Monday, November 30, 2009
I know the US walks a delicate balance in working with Pakistan, and I suspect the timing of this has more than a little to do with Obama's Afghanistan speech tomorrow, but still, with smart people like Obama, Biden, and Hilary Clinton in charge, I expected our foreign policy to have a bit more nuance.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Besides characters such as Doodad Pro, Obama's most famous illegal contributor was his Aunt Zeituni Onyango, found living on an expired visa in a Boston housing complex. The Times noted, early on, that since "Ms Onyango made a contribution to the Obama campaign (that) would indicate that she is a US citizen." (Can you say journalistic naivete?)
The potential fundraising fraud was a minor kerfluffle at the end of the campaign. The RNC asked for an investigation, the FEC promised one after the election, and the campaign vowed to immediately return all illegal donations (without explaining how they could tell which ones were illegal). After Obama's victory, everyone lost interest.
Why? Perhaps there is no story here. Perhaps there really were only a handful of illegal contributions. Or perhaps both Obama's supporters and opponents see the campaign's fundraising success as the brave new world of politics. It worked well, so don't rock the boat. We'll use the same methods.
There were multiple causes for President Nixon's downfall, but two may may be applicable. Woodward and Bernstein's investigations were driven by Deep Throat's advice: Follow the money. And it was not the dirty tricks, but the cover up, that turned so many against Nixon.
If half the energy that has been spent on birth certificate research had gone into chasing the money, what would we find? A year in, some of Obama’s supporters are becoming disillusioned. Maybe some of them have stories to tell. Perhaps they will tell them to this decade's Woodward and Bernstein.
What ever happened to Aunt Zeituni? She found a sympathic immigration judge and is apparently still in Boston.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
How about a former clerk to Clarence Thomas running for Congress against Jim Moran (D, MBNA) on a platform of fiscal conservatism/national security/ethics - who also happens to be gay?
Meet Matthew Berry. Fifty years ago, a Democrat Congressman from the South could only be defeated if he were caught in bed with a dead woman or a live man. Given CD 8's past support of Moran, neither of those would be likely to have much effect on his re-election chances.
It will be interesting to see how the tolerant, inclusive Alexandria/Arlington Democrats react to a gay, Clarence Thomas Republican.
The election is a year away, and Berry may face primary opposition, but who knows? Nobody thought Bill Clinton would be defeated when he ran for his second term as governor of Arkansas in 1980.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I’ve got no inside information, just some thoughts:
Andrew McCarthy at NRO argues that the KSM trial is part of a Holder/Obama plan to appease the left and ruin the CIA, as a substitute for trying Bush and Cheney for war crimes. While he makes some good points, we should never ascribe to malice what we can chalk up to incompetence or stupidity.
Criminal trials for terrorism are consistent with eight years of Bill Clinton, and with John Kerry’s comment in his 2004 presidential campaign, (that he hoped we would get back to where terrorism was merely a nuisance.) The first WTC bombing? Put the blind sheikh on trial. The USS Cole? Bomb an aspirin factory in Sudan. The East Africa embassy bombings? Increase embassy security and warn Americans against travel to certain spots. Terror as crime has an easy solution- law enforcement, apprehension, trial , punishment. War is messy, and anyway how do we know whom to declare war on, and when or how we will win? Besides, moving KSM and his buddies to New York City is one more step in closing Gitmo. (The President will keep at least some of his campaign promises.)
Treating terror as a law enforcement issue has two big drawbacks. First, it didn’t have much success in reducing terror in the 1990’s (whereas declaring a war on terror after 9-11 seems to have been effective at preventing further attacks in the US.) Second, what are the chances we would have apprehended KSM had we not overthrown two rogue governments and put significant military assets in the area? Pakistan’s (limited) cooperation is not out of the goodness of their hearts.
Neocons are frequently accused of lacking nuance. I fail to see the nuance in treating terror as a criminal matter.
