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SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2010
BULLETIN: THIS JUST IN: America's enemy named! A major American journalist has just, after extensive reporting, revealed to an eager public just who America's enemy is. Please take notes when you read this, from NewsBuster:
Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Cynthia Tucker believes Americans are the enemy of the nation moving in a new energy direction because of what she called our addiction to oil.
As the discussion on this weekend's "The Chris Matthews Show" moved to why President Obama hasn't attacked energy policy much like Eisenhower did the space program, Tucker said, "One of the differences between the '50's when Sputnik was launched and now, that was a battle against Communism."
She continued, "It's always much easier to rally Americans against an external threat, an external enemy."
Yeah, only Americans, of course. In fact, it's easier to rally any country against an external enemy.
And sadly continued, "In this case, the enemy is us. Americans are addicted to petroleum. We use way too much oil."
COMMENT: I wonder how this journalistic genius gets to work. I wonder how she lights her office. I wonder what powers the printing presses of her paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I wonder what powers the machinery that processes her food, so her mouth can go.
Precisely how much of her own oil, and her paper's, is Ms. Tucker willing to give up?
Don't bother asking.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
QUOTE OF THE DAY – AT 5:01 P.M. ET: From Antonin Scalia, associate justice of the Supreme Court, to a high-school graduating class containing his granddaughter:
“Movement is not necessarily progress. More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody — remember this — neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, ‘Now, let’s create a really oppressive and evil society.’ Hitler said, ‘Let’s take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order.’ And Lenin said, ‘Let’s take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world.’
“In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction.”
COMMENT: There is more wisdom in that statement than in all of this year's commencement addresses put together. But I would imagine there was more excitement over Christiane Amanpour's eminently forgettable (as usual) commencement address at Harvard. Harvard would never invite Scalia.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW? – AT 4:51 P.M. ET: Even the Associated Press, part of the Obama Admiration Society, can't deny certain truths about this administration. Consider, for example, The One's response to the oil spill:
WASHINGTON – The panel appointed by President Barack Obama to investigate the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is short on technical expertise but long on talking publicly about "America's addiction to oil." One member has blogged about it regularly.
Only one of the seven commissioners, the dean of Harvard's engineering and applied sciences school, has a prominent engineering background — but it's in optics and physics. Another is an environmental scientist with expertise in coastal areas and the after-effects of oil spills. Both are praised by other scientists.
The five other commissioners are experts in policy and management.
The White House said the commission will focus on the government's "too cozy" relationship with the oil industry. A presidential spokesman said panel members will "consult the best minds and subject matter experts" as they do their work.
The commission has yet to meet, yet some panel members had made their views known.
COMMENT: Same old story. Never let a crisis go to waste.
Let's be blunt: The oil spill is a godsend to Barack Obama and his crowd. It's almost as good as the conveniently timed financial collapse in the middle of the 2008 campaign.
There is now a clear Democratic strategy to tie the Republican Party to big oil as we go into the midterm elections. It may just work. This election is not in the bag.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
LOOKS LIKE A TREND THAT WILL STAY AWHILE – AT 9:55 A.M. ET: Readers know that we've been following the Rasmussen daily tracker carefully this week, to see if the president's sudden drop in favor was a one- or two-day thing, or something more permanent. The evidence tilts toward the latter. Today's report:
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 28% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-four percent (44%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -16.
That's a four-point improvement since yesterday, but the key number is this:
Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president's performance. Fifty-seven percent (57%) disapprove.
Mr. Obama has been below 45% for five straight days. It doesn't look like too many worthies are jumping on his bandwagon.
Yes, he can come back, as did Reagan, but Reagan had a bond with the public that Obama lacks. Even when a good part of the public disagreed with him, they liked him, and had confidence in him. Obama is losing all the good adjectives, and they're very hard to get back. Even Oprah can't help him this time.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
BARACK, MEET FRANKLIN...AND LET HIM SMOKE – AT 9:29 A.M. ET: Historian Arthur Herman recommends that Barack Obama introduce himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a president of some note, who actually believed in winning a war.
The White House specifically said the speech was modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats during the Great Depression and World War II. At its climax, Obama even referenced America’s creation of the so-called Arsenal of Democracy as an example of how Americans can seize their destiny and achieve greatness.
He’s right, but Obama may regret picking that example...
...FDR built that arsenal of democracy by working with business, not fighting against it—let alone by keeping a boot on its neck. If Roosevelt had been speaking from the Oval Office last Tuesday, he would have announcing the creation of a presidential panel of oil executives and engineers to help BP solve the oil spill, rather than a scheme to strip BP of its profits.
