Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Bolton Shakeup--It Seems to Be for Real

Most of the reading I have done about Josh Bolton's appointment as White House Chief of Staff seems to suggest that this is little more than a rearrangement of the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. But per this report, it seems that Bolton is not afraid of meaningful change.

The economy is in excellent shape. With unemployment at 4.8%, but a population that still doesn't believe that the economy is in good shape, (and most economists believe that the minimum possible unemployment level is probably around 3.5%), and the Fed raising interest rates because of concern that the economy might be getting too hot, it seems that were are dealing with a significant inability to communicate successes. And failure to communicate it to a public that is far more fascinated with whomever wins on Survivor, American Idol or whatever easily manufactured game show Hollywood has devised, means that the success didn't happen. So the suggestion that the Treasury Secretary be replaced is not extraordinarily surprising. Note that I said the suggestion, not the actual replacement. I still think replacement is unlikely, although by no means impossible, as Bush's loyalty to his economic team is not as strong as it is to his foreign policy team.

And remarks from Scott McClellan to the effect that Bush loves Treasury Secretary John Snow don't hold much water. And to a degree, I think that McClellan has some vicarious fear when staff shakeups are mentioned, because unlike the nimble Ari Fleischer, he seems unable to do more than simply react to the media, and seems unable to stay above the press room fray. Granted, it was most satisfying to watch McClellan get the best of media brat, David Gregory who threw a tantrum after he was accused of playing to the cameras. But a single moment of satisfaction is no substitute for keeping the President's agenda on front pages, as opposed to responding to the latest media-contrived conspiracy theory.

But most interesting are these disagreeing remarks from McClellan and Bolton being simultaneously broadcast. Very few things leak from this White House, as leaking is regarded as political treason by this White House, and it is even less likely that leaks would disagree, as they value staying on message. So when two conflicting messages come from this White House--one through somewhat unofficial channels-- it lends to the impression that there is more than just a little displeasure among the existing White House staff over Bolton's effort to effect what apparently is perceived within the White House as a revolution. And I think that this is potentially a very positive thing in the long run for the Administration.

Because if the existing staff is expressing some level of discomfort with the ideas of the new Chief of Staff, it indicates that this is probably the shakeup that the Administration has been needing. They won't get grouchy about it if they feel safe in their positions.

And while I have no idea how this will play out, as we are only getting leaks and the story is just a few days old, it seems at the very least that Bolton is about to inject some new energy into an Administration that desperately needs it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sharon's Vision Survives the Election

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Likud party member, now a member of the new Kadima Party formed by Sharon received the apparent mandate that he needed to continue Sharon's vision of a unilateral drawing of Israel's borders. The electoral switch is a bit of a change, reflecting the viability of third parties in Israel, but more than anything reflecting the fact that the patience of the average Israeli are exhausted with the Palestinians.

Bill Clinton spent almost all of his Administration forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down and talk and to work out borders so that a Palestinian state could be formed and coexist with Israel. Israel was always willing to work, but the Palestinians under Yasser Arafat were never really willing to do anything except agree to the extinguishing of the State of Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 conceded to almost every request of the Palestinians, and accepted nothing (as nothing was offered) in return. And in the last days of the Clinton Administration, Arafat indicated that he would not accept the deal, sparking a new wave of terrorist violence against Israeli civilians. Because nothing had changed at all. The Palestinian leadership had never disavowed their intention to destroy the nation of Israel, and fully intended to keep that as the cornerstone of their policies.

But unlike his predecessors, and learning from Arafat's backstabbing, Sharon decided that there was never any real possibility that the Palestinians would negotiate in good faith, that doing so only harmed the people of Israel, and that terror was going to continue, unchecked by the Palestinian Authority. The only option in that case would be to give the Palestinians some land, draw hard borders and free them to do whatever they wanted, free from any influence on Israel. And while the Palestinians will be unhappy with just about any plan conceived by the Israelis, they had their chance to participate in good faith, they failed to take it, and they failed to behave in a manner consistent with peaceful objectives. They blew the numerous opportunities they were offered over twenty years, and in a final signal to the world that they intend to continue on the same irresponsible track, confirmed that they consent to and approve of terror by freely electing Hamas--a terrorist organization--to lead them.

But the choices of the Palestinians leave Olmert with no options. He is obligated to defend his people by excluding a populace that condones and supports the murder of his women and children.

It is comforting to see that the Israeli people are through with the "negotiations" because sometimes good fences do make for good neighbors, as it seems that concrete walls will be the only way to ensure that the Palestinians learn the first thing about civility.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Andy Card Takes One for the Team

Andy Card has chosen to resign. And to be very clear, the only person who is happy about it is probably Mrs. Card, who gets to find out what Andy looks like in the daylight. Andy kept unbelievable hours, from opening up shop at about 5:30 in the morning to leaving around 9-10 at night. But those of us who have been calling for a major shakeup in the Administration are quite glad that the White House now has an opportunity to take control again.

The chief of staff job is a complex one, but in Navy terms, he is the XO (Executive Officer) of the White House. He reports to the President, but everyone else (excluding the Vice-President, of course) reports to him. He sets the drumbeat, and he gets the President's orders done. And for the first four years of the Bush presidency, he was masterful. Bush's White House was a very tight ship. Between successful execution of new tax policy in the first days of the Administration, to the hideous surprise of 9/11 and the war on terror, all the way to the 2004 election victory, Andy Card scored win after win for the President.

But something happened in 2005, and rather than being able to dodge the silliness of the press, the communications apparatus failed, allowing the media to get a little bit of traction as they tried to spin up weekly scandals. Granted, the "scandals" never got anywhere, but they did have the effect of preventing the message from getting out. So while the President was doing what the American people elected him to do, they had no idea about it because endless discussions about Valerie Plame, the now discredited 9/11 Commission, Harriet Miers, Guantanamo Bay, and whatever Harry Reid wanted investigated that day crowded the news, and prevented real outgoing positive communication.

And so it seemed that there was something lacking in the White House's ability to respond to the news cycle, but more importantly, its ability to control it and to set agendas. That is the job of the Chief of Staff, and it is not surprising that after a very successful run, the Chief burns out. But the replacement of chiefs of staff is not an unusual thing. Ronald Reagan had 4, George Bush 41 had 3 in his single term, and Bill Clinton had 4. And the fact that Bush 43 has had but one chief of staff speaks volumes about the effectiveness of Andy Card. But longevity with a chief of staff is not always a good thing.

As with many things, the grind gets to you and you lose sight of the big picture. I don't know what happened, but my guess is that it is much like any pitcher who throws a great first half of a game but is winded by the top of the 6th and is pitching a few more balls than the pitching coach and the fans are comfortable with. He needs a closer. And in this case, with three years left, and a whole lot more policy to implement, Bush needs someone who can be as intense as Andy Card was during the first term to push the remainder of his agenda, because Bush does not intend to coast out the remainder of his Administration.

It's not that Andy Card failed, as he will probably be a success at everything he does, but 18 hour days for five years straight during two simultaneous wars and with a heavy domestic agenda will wear a guy out.

I'll guarantee that this is not the end of Andy Card with the Bush Administration, as his input is still valued, and will likely be even more valuable when he is able to be a bit more detached. But this change is probably the first of many. We will almost certainly see a much more campaign-oriented communications team, a new communications director, and there is even some murmur about a new Treasury Secretary, and even a replacment of Don Rumsfeld, both of which I think are unlikely, but at the very least this change will do Bush much good.

Congress Gets it Half Right, Protestors Get it All Wrong

Los Angeles was clogged over the past several days by these folks, protesting the House and Frist proposals to address illegal immigration.

Those proposals--if enforced--create such a significant disincentive to employers who hire illegals, penalties for smugglers of illegals and such significant penalties to the illegals themselves, that it would become unprofitable for them to illegally cross the border to do otherwise legal things in this nation. Those proposals are one side of the coin which address the security aspects of immigration. But a program that allows these people to legally cross and do work in this nation is equally important. And it is very difficult to imagine an America that did not welcome immigrants.

