Good news from the State Department today on the fruits of President Obama's recent openings to the Cuban government. We will be engaging in direct government to government talk on a number of issues, including anti-narcotics and immigration.
The Cuba policy of the US, a shared shame of both parties needlessly pandering to the South Florida vote, must change, and to his credit, the President is moving in that direction. We lost 58,000 Americans fighting Communism in Vietnam; they're still Communist and we have full diplomatic relations. That we have maintained this ridiculous isolation of Cuba for so long makes no sense.
I will legally smoke a fine Havana cigar in Havana before my 50th birthday.
During his radio address yesterday, the President warned against playing "political games" with his nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. He ought to know, after his no votes on both Roberts and Alito, and his support of a Democratic filibuster threat on Alito.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates yesterday told our Asian allies that even tougher sanctions are needed atop of the tough sanctions already in place to finally curb the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.
Don’t these guys already subsist on grass and rock soup? How are tougher sanctions going to break them?
"They create a crisis and the rest of us pay the price to return to the status quo ante," Gates told the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual meeting of defense and security officials. "As the expression goes in the U.S., I'm tired of buying the same horse twice."
There’s another expression in the U.S. Bob, Bill or whatever your name is, that defines insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results each time.
Did you ever get the feeling the rest of the world is in on the joke except you?
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has told state-run television that he has a new book for President Obama the next time the two leaders meet face-to-face. Chavez plans to present Obama with a copy of “What is to be Done?”, Vladimir Lenin’s tome on the role of intellectuals in promoting revolution.
Obama is said to have reacted favorably to the news, as his dog-eared copy is several years old with handwritten notes in the margins…
The ACC Champion Hoos got screwed in College World Series seeding, getting sent out west to play in the same bracket as the #1 team in the country, the defending world series champs, and a team with the best pitcher in college baseball.
The Hoos took it to that pitcher (and his team, San Diego State) last night 5-1, becoming the first team to defeat him this year.
Colbert King is a blatant racist, as one can plainly see from this column. Anticipating an upcoming voting rights case outcome before the Supreme Court, King basically says that Thomas must vote to uphold (ridiculously out of date) provisions of the voting rights legislation as an act of loyalty to his race. This is utter crap, obvious racism, and it won't get a peep of disapproval in the media.
GM closed yesterday at $.80 a share, giving the company a total market capitalization of about $550M---put in perspective, half the size of Toro Lawnmowers. With Barack Obama as CEO, the Federal Reserve acting as a pliant banker and the citizens of the US picking up the bill, is there any doubt that GM will recover? At least to a, say billion dollar company (doubling your money). How about a $10B company (1/4 of what it was)--20 times your money?
All of us should have diversified, balanced portfolios....which to me means you need to have a little bit of high end risk. This looks to me like a good place to take some risk.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, here it is, once again, a FREE FOR ALL FRIDAY! Post your thoughts on whatever you like. Ask a question that you want readers to answer. Pose a situation that you'd like a response to.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Pose a situation to which you'd like a response. Hat tip to the fat man in New Hampshire.
Assuming Al Franken eventually takes his seat in the Senate and that Arlen Specter votes with the rest of the caucus, the Democrats enjoy a 60-40 margin in the Senate and can effectively block any attempts by the minority at filibuster. Or maybe not.
Senator Burris of Illinois is clearly on the hot seat as news arises that he was much more, shall we say, interested in the Senate seat soon to be vacated by Barack Obama than he has previously let on.
Burris is at worst guilty of perjury, and at best guilty of obstruction of justice. Will the Senate do the right thing and expel him? Or will his vote prove to be too important to lose?
The President headed out west to do a little fund-raising the other day (for Nevada's Senator Reid, among others) and while at Nellis AFB in Nevada, he touted his administration's clean energy policies.
Justifiably complementing Nellis for its massive solar installation and the state for its growing geothermal capabilities, the President ignored the elephant in the room....the spent fuel repository at Yucca Mountain, into which the nation's nuclear waste is supposed to flow. Harry Reid is happy to take $800M a year in taxpayer money to keep building the site out, but just try to store a few neutrons there! Over his dead body!
The President is a farce on clean energy. He goes around the country touting capabilities that have at best a marginal impact on our nation's energy supplies. Wind, solar and geothermal are nice, and they have a place in the solution---but they do not scale up well at all. Nuclear power is here, now, and we can move forward with a method of producing electricity that scales up nicely and can actually meaningfully meet the coming demand for increased electrical power. But as long as Harry Reid bottles up Yucca Mountain, a nuclear renaissance is a pipe dream.
Well, I've spent much of the last two days considering where to come down on this issue...and I have decided to recommend that the Republican Party punt on this one (unless they find that she's been funneling money to terrorists). She is 1) a woman 2) Hispanic 3) already twice confirmed for the federal bench. It would be hard to make a case that she's unqualified, and if we tried, we'd be painted as racists and sexists. OF COURSE we don't agree with her....but there's no upside to fighting them on this one. She won't change the balance of the court, and we don't have the votes to stop her. Let Rush, Hannity and Ann Coulter have their way with this---Michael Steele and Republican Senators should just put their weapons back in their holsters, be respectful, and vote no.
Here's an interesting roundup of books of military history. I'm partial to THE GUNS OF AUGUST by Barbara Tuchman....which is probably not military history per se, but man, it clears up a lot of the mishmash that was the coming of World War I.
Robert Samuelson believes the only way the federal government will deal with the impeding crises of Social Security and Medicare is to let them go bankrupt, since the political will to do anything in the interim doesn't seem to exist.
Let the state of these massive, federal programs be a message to those who would add a federally-funded healthcare program for all Americans. Managing your healthcare is not something to trust the government with.
Many of you have indicated a desire that the blog be more "interactive" and by that, that you get to have long running arguments with me. Not my desire, get your own blog if you want to do that. But I've been a little weak over the past few days, and "Anonymous" has made a few points worth responding to. The initial post was about Colin Powell's fitness to be considered a Republican Party spokesman/critic/reformer. I'm a HUGE Powell fan in almost every respect. Indeed, many of the things he says about the Republican Party I AGREE WITH (see my 10 Principles). That said, you don't get to be or be considered a Republican Party spokesman when you quite publicly endorse the candidate of the other Party. See what you think.
Here's a great story on how a governor should manage things budget-wise, as opposed to, I don't know, the governator. Full disclosure-I have a preference for all things Minnesotan (save for that unfortunate Franken fellow), but I really dig this guy Pawlenty. He's not Obama when it comes to style and flash, but still he's an appealing guy, son of a milk truck driver, first in his family to go to college, and coiner of the term 'Sam's Club Republican.' Were he to make a national run in a few years, I'm not sure what the media would go after him over (though we can be confident it'll be SOMETHING). However, if you believe as many do that the Republican comeback will be in the governor's mansions, this man's lead is a good one to follow.
The favorite new line is "we got stuck with Bush's policies, and there really aren't any good alternatives." Just what makes these folks think the Bush folks had better alternatives? Obama and his team get to make their decisions after 7.5 years of no attacks underwritten by the courageous actions of the Bush team to husband national resources to fight an implacable foe. Bush made his while the reality of attack was still a daily story and the possibility of future attack loomed large.
The Obama team may think they have no good alternatives---but they should at least recognize others have reached the same conclusion.
Here's a very insightful article from this morning's Post, one that looks at a particular slice of the Obama Stimulus and follows the money down through the spend chain to the people who do the work--and the impact it has had and is having on their lives and their bottom-lines.