This is because, in the year and a half before Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt realized that the best way to mobilize a country like ours for a great task is to unleash the productivity and ingenuity of American industrial enterprise. His decision outraged some of his closest advisors and allies. It flew in the face of his own progressive instincts. But it not only helped to win World War II, it pulled the United States out of the Great Depression, and it has provided a useful model of how government needs to partner with the private sector, ever since.
Tell that to the sixties crowd, now running things, with their Ivy League diplomas on the wall. Remember when the Ivy League actually believed in America?
Faced in the summer of 1940 with the inevitability of war in Europe drawing in the United States, Roosevelt also faced a choice. Diehard New Dealers like his wife, Eleanor, and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes wanted to use war mobilization to permanently extend the reach and power of federal government. By nationalizing some industries, limiting the profits of others and ordering a halt to civilian production in still others, their goal was to re-engineer the private-enterprise economy into a Washington-controlled economy. Having missed their chance with the National Recovery Administration to pound Big Business into submission, the New Deal Left and their Big Labor allies, weren’t about to let this crisis go to waste.
But FDR—under the influence of conservative Democrats like Secretary of Commerce Jesse H. Jones and the new Republican members of his administration such as Secretary of War Henry Stimson and William Knudsen, the former GM president who became head of the Office of Production Management in the fall of 1940—chose a different course. In the year before Pearl Harbor, they convinced him that the best way to get the country ready for the coming war was not to fight the profit motive of private companies and corporations, but to unleash it.
Strange – it worked. But Roosevelt had more savvy in his little finger than Obama has in his whole brain, and he took the idea of victory seriously. Obama won't utter the word.
Roosevelt was elected four times. Once will be enough for The One. Or The Former One.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
OH, JUST GIVE US ONE MORE CHANCE – AT 9:17 A.M. ET: Well, at least the Dems are aware of their problems. Seems that some of their major voting blocs from 2008 are, shall we say, a bit less enthusiastic about the Democratic cause this year. Gee, I wonder why? Didn't they get the change they believed in? From The Washington Post:
As political gambles go, it's a big and risky one: $50 million to test the proposition that the Democratic Party's outreach to new voters that helped make Barack Obama president can work in an election where his name is not on the ballot.
The standard rule of midterm elections is that only the most reliable voters show up at the polls, so both parties have traditionally focused on the unglamorous and conventional work that turns out their bases. But this year, the Democrats are doubling down on registering and motivating newer voters -- especially the 15 million heavily minority and young, who made it to the polls for the first time in the last presidential election.
"It's a great experiment to see whether we can bring out voters whose only previous vote was in 2008," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The party's overall budget for reaching new voters is more than twice as big as the $17 million it spent during the tumultuous 2006 midterm, which returned control of both houses of Congress to the Democrats.
Much about its "Vote 2010" effort has that way-back feel of two years ago: legions of canvassers going door-to-door, a stream of inspirational videos, an e-mail list of more than 13 million, and ads on Web sites including Latina.com, BlackPlanet.com, YELP.com and DailyCandy.
COMMENT: Yeah, real inspiring. Nothing, of course, about the great issues of the day. This is the sixties mentality in full bloom – it's all about identity politics. Who needs issues? Who needs a governmental program?
The subtext here is "scare." The Democrats will run by scaring people. "They're going to take it away," they'll tell blacks, Latinos, and any other group they've got in their files.
But, however seedy the tactic is, it can work. It's worked before. And I don't see the GOP working on counter-tactics. I hope I'm wrong.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
OH, ABOUT THOSE TERROR TRIALS – AT 8:57 A.M. ET: Remember the plan to try 9/11 terror suspects in a courtroom right in the middle of densely populated Manhattan? Well, they're studying the issue, and studying, and...when is that midterm election again? From The Politico:
Attorney General Eric Holder said the decision over where to hold the trial for alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was “weeks away” — three months ago.
Now advocates on both sides of the issue say they expect the Obama administration to punt the decision until after the November midterm elections— when the controversial plan could do less damage to the political fortunes of endangered Democrats and might face less resistance on Capitol Hill.
Yes, it's all about justice. Laugh now.
Holder last week explicitly denied the midterms had anything to do with the timing but would only say discussions are continuing. The White House had no comment.
Politics? In our White House?
Any further stalling could pose a serious political problem for President Barack Obama on the left – where advocates cheered his administration’s plan to break from the Bush administration and give top al-Qaida figures trials in American courtrooms, a sign to the country and the world that U.S.-style justice was enough to try to men accused of the worst crimes in the nation’s history.
Is there a left left? Where would they go in an election between Obama and a Republican? Why is Obama so afraid of that crowd?
The decision is, obviously, being delayed for political reasons. This gang doesn't even have the courage of its acquittals.
June 20, 2010 Permalink
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