Because many of the Mexicans who cross the border are the kind who want to do nothing more than work, and work very hard. Because as long as there is daylight, by and large, these people put in the hours and produce good results for their employers. And it is a work ethic like that which has made America great. And their willingness to accept a lower wage (which is great money when they return home) keeps costs down here. Put another way, it is the hard working Mexican who accepts a lower wage because of diseconomies of scale in his own nation that makes our costs lower. So yes, their efforts are important, and they are a vital part of our economy. Which means that the Congress and the President need to respect the double-issue on immigration--admitting people to legally work here, while securing our border from those who would cross to cause problems. And likewise, we need to be certain that we are protected from certain problems that are unintentionally brought by well-intentioned workers.

Pediatricians are recommending Hepatitis-A vaccine for kids again, largely because the food service industry hires many Mexicans who bring with them the illness which is much more prevalent south of the border. As part of a guest worker program, these people's health need to be examined and certified as safe. And I am certain that there will be numerous private institutions, including the corporations that currently hire illegals and would even more gladly hire guest workers that would be more than willing to pay for these folks to get their shots before entering the nation to work. Additionally, citizenship rights need to be changed, so that the children of those who are present as permanent residents only become citizens at birth. Because the problem of "anchor babies"--children born to illegals in the United States who are citizens by accident of birth circumstance--who allow otherwise deportable people to remain in violation of our laws. If one wants a child to be a citizen, sign up to be a permanent resident. Heck, sign up to be a citizen and vote. But the incidentals that come along with border crossings need to end.

Likewise, we need to favor those who behave with respect towards our laws, meaning that there can be no amnesty. Those who wish to legally immigrate should receive all of the rewards of doing so, with no blessings to those who blithely short circuit the law.

Which brings me to the protestors. A bunch of high school kids played hooky in order to protest in favor of illegal immigration. They blocked traffic and generally caused havoc within the city, but there was something remarkable about their protest--they were carrying Mexican flags. There was nothing wrong with doing that, of course, but it sent a very wrong message. The presence of that flag in that setting communicates belligerence, rather than encouraging tolerance. It says of the immigrants who would enter our borders from the south, "We are Mexicans. We will enter your country as we please, to do what we please, to benefit as much as we can, and then take what we got and return back to Mexico." But America has no duty to Mexicans or Mexico, other than those established by treaty. And there is no treaty whereby we are obligated to let people cross our borders at any time and for any reason. There is no obligation for us to provide and pay for the health care of foreign nationals who have entered this nation illegally. There is no requirement that we employ them. But the pressure from the left on this issue because they want America to pay for every last world problem, and the concern by the President that this is a real opportunity to score the Hispanic vote for the Republicans has led to a security gap.

And no amount of foreign arrogance, pink philosophy or Republican opportunism can allow us to ignore the fact that our borders may indeed end up being our life.

There are two sides to the coin. Ignore one or the other, and the opportunity to reward law-abiding immigrant workers while ensuring our own protection is lost.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Media Gives Bush An Opportunity

The media saw an opportunity yesterday to hit the President--an opening to whack the man they hate so much, and they took it. The problem is that when Bush is engaged in candid conversation about the things in which he believes most strongly, despite the lack of a silver tongue, he can hold his own.

Helen Thomas, the leftist journalist turned leftist columnist had a shot at the president yesterday in his press conference, and rather than asking pointed questions, shot accusations at the President. Here's a clip of their exchange:

Q You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

Q Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

Q -- everything I've heard --

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life.

And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.

Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --

Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.

THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --

Q I'm talking about Iraq --

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans. I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --

Q -- go to war --

THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

Q Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld -- (laughter.)

Q Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome. (Laughter.) I didn't really regret it. I
kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.)

Q -- have a debate.

Very nicely handled by the President, and then this from Fox News's Carl Cameron:

Q Thank you, sir. On the subject of the terrorist surveillance program --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q -- not to change the tone from all this emphasis on bipartisanship, but there have been now three sponsors to a measure to censure you for the implementation of that program. The primary sponsor, Russ Feingold, has suggested that impeachment is not out of the question. And on Sunday, the number two Democrat in the Senate refused to rule that out pending an investigation. What, sir, do you think the impact of the discussion of impeachment and censure does to you and this office, and to the nation during a time of war, and in the context of the election?

THE PRESIDENT: I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we're at war -- the American people expect there to be a honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for getting rid of the terrorist
surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say the tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate.

I did notice that, at one point in time, they didn't think the Patriot Act ought to be reauthorized -- "they" being at least the Minority Leader in the Senate. He openly said, as I understand -- I don't want to misquote him -- something along the lines that, "We killed the Patriot Act." And if that's what the party believes, they ought to go around the country saying we shouldn't give the people on the front line of protecting us the tools necessary to do so. That's a debate I think the country ought to have.

An excellent job by the President. Excellent in the sense that he got out and actually communicated his basis for doing as he is. He had to do battle with a media that was itching for a fight. In all fairness, of course, I think Carl Cameron is a significantly warmer audience for him than the likes of Helen Thomas, but two pretty significant things came out of these exchanges: Bush knows why he is in Iraq and truly believes that we ought to be there, and the Democrats continue to demonstrate in very ominous ways that they cannot be trusted with this nation's security.

Helen Thomas probably needs to hang it up. Because while Bush didn't like her snide remarks and the "Secretary Rumsfeld" thing, he finally had the opportunity to hash out his Iraq position and to candidly and sincerely discuss his belief that what we are doing in Iraq is good, without handlers and speechwriters getting in the way. Thomas's interest in having, per her comments, a "debate" with the President, rather than just asking him questions shows that she is agenda rather than story driven, which makes her seem like little more than Cindy Sheehan with a press pass. But an honest exchange like this is not harmful to Bush, who can communicate very well when he actually gets down to doing it. He needs to send Helen Thomas a thank you note today for giving him the opportunity to make an honest policy declaration and defense for the world to see.

The remarks generated by Carl Cameron's question, however, were a refreshing display of offense tactics. He directed the Democrats to add to their platform that we ought not have a terrorist surveillance program if they really dislike the NSA wiretap program. Campaign on it. And then, finally putting the burden of Harry Reid's recent remarks back on his own shoulders, dared he and his ilk to campaign on a similar platform that we ought not equip those who protect us from terrorists with the tools to do so.

Simple arguments, but they get to a significant point: The Democrats do not have the nerve to campaign on their real beliefs, but in an effort to seem in some way relevant, are trying to score some points against Bush himself. They would not dare to suggest that we expose ourselves to terrorists, especially in an election year. But in order to gain some traction, they throw out partisan measures designed to harm the President individually, but not to stop the NSA wiretap program which is the gravamen of their complaints. And so if the Dems will not step up and attack the programs themselves--the ones that actually protect people from terrorism--all of this censure and impeachment talk becomes more and more clearly the product of nothing more than political sour grapes.

The President has much work to do in order to restore public faith in his work, but exposure like yesterday is the very kind of thing Bush needs to keep doing in order to get public backing behind him. It helps offensive momentum and it is the very kind of thing that, if sustained, can cause real problems for Harry Reid and Howard Dean in November.

ADDENDUM

Tom Bevan's take is much the same, and worth the read. Bush can't afford to be anything less than he was yesterday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Durbin: The Dems Are Planning a Coup

Impeachment.

Whereas Bill Clinton's perjury--a felony--did not "rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors", a media and Democrat created phrase that induced vomiting in just about every American who saw the lying under oath for what it was, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) dropped the suggestion that protecting the American people might get Bush impeached.

Put another way, the Democrats are mad that Bill Clinton was impeached for obstructing justice and lying under oath, and they are even more mad that George Bush has beaten them in three elections and consistently beats them on national security. And those drubbings are grounds for impeachment for these Democrats, because Bush has failed to recognize that these Baby Boomer elite leftist Democrats believe that holding power over we the unwashed is their birthright. This is what happens when the flower children get elected. The excuse they are using is that the wiretap program can be made to seem illegal. And that's an important distinction. True illegality versus the media and the left's effort to make it sound illegal.

So I cannot strongly enough impress upon anyone reading this blog the importance of the upcoming elections. If the Democrats win, they will make every effort to Remove Bush and Cheney from power and conveniently install a Democrat House Speaker as President in a neat and clean little coup. Because they Dems, out of pure insane rage, feel that they are entitled to score an impeachment after having one scored against them.