What of the Afghan (lack of) strategy? The past few months are a classic example of policy- making by leak. There’s a huge debate raging within the Adminstration. McChrystal wants more troops. Biden thinks we can just use UAVS, and invade Pakistan if necessary. A large contingent of Democrats wants us to withdraw quietly and quickly. The Karzai government makes a good target (let’s ignore the fact that any Afghan government will be crooked , except by Chicago standards, and that Karzai is a cleaner, more democratic politician than, oh, Putin or Mubarak or Ahmadinejad.)
I think Obama really does not know what to do. Imagine that Axelrod and Rahm arranged the trip to Dover as good PR- but that Obama saw the caskets, met the families, and was genuinely moved by the losses. Does anyone really know how that would affect his decision making?
There are domestic political considerations at work, to be sure, but much more is going on. The always entertaining but unreliable Debka had two big stories last week- that the Obama- Netanyahu face to face focused solely on Iran; and that there was a joint Israeli/American/ Jordanian/ Egyptian intelligence meeting in Amman. Whether Debka has solid sources or merely made both stories up, both have the ring of truth. Farther east, the stability of Pakistan looms as an issue with enormous potential impact on our Afghan policy.
An Israeli (or American or NATO) strike on Iran’s nukes, or another Iranian revolution, will send shock waves through and beyond the Mideast. If you know the rules of the game will change before the new year, delaying a decision on Afghanistan makes sense.
Then again, maybe I’m too much of an optimist.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is suggesting that the IRS revisit the Catholic church's tax-exempt status (because) the role the bishops played in pushing the Stupak amendment, which unfairly restricts access for low-income women to insurance coverage for abortions, was more than mere advocacy.
It's not a new argument. Gay rights groups argue "if the LDS church insists on meddling into political affairs they should not be allowed to hold a tax exempt status." Opponents of Jerry Falwell''s Moral Majority expressed similar fears twenty years ago about religious groups' involvement in politics.
The only thing missing from Lynn Woolsey's concern is a knowledge of history. Is she unaware of the Catholic bishops' support for nuclear disarmament? The involvement of mainline American Protestant denominations in the nuclear freeze movement in the eighties? Perhaps she never heard of the Reverend Dr.Martin Luther King. Fifty years ago he led the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott. King's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church frequently hosted rallies during the boycott. Along with other Southern church leaders, King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight segregation; they were joined in the early sixties by many northern white church leaders. Church involvement in the civil rights movement was not peripheral; it was critical. It was certainly, as Lynn Woolsey says of the Catholic bishops' role in the Stupak amendment, "more than advocacy."
Fifty years ago, segregationists such as Ross Barnett and George Wallace argued that churches had no role to play in politics. Lynn Woolsey is in good company.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I’m developing a man crush on this guy.
First Senator Joe Lieberman, who heads the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, announced he was launching a congressional investigation to find out whether the Fort Hood attack last week was preventable, calling it the “most destructive terrorist act committed on American soil since 9/11.”
Then he ripped the public option in the health insurance reform bill.
If the public option plan is in there ... I will not allow this bill to come to
a final vote. I believe the debt can break America.
Lieberman’s statements reminds me of the furor when Washington National Airport was renamed for Ronald Reagan. Sure, it’s the right thing to do; but what’s almost as satisfying is the people whom the action is sure to irritate.
We’re renovating some newly leased space adjacent to our office. The contractor was in the other day checking the plans for which partitions to move. I interrupted his work. “Excuse me, but I’ve always wanted an excuse to say this. Mr.Gorbachev,” I pointed, “ tear down this wall.”
He was old enough to be as amused as I was.
One tribute from Mario Rubio in NRO:
As Ronald Reagan said, “Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because
the U.S. was too strong."
Thank you, President Reagan. You did an exceedingly good thing, and it’s a pity how little credit you are receiving, twenty years on.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
The final vote may hinge on parliamentary maneuvers on two key issues. Pro choice Democrats want a prohibition on insurance funding for abortion. Hispanics fear a GOP amendment to bar undocumented workers from purchasing insurance. The House leadership will be busy making deals, right up until the final vote-- if it occurs this weekend.
