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SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2010
HAILING HALEY – AT 8:02 P.M. ET: Republican Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi is one of the best governors in the country. Even The New York Times condescends to recognize the attributes, and possible future, of this son of the South:
He is a former lobbyist, Republican National Committee chairman, White House political director and a familiar enough piece of the national political furniture to be known simply as “Haley” within certain Washington circles.
Now, for the second time in five years, Mr. Barbour finds himself in a highly visible role during a Gulf Coast catastrophe. As he nears the end of his eight-year stint as governor, Mr. Barbour’s performance could help shift his political image from that of an insider party boss to an out-front crisis manager — and possible presidential candidate in 2012.
Mr. Barbour, 62, is proof that if you hang around long enough, even a good old boy lobbyist and political party animal can come back into fashion — or at least be recast by circumstance. A self-described “fat redneck,” he speaks in a marble-mouthed Mississippi drawl, loves Maker’s Mark bourbon, resembles an adult version of Spanky from the Little Rascals and fits no one’s ideal of a sleek new political model: squat, big-bellied and pink-jowled, he looks as if he should have a cigar in his mouth at all times (and occasionally does).
Mr. Barbour, one of the few politicians whose standing was enhanced by his response to Hurricane Katrina, has eagerly taken on the post of de facto director of tourism for the Gulf Coast, a task only slightly less daunting or thankless than heading a public relations campaign for BP. He has complained bitterly about what he calls the news media’s exaggerations and distortions about the spill.
Recently dubbed “the anti-Obama” by Newsweek, Mr. Barbour has attributes that could prove to be a counterintuitive asset for him if he decides to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. “If you think ahead to 2012, we are not going to beat the president with someone who has the same M.O. as the president,” said Nick Ayers, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association, of which Mr. Barbour is chairman.
COMMENT: Barbour is one of the "anti-Obamas" the GOP should be looking at. Another of course is Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who actually, in contrast to The One, knows how to accomplish things. And a third is Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, possibly the most dynamic governor in the country, if about 100 pounds overweight.
The people may well be looking for a guy in a rumpled suit and scuffed shoes to put this country back together. Barbour, Jindal and Christie fit the bill. And all are developing solid records.
Of course, Barbour has an obvious liability, and its name is Mississippi. Many Americans still associate the state with the violence of the civil rights era. That's long past. We put racial prejudice aside to elect Barack Obama. It's time now to put regional prejudice aside.
June 19, 2010 Permalink
GRECIAN EARN – AT 7:48 P.M. ET: Ah, to be unmarried in Greece. Well, assuming you meet certain conditions. Reader Joseph J. Gallick alerts us to a glimpse into the workings of a nanny state on the brink of financial collapse:
Sophia Constantinidou works as a teacher in a private school in Athens. She also has a more lucrative job: remaining unmarried.
The 52-year-old gets 400 euros ($496) a month from the Greek government, part of her late mother’s state pension. Under the current system, Constantinidou qualifies to receive the payment for life as the only surviving child of a deceased civil servant, provided she doesn’t tie the knot.
“It’s not that I didn’t want to get married,” Constantinidou, whose mother died 20 years ago, said in an interview. “But after I turned 40, I realized I wouldn’t be getting married and that thankfully I had this.”
As the European Union, International Monetary Fund and bond investors scrutinize debt-ridden Greece, they need look no further than the pension system for a prime example of how the country is living beyond its means. Greek pensioners on average live on 96 percent of the salary they had when they worked, more than twice the proportion of earnings as Germans, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Greece “is a classic case of entitlements granted by short-sighted governments that didn’t bother to secure financing sources,” said Miranda Xafa, a former director at the IMF and now a senior investment strategist at Geneva-based IJPartners. “The political benefit of pension entitlements granted is immediate, but the cost will be incurred later.”
COMMENT: The Greek government is now working on "reforms" that will presumably make the system more sane. But European "reforms" are often greeted by riots in the streets and the destruction of an impressive number of vehicles by members of the agitated and oppressed proletariat. So let's see how far these reforms will actually go. Maybe BP or the Obama administration can give advice on how to run things.
June 19, 2010 Permalink
GERMANY DISSES OBAMA – AT 11:43 A.M. ET: Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be the latest world leader to specialize in ignoring Barack Obama. The two will meet at the upcoming G20 conference, in Canada, another country for which our current president has shown little use:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday spending cutbacks are needed following the spate of throwing money at the global economic crisis, in a direct counter to US President Barack Obama.
