotic.

But from the evidence I have, I believe he wants what is best, but does not have facts sufficient to support his conclusion. Further, I don't think that he is open to hearing the realities because, based upon the fairly emotional presence he has made on this issue, he has his mind made up in true Denothir fashion that failure is imminent. And any further comments from him on this issue need to be viewed in that light.

It's probably just a function of the company he keeps in the House Democratic cloakroom.

Sirius Needs to Get Serious about Fox

Satellite radio truly is the bomb. But not when it doesn't carry what you want. I began a subscription to Sirius last fall, and enjoyed it immensely, chiefly the 80s station and related stuff, as well as Fox News Channel.

But now Sirius has pulled Fox in favor of CNN. My calls to Sirius this morning indicate that they are still in negotiations with Fox, but aren't certain if they'll return to Sirius.

And given that I chose Sirius for a few reasons, but chiefly because they carried Fox, Sirius may not be in the air on my car for much longer. And given that the channel for Fox is now carrying CNN, I can't but imagine that Fox's days are over on Sirius.

On the other hand, XM is carrying not just Fox News, but Fox Radio. I encourage all Sirius subscribers, to contact Sirius to make their concerns known. Because they can't afford even a tiny little loss of listeners with Howard Stern's bill of $100 million per year.

Adios Sirius.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Clelanding the Dems

There was no more bitter and less effective shill for John Kerry in 2004 on the national security issue than former Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). Cleland is a Vietnam veteran who got both legs and his right arm blown off in an accident with some ordinance in the war. He served his nation well, and was terribly injured. And excellent resume, but it does not forgive all wrongs.

In 2002, Cleland sided with Dems who wanted to subordinate the Department of Homeland Security's need to appropriately hire and dismiss employees to the rights of unionized federal workers (a group for whom there exists only the most limited appeal among Americans) to remain employed regardless of a lack of competence or diligence. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) ran against him, questioned his judgment and in the biggest upset of 2002, beat Cleland.

But to the Dems, it wasn't judgment, but rather Cleland's patriotism that was questioned. You see, Democrats with war records are entitled to a special degree of deference, and questioning their actions is cast as a pernicious questioning of their record of service to their nation. A very cute and transparent act of demagoguery.

So in an effort to embarrass the President in 2004, the perceived bad treatment of Cleland was used as the excuse for Theresa Heinz Kerry's dropping her Republican affiliation. Cleland took a letter to Bush's ranch to demand that he call off the Swift Boat Veterans over whom Bush had no control, and he made a fairly pitiful appearance at the Democratic National Convention. And it was clear why they trotted this man out. They wanted it to seem that the Republicans were being cruel to a man in a wheelchair. But none of it stuck. Nobody knew or cared who Max Cleland was--except people who may share his fate.

And in one report (courtesy RealClearPolitics.com), one Republican staffer intends to post pictures of Max Cleland about the Capitol to remind errant Dems, especially those looking at reelection bids this year, that they may share their former colleague's fate.

But look at it this way, they have their opportunity to be the bitter shills for Hillary Clinton in 2008!

The NYT's Cooperation With the Bush Administration

The wiretap story is the biggest non-issue of a story that the media could ever have trumped up. But what gets me is the pervasive impression that the Democrats' primary voice, the New York Times, sat on the story because the Administration asked them to do so on the eve of a very close election.

If America were made up of ACLU lawyers, it would indeed have been a huge issue, an October surprise of massive proportions that would have sunk his reelection bid for certain. But then again, an America with an ACLU vision would not be America at all, but rather an absorbed ally of the still strong Soviet Union. But the left is not so blessed. America is made up of much more plain and happier folk who go to work every day, want to provide for themselves and their kids, and generally enjoy life, rather than basking in the misery and disappointment that characterize the elite left's search for significance.

And I think that the Times' decision to hold a story at the request of the Bush Administration is akin to their sitting on reports that Osama bin Laden had been captured or killed in the days before the election, or a report that John Kerry had received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy for meeting with the North Vietnamese in Paris while still an officer. The reasons are simple--John Kerry was a terrible candidate and would have butchered the issue, which no matter how spun by the left, works well for Bush.