When I read this, I find myself remembering the stimulus debate--Republicans were outraged by the size of the outlay--but even more so that projects like this made up only about half of the total. Even the hardest core fiscal conservative could see that stimulative government spending in the near-term could provide a boost to the economy and aid in putting people back to work. What happened to that bill (if we take the time to remember) is that it had three parts--reasonably stimulative projects such as the one in this story; a poorly conceived tax cut (it didn't lower rates, it was a simple rebate) much of which went to those not paying income taxes already; and spending on items that amounted to no more than straight policy plays--the "we won, so we get to use the crisis to our advantage" stuff. Republicans agreed with the first part, wanted a different kind of tax cut for the second, and disagreed completely with the third.
So as I read this story this morning, I am grateful that the people interviewed are finding their lives on the upswing as a result of the project that got funded. And I give credit to the President who pushed for it. But I find myself thinking about the bucket with a hole in the bottom (Dear Liza) when I consider the policy tricks funded and the non-stimulative tax cut.
Colin Powell has been in the news quite a bit lately, mostly responding to criticism from prominent Republicans (like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh). Powell has been dispensing advice about how the Republican Party must go in order to grow, saying mostly that the American people want MORE government in their lives rather than less.
A couple of things about Colin Powell.
First, he is a hero and an inspiration. I believe he may be one of the singularly gifted men left on the national scene.
Second, he's always been AT BEST a moderate Republican, more like a Lowell Weicker Liberal Republican of the past. He's always been a very APOLITICAL Republican...this is what we want out of our soldiers and statesmen. But he's never been seen as an ideologue, and he's never been seen as anyone with any kind of a coherent political philosophy. As such, he's like most Americans.
Third, he's in over his head. He has little or no political backing, he's had no political jobs, and he (as I said above) has no political philosophy. He's getting into it here over the future of a party littered with people who have actual political philosophies. For good or bad, if you re-read my Ten Principles, you'd see that there is a little bit of Colin Powell's view of the world in it. But that's all--a little bit. Powell's view of the world (pro-choice, pro-affirmative action, pro-government) has NEVER been at home within the Republican Party. This isn't a case of the party moving away from an individual--it is the case of an individual beginning to seriously consider what he really is and realizing that he's not really part of the larger group. Let's all remember here....COLIN POWELL ENDORSED BARACK OBAMA. There's nothing wrong with this, it is a perfectly legitimate political act. But it is not the act of a man with the credentials to shape the future of the Republican Party.
He is interesting to the Press because he WAS a Republican at one point, and they love the internecine nature of this battle. But this is not a fight among Republicans. It is a newly empowered Democrat rationalizing to himself the mistake he made for all those years being a part of an organization he never agreed with.
I'm sorry--I did it again. I went and read another Dana Milbank column in the Washington Post, this time about the Obama/Cheney speech day.
After resorting to every tired cliche to describe the President ("smiling", "cerebral", "soothingly") he turned to his file of tired cliche's to describe the former VP ("scowling", "angry", "fear mongering").
Milbank gives us his handicapping on this bout as follows: "On paper, Obama should be an easy victor in his duel with Cheney; Obama is viewed favorably by about 60 percent of the public, Cheney by about 25 percent." It's not only the popularity of the two figures, it is...well....the goodness of their arguments for Pete's sake. After all, the President is making us more popular in the world, he is finally bringing justice to the issue, he is....well...smiling more.
But like the person who exclaimed after Nixon routed McGovern in 1972 ("how could Nixon have won...everyone I knew voted for McGovern"), Milbank reveals how stunningly out of touch he and many Democrats are with the way many Americans view 9-11 and the War on Terror: "And yet Cheney seems to be winning this fight. Senate Democrats, rebelling against the president, voted against funding his plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. President Obama himself backed down from his support for the release of photographs of prisoner abuse. And he's gone back and forth on whether to prosecute or investigate those accused of authorizing torture. For the moment, at least, President Obama's intellectual arguments can't match Cheney's visceral rage." So that's it then....Cheney (and by extension Bush) didn't lay out intellectual arguments for their policies...they simply acted with rage as they are now. If we only followed the smooth, intellectual approach of the President, we'd be in so much better shape.
Hogwash. Barack Obama and his team are beginning to understand what it was the Bush team was up against, and they are beginning to realize that the Democratic Party does not have a monopoly on smart people. The Bush Administration was populated by some very, very intelligent folks who pieced together a strategy that was successful in keeping us safe from another attack. Now governing, President Obama sees that the rhetoric of the campaign trail simply does not match the reality of the job--and so he not only clings to the the Bush methods, he gussies them up a bit and calls them his own.
Both speeches yesterday served as striking testimony to the effectiveness of the Bush approach to the war on terror, though the President was clearly not trying to make that case.
News today that GM is about to be taken by its new management (the US Government) into bankruptcy. Weeks ago in this blog, I predicted that this (bankruptcy) would happen after a particularly strong speech by the President on the issue. Some thought I was being suckered (especially Goldwater's Ghost), and while it appears that I got the legal call right, I clearly blew every other part of the call. As things turn out, "structured bankruptcy" is another term for "government bailout" and the senior debt-holders are going to get screwed in favor of the unions.
This bankruptcy is not what I envisioned. The heavy hand of the government in this issue brings into question the validity of the entire bankruptcy process. This was not "creative destruction". This is taxpayer-funded redistribution of wealth.
One of the more interesting things about the Obama/Cheney speech dance yesterday is this continuing fascination in the press with Cheney's open criticism of the Obama Administration. From this WaPost article comes this little gem: "I think it is unprecedented in the modern era," said Peniel Joseph, a historian at Brandeis University. "We've seen outgoing administrations that did not get along with the new administration, but we have never seen the vice president of an outgoing administration lambasting the new administration like this." Um, OK, let's suspend disbelief for a second and say "maybe you're right Professor Joseph".
But the question I don't hear being asked is why Bush, Cheney, Rove or any other figure from the Bush Administration should remain quiet while the present administration uses them as a daily punching bag on virtually every issue? You don't get to continue to whine about "inherited problems" and "we lost our way" and expect the other guys to just sit back and nod in agreement.
Repeated below are the former Vice President's remarks (for delivery) at the American Enterprise Institute today. A bravura performance by a great American.
Thank you all very much, and Arthur, thank you for that introduction. It’s good to be back at AEI, where we have many friends. Lynne is one of your longtime scholars, and I’m looking forward to spending more time here myself as a returning trustee. What happened was, they were looking for a new member of the board of trustees, and they asked me to head up the search committee.
I first came to AEI after serving at the Pentagon, and departed only after a very interesting job offer came along. I had no expectation of returning to public life, but my career worked out a little differently. Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don’t think I missed much.
Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I’m an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen – a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.
The responsibilities we carried belong to others now. And though I’m not here to speak for George W. Bush, I am certain that no one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do. We understand the complexities of national security decisions. We understand the pressures that confront a president and his advisers. Above all, we know what is at stake. And though administrations and policies have changed, the stakes for America have not changed.
Right now there is considerable debate in this city about the measures our administration took to defend the American people. Today I want to set forth the strategic thinking behind our policies. I do so as one who was there every day of the Bush Administration –who supported the policies when they were made, and without hesitation would do so again in the same circumstances.
When President Obama makes wise decisions, as I believe he has done in some respects on Afghanistan, and in reversing his plan to release incendiary photos, he deserves our support. And when he faults or mischaracterizes the national security decisions we made in the Bush years, he deserves an answer. The point is not to look backward. Now and for years to come, a lot rides on our President’s understanding of the security policies that preceded him. And whatever choices he makes concerning the defense of this country, those choices should not be based on slogans and campaign rhetoric, but on a truthful telling of history.