Referring to the G20 summit in Canada next weekend, Merkel said in a videotaped message that "we are going to discuss when to quit the phase of short-term measures and go on to lasting budget consolidation."
Such a move was "urgently necessary, in the view of the Europeans and particularly of Germany," she said.
Obama's message: Spend, baby, spend.
Obama urged the world's leading economies Friday to avoid scaling back government spending too quickly or risk derailing the global recovery.
"We worked exceptionally hard to restore growth; we cannot falter or lose strength now," Obama said in a letter to G20 leaders ahead of a June 26-27 summit in Toronto.
No, just when we're on the verge of spending ourselves into bankruptcy, we must have the courage to go all the way.
Merkel retorted on Saturday, "We know of course that the European Union must make its contribution to ensure lasting world economic growth," but added, "We believe we have put the stresses on the right spot."
"Europe will make its point of view clear at the G20," she warned.
COMMENT: Question: Is Obama becoming the Rodney Dangerfield of world politics? Like Rodney, he don't get no respect, no respect.
Difference is, Rodney was funny intentionally.
June 19, 2010 Permalink
HANSON NAILS OBAMA'S FOREIGN POLICY – AT 10:57 A.M. ET: Victor Davis Hanson suggests that Mr. Obama's foreign policy needs some body work, and some engine overhauling as well:
Not being George W. Bush while apologizing for America's purported sins is not a foreign policy.
No it's not, and Americans are understanding.
In interviews and speeches, Obama emphasizes his nontraditional background and his father's Islamic heritage. Apparently, he hopes that by reminding the world that he is not George W. Bush, America will be better liked.
But without a strategic vision, "Bush did it” leads nowhere — given that most of the world's problems predated and transcend Bush. Obama doesn't seem to understand that wanting people to like America is only a means to an end, not a policy in itself.
Nor does Obama comprehend that global tensions often reflect fundamentally different views of the human condition, rather than simple miscommunication or clumsy diplomacy — and so can't be solved by serial apologies.
Only Obama's America offers atonement, as if apologies will singularly achieve our new goal of being liked above all else. Yet when there is no upside for a country being democratic or pro-American, and not much downside for being dictatorial and anti-American, global confusion follows over the proper path that civilization should follow.
So after 16 months of the Obama presidency, we are starting to see the sort of chaos that results from America's lack of strategic vision or advocacy of its own values.
Suddenly, allies such as democratic Colombia, Israel and India cannot count on our support in their rivalries with aggressive neighbors, while overt enemies such as Iran, Hamas and North Korea wonder whether a brief window has opened for aggrandizement without repercussions.
In all these crises, trashing George W. Bush, reaching out to enemies and taking friends for granted is not proving to be a coherent foreign policy. Instead, it is a prescription for a disaster not seen since 1979, when another messianic American president thought he could charm the world by making our enemies like us.
And we all know how that ended.
COMMENT: Yes we do. And Obama is increasingly being compared to Jimmah Carter, good buddy to Yasir Arafat and worthies like that.
Further, Obama is surrounded by ideologues like Samantha Power. Even if his party loses control of Congress in November, the president will still have essentially absolute sway in foreign policy. That is the danger for us.
Obama has a dream. And that dream doesn't put America at the top of the heap.
June 19, 2010 Permalink
FOURTH DAY IN A ROW – AT 10:46 A.M. ET: We've been following the Rasmussen daily tracker very carefully this week, to see if the president's sudden drop in approval continues. Thus far, it continues.
Mr. Obama has been under 45% in approval for four days running, so it's unlikely that the first warning was merely a statistical aberration:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 25% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -20.
Overall, 42% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president's performance. That too reflects a three-point drop since the speech.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) now disapprove.
It is the defection of the independents that should have the White House worried:
Among those not affiliated with either major party, 49% now Strongly Disapprove. That’s up five points since Tuesday morning.
Obama's handling of the oil spill – or as the White House will undoubtedly call it, the Bush-Cheney oil spill – is having its impact. But I suspect it goes beyond that. A lot of people just don't like Obama any longer. He's not a very likable man, unlike the packaged candidate we were given in 2008. Politics is partly based the same kind of emotional reactions we have to people every day. Obama is losing the feelings race.