So please pay attention to the people running the show from your state. If your state sends a Durbin, Reid, Boxer, Schumer, Kennedy, Levin or Rockefeller, you are sending dangerously ambitious people to Washington who care nothing about you, but only about personal power.

And so I don't use the word "coup" lightly. Remember, these are the same people whose judges rewrite laws from the bench. These are the same people who favor terrorists' rights over yours. These are the same people who accused Bush of lying his way into Iraq. These are the same people who likened our soldiers to Nazis. These are the same people who were quick to try to understand what wrong we did to provoke 9/11, as opposed to reaching the very easy conclusion that it was a bunch of murderers who are part of an anti-civilization terrorist group that want to bring the world under the control of radical islamist beliefs. These are the same people who were aghast when Ronald Reagan challenged the Soviet Union as an "evil empire". These are people who are consistently on the wrong side of history and who consistently believe and act upon the belief that there is nothing great about America.

Our nation makes room for irresponsible fools such as these. Our laws protect them. But we need to be discerning and responsible enough not to elect them. Because for all the President's foibles in dealing with his own popularity and perception, he is looking out for America, and he really doesn't care how history regards him, so long as the United States continues to make history rather than becoming it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dirty Harry's Non-Strategy

Drudge is reporting on the Democrats' latest plan--such as it is--to get attention to their candidates. Harry Reid gave his caucus homework to do in preparation for the elections. He proposes that they meet with first responders to show how poorly funded they are by the feds, points of entry to show how poor our security is, hold town hall meetings with local Democrat officials and a national guard unit to show the hard impact by long deployments and how that plays into the inability to respond to disasters like Hurricane Katrina, factories that produce military equipment to show how poorly armored our soldiers are, and families who have had to purchase body armor for their soldiers, to name just a few.

But let's talk about how the Dems' record in these areas. They opposed the formation of the Homeland Security Department unless unionized federal workers had rights above ours as citizens to hire and fire employees as the Department heads deem appropriate. They applauded the Clinton-era Pentagon funding slashes that require the current long deployments, the one-time need for families to purchase body armor--my brother-in-law was provided his by Uncle Sam well over a year ago and before the Rumsfeld "military we have" speech. They oppose the current wiretapping program that listens in on conversations between al Qaida operatives and foreign agents. They opposed the DPW deal for political purposes only, as they still oppose profiling of Middle Eastern men at security checkpoints. But when there were Guard units aplenty to assist in New Orleans, the Dems' New Orleans Mayor and Louisiana Governor respectively left people in New Orleans to fend for and drown by themselves and blocked assistance to the City after it was offered by the President and when the conditions there were known to be dire.

But my comments there aside, this is the same old thing they have been offering against the President. Nothing but nitpicking. They criticize the programs that are there, but fail to offer something as an improvement. So it's not as if they are saying that they would do something different, but in true Eyore form, just state that the affairs of things are bad.

So this is nothing more than an attempt to lower the dialogue and stay negative, when their own policies were a significant cause of the things about which they currently complain. And things like that are important to remember when dealing with this party and the national security issue. They have been on the wrong side of it since at least 1972 and are eager to put their own thirst for power above the security of the American people. Because a plan like this is about nothing more than political gamesmanship in order to get personal power, rather than anything meaningful to enhance the security of the American people.

But I doubt that this effort will have much of any impact. Because despite the president's falling poll numbers, the Dems seem completely incapable of capitalizing on it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ginsburg Defends Use of Foreign Law, Blames Republicans for Encouraging Death Threats

It is rare that Supreme Court Justices make public statements about the way they like to decide cases (outside the written opinions themselves, of course), and even rarer when they make a point of attacking the other branches of government. But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just gone after Republicans in Congress for trying to limit the ability of she and other liberal members of the Supreme Court to use foreign law to illegally shape U.S. policy. And perhaps the time is ripe for such a discussion, because last year, the Supreme Court generated no small degree of controversy over the rulings it handed down.

The New London v. Kelo decision (where the Court held that the government can procure private property through eminent domain powers for private contractors who can improve the property and the tax base) and the Roper v. Simmons decision (holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional if used against minors, freeing such misguided scamps as D.C. sniper Lee Malvo from the penalty a jury had imposed for his depraved heart crimes) were breathtaking acts of jusdicial activism that deserved the criticism they received. But Roper was most surprising because the Supreme Court relied on foreign law to reach their decision. The majority of the Court, eager to bring the United States closer in line with the legally chic Europeans presumed that Europe's law was actually a step forward, and with a few strokes of a pen, five people dragged the remaining 280 million of us along with them.

And so to combat the efforts of some Justices to change state policy enacted by Congress and the states, several bills have been proposed in Congress to prevent the federal courts from referring to foreign law as a basis for their decisions. And, per the Constitution, it is the prerogative of Congress to limit or expand the powers of the federal courts--if they are to be expanded--beyond the enumerated terms of the Constitution. But Justice Ginsburg, in a posting on the Supreme Court website, defends the use of foreign law. And she is entitled to her opinion. But she crosses the line of polite discourse when she accuses Republicans who are offering such legislation of encouraging death threats against her.

After describing the bills that have been offered, Justice Ginsburg continues:

These measures recycle similar resolutions and bills proposed before the 2004 elections in the United States, but never put to a vote. Although I doubt the current measures will garner sufficient votes to pass, it is disquieting that they have attracted sizable support. And one not-so-small concern - they fuel the irrational fringe. A personal example. The U.S. Supreme Court's Marshal alerted Justice O'Connor and me to a February 28, 2005, web posting on a "chat" site. It opened:

Okay commandoes, here is your first patriotic assignment . . . an easy one. Supreme Court Justices Ginsburg and O'Connor have publicly stated that they use [foreign] laws and rulings to decide how to rule on American cases.

This is a huge threat to our Republic and Constitutional freedom. . . . If
you are what you say you are, and NOT armchair patriots, then those two justices will not live another week.

Nearly a year has passed since that posting. Justice O'Connor, though to my great sorrow retired just last week from the Court's bench, remains alive and well. As for me, you can judge for yourself.

It's a neat little bootstrap argument: disagree with me and you bear the responsibility for encouraging and inciting to violence the antisocial nuts who may also disagree with me. It's designed to thwart disagreement, which is the hallmark of the ACLU left from which Ginsburg hails. Dissent against the left encourages hate, dissent against the far to the nth power right enhances choice and freedom.

Now to be fair to the former ACLU chief counsel turned Supreme Court Justice, the use of foreign law is not an unusual thing in America. We've done it for centuries. And comparative studies are certainly helpful to those of us who practice. We use holdings in other states to encourage similar holdings in our own. We compare statutes from other states and how other American courts have treated them. It's a legitimate means of persuasion, but that's all it is. It has no binding effect. But in order to use foreign law for comparative purposes, we need to pay attention to the laws being compared and the societies where such laws arise.

Europe is not like America, and that's a very good thing. We have a much more market-driven economy, and theirs is much more regulated. Our mores are different than theirs which many Americans find to be uncomfortably lassiez-faire. We have different values than they do. We are a more ecclesiatical people than they are. Put bluntly, all those pretty churches over there don't get nearly as much use as the really run down ones here--they are a secularized people. And that's the reason we are separate nation-states with separate legal systems. It's also the reason that state borders within our nation still have relevance. The states are separate sovereigns from the federal government--subject to it's supremacy, but free to make social structures of their own. Which is why Massachusetts law and Utah law would be irreconcilable depending upon the area of law we're talking about. Which is why the Roper decision, among other reasons, just doesn't make sense.

Rather than comparing similar statutes and saying that other courts in other nations have interpreted their laws on the same point in a particular manner, they simply said that this is the law in those nations, implied that there was something better about those legal systems than this one, did some new factfinding with regard to psychological studies (appellate courts cannot do new factfinding that the trial courts didn't do below), and then concluded that it was time to bring ourselves more in line with Europe. Which is a lot like saying that since the Soviets were able to ensure uniform health care and market opportunities that we need to take a step forward to be more like them--ignoring the fact that those health care and market opportunities were uniformly worthless.