Our administration always faced its share of criticism, and from some quarters it was always intense. That was especially so in the later years of our term, when the dangers were as serious as ever, but the sense of general alarm after September 11th, 2001 was a fading memory. Part of our responsibility, as we saw it, was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America … and not to let 9/11 become the prelude to something much bigger and far worse.
That attack itself was, of course, the most devastating strike in a series of terrorist plots carried out against Americans at home and abroad. In 1993, they bombed the World Trade Center, hoping to bring down the towers with a blast from below. The attacks continued in 1995, with the bombing of U.S. facilities in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the killing of servicemen at Khobar Towers in 1996; the attack on our embassies in East Africa in 1998; the murder of American sailors on the USS Cole in 2000; and then the hijackings of 9/11, and all the grief and loss we suffered on that day.
Nine-eleven caused everyone to take a serious second look at threats that had been gathering for a while, and enemies whose plans were getting bolder and more sophisticated. Throughout the 90s, America had responded to these attacks, if at all, on an ad hoc basis. The first attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a law enforcement problem, with everything handled after the fact – crime scene, arrests, indictments, convictions, prison sentences, case closed.
That’s how it seemed from a law enforcement perspective, at least – but for the terrorists the case was not closed. For them, it was another offensive strike in their ongoing war against the United States. And it turned their minds to even harder strikes with higher casualties. Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat – what the Congress called “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count up the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place.
We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We’d just been hit by a foreign enemy – leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.
Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn’t know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.
These are just a few of the problems we had on our hands. And foremost on our minds was the prospect of the very worst coming to pass – a 9/11 with nuclear weapons.
For me, one of the defining experiences was the morning of 9/11 itself. As you might recall, I was in my office in that first hour, when radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour. That was Flight 77, the one that ended up hitting the Pentagon. With the plane still inbound, Secret Service agents came into my office and said we had to leave, now. A few moments later I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.
There in the bunker came the reports and images that so many Americans remember from that day – word of the crash in Pennsylvania, the final phone calls from hijacked planes, the final horror for those who jumped to their death to escape burning alive. In the years since, I’ve heard occasional speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.
To make certain our nation country never again faced such a day of horror, we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks. We decided, as well, to confront the regimes that sponsored terrorists, and to go after those who provide sanctuary, funding, and weapons to enemies of the United States. We turned special attention to regimes that had the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, and might transfer such weapons to terrorists.
We did all of these things, and with bipartisan support put all these policies in place. It has resulted in serious blows against enemy operations … the take-down of the A.Q. Khan network … and the dismantling of Libya’s nuclear program. It’s required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan – and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden. Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive – and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed.
So we’re left to draw one of two conclusions – and here is the great dividing line in our current debate over national security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event – coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort. Whichever conclusion you arrive at, it will shape your entire view of the last seven years, and of the policies necessary to protect America for years to come.
The key to any strategy is accurate intelligence, and skilled professionals to get that information in time to use it. In seeking to guard this nation against the threat of catastrophic violence, our Administration gave intelligence officers the tools and lawful authority they needed to gain vital information. We didn’t invent that authority. It is drawn from Article Two of the Constitution. And it was given specificity by the Congress after 9/11, in a Joint Resolution authorizing “all necessary and appropriate force” to protect the American people.
Our government prevented attacks and saved lives through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States. The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of the New York Times got it and put it on the front page. After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of everyone killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11. Now here was that same newspaper publishing secrets in a way that could only help al-Qaeda. It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn’t serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.
In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations.
In top secret meetings about enhanced interrogations, I made my own beliefs clear. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do. The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people.
Our successors in office have their own views on all of these matters.
By presidential decision, last month we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public’s right to know. We’re informed, as well, that there was much agonizing over this decision.
Yet somehow, when the soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.
Over on the left wing of the president’s party, there appears to be little curiosity in finding out what was learned from the terrorists. The kind of answers they’re after would be heard before a so-called “Truth Commission.” Some are even demanding that those who recommended and approved the interrogations be prosecuted, in effect treating political disagreements as a punishable offense, and political opponents as criminals. It’s hard to imagine a worse precedent, filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse, than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors.
Apart from doing a serious injustice to intelligence operators and lawyers who deserve far better for their devoted service, the danger here is a loss of focus on national security, and what it requires. I would advise the administration to think very carefully about the course ahead. All the zeal that has been directed at interrogations is utterly misplaced. And staying on that path will only lead our government further away from its duty to protect the American people.
One person who by all accounts objected to the release of the interrogation memos was the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta. He was joined in that view by at least four of his predecessors. I assume they felt this way because they understand the importance of protecting intelligence sources, methods, and personnel. But now that this once top-secret information is out for all to see – including the enemy – let me draw your attention to some points that are routinely overlooked.
It is a fact that only detainees of the highest intelligence value were ever subjected to enhanced interrogation. You’ve heard endlessly about waterboarding. It happened to three terrorists. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Muhammed – the mastermind of 9/11, who has also boasted about beheading Daniel Pearl.
We had a lot of blind spots after the attacks on our country. We didn’t know about al-Qaeda’s plans, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and a few others did know. And with many thousands of innocent lives potentially in the balance, we didn’t think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all.
Maybe you’ve heard that when we captured KSM, he said he would talk as soon as he got to New York City and saw his lawyer. But like many critics of interrogations, he clearly misunderstood the business at hand. American personnel were not there to commence an elaborate legal proceeding, but to extract information from him before al-Qaeda could strike again and kill more of our people.
In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib prison with the top secret program of enhanced interrogations. At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America’s cause, they deserved and received Army justice. And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men.
Those personnel were carefully chosen from within the CIA, and were specially prepared to apply techniques within the boundaries of their training and the limits of the law. Torture was never permitted, and the methods were given careful legal review before they were approved. Interrogators had authoritative guidance on the line between toughness and torture, and they knew to stay on the right side of it.
Even before the interrogation program began, and throughout its operation, it was closely reviewed to ensure that every method used was in full compliance with the Constitution, statutes, and treaty obligations. On numerous occasions, leading members of Congress, including the current speaker of the House, were briefed on the program and on the methods.
Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.
I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about “values.” Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11. We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance. Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought, and we in fact obtained, specific information on terrorist plans.
Those are the basic facts on enhanced interrogations. And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation methods in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe.
The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum. If liberals are unhappy about some decisions, and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the President is on the path of sensible compromise. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy. When just a single clue that goes unlearned … one lead that goes unpursued … can bring on catastrophe – it’s no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.
Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy. Apparently using the term “war” where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as, quote, “Overseas contingency operations.” In the event of another terrorist attack on America, the Homeland Security Department assures us it will be ready for this, quote, “man-made disaster” – never mind that the whole Department was created for the purpose of protecting Americans from terrorist attack.
And when you hear that there are no more, quote, “enemy combatants,” as there were back in the days of that scary war on terror, at first that sounds like progress. The only problem is that the phrase is gone, but the same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers are still there. And finding some less judgmental or more pleasant-sounding name for terrorists doesn’t change what they are – or what they would do if we let them loose.
On his second day in office, President Obama announced that he was closing the detention facility at Guantanamo. This step came with little deliberation and no plan. Their idea now, as stated by Attorney General Holder and others, is apparently to bring some of these hardened terrorists into the United States. On this one, I find myself in complete agreement with many in the President’s own party. Unsure how to explain to their constituents why terrorists might soon be relocating into their states, these Democrats chose instead to strip funding for such a move out of the most recent war supplemental.
The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security. Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists picked up overseas since 9/11. The ones that were considered low-risk were released a long time ago. And among these, it turns out that many were treated too leniently, because they cut a straight path back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks in the Middle East. I think the President will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.
