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Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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I appeared on Silvio Canto Jr's talk show from Dallas last night. It's here:
AUGUST 15, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:33 P.M. ET:
TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE – We now have the first fully professional assessment of Rick Perry by a highly skilled professional Democrat. Bill Clinton describes Perry as a "good-looking rascal." Bill has apparently been looking in the mirror. He then went on to describe Perry's ideas as "crazy." That, of course, is standard liberal fare. Opponents are either stupid or nuts. Such labels allow the speaker to avoid adult discussions of the issues.
NEW NAME ON THE LIST – Governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia is now replacing Rick Perry as chair of the Republican Governors Association. And it didn't take long for buzz to start surrounding McDonnell, who did nothing to stop it. Indeed, McDonnell says outright that he'd be interested in being the Republican vice presidential nominee next year, pointing to the fact that he's governor of a critical swing state. Frankly, I couldn't see a Perry/McDonnell ticket because that would do nothing to expand the appeal. I could see Perry/Rubio. I could, though, see a Romney/McDonnell ticket, balancing Romney's presumed "moderate conservative" persona with McDonnell's "certified conservative" image.
FASCINATING HISTORY – London's Telegraph reports that British spies during World War II plotted to inject estrogen into Adolf Hitler's food to make him more feminine and less aggressive. Apparently, the Brits thought they could get access to Hitler's food supply. That leads me to question whether there is a matching substance that would make someone more masculine and decisive. I wonder how hard it would be to get access to the White House kitchen.
IT'S THE FOREIGNERS WITH THE FUNNY NAMES – President Obama has now come up with a new explanation for the economy. Apparently, the tactic of blaming George Bush is wearing a little thin after two and a half years in office. Obama now says it's them foreigners. "Lately, it's high gas prices, the earthquake in Japan, and unease about the European fiscal situation. That will happen from time to time. There will be bumps on the road to recovery." Yeah, it's those earthquakes. It's well known in Democratic circles that there were no earthquakes when Ronald Reagan was president.
August 15, 2011 Permalink
BARONE WARNS THE GOP – AT 10:06 A.M. ET: As readers of this site know, we think Michael Barone is one of the most astute students of American politics writing today. He also tilts right. So when he issues a caution to the Republican Party, it should be taken seriously. He has done that, echoing a theme we have discussed here as well:
Barone is correct. The Republican Party remains unpopular, as poll after poll shows. But its presidential candidates have failed to put forward a vision of America and the policies that will accomplish that vision.
COMMENT: I hope Barone is taken seriously on this. "No new taxes" is a slogan, not an economic program. "Jobs" is a word, not a proposal. I could not honestly say, from the Republican debates so far, exactly where the GOP would lead this country.
While the mainstream media will go easy on Obama, it will hammer the Republicans with demands for details. The GOP must at least have the basics of a program in place, one incorporated into the Republican platform next year.
One of the great things about Reagan is that he told us what he was going to do, and then, once elected, he did it. Even those who disagreed with him admired the fact that he stood for a program, and enacted it. Right now the Republican presidential candidates have a kind of hollowness about them. Too many soundbites chasing too few ideas. Work needs to be done.
August 15, 2011 Permalink
CAMERON LEADS AGAIN – AT 8:54 A.M. ET: British Prime Minister David Cameron is emerging as perhaps the most forceful leader in the West. He (and Angela Merkel of Germany) spoke out forcefully against the failures of multiculturalism despite attacks by the trendies, who thought that any questioning of the sacred concept was almost criminal. Now Cameron, in the face of the British riots, is leading once more, pushing aside the idols of the failed British welfare state. From The Telegraph:
Gee, I thought the police worked for the elected officials, and not the other way around. Police in Britain aren't like police in the U.S. Law enforcement in Britain is riddled with political correctness and a reluctance to use force, even when it is clearly necessary. Some British police officials have expressed their shock that Cameron has taken on legendary U.S. police chief Bill Bratton (Boston, New York, Los Angeles) as an adviser. Bratton actually believes that criminals deserve to be punished.