So in an effort to be more secularist, there are few better models than western Europe. And don't for a second think that Ruth Bader Ginsburg doesn't want a more secularized America and a place where immorality becomes the new morality. And now she is mad that her tool--comparing our laws with the Europe she so envies--is under attack.

But the justice might want to remember that Europe has for the past 100 years been the most fertile ground for anti-semitism, and was the home of the Nazi and Soviet holocausts.

So the Justice may want to be reminded that she is not on the Supreme Court to change our laws, but rather to apply them as they are written. We have a Congress to change law. We don't need a dictatorial ACLU lawyer violating her mandate and making new laws by replacing ours with laws made by people half a world away who don't vote in our elections and who don't share our values.

And going back to that wonderful continent for which the Justice yearns, and the not so wonderful death threats against her, it was also state policy to stifle criticism by associating the opposition with criminal activity. And likening the legal and Constitutional acts American people's elected representatives in Congress with extremist criminal activity in order to thwart their efforts to oppose her anti-democratic and illegal means of changing our law is deplorable.

There comes a time when people become so old and stuffed with notions of entitlement to power that they behave in such a disingenuous manner. Given the Justice's affliction, it's time for her to retire.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

When Norm Coleman Says It...

...Take it seriously. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) expressed his concerns about the inability of the White House to communicate a vision this week. Citing repeated concerns about a political tin ear, Coleman's criticisms are probably the most significant ones to be aired so far. Coleman is a Bush ally, and such on-the-record remarks are an indication that Republicans are no longer comfortable with a White House that seems increasingly unable to keep pace with events.

The fact that these kinds of things are being said by Coleman ought to get White House attention, and ought to scare them into action. Coleman is not the kind who likes to go for cheap political stunts. He is fairly reserved in his media comments, and usually doesn't make opinion statements without facts to back them up. In other words, this is a very careful person who takes very seriously his public statements. So the fact that this made the media should indicate to the White House that this is not a matter which they ought to take lightly.

But the response from Scott McClellan, however was a further sign of the problem. The media jumped on the remarks a number of times, with McClellan stating that it is simply a sign of that the media is playing some game when he is trying to talk policy. And there is some truth to that. They are first and foremost, a band of jackals eager to exploit any weakness they perceive. But McClellan's response ignores the problem and worse yet, is reflective of it.

He was short and grouchy with the media--the surest sign to them that they are controlling him, not the other way around. It also indicates that the Administration is purely on the defensive, which is not the posture that a sitting president ought to be taking when he has an agenda to advance.

While Bush is fiercely loyal to his people, he needs a fresh set of hearts and minds to take over. And he needs to determine whether personal loyalty is more important the success of his Administration. Loyalty is important, but something is clearly not working, and the nation will not be able to get behind an Administration that cannot muster enough energy to move past carping with the media.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Senate Dems To Republicans: Please Don't Put Our Words In Action

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), who is trying to position himself as the challenger to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race for president offered a resolution to censure the President for the NSA wiretap program which is designed to track and interdict terrorists operating in our nation. And this is typical below-the-fold stuff that happens nowadays in Washington with Democrats.

But following the lead of the House Republican Leadership who forced an embarrassing vote on Rep. Jack Murtha's (D-PA) pro-terror pull-out plan which only three House members supported, the Senate Republicans called the Dems' bluff and scheduled the resolution for a vote. Because that's what the resolution called for, right? Actually, wrong, if you ask the Dems.

The Democrats blocked a vote on the proposal. So what does that mean? Does it mean that they don't believe in censuring the president whom they pathologically hate with a passion that makes a pack of klansmen seem like a group of Peace Corps workers dutifully laboring in Africa? Or does it mean that they fear going on record in front of the American people with their hysteria and demagoguery?

But Feingold wants hearings. In other words, he believes the President is bad, but a vote on it isn't enough. And "hearings" will keep this in the news cycle to harm the President and to advance Feingold's own political fortunes.

But when his proposal could attract no co-sponsors and his own party blocked a vote, Feingold stepped his rhetoric up a notch. He accused the Democrats of cowering. Again, beautiful. It's rare that a sitting Senator will go out of his way to advertise his extremism and save his opponents the trouble.

But the biggest problem is the fact that the Democrats blocked a vote on their own party's proposal. We know that they fear voters, but it's two sets of them that they fear: the American people and the freakshow to whom they cater in order to get their party's nomination.

There really is no right answer for the Dems on a censure resolution. Fail to support it and primary support from their leftist base will be hurt. Support it, and the general public will brand them an extremist in a much more costly general election defeat. However, I think that this explanation is just a little too simplistic. Certainly it creates a problem for those Senators looking forward to a near-term presidential bid. But not nearly so much for those who plan to return to their states for reelection this year. Many of them are fairly safe. But how about if 25 to 35 of them vote for it on impulse? That might create problems for Democrats in somewhat unsafe states if the voters begin to take a more national outlook on the issues. And a more national outlook--with emphasis on national security--is exactly what a real vote on Feingold's resolution would create.

Bush would immediately go on the offensive, defending the eavesdropping program and describing the kinds of threats it has uncovered and stopped. And then Democrats are left to tragically argue that a program that keeps us safe from a devastating terror attack is still somehow a bad thing because it doesn't keep to the letter of their ACLU vision of the law (which was somehow ok when Bill Clinton did it).

But perhaps Feingold's effort to bring this to a set of hearings may just be what the doctor ordered for Bush. Because if the true nature of the program makes its way to the public as a result of the hearings, and the people see the risk of danger to them from terror outweighing the risk that conversations about dinnertime plans might be overheard, the Dems will again be caught on the wrong side of the national security issue just in time for an election. And if it costs them more seats, Feingold will get a good deal of the credit for putting the spotlight on his party's woeful national security record. And I wonder just how generous his fellow Democrats will be with him when he calls for their support in 2008. They may find that it is more agreeable to for themselves and their checkbooks to "cower" in the shadows of Bill and Hillary Clinton, rather than championing the cause of a Howard Dean acolyte in the bitter cold of Des Moines.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Straw Poll Results: Frist is Not DOA

A straw poll was conducted over the weekend among delegates to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Tennessee to see who they would likely support for president in 2008--3 years before we get there. The result was that Tennessee's senior senator, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) won. And no surprise, as it was packed with locals from Tennessee. Following Frist was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the term-limited George W. Bush, and then John McCain.

What all of this means is that Frist is not dead on his home turf. Which as Al Gore will tell you can make the difference between a victory speech and an embarrassing effort to split hairs on votes in another state. If nobody else is going to say it, though, I will: the Bill Frist we see in the Senate is unelectable. He is possibly the second most ineffective Republican Senate Majority Leader, right behind his predecessor, Trent Lott, who never met a Democrat demand which he didn't try to meet, and who never learned after six years as Majority Leader that this crop of Democrats neither remember nor repay kindnesses, are only interested in accumulation and consolidation of power, and are only too glad to stomp those who get in their way. Frist seemed to have followed his lead, presuming that a 55-44 seat advantage was not enough to stand up to a minority party that offered no ideas, save failed tax, foreign and social policies.

So falling from that, how would a President Frist deal with a bullyish China or a crackpot North Korea? How would he deal with Putin's thwarting our efforts to hold the feet of rogue nations like Iran to the fire to preserve Russia's commercial dealings with those nations? And how would he deal with a nuclear-armed Iran? How would he deal with a direct attack on Israel? My experience in seeing him in action and word of mouth from those who know is that Frist doesn't stand up to opposition. He goes weak. And this is not an age for Neville Chamberlains. Maybe he'd be great, but I have zero reason to believe it.

And so while this allegedly conservative Senator may win a straw poll, it is little more than a straw-man. If it was conducted anywhere else, he wouldn't have stood a chance. And when Mitt Romney of Massachusetts comes in behind him with such a strong showing, it says much more about Romney's viability than it does anything positive about Frist.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Bush Gets A Break, Courtesy of the UAE

Very rarely do potentially ugly showdowns end so cleanly. DP World said that it would back out of the deal that would turn over to it control of operations at the major East Coast and Gulf ports.