In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be a recent editorial in a familiar newspaper that referred to terrorists we’ve captured as, quote, “abducted.” Here we have ruthless enemies of this country, stopped in their tracks by brave operatives in the service of America, and a major editorial page makes them sound like they were kidnap victims, picked up at random on their way to the movies.
It’s one thing to adopt the euphemisms that suggest we’re no longer engaged in a war. These are just words, and in the end it’s the policies that matter most. You don’t want to call them enemy combatants? Fine. Call them what you want – just don’t bring them into the United States. Tired of calling it a war? Use any term you prefer. Just remember it is a serious step to begin unraveling some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11.
Another term out there that slipped into the discussion is the notion that American interrogation practices were a “recruitment tool” for the enemy. On this theory, by the tough questioning of killers, we have supposedly fallen short of our own values. This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the President himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do. It’s another version of that same old refrain from the Left, “We brought it on ourselves.”
It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so. Nor are terrorists or those who see them as victims exactly the best judges of America’s moral standards, one way or the other.
Critics of our policies are given to lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American values. But no moral value held dear by the American people obliges public servants ever to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things. And when an entire population is targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent with American values than to stop them.
As a practical matter, too, terrorists may lack much, but they have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … our support for Israel … our cultural and political influence in the world – these are the true sources of resentment, all mixed in with the lies and conspiracy theories of the radical clerics. These recruitment tools were in vigorous use throughout the 1990s, and they were sufficient to motivate the 19 recruits who boarded those planes on September 11th, 2001.
The United States of America was a good country before 9/11, just as we are today. List all the things that make us a force for good in the world – for liberty, for human rights, for the rational, peaceful resolution of differences – and what you end up with is a list of the reasons why the terrorists hate America. If fine speech-making, appeals to reason, or pleas for compassion had the power to move them, the terrorists would long ago have abandoned the field. And when they see the American government caught up in arguments about interrogations, or whether foreign terrorists have constitutional rights, they don’t stand back in awe of our legal system and wonder whether they had misjudged us all along. Instead the terrorists see just what they were hoping for – our unity gone, our resolve shaken, our leaders distracted. In short, they see weakness and opportunity.
What is equally certain is this: The broad-based strategy set in motion by President Bush obviously had nothing to do with causing the events of 9/11. But the serious way we dealt with terrorists from then on, and all the intelligence we gathered in that time, had everything to do with preventing another 9/11 on our watch. The enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees and the terrorist surveillance program have without question made our country safer. Every senior official who has been briefed on these classified matters knows of specific attacks that were in the planning stages and were stopped by the programs we put in place.
This might explain why President Obama has reserved unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it appropriate. What value remains to that authority is debatable, given that the enemy now knows exactly what interrogation methods to train against, and which ones not to worry about. Yet having reserved for himself the authority to order enhanced interrogation after an emergency, you would think that President Obama would be less disdainful of what his predecessor authorized after 9/11. It’s almost gone unnoticed that the president has retained the power to order the same methods in the same circumstances. When they talk about interrogations, he and his administration speak as if they have resolved some great moral dilemma in how to extract critical information from terrorists. Instead they have put the decision off, while assigning a presumption of moral superiority to any decision they make in the future.
Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interest of the United States. The harm done only begins with top secret information now in the hands of the terrorists, who have just received a lengthy insert for their training manual. Across the world, governments that have helped us capture terrorists will fear that sensitive joint operations will be compromised. And at the CIA, operatives are left to wonder if they can depend on the White House or Congress to back them up when the going gets tough. Why should any agency employee take on a difficult assignment when, even though they act lawfully and in good faith, years down the road the press and Congress will treat everything they do with suspicion, outright hostility, and second-guessing? Some members of Congress are notorious for demanding they be briefed into the most sensitive intelligence programs. They support them in private, and then head for the hills at the first sign of controversy.
As far as the interrogations are concerned, all that remains an official secret is the information we gained as a result. Some of his defenders say the unseen memos are inconclusive, which only raises the question why they won’t let the American people decide that for themselves. I saw that information as vice president, and I reviewed some of it again at the National Archives last month. I’ve formally asked that it be declassified so the American people can see the intelligence we obtained, the things we learned, and the consequences for national security. And as you may have heard, last week that request was formally rejected. It’s worth recalling that ultimate power of declassification belongs to the President himself. President Obama has used his declassification power to reveal what happened in the interrogation of terrorists. Now let him use that same power to show Americans what did not happen, thanks to the good work of our intelligence officials.
I believe this information will confirm the value of interrogations – and I am not alone. President Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Blair, has put it this way: “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” End quote. Admiral Blair put that conclusion in writing, only to see it mysteriously deleted in a later version released by the administration – the missing 26 words that tell an inconvenient truth. But they couldn’t change the words of George Tenet, the CIA Director under Presidents Clinton and Bush, who bluntly said: “I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” End of quote.
If Americans do get the chance to learn what our country was spared, it’ll do more than clarify the urgency and the rightness of enhanced interrogations in the years after 9/11. It may help us to stay focused on dangers that have not gone away. Instead of idly debating which political opponents to prosecute and punish, our attention will return to where it belongs – on the continuing threat of terrorist violence, and on stopping the men who are planning it.
For all the partisan anger that still lingers, our administration will stand up well in history – not despite our actions after 9/11, but because of them. And when I think about all that was to come during our administration and afterward – the recriminations, the second-guessing, the charges of “hubris” – my mind always goes back to that moment.
To put things in perspective, suppose that on the evening of 9/11, President Bush and I had promised that for as long as we held office – which was to be another 2,689 days – there would never be another terrorist attack inside this country. Talk about hubris – it would have seemed a rash and irresponsible thing to say. People would have doubted that we even understood the enormity of what had just happened. Everyone had a very bad feeling about all of this, and felt certain that the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville were only the beginning of the violence.
Of course, we made no such promise. Instead, we promised an all-out effort to protect this country. We said we would marshal all elements of our nation’s power to fight this war and to win it. We said we would never forget what had happened on 9/11, even if the day came when many others did forget. We spoke of a war that would “include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success.” We followed through on all of this, and we stayed true to our word.
To the very end of our administration, we kept al-Qaeda terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again. After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.
Along the way there were some hard calls. No decision of national security was ever made lightly, and certainly never made in haste. As in all warfare, there have been costs – none higher than the sacrifices of those killed and wounded in our country’s service. And even the most decisive victories can never take away the sorrow of losing so many of our own – all those innocent victims of 9/11, and the heroic souls who died trying to save them.
For all that we’ve lost in this conflict, the United States has never lost its moral bearings. And when the moral reckoning turns to the men known as high-value terrorists, I can assure you they were neither innocent nor victims. As for those who asked them questions and got answers: they did the right thing, they made our country safer, and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them.
Like so many others who serve America, they are not the kind to insist on a thank-you. But I will always be grateful to each one of them, and proud to have served with them for a time in the same cause. They, and so many others, have given honorable service to our country through all the difficulties and all the dangers. I will always admire them and wish them well. And I am confident that this nation will never take their work, their dedication, or their achievements, for granted.
This story is disgusting and repulsive. But a shock? How can it be after what we've gone through in this country over the past few years as victims of clerical abuse have come forward in droves to tell their stories.
The overwhelming majority of men who join the Catholic priesthood are good, Godly and devout. I fear though, that the church's view on priestly celibacy encourages a subset of sick, confused and tortured men to seek a life in which their demons are held at bay (presumably) by celibacy--only to find that they cannot control their nature.
I was born a Catholic and I have immense respect for the church and its institutions. But the church has simply not been straightforward enough on this crime, and it has not explained why it is that this is not an issue in faiths without clerical celibacy.