COMMENT: Cameron is somewhat hobbled by the fact that he heads a coalition government, made up of Tories and Liberal Democrats. The liberals are not necessarily on board with the law-and-order emphasis, but they're lying low. Given the recent week of rioting, I'm not sure sociological theories will prove too popular with a traumatized public.
Cameron has the potential to be another Maggie Thatcher. He outclasses Obama by miles.
August 15, 2011 Permalink
AND THEN THERE'S THE OTHER GUY – AT 8:18 A.M. ET: All the political attention has been focused on the Republican race, and we tend to forget that the GOP presidential candidate will have an opponent, and his name is Obama. Since running for office is the thing that Obama does best, we might look at how his campaign is shaping up.
First, despite entreaties from this website, apparently not read in the White House, it does not appear that Mr. Obama will pull a Lyndon Johnson and drop out of the race, thus looking like a patriot and saving himself from the humiliation of an electoral defeat or a depressing second term. Obama's ego has always outstripped his ability, and he pusheth on. This week he starts a bus tour that will take him to the Midwest.
The Obamans are already going negative, rushing out attack lines on the GOP field, including Rick Perry. Other than that, and praying for a better economy, the Dem strategy doesn't appear to contain many surprises...yet.
Obama has the power of incumbency. It is not to be trifled with. Presidents with low approval ratings have gone on to win second terms simply by mobilizing their office. Recall Harry Truman's spectacular 1948 campaign, in the face of nearly unanimous "expert" opinion that he had no chance of winning. Recall Bill Clinton's victory over Bob Dole in 1996, despite a rocky first term and his party's loss of Congress.
And recall how the giant, Ronald Reagan, faltered badly at the start of his 1984 campaign for reelection, doing so badly in his first debate against former Vice President Walter Mondale that he became, for a time, a laughingstock. He went on to win a landslide victory.
One element in the power of incumbency is the fact that the public already knows the president. For those who like him, there is a forgiveness factor. They are willing to forgive any manner of blunders and gaffes. The public liked Reagan. Many Americans loved him. So they overlooked that first debate performance and gave him the benefit of the doubt.
It is said that most Americans like Mr. Obama personally, even if they disapprove of him politically. Being liked ain't a bad way to start a campaign.
And the president has the power of surprise. Will Obama pull a Roosevelt, 1944, and dump his vice president, as FDR dumped Henry Wallace? The White House insists it will never happen, but "never" has no meaning in politics. There is a great deal of buzz in Democratic circles that the country would have been better off with Hillary Clinton (who seems rather silent these days.) What if polling shows Obama winning with Clinton and losing with Biden? One can only imagine the phone call the next day.
I can't believe that Hillary has given up her presidential ambitions. In 2016 she'll be in her late sixties, not old by today's standards. However, she would have to ask this question: Would I be better off as Obama's vice-presidential candidate, or would I stand a greater chance becoming, say, a college president and returning in 2016 as an elder stateswoman?
Who knows? But be on the lookout for some internal White House poll, leaked to the public, showing Hillary as a substantial asset to Obama in the 2012 campaign. And Joe Biden, after all, could probably be persuaded to become secretary of state, since he fancies himself an expert on foreign policy.
We don't make predictions here, but this could be very intriguing.
August 15, 2011 Permalink
THE BEAUTY OF FRIENDSHIP – AT 8:07 A.M. ET: Our wonderful Pakistani friends for whom we all have, I'm sure, such great respect, are at it again. From Fox:
COMMENT: When the Soviet Union came out with its first intercontinental bomber in the years after World War II, it looked strikingly like our B-29, and for good reason. A B-29 had made an emergency landing in the USSR during the war and the Soviets simply engaged in what is called "reverse engineering." They built their own bomber by simply duplicating ours.
I'm not an engineer and we don't know how much detail the Chinese got from their inspection of the copter. They apparently don't have any actual parts in their possession. But they learned something about some very advanced technology, and that ain't good.
Thanks, Pakistan. You're real pals.