The Democrats have to get the bill out this weekend; any more time allows more analysis, more polling, more angry phone calls from constituents to wavering Democrats. If there is no vote, or a "no" vote, this weekend, I call the bill dead.
Whatever the House passes will bear little resemblance to a final Senate bill; and the reconciliation process will give House Democrtas in marginal districts one more thing to worry about.
If Pelosi can't pass this, I expect a coup in the House leadership. Steny Hoyer is a smart guy. Obama will need someone to blame, and it will be hard to pin failure on 177 Republicans.
I mean, if the Republicans were running in Afghanistan, they’d be running on the
Taliban ticket as far as I can see.
A McDonnell campaign spokesman, in what has to be one of the most charitable explanations ever, said that Moran was seeking to rally voters who are unexcited by their own candidates.
I see a great T shirt opportunity.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Ed Gillespie at the Washington Post:
McDonnell laid out a steady stream of policy initiatives rooted in a commitment to lower taxes, less regulation and innovation. Too often, however, Republicans don't "finish the sentence" and remind voters outside our base why such conservative policies are better. McDonnell's campaign attracted crucial independent voters by focusing on the benefits of his policies.
Ramesh Ponnuru, TIME
Republicans' principal problem in recent elections has not been that they are too far right, or not far right enough... The problem has instead been that voters have not thought Republicans of any stripe had answers to their most pressing concerns.
Democrats have run against George W. Bush for eight years. While successful in 2006 and 2008, it didn’t work in 2004 and it sure didn’t work in 2009. A year of Obama, Pelosi and Reid has given the American people a pretty clear idea of what the Democrats are for, not just what they were against. Hope and Change looks like unlimited spending; a health care plan that is long on smoke, mirrors and promises and short on specifics; Treasury officials who don’t pay their taxes; an antipathy for dissent; Presidential advisors who “speak truth to power” without realizing that they are the power structure now; and an incoherent foreign policy based more on dreams and expectations than actual plans or results.
But, hey, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize!
All that may keep voters from supporting Democrats; but it is not enough to make them support Republicans. We have to finish the sentence.
I see three areas where Republicans must reach a consensus to move forward;
· What are we for?
· How do we bridge the party’s divide on social issues, and unite on all the issues where we agree?
· Are we Glenn Beck populist bomb throwers, or are we serious about winning elections and governing?
Here are some suggestions on what the GOP could be for:
Strong national defense and homeland security, with a recognition that America’s concerns do not end at the shores of the continental United States. We aren't all neocons or internationalists; but we can be neither isolationists nor apologists for all of America’s past evils . We should be willing to negotiate with anyone who will talk to us in good faith, while realizing that not everyone fits that description. ( Ronald Reagan: “Trust but verify.”) The President of the United States (once known as the leader of the Free World) must protect and defend the interests of the United States. If he doesn’t, no one else will. We will work with allies and friends; but we will capitulate to no one.
Civil rights and civil liberties. How do we make sure that while our government is protecting us, they are not infringing on our freedom? On a different level, we benefit from having an enormous amount of data on our behavior stored on the computers of Google, Safeway and Travelocity. How do we make use of technology and still protect the individual's right to privacy?
A belief in equality of opportunity, with no guarantee of equality of results
Energy independence. This is more than just drill here , drill now; it is developing solar and wind power where they make sense, even if it is off Nantucket. It is new, safe nuclear; it is Yucca Mountain. (Sorry, Senator Ensign.) It is increasing energy efficiency everywhere we can.
Tax reform, earmarks reform, and entitlement reform. We’ve had national dialogues on race. How about one on the fact that we have to pay for the services we want?
· Residents of metropolitan Washington DC should not expect to have their highways expanded, their broken water mains repaired, and their teachers and police officers paid, from revenue raised in Walla Walla, Washington. Or vice versa.