Story here from the WaPost on the thaw in credit markets and some guarded optimism on the economy. With less than 10% of the "stimulus" money out the door, it is clear that the major reason for the uptick has been the technical and tactical moves of the Fed. But markets are funny, and there is a serious psychology to their movements. Once cannot discount the impact of the Obama administration's actions in helping to create and sustain a sense of action. But in the end, depression will have been averted due to the actions of the Fed, and not $800B in additional spending.
"Not to be too gloomy, but the country feels like it's seizing up. It's as if California and New York have burst their bodices like two corpulent gin-soaked trollops and rolled over the fruited plain to rub bellies at the Mississippi. If you're underneath, it's not going to be fun."
I may have mentioned this before, so if I have, please forgive my senior moment. I've been out in the "real" world for over a year now, and one thing I've come to realize is that returning phone calls and emails seems optional in the "real" world. Is it just me, or do I speak the truth? I realize that I transitioned from a world without profit motive to one with, but what about simple human courtesy? In the Navy, I considered some people to be huge pains in the ass (perhaps what I've now become), but you still returned a phone call (or in my case, returned a phone call with an email, which is also acceptable).
I'm sure I'm not the first to recognize this, but as I sit back and think about our President and his first few months in office, I've come to an important conclusion. Never before in presidential politics have so many people been so invested in a hope, and a dream--and that hope and dream are that the man they voted for is lying to them.
If you are a pro-choice voter, then you hope the President was lying during his speech at Notre Dame where he suggested that the debate over abortion should continue. That's the last thing you want, as you see the pro-life movement gathering steam year after year.
If you are in favor of gay marriage, you have to hope that the President is lying when he says that he believes marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman.
If you are in favor of ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, then you're hoping that he is lying when he says his administration is not going to tamper with the current policy.
If you believe that the United States has alienated itself from the rest of the world through its ham-fisted pursuit of the war on terror, you're hoping that the President is lying when he signs Executive Orders reinforcing the practice of "extraordinary rendition", or the snatch and grab of suspected terrorists in other countries (started incidentally, but Bill Clinton).
If you believe that the US has trampled upon international law and the rights of those who took up arms against us as unlawful combatants, you are hoping that the President is lying to us when he says that the "newly constituted" military commissions are the best way to try these people.
If you believe that the US government took upon itself too much power and authority in pursuing a worldwide enemy dedicated to the destruction of western civilization, you are hoping that the President is lying when he advocates for sweeping implementation of the State Secrets Act to protect sources and methods of intelligence gathering.
If you believe that the US government has violated the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans by warrant-less wiretapping, and that those corporations who cooperated with the federal government should bear civil or criminal penalty, you are hoping that the President is lying when he says that such corporations should be protected from prosecution.
The list goes on, and on. But what we have is a whole group of voters who just KNOW IN THEIR HEARTS that the President REALLY WANTS to do the opposite of what he is doing and saying, but that the timing simply isn't right. So one thing or another is true. Either he isn't the man they elected, or he is lying to all of us. One or the other must be true.
A couple of key lines from HOME GAME by Michael Lewis about the decline of the status of American fatherhood:
"At some point in the last few decades, the American male sat down at the negotiating table with the American female and -- let us be frank -- got fleeced," he writes.
""Women may smile at a man pushing a baby stroller, but it is with the gentle condescension of a high officer of an army toward a village that surrendered without a fight."
Then read this, which is the blog on which I found it. Read the comments....my goodness, but there is some ANGST out there!
I admire my friends and my brothers and the fathers that they have become. But something has been lost as fathers shifted from ship captains to oarsmen. I've printed it here before, and I'll do it again now. When I asked my Dad 20 years ago about how to be a good father, his advice was "love your wife". I think that remains true today.
Well, they are done and out there. Over the past 11 days, I've formulated and developed each of the Ten Principles as an exercise in trying to move forward on a consensus view of what Republicans believe. The purpose--to repeat--is to advocate an ideology true to our core beliefs, respectful of those who differ, and inclusive of those who may not agree with the entire package.
I repeat the principles below for those who haven't seen them. Each was more fully developed in its own entry.
For my regular readers, I suppose I should apologize for this exercise, as interestingly enough, the regulars sorta hit the bricks during the time I worked on this project (though the number of new readers each day remained essentially constant). Total readership in the past two weeks is down 50%. Hopefully I can get the regulars back.
Ten Principles for a Republican Renaissance
• America is a special place; it is different from every other nation on earth as a result of its founding, the way it grew, the causes it fights for and its dedication to freedom. It is a country worth fighting to preserve and improve.
• Markets that are more free are better than markets that are less free.
• The American people enjoy many rights. With those rights come obligations.
• The basic component of the American social fabric is the family. Families come in several different guises, but the primary responsibility of the family is to provide a safe and loving atmosphere for the development of children. A primary role of government is to support the family.
• One of the basic building blocks of our society is the public school system. We are committed to its sustainment and improvement. We believe that schools work best when parents, teachers and community leaders work together at the local level. National school policies and national teacher unions are not essential to the task of improving public education.
• Taxation is a necessary evil. In our modern society, we have come to expect many services from government that sustain our quality of life. We must never forget that taxation is always confiscation; the money was earned by the sweat of our brows, and it is government’s burden to prove why it needs the money, not our burden to prove why we should keep it.
• The business of America is business. This does not mean that the modern Republican party is beholden to business, big or small. It means that the modern Republican Party recognizes that commerce is the lifeblood of our Republic. It is what puts food on our tables, and it is what equips our matchless Armed Forces. One cannot be pro-America and anti-business.
• More government equals less freedom. It cannot be otherwise. Each and every function or power we grant to our government is a choice to surrender freedom.
• Human life is worth protecting, be it unborn or at its end. We are dedicated to policies that further these ends, but we recognize that there are those with whom we disagree. Those disagreements should take place in the bright light of the political system, where difficult questions of law and policy are best arbitrated.
• We are dedicated to a politics of civility. We will wage wars of ideas, but we will not demonize those with whom we disagree. We will hold our ground on what truly matters, and we will work hard to find genuine compromise on questions of policy…but not principle.
We are dedicated to a politics of civility. We will wage wars of ideas, but we will not demonize those with whom we disagree. We will hold our ground on what truly matters, and we will work hard to find genuine compromise on questions of policy…but not principle. -------------
The Republican Party is a party of ideas, a party in which conservative principles underpin an intellectual curiosity about the most effective ways of addressing difficult policy issues. Republicans do not support policies because it makes them “feel” better; they support policies because of a rational sense that the approach will work, based on objective evidence. We are a party of the mind, guided by the heart.
We will engage in policy disagreements with those who practice a politics of “feeling”, a politics of “meaning”, who will ignore years and reams of data about the failure of a policy simply because that policy has become part of the social welfare system. We will not shy from these disagreements, but we will wage them with civility. We will prevail in these disagreements because of the coherence of our arguments, not the volume.
We understand that our ideas are not for everyone, and that there are some whose lack of confidence in their fellow citizens leaves them with a sense that they should not and cannot choose for themselves. We should treat these people with respect but contest their logic at every turn. Theirs is the politics of laziness, the politics of the slow drip of government largess into the veins of a benumbed populace. We represent an active constituency, one who questions where tax dollars go, and why. We look at each and every growth in the power and authority of government with circumspection, and we expect government to exercise the power it has been given with efficiency and effectiveness.