August 15, 2011 Permalink
AUGUST 14, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:14 P.M. ET:
CROSSING THE BARRIER – President Obama crossed a barrier today that he wish he hadn't crossed. His approval rating from Gallup crashed below 40% for the first time, and stands at 39%. Psychologically, that is pretty devastating. Watch for stories that say something like, "He's heading into Bush territory." I'm not shocked by the decline because the president hasn't done anything to deserve better. But we should also be aware that, politically, this man and his organization fight back. Obama is going on a campaign tour this week. It's what he does best, and don't underestimate him.
PATHETIC – The unspeakable individual who committed the recent massacre in Norway has retraced his steps for Norwegian authorities, showing how he murdered 69 children unimpeded by the inconvenience of police intervention. What is pathetic is that no one has been held to account for the fact that these youngsters were completely unprotected, and no one has been held to account for the slow police response. Norway is a country run by left-wing goofballs with the judgment of 12-year-olds. Their elites rush around the world announcing their superiority and their openness. When people speak that way, remember that someone else always pays the price. In this case the price was paid by children. In America we've had elitists shrug off crime as a "socio-economic problem of inner city peoples." The price for that idea was paid by tens of thousands of murder victims, many of them minority youngsters. A price is always paid.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM? – With Tim Pawlenty withdrawing from the GOP race, conventional wisdom now sees the contest as between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But wait a minute. Isn't someone being left out? Like her or not, and I can see both sides, Michele Bachmann has proved herself an effective candidate and a vote getter, at least in certain places. And the woman competes. True, she has a tougher road now, with Perry in the contest and aiming for the same base. But Bachmann, who is smart and a solid debater, must be taken seriously, even if you feel, as many do, that she's punching above her weight. There'll be another debate in October, and I'm intrigued by how she'll do when she has to take on both Romney and Perry. If she doesn't get the nomination, her supporters may demand that she be put on the ticket, which will conjure up the Sarah Palin episode.
DEMAND QUALITY – There are many stories about the frugality of Warren Buffett, including one relating how, while walking with the late Katherine Graham of the Washington Post, he crossed a street to save a quarter, which was amazing to Ms. Graham. But Buffett, at least it's said, always understood the importance of consumers acting responsibly, and encouraging competition. I mention that because there's a marvelous, and very funny story in London's Daily Mail today about women spending vast sums for shoes made by a designer named Jimmy Choo, only to find them showing marked deterioration after only one wearing. I hope you read it. It's a wonderful lesson in the triumph of hype over quality. Thoughtful and discerning consumers help the free enterprise system. (Now watch, I'll get a lot of angry e-mails from readers saying, "People should buy what they want." I agree, but I hate to see hype triumphant.)
August 14, 2011 Permalink
"DON'T CHANGE A HAIR FOR ME, NOT IF YOU CARE FOR ME" – AT 11:14 A.M. ET: Thus wrote Lorenz Hart for the song, "My Funny Valentine," which he crafted with Richard Rodgers. I thought of it when reading this California editorial:
Obscure? What's obscure about it?
COMMENT: Naturally, the trendies refuse to look at the value of the electoral college. Assessing that value begins with the name of the country – the United States of America. Yes, we are one nation, indivisible, but we are a nation of states. The electoral college requires a presidential candidate to acknowledge all of the states in all sections of the country. True, that has its negative as well. Larger states get more attention. But all states count in the process, meaning that no one bloc of voters – ethnic, religious, political, sectional – can control an election.
The system doesn't work perfectly. There have been several elections, including the election of 2000, where the winner of the popular vote hasn't become president. But before we toss out the electoral college, let's have a thoughtful national discussion, rather than under-the-radar discussions in state legislatures.
I fear that if we reject the electoral college the next target will be the U.S. Senate, which isn't very democratic. Each state, regardless of population, has two senators. It was designed that way to avoid tyranny of the majority, and to provide stability. It's worked pretty well.
We amend the Constitution rarely in America, and that hesitation reflects the wisdom of the American people. That wisdom is needed right now.
August 14, 2011 Permalink
ON THIS DAY – AT 11:12 A.M. ET: This is the 66th anniversary of the end of World War II. On this day in 1945 the Japanese surrendered. It wasn't quite the "unconditional surrender" that we had previously demanded, as the terms allowed the emperor to remain, but it was as close to unconditional as we could get.