Now the discussion turns to the aftermath. Threats like this, (H.T. Drudge) to pull American contracts with the UAE are the kinds of things that get said in the heat of frustration and anger. But the statement that they may not be so helpful in the war on terror in the future makes one think that perhaps the death of the deal is not that bad a thing. A real friend doesn't need stroking to participate in an effort to undercut international terrorist activity. And we don't want someone like that with a foot in our ports.

But that digression aside, the President was spared an unholy showdown with Congress which would possibly have resulted in the issuing of his first veto and the likely overriding of it in a year when the President and Congress very badly need to appear united. But all of this talk of Republican disunity will soon be forgotten. The DPW deal will not be diffused for November. The Dems won't be able to use it effectively. And tantrums thrown by the likes of Trent Lott, whose first show of any strength was this little fit at his own president, despite having let Tom Daschle walk all over him for years when he was one of the weakest Majority Leaders on record, and the show of force by outgoing Majority Leader Bill Frist who I am certain needed a framing stud taped to his spine to prevent him from reverting to jelly, are all for naught. Republicans really do crave unity and find such unfortunate disagreements on detail issues such as this to be remarkably uncomfortable.

So now, it is time to repair relations. Doing so won't be too hard. The president signed off on a reauthorization of the Patriot Act yesterday--a major victory for him. The next step is making the tax reductions permanent. They have proven to increase economic activity, thereby increasing the Treasury's take, but they are set to expire, because some in Washington feel weird about Americans keeping more of the money they earn. Bush will win on this one also. What legislator wants to get caught raising people's taxes in an election year? Couple that with a leaner budget that meets more of America's and less of Washington's prerogatives, and Bush and the Republicans can take to the voters a 2006 full of nationally popular and beneficial legislative successes. Keeping you safer, helping you keep your money, and keeping down silly spending.

The Democrats hope to get a win on national security by prohibiting foreign proprietary involvement in ports, etc., but when we had to fight them on the Patriot Act, listening in on terrorist communications, profiling by demographics, and failing to kowtow to terrorists' excruciating intolerance at Guantanamo Bay, any such bill will appear to most voters as the transparent political canard that it is.

But I somehow doubt that the Dems will let the DPW deal go, irrespective of the fact that it is a dead issue. One would hope, for their sake, that they would have learned that trying to resurrect issues whose damage value is gone actually does real harm to them. Dwelling on the irrelevant makes the dweller similarly out of touch. We can only hope that they keep up the rhetoric into the fall.

We can also only hope that the Administration appropriately blunts it.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Is Dean Rescuing the Republicans in 2006?

They elected him. And conservatives couldn't be happier. Last year the Democrats' choice of Howard Dean as DNC chair was almost as beautiful a sight in the eyes of conservatives as their ultimate hope of having him as the party's nominee for president in 2004. And now it turns out that it was a much better option having Dean run the party for four years rather than just having him run his party's ticket in the ground in a one shot deal.

Because this week we learned that the Democratic Congressional Leadership is most dismayed about their party chairman's misuse of party funds. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are understandably apoplectic, given that The Democrats have raised $50.1 million with $5.8 million cash on hand, compared to the Republicans' $103 million raised and $34 million cash on hand. Dean's plan is pretty simple. He is trying to bolster the party's ground efforts to make it competitive in all 50 states. It's a nice vision statement, but an abominably shortsighted and stupid thing to actually try given the party's limited resources, especially when Dean is probably tragically misreading the political tea leaves.

There are a number of things that don't work against the sitting Republican Members of Congress and Senate. Campaign Finance Reform was an excellent bit of strategery on the part of the White House. It makes it harder for challengers to mount an attack on incumbents, and while I believe it to be unconstitutional, the Supreme Court disagreed, and it will likely be the law of the land for a little while.

And while there exists a significant dissatisfaction with Congress as a whole--and there almost always has--remember that Congressional turnover is a very rare thing. Because as Jay Cost over at RealClearPolitics could tell you, more often than not, my generic dissatisfaction with Congress applies to your Member of Congress, not mine, whom I have met at Fourth of July parades and seems like a nice guy/gal.

So in that vein, there is little to speak of as far as the House races are concerned. It isn't changing hands as there aren't enough interesting races to make a power switch possible at this stage. And in the Senate, while there is a good opportunity for the Dems to capture a seat or two, they may be looking at a wash at best, as the Republicans will likely take just as many or more Democratic seats.

The seats where the Democrats stand a real chance for scoring turnovers are those of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R?-RI). Likewise, The Republicans have a shot at unseating Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and scoring pickups of open seats in Minnesota and Maryland. There also is an outside chance that Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) can be unseated, but of that I will not be convinced until there is a heck of a lot more movement towards his likely opponent, Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) And per the Washington Post's scorecard, there exist nine competitive races (and as stated before, I think Maryland and Florida need to be in the mix there). At this stage, the Senate seat count is 55-44-1. The Independent "1" is likely to stay that way as retiring Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) will very likely be replaced by independent Socialist Bernie Sanders. Which means that to win control of the Senate, the Democrats must hold all of their open seats, win each of the races where their incumbent is at risk, and must win each and every one of the competitive races where Republicans are trying to hold seats. And while in any given election this would be statistically unlikely, this year, it's largely an impossibility that they would have a shot at getting even halfway there.

They aren't offering anything new. With Pelosi and Reid keeping the message a little too far left of center to be attractive, keeping an irritating plaintive tone, and jumping on every negative story like a bunch of chimpanzees on crack bouncing on a trampoline, they give no incentive for anyone to pull their party's lever, punch the chad, whatever. But the real problem is the money. Because with Dean wasting away the party's cash and not bringing in enough to justify his boondoggle, the party is unprepared and in a world of hurt going into this election.

Pelosi and Reid know that the party is being spread way too thin, and that Dean's effort to rebuild the party precinct by precinct across the nation is potentially disastrous. The Dems have a few strongholds in cities and in leftist enclaves like those found in northern California, the upper West Coast, the New York metropolitan area, and some locales throughout the industrial Midwest and southwest. But that's largely it, and it explains why they have had significant electoral troubles since the 1980s. Their support is limited and localized.

It would make sense if Dean was attemtping to shore up his party's organization in competitive jurisdictions. In fact, that would be the wisest thing he could do. Targeted strategies directed at getting out the vote in critical precincts and having people accountable for doing so is an excellent way to improve a ground plan. But trying to do it across the nation is probably one of the worst non-strategies he could have devised. And I'd dare say that it's just the strategy that a Republican would have a Democrat follow.

Elections, especially the close ones, are very often won and lost by the availability of cash to the campaigns. Given that this season will have more than a few close elections, the Republicans will be better positioned to finance their candidates than cash-strapped Democrats who will suffocate under the weight of Dean's party-building plan which will be ironically destructive.

Because Dean's biggest miscalculation is that his party can afford the temporary drubbing that a lack of cash will create. But the problem with that notion is that such a setback would be temporary or affordable. The Democrats get donations precisely because they still retain some power. Let them take a significant hit in an off year election where they should have picked up some seats and the perception that they are becoming less and less electable will become reality. The reality part finds its truth in terms of fewer future donations based upon the perception, thus repeating a cycle of losses.

It probably won't be that bad, but the Democrats can't afford any disappointments at this stage of the game. They are behind. Getting further behind isn't the way to winning.

Dean need only follow his genius plan through 2008--if he even lasts that long.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Time for Congressional Republicans to Make Up With Bush

I have been very hard on the President's communications apparatus, such as it is, along with his immigration policy, such as that is. And I have no qualms about expressing displeasure over the wisdom and political effects of the Dubai Ports World deal, the veto threat and other matters. But whatever Congressional Republicans think of these matters as they approach the midterm election, they might want to add this to their calculus: they distance themselves from the President at their own peril.

Indeed these are unpleasant times for the Republicans, as they are disunited, have a president with sagging poll numbers, and Democrats seem to be able to successfully mask their lack of relevancy by blaming Republicans for everything that is not perfect with the world.