Most of all though, should be a party that walks away from the noisy, childish 24 hour news-cycle argument mill. We should avoid the 90 second clash with our policy opponents, where interruption and volume substitute for logic and intellect. When we do meet in debate, we should be civil and resist any urge to dehumanize the other side. We should not back down, nor should we stoop to the level of our detractors. Our ideas will prevail, and we must seek to support those candidates who can most effectively advocate them.
Human life is worth protecting, be it unborn or at its end. We are dedicated to policies that further these ends, but we recognize that there are those with whom we disagree. Those disagreements should take place in the bright light of the political system, where difficult questions of law and policy are best arbitrated.
The Republican Party is a pro-life party. We believe that abortion is is a terrible thing, and that it ends a life. We believe that fetal stem-cell research provides a dangerously slippery slope for cloning and human embryo agriculture. We believe that end of life decisions are wrenching and devastating, and that where clear guidance is not left by the patient, life should be extended by all practical means.
Abortion, for whatever reason, ends a life. The choice to have an abortion is often framed as whether to have a baby or to not have a baby. It is more properly viewed as a decision to have a baby or to kill a baby. That said, these decisions are rarely casually made, and in most circumstances, they are as wrenching and emotional as any decision a human can face. Republicans understand this, and we have compassion for those who feel they are left with no other choice. Republicans work diligently to prove otherwise, supporting adoption, early childhood healthcare and education, and pro-family policies. At the end of the day though, Republicans understand that while a majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life, an overwhelming majority favors a woman's right to an abortion under at least some circumstances. We must work together as a party to achieve a consensus on what those circumstances are, and we must be willing to hear alternate views with compassion and understanding.
Fetal stem-cell research has been the subject of much mis-and-dis-information. Many reputable scientists believe that only fetal stem cells are dynamic enough to provide for the kinds of radical cures that such cells may make possible. Other reputable scientists believe otherwise, that stem cells available from other sources are just as effective. The science needs to play out, and President Bush's compromise on this issue was a wise one. Since the Obama Administration has partially repudiated that stand, Republicans must continue to fight for tough restrictions on the use of fetal stem cells. Republicans must also realize though, that an embryo growing inside a woman is a different thing altogether than an embryo frozen in a lab. While both represent life, one is on the path to viability, the other on the path to the trash heap. Consistently hewing to a line in which fetal stem cell research and abortion are equated is the kind of intolerance to compromise that will repel fiscal conservative/social moderates from the party.
End of life decisions must be in the hands of the patient. If the patient has declared his or her intentions, the state should not interfere. If the patient has not left such intent, the state must always default to the protection and extension of that life.
I urge you, dear reader, to read this series of links. First is the subject of our cautionary tale, a 48 year old New York Times economics writer who painfully reveals the depth of his own bad decision-making in leaving him and his (new) wife a cliche of debt-financing and sub-prime mortgages. This fellow lays it all out there, and he isn't asking for our pity. But the decisions he made along the way beg credulity, and he is where he is as a result.
Next is Megan McArdle's blog entry introducing us to the fellow above. McArdle does a riff on David Brooks' nearly famous "status-income disequilibrium" in which people in certain professions (generally with significant educations) grow dismayed at the paucity of their incomes compared to those with whom the consort. Where I part with McArdle on this front is that our friend above wasn't some kins of free-lancer, surviving day to day on the next check to come from someone who buys his writing. This guy was making $120,000 a year as a salaried reporter.
Finally, we've got Tigerhawk from whom I picked up this threat to being with. I am particularly drawn to his thinking on the subject of the widening gap between reporters/writers/academics and those in the business world as a possible contributor to those occupations increasing identification with the political left.
Twenty-two years ago today, I strolled down the lawn at UVA with a few of my friends to collect our diplomas and head out into the world. It was a special day...capping off four special years.
Twenty-two days ago tomorrow, I played golf with my very best friends in the world, Tom, Rob, and John. Earlier in the year while researching my senior history thesis, I came to realize how aware the young men at UVA in the late 1850's were that something big was getting ready to break. I'd always thought that people experience great historic events in sort of a blase way, until after they end. What I found reading letters from UVA students as the Civil War loomed was just how aware they were of the times in which they were living. I thought about that as I golfed with these three special guys---and I realized that the four of us on a very small scale, knew all through those four years that we were in the middle of something special.
Hat tip to big brother Tom. This one is wonderful:
President Palin’s First 100 Days A near disaster.
By Victor Davis Hanson
WASHINGTON (AP) — The first 100 days of the Palin presidency, according to a consensus of media commentators, have proven a near disaster. Perhaps it was Palin’s scant two years’ experience in a major government position that has eroded her gravitas, or maybe it was her flirty reliance on looks and informal chit-chat. In any case, the press has had a field day, and it is hard to see how President Palin can ever recover from the Quayle/potatoe syndrome. Here is a roundup of this week’s pundit mockery.
LET THEM EAT MOOSE “Ted Stevens may have gotten off,” wrote Bob Herbert in the New York Times, “but he taught our Sarah something first — like using $100-a-pound beef for her state dinners. And what’s this $50 mil for her inauguration gala? Since when do you fly in your favorite pizza-maker from across the country on our dime? Or send the presidential 747 for a spin over the Big Apple for a third-of-a-million-dollar joyride? Does Palin think she’s still in Alaska and has to have everything flown in from the South 48 by jumbo jet?”
WASILLA CHIC Also in the Times, Gail Collins weighed in on the already-tired yokelism of the new commander in chief. “What we’re getting is Wasilla chic. That’s what we’re getting. She arrives in the Oval Office, and first thing sends back Blair’s gift of the Churchill bust as if it’s a once-worn Penney’s outfit. Then she gives the Brits some unwatchable DVDs as a booby prize — as if she idled the old Yukon and ran into Target’s sale aisle. Did Sarah send Bristol into Wal-Mart back in Anchorage for that ‘engraved’ iPod for the queen? And what’s this don’t-bow-to-the-queen stuff, but curtsy for a Saudi sheik? Maybe that explains why she brags to Stephanopoulos about her ‘Muslim faith.’ So far, the best things going for her are Todd’s biceps.” IT'S THE MATH, STUPID! “Well,” lectured Paul Krugman, again in the Times, “we were worried that they didn’t teach math at Idaho U., and now we know for sure they don’t. Is it $1.6 trillion, $1.7 trillion, or $2 trillion in red ink this year? Are we supposed to be impressed that she offers ‘fiscal sobriety’ by cutting 0.003 percent of the budget? She gives out money to those who don’t pay taxes and calls it a tax cut. And now Queen Sarah tells us that in four years she’ll ‘halve’ the deficit, as if she hasn’t borrowed another $5 trillion in the meantime. Does she think we’re morons? How many ‘Drill, baby, drill!’ oil wells can she tap into up there in Alaska to pay for the extra $11 trillion in debt she’s saddling us with?”
WORSE THAN 'NUCULAR' ABC’s Katie Couric summed up the general disappointment with the president’s communication skills. “I tried to warn the American people in that interview a few years back what they would get if they voted for her. Let’s face it: She’s a walking embarrassment. I mean just count ’em up: The mayor of Wasilla thinks Austrians speak some lingo called ‘Austrian.’ Then she tries her hand at Spanish and comes up with some concoction, ‘Cinco de Cuatro.’ Next thing she’ll walk into the window of the Oval Office and expect it to open — oops, she’s already done that. No wonder that when her Teleprompter stalls, she shuts her mouth until it catches up. I’m surprised she managed to get sworn in. And did she think that tasteless ‘Special Olympics’ slur was funny? Or making fun of octogenarian Nancy Reagan’s séances? No wonder Wanda Sykes feels at home.”