June 19, 2010 Permalink
HUH? WE DEBATE? WATCH OUR FOREIGN POLICY COLLAPSE BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES – AT 10:38 A.M. ET: We're still waiting for North Korea to receive severe punishment for the sinking of a South Korean warship.
Looks like we'll be waiting a long time. It's reached the point where the fearless Obama administration is concerned about upsetting the northerners too much. From WaPo:
The Obama administration is wrestling over whether to send an aircraft carrier to take part in military exercises with South Korea in what would amount to a significant show of force after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March.
The back-and-forth over the USS George Washington reflects the precarious security situation in Northeast Asia after North Korea's sinking of the Cheonan on March 26. It underscores a huge issue facing U.S. and South Korean officials: how to stop North Korea, which is believed to possess nuclear weapons, from conducting conventional attacks such as the torpedoing of the Cheonan.
Oh yeah, and we also might try to stop North Korea from going further with its nuclear program. Wasn't that the purpose of all those talks back then? Guess they forgot.
Some within the administration are arguing that dispatching the 97,000-ton carrier to the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula, where the Cheonan was sunk, could anger China or cause North Korea to react violently, according to officials involved in the discussions. Others say the United States needs to send a clear message to its allies and to North Korea and China that the United States is standing firmly behind the South.
"It's a very tough call," said Susan Shirk, a former State Department official and an expert on Asian security at the University of California at San Diego. "You don't want to be too proactive. But you need to send a clear message."
Geez. It's an exercise. We're not exactly planning to lob test missiles into Dear Leader's swimming pool. This administration thinks the way European diplomats thought in the 1930s. The result might be the same.
June 19, 2010 Permalink
FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2010
“WILL YOU LOVE ME IN DECEMBER AS YOU DO IN MAY?" – AT 8:44 P.M. ET: That's a lyric written by Jimmy Walker, the late, and very corrupt, mayor of the New York of many decades ago, and someone might slip it under Barack Obama's door. They were applauding for The One all over the world at one time. No longer. Nile Gardiner marks the president's decline in Britain:
What a difference 18 months and an oil spill makes. In January 2009 Barack Obama was hugely popular on this side of the Atlantic, and could have walked on water in the eyes of the British media, the political elites, and the general public. In June 2010 however he probably qualifies as the most despised US president since Nixon among the British people. In fact you can’t open a London paper at this time without reading yet another fiery broadside against a leader who famously boasted of restoring “America’s standing” in the world.
What a valentine!
It’s hard to believe that any politician could become more disliked in the UK than Gordon Brown, but Barack Obama is achieving that in spades. And as Janet Daley noted of the British press, the love affair with Barack is well and truly over.
The key catalyst for rising anti-Obama sentiment in the UK has been his disastrous handling of the BP issue, and his relentless desire to crush Britain’s biggest company. There is no doubting BP’s responsibility over the Gulf oil disaster, and it is right that the firm is being held to account for its failures. But the brutal, almost sadistic trashing of BP by the imperious Obama administration, which has helped wipe out about half its value, threatens its very future, as well as the pensions of 18 million British people and the jobs of 29,000 Americans.
As Churchill once said of another British politician, Obama is a bull who brings his own China shop with him.
The Anglo-American Special Relationship, the most successful partnership of modern times, will survive long after President Obama departs the White House. It is far bigger than any one president or prime minister. But there can be no doubt that it is being significantly damaged and weakened at this moment by the Obama administration’s sneering approach towards Great Britain, at a time when British and American soldiers are fighting and dying alongside each other in a major war in Afghanistan. President Obama needs to see the big picture and understand that his anti-British posturing is hugely counter-productive and highly offensive. He is already one of the least popular US presidents of modern times, not only in the eyes of the American people, but now the people of Britain as well.
COMMENT: Those of us who were for McCain during the 2008 election campaign, and who were ridiculed for it, can hold our heads high.
And Sarah Palin has more common sense in her little finger than Obama has in his whole brain.
June 18, 2010 Permalink
OH, THE MOANS FROM THE OVAL OFFICE – AT 5:56 P.M. ET: In the immortal words of Jimmy Durante, this is a catastroscope...if you're a Democrat. From Scott Rasmussen's daily presidential approval poll, today:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Friday shows that 25% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-six percent (46%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21 (see trends).