But there are a few things that cannot be ignored. Bush can draw a crowd of fundraisers, he can get them to write checks, and he can get the faithful out to vote. He put his own reputation on the line in 2002, which no president has ever done, and posted Congressional gains in both that year and 2004. And Bush's popularity was nothing stellar in 2004 either, where he posted the greatest gains. The short of it is that this is just part of another news cycle, and Bush has survived them and thrived past them before. Per Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics.com:

As I have written time and again, the political landscape is not such that we can expect the Democrats to retake the House. The economy is too strong, there are too few open seats, and Bush is not sufficiently unpopular. Pundits on both sides tend to extrapolate from a given point in time under the assumption that things will stay as they are. So, any time Bush’s numbers go down, the talk instantly turns to a Democratic recapture of the House. Wait a month. Bush’s numbers will go back up, and then the talk will be about how the Democrats blew their chances. We have already been through one iteration of this inane process, and it looks like we’re in for another spin.

Mind you, all of this is despite the fact that seat changes in the House occur because of much more stable processes than the news cycle. God help us all if that were the case!
The point is that Bush is not as radioactive as he looks at this point, and that the Democrats can only get minimal traction on any of these issues, most notably national security, because even though this story has been a giant liability for the White House, Republicans remain ahead of Democrats on the National Security issue. If anything, it means that whatever damage the Republicans have suffered from this, the Democrats still have a credibility gap on the most important issue to voters. The party that cries foul about racial profiling in the terror war and wants to see granny strip searched at the airport while a group of young Middle Eastern men goes by without so much as a second look, just can't be taken seriously when they reflexively jump on the profiling bandwagon for nothing more than to seize a temporary political opportunity. So as much as Harry Reid thinks that this is an opportunity, it is yet another opportunity to show that he is little more than a crank and a political heckler whose party offers nothing more than "elect us, we're the other guys".

And as stupid as the Democrats like to think Bush is, the smart ones will remember that they have been thrice beaten by him in elections when they thought they could destroy him. This is a president with a surprising comeback ability. Bush is aware as anyone that this election is just as critical as any other to his efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East and to fight terrorism. He knows that if the Democrats get a foothold on power for the final two years of his presidency, he will be unable to successfully position his successor to carry on the policies he has enacted, which would presume that they would not be reversed by the Dems. He knows the stakes.

The problem is in the waiting for him to fix it all.

But Bush will be ready for the fall. Only a fool or someone with a guaranteed victory would distance themselves from him.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Academia Loses to the Military

The U.S. Supreme Court has just unanimously ruled that colleges and universities that accept federal money must also allow on-campus military recruiting. This case arose when already military-hostile universities, used a First Amendment free association argument to exclude military recruiters because the military discriminates against gays by the "don't ask don't tell" policy. Under that theory any interaction with the military which the universities must endure would somehow intellectually harm them and their pro-gay stance.

Of course, the military does things beyond just discriminating against gays. It also defends our nation so that idiots like the people running these universities can be free to be the complete fools that they are. And it helps their recruiting in wartime to have access to young college graduates. And that's what the court found.

It doesn't matter that you don't like it, Congress can force universities--with or without the threat of yanking federal funds--to allow on-campus recruiting.

So perhaps these exclusionary enclaves of higher education will now get to practice themselves the virtue which they think everyone else ought to possess: tolerance of those with whom they disagree.

Iran and Presidential Popularity

RealClearPolitics has a few excellent pieces here and here on the Administration's position on Iran. And notwithstanding the very harsh remarks I leveled last week against the Administration and their subpar communications department, they seem to play their cards very wisely when it comes to a showdown.

Which brings me back the issue if Presidential popularity and a chicken and egg question.

Bush has allowed himself to take a pummelling on Iraq. An unnecessary pummelling, because there is positive news to report, positive progress overall, but it's his job to make sure that it gets reported. Now he is taking us again to the brink with Iraq's neighbor, Iran, and promises military action if Iran doesn't let go of it's nuclear program. And we're not "alone" on this one as the left claims we were on Iraq. But does the President's popularity need to be something more than it is in order to have the support to maintain an engagement with Iran, or will such an engagement be just the thing his poll numbers need, thereby breathing new life into the Administration?

Hard call. If Iran is simply a couple of JSOWs and a wrecked nuclear program with a livid but now flaccid Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it's a success. If it turns into a popular uprising that overthrows the theocracy, and turns into a democratic state on its own, it will go down as Bush's finest hour. And that's by no means out of the question. The Iranians are significantly more educated and more hungry for self-rule than their neighbors in Iraq ever were. If there is anyplace that democracy is yearning to flourish, it's there. Because the Mullahs are not a popular government, nor is Mahmoud the Mouth an adored figure. And perhaps a moronic extremist and terrorist like Ahmadinejad is just what the Iranians needed to wake up and decide that they would like to be a respected member of the world.

But if it involves another hard slog that requires patience and perseverance by the American people, I can't see Bush with the support to pull it off, nor can I see support for it lasting anywhere near the length of time it takes to actually achieve the mission's stated goals.

There really is no turning back at this point. Either Iran surrenders or it doesn't. And if the U.S. backs down, it will be all the more provocative to regimes like that of Iran and North Korea who will realize that the U.S. has reached its limit on international engagements. So this will have a discernible termination point. The only question is whether it involves an embarrassment for the Iranian government by diplomatic or military means.

And then the biggest issue is what falls from that. Will they embargo oil shipments? Not likely, as they need to eat as well, and an act of emotional bitterness will harm them more than us. But perhaps economics won't figure in. Perhaps this crackpot government will indeed make such a self-destructive decision.

And if it does, what does that mean for Bush and his ability to have the public behind his leadership?

So far, very little. Bush continues to lead, showing no signs of any fatigue caused by low polls. He doesn't believe in the lame duck presidency. Certainly a president is no lame duck with the winds of popular opinion to his back, but that's different if he can't get them behind him on national security if the burdens of it become too heavy over too short a time.

Make no mistake, the President is doing the right thing by working to pacify Iraq and by standing up to Iran, irrespective of the things with which Iran may threaten us. My only fear is that the potential costs in opening up another front with Iran (higher energy prices, and possibly another lengthy military engagement) may be more than the American people are willing to support, with a media and entertainment industry doing their best to hamper our efforts at national security, and folks like John Murtha, in true John Kerry fashion, never missing an opportunity to talk down the armed forces in which he once served, knowing that his efforts are aiding the enemy and putting our own soldiers in danger.

Perhaps the next front he needs to open up is the one on the people who purport to open the news. Because good things don't happen when you allow your ideological opponents to cast your successes as defeats. And we've had enough of that.

Let's hope for the sake of his very positive and bold agenda that President Bush has as well. Our long-term security depends on it.

Movies Nobody Bothered to See

And so much like Earth Day and Canadian Thanksgiving, the Oscars come and go with little notice.

And according to Drudge, the Oscar market share was pretty low last night.

Conversely, more bourgeois American Idol continues to monopolize its time slot. But why?

I think this is the beginning of a serious disconnect between Hollywood and the American people they so disrespect. This year, we were regaled by a story of two gay cowboys, a reporter fighting a crazy Republican Senator, the story of a great but flamboyantly gay writer who investigated a murder for a story and gets a weird sexual fixation on one of them, and a story about racism. Wedged in there in another category was another picture glorifying acts by suicide bombers in Israel and Palestine. Between productions that increasingly smother us with leftist values, to off screen behavior that goes way over the top in terms of political preaching that is often directly at odds with American values, the Hollywood elite are alienating the commoners whose humble money they so desperately need to maintain their lavish lifestyles. And it seems that we, the unwashed masses are making choices that reflect our values as well.

Anyone recall what the biggest movies of the last year were? Star Wars III--Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and The Chronicles of Narnia--The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Interestingly, Narnia grossed $284,792,443, Revenge of the Sith grossed $380,262,555 and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire grossed $288,870,728. Blockbuster movies to be certain. Each one-on its own--grossed more than the $235,568,359 that the Best Picture nominees made combined. So why did the box office losers get such acclaim from the American Academy?