ANCHORAGE STYLE A “dragon lady in heels” is what President Palin is, according to the NYT’s Frank Rich. “Don’t fall for this pageant nice-girl stuff. Our former beauty queen is a ward hack. Look at her nominations. Can’t Palin find anyone who has paid his taxes — or do they simply ignore that stuff in no-tax Alaska? Does ‘No more lobbyists’ mean ‘More lobbyists than ever’? Her chief performance overseer doesn’t perform too well herself — and, like Daschle, Geithner, and the rest, skips out on her taxes. When Palin brags about fiscal sobriety, it really means record deficits. In Sarahland, not wanting to take over banks and car companies translates into, ‘She already has.’ Highest ethical standards equates to ‘There are none.’ Calling herself the VA president means she’s just told vets to use their own health insurance.”
GUTTER TRASH “Pretty crude, pretty petty,” Sally Quinn sighed in the Washington Post. “No manners at all. Does our new mom in chief think it’s neat to laugh when her court jester at the correspondents’ dinner calls Michael Moore a traitor and a terrorist — and hopes he dies of kidney failure? Is that funny? Ask those on dialysis. Is that what Alaskan hockey moms do — scream out at every talk-show host who hurts their itty-bitty feelings? Limbaugh, Hannity — who will it will be next? Poor old Jim Cramer?”
NEOCON CON “She’s a Bush clone,” the Times’s Maureen Dowd chimed in. “Bush is out, Palin is in — but we keep getting renditions, military tribunals, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, Predator drone executions over Pakistan, the same in Iraq, and even more of the same in Afghanistan — all retrofitted with new ‘hope and change’ banalities. I mean, who’s putting Mommy Dearest up to this — Wolfie, Perlie, Cheney?”
TINGLE FOR HUGO? “There is no foreign policy,” Chris Matthews said on Hardball, his voice dripping with scorn. “She just tours the world and nods, as if her good looks and serial apologies are going to win us a collective tingle abroad. I don’t think Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad care much that she’s got great legs and a nice wink. How many times can Ms. Vapid say, ‘We’re sorry’ and ‘Hit that old reset button’ and expect thugs to make nice?”
RACE, ALL THE TIME Eugene Robinson worried in the Washington Post about Palin’s emphasis on race. “Look, she gets 95 percent of the working-class white vote. She promises next month to talk to the ‘Christian world’ from Estonia, of all places. Hello? She goes to the Summit of the Americas and immediately puts race on the table — as if we are supposed to separate those with European heritage from those without. Then she tells al Arabiyya that she hopes to heal the rift with Europe ‘because of my own shared European heritage that seems to resonate in ways I hadn’t imagined throughout the EU.’ I guess we’re learning that those ‘gaffes’ last year on the campaign trail, like her ‘typical black person’ remark and Todd’s ‘I am finally proud of my country again’ nonsense were not gaffes at all.”
WHERE IS THE PRESS? Howard Kurtz summed up the press cynicism the best in his Washington Post column. “How long does she think she can keep picking on her right-wing plants in the audience for these softball Q-and-A sessions? I mean, there are only so many pukey ‘What has surprised you the most about this office? What has enchanted you the most about serving in this office?’ questions you can lob.”
The President has nominated Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah to be our new Ambassador to China. A great move by the President---Huntsman is eminently qualified, and oh yeah, one of the more attractive possible Republican challengers in 2012.....
More government equals less freedom. It cannot be otherwise. Each and every function or power we grant to our government is a choice to surrender freedom.
In the State of Nature, man is entirely free. Civil society (and governments) arise from the state of nature as one man's freedoms clash up against another's. To combat the ensuing anarchy, the two (and the rest of society) enter into a social contract, and it is government that is entrusted with protecting individual freedom and liberty.
In order to do that, the members of the society give up certain elements of their own freedom to the government. The consent of the governed is what gives our government its legitimacy and what provides it with the power it exercises over our society. Every power and authority our government has and exercises has been given it by the people, in exchange for a piece of their own liberty.
I go to work and earn my pay. The government takes some of that from me to fund its operations. As part of the social contract, I acquiesce to this confiscation in order that I may enjoy the safety and security the government provides me to exercise my other freedoms (my freedom earn having shown to be abridged). These exchanges of freedom and liberty for protection and service have accumulated since the beginning of our Republic. We are on the verge of an era in which the government will accumulate to itself a whole range of new powers and authorities, powers and authorities it will not readily surrender. Each new power taken on by government is a surrender of freedom by individuals.
For instance--the Obama Administration is busy preparing a massive healthcare overhaul. Many observers expect there to be an option in which individuals could be covered by government sponsored insurance/care. It is wholly foreseeable that businesses which now provide healthcare coverage for their workers, will forgo the practice in the future, assessing that whatever government penalty is affixed would be less burdensome than the costs of continuing to provide the care. By creating this power for itself, government will eliminate over time, the freedom we have to choose who and where our healthcare will be delivered. It is not a direct consequence of the policy, but it is foreseeable. Most government interventions into the free market result in the loss of freedom--this one is just obvious.
We must jealously guard our freedom and liberty from all enemies, foreign AND domestic. At this time, the greatest threat to liberty is our own government, and our desire to be freed from the hard choices of life so that government might make them for us. This is the road to serfdom and slavery.
Well, I've removed the "Digg" function from the site. Some of you asked for it, hoping to aid me spreading the site more widely in the interwebs. But almost none of you used it, and it slowed down the site....so we're back to the old way.
That said, readers are encouraged to take in the whole article. Of those responding, only 22% said that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Adding together those responding that it should be legal in all circumstances and that it should be legal under certain circumstances, one comes up with 76% of Americans believing that some abortion ought to be legal.
A majority of people in this country want to consider themselves pro-life, yet a considerable portion of that total believe that abortion should be legal in some circumstances. A party that continues to cling to the notion that all abortion should be illegal is not a party that gets the politics of this issue. The Republican Party must find a way to be the pro-life party while recognizing a greater definition of the phrase "pro-life". It cannot only mean no abortion ever.
The Speaker's parsing and backpeddling is getting interesting. Her presence atop the Democratic Party in Congress befuddles me (as does John Boehner's atop the Republican Party, though), and I think she is an intellectual scarecrow. I find myself wondering if this issue will be enough to bring her down, but then I find myself thinking I wouldn't want the Dems to have a truly effective leader take her place. So I just sit and enjoy the show.
The business of America is business. This does not mean that the modern Republican party is beholden to business, big or small. It means that the modern Republican Party recognizes that commerce is the lifeblood of our Republic. It is what puts food on our tables, and it is what equips our matchless Armed Forces. One cannot be pro-America and anti-business.
Napoleon was supposed to have described England derisively as a "nation of shopkeepers", which made it unfit to fight his glorious French Armies. Wellington and Waterloo proved otherwise, but I have always suspected the English looked upon Napoleon's remark with pride.
The free exchange of goods and services and the ability to create individual wealth are the keystones of our economically mobile society. We are a nation of shopkeepers---and carpenters, and sales reps, doctors and lawyers. Government policy must seek to enable our economic freedom, to enable American businesses to compete with foreign competitors on a global scale.
The corporate tax rate in the US is one of the highest in the world, and combined with state corporate taxes, serve as a sea-anchor on the forward progress of our economy. Additionally, the increased tax burden to be borne by sole proprietors under currently planned tax schemes will do little but slow the economy and inhibit job growth.
One cannot logically be anti-business and pro-American. One can legitimately criticize corporate excess, just as one can legitimately criticize individual excess. But to look at business from a default view as corrupt and evil is to misunderstand the vital importance that business--small and large--plays in the sustainment and improvement of our Republic.