One of the main factors in the Allied victory in World War II was American production. We built planes and tanks and ships and trucks in quantities no one could match. The Nazi submarines sank our ships, we built more ships. Our planes were shot down, we built more planes. We took Japanese islands in the pacific, and the Seabees built sprawling air bases on them. Much of the fleet that was sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor was refloated, and fought again.
It's sad to look at what has become of manufacturing in America today. Great names are gone, or have merged to stay afloat. It's Lockheed-Martin now. And Northrop-Grumman. Vought, which built the great Corsairs, is now a division of someone else, as is North American, which built the Mustang.
As I work on Urgent Agenda this morning, I realize that not one piece of electronic equipment around me was made in America. Oh yes, my Honda Accord was made in Ohio, but by a Japanese company.
Economies that succeed are economies that make things. We must find some way to get back to manufacturing in America, to have the finest factories and the best-trained workers. If Honda can make cars in America – cars with great reputations – we can make almost anything else. Our economic competitors are not ten feet tall. We were sure, in the early 80s, that Japan would gobble us up, but Japan is plagued with economic problems today. And China, which looks like the huge, rich giant, is rushing anti-terrorist squads to parts of its country to put down rebellions.
We did it in World War II. We can do it again.
August 14, 2011 Permalink
THE ASSAULT ON RICK PERRY – AT 10:51 A.M. ET: The New York Times was running hit pieces on Rick Perry as soon as the Texas governor used "president" in a sentence. Indeed, the northeast liberal press is in cultural shock over Perry, who reminds the tufu and herbal tea crowd of.....of.....BUSH (!!!). It was Lieutenant Governor Rick Perry who became governor when Governor George W. Bush became president.
This morning the Washington Post raises legitimate security concerns over a Chinese cyber firm that Perry welcomed to Texas. The Perry campaign deflected the concerns by claiming Perry only cut a ribbon at a ceremony. Not much of an answer.
It isn't, of course, only the liberal press that has its guns trained on Perry, to the extent that liberal journalists would own guns. His GOP rivals will now make Perry their number one target, and it could get vicious between Perry and Mitt Romney. And don't count out Michele Bachmann, who is emerging as a serious, vote-winning candidate who holds her own in a debate.
The attack on Perry from within the GOP will try to destroy Perry's record as a job creator in Texas. Critics will point out that many of the jobs are low-paying, that many were automatically created by factors Perry had nothing to do with, like the oil industry and the military, which has a large presence in Texas, and that other social indicators in Texas are poor. Texas lags in graduation rates and in numbers of citizens insured under health plans. Perry has cut education budgets without improving education, the critics will say.
The charges will be serious, and Perry has got to be serious in answering them. This election will be won in swing states like Ohio, and in states that normally tilt somewhat Democratic, like Pennsylvania. Even if Perry gets the nomination, he will go into the general election with some wounds. Yet, he has never lost an election. We have fascinating months of hard-knuckle politics ahead of us.
The Washington Post also has a fair-minded piece today on the Perry style. Consider:
Perry will be in Iowa today, too late for the Iowa debate and straw poll, which will get him some criticism from within the Iowa GOP. We'll see how he handles himself.
August 14, 2011 Permalink
PAWLENTY OUT – AT 10:20 A.M. ET: Major news organizations are reporting that former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota will quit the Republican race for president today. Pawlenty's campaign failed to gain traction, and Pawlenty's finish in the Iowa straw poll yesterday was disappointing.
This is a function of personality, and it's sad. Of all the GOP candidates, Pawlenty was one of the best qualified, and had been a successful governor, an executive. But he has a personality that comes off as quiet on television, and he never developed the knack for standing out in debates. His was the most criticized performance in the Iowa debate just this past week. He spent an inordinate amount of time trying to destroy his fellow Minnesotan, Michele Bachmann, and it sometimes came off as unseemly.
In a way, it's unfair that a man like Pawlenty is out, but a bag of nuts like Ron Paul continues. I think Pawlenty would probably have done well in a general election, where appeals to the great middle are required. He just never fired up the base of the Republican Party.
August 14, 2011 Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
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© 2011 William Katz