It's not that there was anything wrong with Narnia, Harry Potter or Revenge of the Sith, as they also got technical nominations. But the problem was that their storylines, each of which dealt in their own way with significant moral struggles and tough choices being made by the characters--the kinds of moral choices and consequences that people want their kids to witness--really don't resonate with the Hollywood elite. In Harry Potter, Harry was forced to grow up quickly and to make some very difficult choices in the face of evil, all the while recognizing that his relationships with his friends were changing, but getting all the stronger. The children in Narnia experienced the gift of unmerited sacrificial death and forgiveness, resulting in the destruction of the evil that thought it had triumphed. And in a decades-expected twist, Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith struggled with moral choices and ultimately made the wrong ones with devastating consequences for himself and everyone else in the galaxy. All stories about good versus evil and all with very appropriate allegorical messages about people as individual moral agents with very real consequences facing them for each of their choices. It still sells. But to Hollywood, it's been done.

Crash played the race card. Brokeback Mountain glorified homosexuality, and Capote had its gay overtones as well--always a welcome component in Tinseltown. And of course, any anti-Israeli cause is welcome. And I would not call Munich a pro-Israeli movie. It's not great when Spielberg puts Israelis and Palestinians on roughly the same moral plane, and leaves plenty of room for uber-moron and the best friend Islamist terror ever had, Kofi Annan to claim that:
While recognizing Israel's right to defend its citizens, targeted killings place innocent bystanders at grave risk and amount to executions without trial.
Because suicide bombings don't? And isn't a "targeted killing" by definition the kind of thing that won't harm bystanders? What a complete idiot and friend of evil Annan is, but I digress. The movie left the impression that eliminating terrorist murderers was a crime in itself, getting it the Best Picture nomination in an era when eliminating terrorist murderers--before they murder again--is increasingly viewed by the Hollywood left as barbarism. They are trying to push values on a nation that is already pretty comfortable with the ones it already has. And Americans are increasingly regarding Hollywood as a place of unabashed and belligerent moral standardlessness which holds the ideals of most Americans in contempt and is eager to cram its misbegotten version of truth and goodness down our throats. But people aren't going to pay for an expensive ticket and overpriced popped corn and soda to support the mocking of their beliefs.

Conversely, Americans turn to the three blockbusters mentioned above because they really focus on the struggle between good and evil and highlighting the best of things.

And with respect to the sometimes gaudy American Idol, one of the entertainment industry's greatest recent successes, the show, whether intentionally or otherwise, appeals to a vast number of Americans because it resonates with the values that most of us hold. A bunch of generally penniless contestants come to the show with nothing more than their hearts and voices and do their best to win a record contract. We develop relationships with them as we see them try to outdo one another in a competition of raw talent and character. And each of them carries a story of trying to achieve the American dream. The arrogant often fall, as we saw last week with one young lady who was way too big for her britches, but the talented humble usually win and win big. And all of the winners have been southerners with more or less boring traditional values. Kelly Clarkson is from Texas, Ruben Studdard from Alabama, Fantasia Barrino from North Carolina and Carrie Underwood from Oklahoma. Fantasia speaks openly about dumb choices made earlier in life, but about how her faith has changed her outlook and has been the source of her success. She has a lot of panache, but her success is a story of a humble young lady's redemption. And Carrie Underwood's most recent overwhelmingly popular chart topper is an unabashedly evangelical song called "Jesus Take the Wheel". The ratings don't lie.

And it's funny how cheap values come and go but the old, trite and dusty traditional values still attract people as if they're brand new. The "cutting edge" stuff that Hollywood loves really is just a flash in the pan. Good still matters. And while he isn't winning any Oscars either, Jesus is still more famous than the Beatles.

Friday, March 03, 2006

How Brownie Got His Groove Back

Let's get some thens and nows straightened up about Hurricane Katrina.

Then:
The Democrats and media declared that Michael Brown:


has repeatedly exercised poor judgment and has failed in his basic responsibilities. His continued presence in this critical position endangers the success of the ongoing recovery efforts.

It is not enough to remove Mr. Brown from the disaster scene as Secretary Chertoff announced today. The individual in charge of FEMA must inspire confidence and be able to coordinate hundreds of federal, state and local resources. Mr. Brown simply doesn’t have the ability or the experience to oversee a coordinated federal response of this magnitude. [snip]

Leaders of this crucial federal agency should not be little more than political appointees honored for their political service.
"Brownie" was an incompetent.

Now:
Today, the media is playing him as a scapegoat. Why? Because he is firing charges at his former boss, Homeland Security Chief Mike Chertoff. And irrespective of the validity of the finger-pointing, it's more than just a little disingenuous to rip the man six months ago as a fool and now to rehabilitate him as he might be useful in causing more damage to the Bush Administration.

But I must go back to the states, as we now know that Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) who received a pass from the media and the Democrats was clueless as to the state of the levees, while the ruptured seawalls allowed the city to rapidly flood, despite the fact that they were publicly reported to have ruptured and spilling water into the city earlier that morning. Oops. This was also the person who told the President not to send anyone into New Orleans until she had a good 24 hours to think about it. Who's incompetent?

And now Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (yes, D), who sobbed his eyes out on the radio begging for help as he left his citizens to their own lack of devices to escape the city and/or languish in the Superdome and the unequipped Convention Center is likewise given a pass.

So here is the standard to which the Administration is being held: The incompetence of the locals in getting their residents out of harm's way in the first place is irrelevant. The Administration should have been able to overcome the local failures, to preserve the levees, and to evacuate the horribly damaged city with no loss of life. It would be like Ted Kennedy blaming the paramedics and police for not being able to rescue Mary Jo Kopechne.

This is pure partisan carping.

How History Repeats Itself

One of the most disastrous problems in politics is the failure of a politician to defend himself or herself from charges which he or she claims is baseless. And here we go again:

We have a politician who is accused of poor leadership by certain segments of the media whom he accuses of political bias and by those who once served under him whose accusations he claims are little more than personal sour grapes. But rather than coming out swinging and responding with specifics and facts, he circles the wagons, clams up, and offers little more than token conclusory statements that the accusations being leveled are wrong. His surrogates try to minimize the damage, but because they have their own liabilities, their efforts come to naught. When a demand for proof of his defense is requested, he stonewalls, telling the nation to believe him at his word, and that he will provide details in due time. His opponents won the news cycle. And the result is easy to predict. The life's work of the politician gradually tumbles apart because he cannot effectively communicate a vision and cannot communicate the means he is using to get there. So not only is it a failure for him, but also for his party who lost a significant number of Senate seats to their significant detriment.

No, not George W. Bush dealing with Katrina post-mortems and the DPW port controversy. John F. Kerry amid the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth attacks in late August 2004. Kerry's response to the Swifties was flaccid. He either had nothing with which to hit them because the allegations were generally correct, or his communications team was inept. I think it was a combination of both, but in all fairness to his campaign staff, they were a very talented bunch who had very little to work with on the issue. He failed to release his military record even when presented with the form to do so by Tim Russert on Meet the Press. And using Max Cleland to try to deliver a letter to the President's ranch directing him to stop the attacks, which he had no power to do, was perceived as nothing short of the petty and stupid stunt that it was. The lack of response from Kerry allowed the public to adopt the allegations by the Swifties and to irreparably harm the Senator's reputation in the few months before the election. He lost, and the Republicans took a largely unexpected gain of 55 seats in the Senate.

And now history repeats itself. We have a President with a "thank you sir, may I have another attitude". We know he has the facts to back up his defense. Ray Nagin and Kathleen Blanco, the two inept local leaders-in-name-only did nothing to use available local resources to get people out of New Orleans. The Feds were actually mobilizing, but because of impediments created by Blanco, were barred from entering New Orleans when they were ready to do so. Any knowledge of a breaching levee would have done no good if they could do nothing about it because of local impediments. And the DPW deal--it has its merits as many have offered, but the President's silence let it be portrayed as a major national security bungle.

Likewise, Kerry's "they're questioning my patriotism" non-response had a double effect: It allowed the Swifties to have their version of the facts stand without significant dispute. It also refocused the campaign back on national security, allowing Kerry's now somewhat tarnished military service to become his only national security credentials in an election where relevant national security experience was everything.

Bush benefited richly from his opponent's fatal mistake. Now, the Democrats appear poised to receive a reciprocal gift just in time for 2006.