Kerry was and remains a dissembler. He would have argued the legal nuances of the program, and his viewpoint would have been completely incomprehensible, which would have been a significant minus for him. Americans don't like terrorists. And many of them are wondering where the Democrats stand on the issue. After the 1970s and 1980s, they saw the Democrats as soft on the Soviets, and now are wondering if sympathy exists for the kind of people who fly planes into our buildings and long to destroy our civilization. So any response to terror fighting efforts short of, "yeah, get those creeps" will doom a national candidate. On the flip side, releasing the story would have shown that Bush was in control of the terror war, giving America's enemies no quarter. It would have further sharpened the focus of the election into fighting terror and national security--a guaranteed loser of an issue for Kerry.

Releasing the story just after the election would have been equally dumb, and would have likely fallen flat. Folks would have asked (and should ask now) how important an issue the Times really thought it was if they waited till after the election to air it, when they had nothing to lose by doing it. A manufactured non-story with a side of sour grapes. But the NYT waited, being content to raise it under the cover of a faux concern about Americans' civil liberties being threatened. It was also conveniently released as the President's poll numbers were rising in response to his defense of the Iraq war and the global war on terror.

But in all fairness to the Times, we ought to evaluate the matter with the same seriousness that it did. It sat on the story for over a year, intending to use it at an opportunity when it could cause the most damage for the President. And if the NYT sees this story as less of a concern about American's civil liberties and more of just another pawn in a game of politics, we ought to do the same.

Predix for 2006

Time for the 2006 things to watch for. Here are my predictions:

First, the shockers:

1. The left and the media will shock America by going so far as to paint Samuel Alito as "extreme".

2. Ted Kennedy will vote against Alito.

3. The Democrats and, yes, the media will latch onto the wiretap issue and try to use it to make trouble for the president, asking questions about how safe our civil liberties are.

4. The Dems will use item #3 as an excuse to derail the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

5. The 2006 midterm election will involve Republicans questioning the judgment of various Democrats running for reelection to the Senate and other offices when it comes to matters of national security. The Democrats, in a stunning turn of events, will spin the Republicans' tactic as a cruel mistreatment and questioning of their patriotism.

6. If there is a close election this November, the Dems will contest it.

Ok, enough of picking on the Democrats and the left. I could do it all day.

But here are the top things I expect for 2006:

1. We will indeed be able to draw out troops from Iraq, and will manage to do it successfully. In keeping with that, the Iraqis will show the world that they are with the program, and their fully prepared military divisions will be able to successfully lead attacks on the anti-Iraqi forces.

2. Samuel Alito will be confirmed to fill the seat of Sandra Day O'Connor, and in keeping with the PR comeback begun last year, the White House will wage a very successful campaign to confirm him. Having said that, at least one filibuster vote is likely a given.

3. Economic conditions in New Orleans will not improve. Many of the most industrious folks will have picked up and set up shop elsewhere in the nation, leaving many welfare dependent folks to return to not very much. Also, the departure of Entergy will be the beginning of other major corporate departures, leaving the city as half of what it was.

4. The hurricane season will be yet another miserable one.

5. Gas prices will remain high until the Iraqi oil fields can supply a reliable flow of crude oil. Despite any of that, efforts to get domestic drilling in ANWR will continue to get close to passage, but will ultimately fail.

6. The wiretapping issue will (surprise) be a basis for Democratic calls for impeachment of the President. Notwithstanding that, when the realities of what took place become clearer, Democrats will be embarrassed, seeming to have defended terrorists in an election year...just in time for it to be an inescapable impression for voters in November.

7. Hillary Clinton will face absolutely no serious opposition and will be reelected as comfortably as before.

8. Jack Abramoff will be the end of several Republicans in Congress.

9. Tom DeLay will escape Ronnie Earl's charges. But Earle will escape the loss of his license for malicious prosecution.

10: And following up on prediction #1, Our troops won't be going far. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will ratchet up the rhetoric. But more to the point, he will be able to, at the very least, construct an atomic device.