Let me get this straight; of the Republican Senators, all but three voted against the President's stimulus package. Florida Governor Charlie Crist not only supported it enthusiastically, but he campaigned around Florida with the President in its favor.
Now Crist is running for the Senate---and days after he's announced, without the benefit of a primary....the National Republican Senatorial Committee is endorsing him.
I put out #6 this morning, and I suppose it would be correct to say that I've been a little underwhelmed with the response to the series thus far. Perhaps it is all a little too wonky and philosophical....but at the end of the day, what I'm trying to do here is come up with a set of beliefs that can be translated into teaching and talking points....something that Republican party operatives around the country can latch onto and drive home in every speaking engagement. Are the ten I've put forward sacrosanct? Heavens no. I'm trying to get a conversation started. But the CONCEPT is important.
The Republican Party is in the middle of a healthy process--we've had our butts beaten in two straight elections (06 and 08) and we questioning the direction the party should take. Much of the debate these days centers around the role and influence of social conservatives in the party. Many believe the party needs to stay true to its base and find attractive candidates--this is the recipe for success. Others say it isn't the messengers, its the message--that the Republican Party has simply become too conservative and it is out of touch from a growing number of centrist voters.
You know what? Both sides are right. And in the end, moving the party back into a position in which it can govern is going to take a strategy that builds a coalition in which social conservatives, social moderates, fiscal conservatives and fiscal moderates ALL feel they have a place and a voice.
What I'm trying to do in my Ten Principles is provide such a bridging strategy. Barack Obama is one of the most popular politicians of all time, yet he won the presidency with a 53-47% margin. The point is, we don't have to convert liberals to become the majority party again. We simply need to influence enough moderates to swing things our way. And the way to do that is to be (slightly) more moderate and to appear (slightly) more moderate.
What does this mean? It means being a pro-life party that is big enough to recognize that a growing portion of the American public (perhaps a majority) does not feel that abortion is ALWAYS wrong. It means being a pro-family party that concentrates more on the JOB of the family (raising good kids) than on the MAKEUP of the family (nuclear, gay, single Mom, etc). It means being in favor of traditional marriage without being in favor of discriminating against basic rights for gay people. Like it or not, the Republican Party is increasingly coming to be seen as the party of INTOLERANCE. I assert that we can be successful in being more tolerant--we do not have to EMBRACE ideas, policies and practices with which we disagree, but we should concentrate on being less disagreeable.
Some will say that all I'm doing is repackaging the hooey of the anti-social conservative crowd. I disagree. I think the social conservatives provide the party with its polar influences on social issues, and we should respect that. What I am advocating is a far less hostile approach to dissent.
Some of you are perhaps sitting there reading this saying, "What the hell? Isn't this the guy who went at Arlen Specter for being just this kind of Republican?" Well, the answer is no, because Specter was not this kind of Republican. There is a name for Republicans who break with their party on MOST IF NOT ALL major issues, and that name is "Democrat". What I'm suggesting is that the Party can and will grow if it is seen as more tolerant to the those naturally attracted to its fiscal conservatism (when we actually practice it), but for whom single-issue social issues provide a deal breaker. Again, we don't have to embrace their view, we simply have to respect it and give it voice.
Remember---we don't have to win 100% of the vote; only a fraction over 50 will do. This battle is going to be won on the margins, and we have to have a strategy to attack the margins.
Taxation is a necessary evil. In our modern society, we have come to expect many services from government that sustain our quality of life. We must never forget that taxation is always confiscation; the money was earned by the sweat of our brows, and it is government’s burden to prove why it needs the money, not our burden to prove why we should keep it.
Government at every level provides services and functions that we as individuals are either are incapable of providing or if we tried, would be tremendously inefficient at achieving. Our tax dollars are the means by which we pay for those services. We must never lose our sense of perspective on this matter. Taxes are not the entitled due of the government; they are a voluntary exchange between the governed and the governing to pay for services and value. The government and the governed reach an agreement on some accretion of power for the government (the governed assessing that it is in their favor to do so), and the governed surrender their earnings in exchange. It should never be forgotten that this is a reversible transaction.
While a flat tax would be the preferred method of taxing income at the federal level, the graduated income tax must be strengthened to ensure that all wage earners pay some figure into the general revenue of the country. The current system, in which nearly 40% of wage earners have no income tax liability, creates a situation in which these wage earners pay only “payroll taxes”, destined ultimately for their own support. Not a penny of these earner’s wages goes into maintaining our armed forces, paying government employees, building federal highways, or providing for early childhood education.
Most dangerous of all, because so many citizens have no federal tax liability, they are left with the mistaken notion that the largess of the United States comes without a cost. To them, it is free. To the rest of wage earners, it is most surely not.
Republicans must remain the party of low taxes. We should not be the party of a Tourettes-like reaction to taxes (“the answer is lower taxes, now what was the question?”), but we should continue to drive home the notion that each and every service or function that the government takes on is funded with dollars that come out of our pockets. We must seek to enlarge the dues-paying membership in our Democracy by ensuring that ALL wage earners pay some portion of their earnings (in some cases as low as 1%) into the general revenue and most importantly, we must be the party of limited government, the kind that understands the value of a free people with greater control of their own money.
Pictured here is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ADM Mike Mullen. ADM Mullen is sporting the Navy's new (well, new OLD) Service Dress Khaki uniform. I've had a lot of criticism of the Navy's move to an ugly blue/grey digital cammy for its working uniform (so ugly, I shan't show it here), but the return to Service Dress Khaki is a huge success in my book. Anchors aweigh, my boys.
Lots of chatter out there about the recent White House Correspondents Dinner, the annual gathering of politics, media and Hollywood (Hollywood more so in Dem administrations than Republican).
The President did a good job, was very funny and seemed relaxed.
Hired talent Wanda Sykes cut the President and others up, and savaged Rush Limbaugh.
No one should be surprised at these things, and people whining about what he or she said should just shut up. It is the nature of the evening.
The line that got me doing a double take though was this one from Chris Cillizza, a WaPost reporter and blogger:
"Democrats in attendance -- and that was the majority of the crowd given the new administration -- largely wrote off Sykes's Limbaugh comment to the sort of good-natured ribbing that is part and parcel of the event."
No Chris...the majority of the crowd was Democrat NOT because of a new administration, but because IT WAS A PRESS EVENT! It is hard not to chuckle when you see something so obvious either completely missed or dishonestly fudged by a writer.
The Blog: A compendium of thoughts on politics, world affairs, economics, pop culture and social issues, from the center right perspective of me--Bryan McGrath--a University of Virginia graduate who spent a career in the world's greatest Navy keeping my mouth shut about politics and social issues (ok, publicly keeping it shut). Those days are over! I've also invited a few friends to join in, so pull up a chair and chime in where you will. Keep it clean, civil, concise and relevant.
The Fish: The fish is a "coat of arms" for the blog, symbolizing three formative influences in the life of the blog founder. The first is his experience at the University of Virginia--symbolized most importantly by the fish itself, or a caricature of a "Wahoo", the fish we have acquired as an informal nickname. Additionally there is the sword, the sword of a Cavalier. It is not wielded in a threatening manner, as this is a civil blog. But it is there, should it be needed. Thirdly, there is the influence of 21 years in the Navy--symbolized by the anchor on the Wahoo's fin (and again, the sword) . Finally, there is the bowler, tuxedo, and monocle, symbols of a refined, intellectual conservatism, or what I seek to encourage here.
The Policy: I take FULL responsibility ONLY for what I write. I do not take responsibility, nor will I be held responsible, for what my guest bloggers write or for what those who offer comments write. I will occasionally exercise my right to edit/delete both blog posts and comments if they do not meet my view of what clean, civil, concise and relevant mean.