The President has time to fix it all. Fire the communications team. Fix the problem, and stay ahead of the stories. Because if he fails and he loses more allies in the Senate and House, any hope for any agenda beyond January 2007 will be dead.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Failure of the DPW Deal Will Be Good for the Middle East--And the White House

The DPW deal gets deeper, and for the White House, much worse. For an Administration whose hallmark was national security, they seemed to have ignored a huge vulnerability by having a UAE owned company working the place.

And based upon a report last night on Fox News, the folks at the Port of Baltimore don't see this as the nightmare that Congress does. It's just about taking cargo containers off of ships, and really not much more. Customs and the Coast Guard ensure security. From what I gathered from the report, the two have nothing to do with one another.

And if that's true, which the people who work there say it is, then why didn't the White House blitz us with these facts and dispel this whole unbelievably stupid thing? Read the post below for my thoughts on that.

But that aside, killing the deal has two effects: It will put the story on the back pages, which will spare the White House more embarrassment. But it will also send a powerful message to the UAE and other Arab nations: we aren't comfortable yet with nations that don't have clean records in the terror department. Coziness with Iran, recognition of the Taliban, and failure to recognize Israel among other things are the very things that make this deal unacceptable to the American people. Those aren't peaceful positions, nor are they responsible, and each of them is directly opposed to stated U.S. positions. And until the UAE can bring themselves a little more in line with the world community, we can't entrust them with such a huge responsibility. Nothing personal, just business. And that's the point.

The argument that this will turn off the UAE and that they will throw a tantrum with serious consequences to our relationship is ridiculous. If they do, then it was just the right decision not to award the contract and they were not an ally at all. But if they behave responsibly, they will discover that there is a relationship between politics and commerce and that certain policies carry expensive consequences.

Let's face it, hating Jews as a state policy is simply barbaric. Let's keep repeating that line again and again and again until we believe it. Once more: "It's not ok to hate Jews, and it's not ok for that to be state policy." So why give a gift contract to someone who does?

Killing this contract will send a message that Jew-hating and commerce don't go together. Likewise for keeping company with terrorists and the nations that support them. The lesson being that they need to have grown-up state policies if they want to do business with the United States. With money comes responsibility.

And if the deal goes through, it remains a viable issue for the 2006 elections, allowing the Democrats an opportunity they have heretofore not yet had--an opportunity to finally score a credible hit on Bush in the area of national security. The result would be a tragedy for conservatives.

So what is more important, preserving a very unpopular deal with the UAE that confers no benefit on the Administration but because of its lack of communication now appears to be one of the most ill advised decisions possible, or to cut some losses, admit a mistake and teach an "ally" that it's time to grow up?

You're #$%*@ Right I Ordered the Code Reds!!!

So says Saddam. The former Butcher of Baghdad essentially admits being the one who ordered executions and destruction of land of people who were somewhat near the location of some characters who tried to have Saddam killed. Certainly, the attempted assassins met a nasty fate, but so did their families and neighbors. Torture, murder, imprisonment, all for knowing a bad guy or living near him. Which is a lot like imprisoning the people in this nation who always refer to criminal wierdo neighbors as "quiet, kept to himself, reserved..."

But all humor aside, this is bad for Saddam. He essentially admitted to doing the bad things for which he is charged, and challenging the court with a "so what?" attitude. Which I think underpins Saddam's whole attitude problem with this trial.

He doesn't think he did a thing wrong, and like Col. Nathan R. Jessup quoted above in A Few Good Men, Saddam is so egomaniacally deranged that he honestly believes that he will get the chance to return to his palaces to rule the people of Iraq once the trial court realizes that there was nothing bad about killing a bunch of innocent people he didn't like. But that's the good thing about narcissistic bad people. They often make the cases against themselves by admitting the act under the theory that there was nothing wrong with doing it.

Thank you Mr. Hussein. You made the job of the prosecutors and the court much easier, and you may have saved yourself from the trouble of trials for other acts. Because when you swing for this one, they'll let you off of the other charges.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

An Open Letter to the President - A Change Would Do You Good

Mr. President,

As a conservative who supported you both in 2000 and 2004, I am most dismayed that the communication team that controlled the media in 2004, beat John Kerry and the Democrats in pretty much every exchange and seemed nothing short of pitch perfect, has lost its momentum and its ability to understand the issues. Since the election, the Democrats and the media-left are consistently winning news cycles and shaping stories, and only after the damage is done are your people able to come back and correct the record. But tardy corrections are only technical and do little to correct perceptions created by opponents with different messages. Perceptions have consequences borne out in polls. And while I know that you care little for polls, they do have their relevance. A president who asks the Congress to do something revolutionary has a much better chance of success if he has the public behind him. And a president who wants to have success in tremendously critical but difficult engagements like Iraq and the war on terror needs public support to keep the political momentum up and the effect of partisan criticism down.

But the public cannot get behind someone who cannot adequately communicate their vision and their specific progress in it. And admonitions to simply trust you don't do the trick.

Since November of 2004, your communications team has been at least two days behind the media on almost every issue, which is bad enough. But when bloggers like me with only common resources are able to catch the DPW story before you, and then it takes the Washington Post of all sources to defend the deal about two days before your Administration can find its voice, there is something fatally wrong with your communication staff's ability to articulate policy and respond to criticism in order to keep you viable.

I have heard various theories advanced as to what is going on, from exhaustion to hunkering down on Iraq, to groupthink, but whatever it is, it is destructive. And in any successful organization, if something is wrong, we either fix it or remove it. It's not worth the loss of the good whole just to preserve the bad part that isn't functioning. That's poor management.

And there's a reason that they are the White House communications team. They represent the Chief Executive, and in that position, they have to be better than everyone else and a least half a day ahead of every issue. That's not an easy job for anyone, but neither is it an impossible one and certainly not for the people whom you have had on your team. Ari Fleischer was the best you ever had, and his loss was noticed. And look at the result.

The left has done an excellent job of casting Iraq as a civil war waiting to happen, a quagmire, a waste of lives and resources, a boondoggle to avenge your father's failure to prosecute it to an end. They even have people believing that terrorists, who want to murder us all, whom the Geneva Conventions do not protect, deserve more than the white glove service we give them. They make stories out of heroic acts of our soldiers. Not laudatory stories, but rather accusing them of murder. They are also very effective in their effort to paint the Katrina disaster as your failure, generally giving the nonchalant incompetence of Ray Nagin and the turf-guarding cluelessness of Kathleen Blanco a pass. They have also done a great job of dividing you from your base on the aforementioned DPW deal. And just to be clear, good communication would have prevented, or at the very least minimized this very disingenuous spinning of the issues.

So here are a few warnings and suggestions. Nobody beside you has put the Republicans in better position nationally since Ronald Reagan in 1980. Nobody. But you stand a chance at scoring a significant loss in this year's midterm election if your popularity is still suffering. So the entire conservative movement goes with you.

Now the remedy: First, clean out the communications team. Fire, reassign, demote, whatever. While you are known to be loyal to a fault, loyalty sometimes ignores reality. Remove the people who aren't getting the job done. And whatever the heck Karen Hughes is doing at State is a waste of her talent. Bring her back to the White House. And as far as communications directors, call Ari back, or someone with his skills. Call in anyone who can stay ahead of these stories and let the White House's explanation be the first and most convincing one. And call in communications people whose opinions you will take seriously--people who are strong enough to pull you out of groupthink and out of the Iraq bunker long enough to get and keep your administration on message. Harry Reid won't be able to keep up with that, as he is a purely reactive creature (name me the last successful thing (anything) to exit the Senate that he spearheaded). Likewise, the media will have troubles getting the twist on a story that you have already explained to the public in easy to understand terms. And it only makes them look stupid if they do that.

Success and popularity are all about communication. Bill Clinton was a lousy president, but a superior communicator. It's what kept him alive--along with two runs from Ross Perot.

Don't give this up by failing to heed this advice you are hearing from all of your allies at this point. Work the problem by fixing a communications apparatus that is an unqualified failure. If you don't, the work you have done so far will be for naught. And 2008 could be a big problem, with the media demanding, as they did in 1968, a pullout from what is a winning war.