These results are based upon nightly telephone interviews and reported on a three-day rolling average basis. As a result, more than two-thirds of the interviews for today’s update were conducted after the president’s speech to the nation. Tomorrow’s update will be the first based entirely upon interviews conducted after the speech.
The Gettysburg Address it wasn't. The numbers get worse:
Overall, 41% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president's performance. That’s the lowest level of approval yet recorded for this president. Fifty-eight percent (58%) now disapprove.
It's true that other polls put the numbers closer, but Rasmussen polls among likely voters, which we find the most consistently accurate method. And get this love message:
Seventy-six percent (76%) of Democrats approve of the president’s performance. Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans disapprove along with 72% of unaffiliated voters.
When you've got 72% of independents against you, it may be a good idea to seek a mid-life career change.
Rasmussen also examines press coverage of the president, week by week. This week he finds:
The Rasmussen Reports Media Meter shows that media coverage of President Obama has been 39% positive over the past week. Since the passage of the health care law, coverage has ranged from a high of 60% positive to a low of 39% positive.
Even the press is having its doubts. That's a psychological miracle.
June 18, 2010 Permalink
GET YOUR TRIPS TO THE CLEANERS IN NOW, BEFORE OBAMA TAKES YOU THERE HIMSELF – AT 8:22 A.M. ET: The president wants to impose a new energy program on us. Americans understandably are apprehensive over the cost, having been burned repeatedly since Barack Obama took the oath of office. Here are some numbers:
President Obama has a solution to the Gulf oil spill: $7-a-gallon gas.
That's a Harvard University study's estimate of the per-gallon price of the president's global-warming agenda. And Obama made clear this week that this agenda is a part of his plan for addressing the Gulf mess.
So what does global-warming legislation have to do with the oil spill?
Good question, because such measures wouldn't do a thing to clean up the oil or fix the problems that led to the leak.
The answer can be found in Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's now-famous words, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste -- and what I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before."
The logic linking cap-and-trade to the spill in the Gulf should frighten anyone who owns a car or truck. Such measures force up the price at the pump -- Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs thinks it "may require gas prices greater than $7 a gallon by 2020" to meet Obama's stated goal of reducing emissions 14 percent from the transportation sector.
Of course, doing so would reduce gasoline use and also raise market share for hugely expensive alternative fuels and vehicles that could never compete otherwise. Less gasoline demand means less need for drilling and thus a slightly reduced chance of a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon spill -- but only slightly. Oil will still be a vital part of America's energy mix.
COMMENT: Wasn't the Democratic Party once the party of the little guy? I wonder how the little guy feels about all this. Of course, the people in power will never know since they'd never stoop to talk to the little guy, unless he was maybe part of the grounds crew at Harvard.
Our economy is precarious enough without an energy program that will depress it further. We certainly do need new sources of energy, and we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But those goals will only be met by a balanced program of energy development – done mostly by the private sector – and an increase in drilling for the oil we already have. But that is heresy to Democrats, who lost interest in the average American decades ago.
June 18, 2010 Permalink
QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 8:06 A.M. ET: From James Lewis at American Thinker, on American weakness and its implications:
For almost a century the United States has been the cop on the world beat, as the British Empire declined and crumbled. The US was the great, civilized power that supported freedom of trade, resistance against the Kaiser, Hitler and Stalin, relative peace in the Third World, and the protection of post-World War Two stability, ranging from Japan and South Korea to Israel and Berlin. Europe today would not exist were it not for American protection; it would be a Soviet colony. India and Pakistan might be in a hot war. China might be attacking Japan to retaliate against the horrors of World War Two, which are constantly repeated in the Chinese media. Ancient hatreds exist all over the world, ready to explode when the cop on the beat gets drunk or just resigns.
The United States has preserved the balance of power and kept it on the side of civilization against the mob. All the feeble regimes in the Third World depend upon us to come to their aid against their own mobs and agitators. In fact, those regimes are just the mob agitators who won the last round.
COMMENT: George W. Bush understood that. So, of course, did Ronald Reagan. Carter didn't. Obama doesn't. Our international position seems to be deteriorating everywhere, and improving nowhere. Now, with an economy that won't recover, and an oil spill that he has done so little to stop, Obama seems even weaker to the world than before, and he has never seemed a wall of strength.