· We must limit government spending, whether it is for new fighter jets or bridges to nowhere. We can't fund everything, we need to make wise choices.
· Everybody should pay taxes, not just "the Rich." We should all be invested in the American system.
· The tax code should be fair, simple and transparent. Economic decisions should not be made on the basis of lowering one’s tax liability.
· Entitlement reform is the third rail of American politics, but if Bill Clinton could enact welfare reform, why can’t the GOP tackle entitlements?
Immigration and border control. We are a nation of immigrants; as long as our economy needs inexpensive labor, it will find its way here. At the same time, we have to find a way to control our borders. There’s no easy fix on this one but it is an issue we need to honestly discuss and try to address.
None of this is easy. But we’re smart people. We put a man on the moon. We invented the microchip and the PC and the IPOD. In fifty years we went from the Montgomery bus boycott, to Watts and Detroit, to the assassinations of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King Jr, to Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice and President Barack Obama. We can do this.
Social issues, for the most part, are secondary to me. National security trumps everything else. Yet I know that social conservatives, and those who disagree with them, have valid concerns. Can we agree to disagree? Or, even better, can we find common ground on some issues –that we don’t care what two consenting adults do in their own homes; that government should neither require nor prohibit employers from providing benefits to their employees’ spouses or unmarried partners? That people in New York City may have valid reasons for gun control, which have no relevance to residents of Gage County Nebraska? That religious groups can provide terrific services to those in need, but should not be forced to support practices they disapprove of?
The GOP has come back from defeat before, in 1980 and in 1994, in both years winning contests that no one expected Republicans to win. We can do the same in 2010. But we have to finish the sentence. We don’t have to have a Ronald Reagan or a Barack Obama; we have to offer the American people something to believe in.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Two results if that happens:
1) Health care reform, and Cap and Trade, are DEAD. Congress may pass a health care bill but it will bear no resemblance to the most recent proposals from Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi. The President, in a rare moment of candor, will blame the failure on Congress's lack of quick action in August.
2) The Obama Administration will renew its war on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the GOP, and expand it to other major media outlets. Valerie Jarrett will continue to "speak truth to power" (ARGGH!) but be more roundly ridiculed.
It would be fun to watch the meltdown, except that it is the United States government. This may be worse than Jimmy Carter.
But let's cut the RNC some slack. There are no national political parties*. The RNC and the DNC are committees of two people from each state, a national chairman, and a small staff. The parties meet every four years at their national conventions but otherwise the Republican and Democrat parties are actually fifty-one separate state organizations, along with the elected officials who claim a D or R by their names (and rarely agree 100% with their party's official platform.) The RNC assumes that the New York state party will support its presidential candidate every four years , whomever he or she is; the New York state party assumes that the RNC will support the candidates which the party chooses for state and local elections.
Is it a good system? It beats the alternative: multiple parties where coalition governments are the rule. (Think Italy or Israel). It usually works, with occassional oddities: Joe Lieberman, defeated in the Democratic primary, victorious as an independent. He's an IINO. Or Texas Congressman Greg Laughlin, whom the GOP recruited to switch parties in 1995. A year later he lost the primary to Ron Paul. And then there's Arlen Specter, or Jim Jeffords.
When the national parties interfere in local party decisions, bad things happen. The DNC struggle with the establishment Southern Democrats from 1964 to 1972 changed the Solid South, from Texas to North Carolina, from all- D Senators to five Democrats and fifteen Republicans. Before that, the intra- party feuds over slavery killed the Whigs and birthed the GOP.
Chuck Todd just portrayed the Hoffman- Scozzafava feud as "massive infighting" between the GOP establishment in DC and the grassroots. He's smart enough to know better. The civil war is mostly at the local level. Michael Steele expected the New York GOP to pick the best possible candidate; his responsibility was to support the local party.
As for Dede Scozzafava, I agree with NRO: she owes the GOP $900,000.
*Excepting the CPUSA, ANSWER, and the LaRouchies.