In our current state – doing poorly in Afghanistan, refusing to stand strongly against North Korea, unable to stop the Iranian nuclear program, and throwing allies under the bus – we are opening the door to some international explosion that we won't be able to contain.
The urgency to defeat Obama in this year's midterms grows greater by the day, and the urgency to remove him entirely in 2012 must become a national mission.
June 18, 2010 Permalink
NOONAN ASSESSES OBAMA – AT 7:48 A.M. ET: Peggy Noonan, who's sharpened up quite a bit recently, gives a very direct assessment of Barack Obama, almost a year and a half into his presidency. From The Wall Street Journal:
The president is starting to look snakebit. He's starting to look unlucky, like Jimmy Carter. It wasn't Mr. Carter's fault that the American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran, but he handled it badly, and suffered. He defied the rule of the King in "Pippin," the Broadway show of Carter's era, who spoke of "the rule that every general knows by heart, that it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart." Mr. Carter's opposite was Bill Clinton, on whom fortune smiled with eight years of relative peace and a worldwide economic boom. What misfortune Mr. Clinton experienced he mostly created himself. History didn't impose it.
But Mr. Obama is starting to look unlucky, and–file this under Mysteries of Leadership–that is dangerous for him because Americans get nervous when they have a snakebit president. They want presidents on whom the sun shines.
The administration's failure to take impressive action after the spill dinged its reputation for competence. The president's failure to turn things around Tuesday night with a speech damaged his reputation as a man whose rhetorical powers are such that he can turn things around with a speech. He lessened his own mystique. Reaction among his usual supporters was, in the words of Time's Mark Halperin, "fierce, unforeseen disappointment."
I love this quote:
The right didn't like the speech either.
As for the center, Nielsen reported that 32 million people watched the speech, as compared to 48 million viewers that watched the State of the Union. Ronald Reagan once said you should never confuse the reviews with the box office. This was the box office voting with its clickers.
Reagan was right. It's the audience, not the critics, that decides what makes a hit, or a successful president.
There is a growing meme that Mr. Obama is too impressed by credentialism, by the meritocracy, by those who hold forth in the faculty lounge, and too strongly identifies with them. He should be more impressed by those with real-world experience. It was the "small people" in the shrimp boats who laid the boom.
And when speaking of why proper precautions and safety measures were not in place, the president sternly declared, "I want to know why." But two months in he should know. And he should be telling us. Such empty sternness is . . . empty.
Peggy is really good today.
...it's also true that among Democrats—and others—when the talk turns to the presidency it turns more and more to Hillary Clinton. "We may have made a mistake. She would have been better." Sooner or later the secretary of state is going to come under fairly consistent pressure to begin to consider 2012. A hunch: She won't really want to. Because she has enjoyed being loyal. She didn't only prove to others she could be loyal, a team player. She proved it to herself. And it has only added to her luster.
COMMENT: Ah, and what will she do with that luster? Hillary has become more interesting than Barack, and that is not a compliment to a president.
June 18, 2010 Permalink
THEY REALLY NEEDED A NANNY – AT 7:32 A.M. ET: It's very hard to gauge from first reports how serious this really is. It could be anywhere from catastrophic to a bunch of guys wanting to return to their country and get shot at. From Fox:
A nationwide alert has been issued for 17 members of the Afghan military who have gone AWOL from a Texas Air Force base where foreign military officers who are training to become pilots are taught English, FoxNews.com has learned.
The Afghan officers and enlisted men have security badges that give them access to secure U.S. defense installations, according to the lookout bulletin, "Afghan Military Deserters in CONUS [Continental U.S.]," issued by Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Dallas, and obtained by FoxNews.com.
The Afghans were attending the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The DLI program teaches English to military pilot candidates and other air force prospects from foreign countries allied with the U.S.
"I can confirm that 17 have gone missing from the Defense Language Institute," said Gary Emery, Chief of Public Affairs, 37th Training Wing, at Lackland AFB. "They disappeared over the course of the last two years, and none in the last three months."
COMMENT: Huh? The last two years? And we're only now hearing about it? We'll follow this, but it clearly requires major journalistic attention. Hey, it's over two years. MSNBC can blame it on Bush.
June 18, 2010 Permalink