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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JULY 6, 2011
THE WAY THE GAME IS PLAYED – AT 9:52 P.M. ET: If this story revolts you, it should. Apparently our good buddy Moammar Khadafy was writing some checks sometime back, and letting a U.S. firm handle the details on how the money was spent. This is not a pretty picture. From the Boston Globe. The "Cambridge" referred to is Cambridge, Massachusetts.
WASHINGTON - Monitor Group, a Cambridge-based consulting firm, released new details yesterday of its payments to a raft of intellectuals and public figures who visited Libya between 2006 and 2008 during a stealth public-relations campaign to bolster the image of Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy.
The documents, filed yesterday at the Foreign Agents Registration Unit, show that Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who took a four-day visit to Libya in 2007, was paid $27,500, while Francis Fukuyama, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, was paid $80,000 for two visits he took in 2006 and 2007.
A lot of cash just for saying hello.
Others were paid far more. British journalist David Frost, best known for his interviews of Richard Nixon, was paid $91,429 in connection with what appears to be a single visit to Libya. Benjamin Barber, who wrote a landmark book, “Strong Democracy,’’ and who served on the board of a nonprofit run by Khadafy’s son Saif, received just over $100,000 during those years. British sociologist Anthony Giddens, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, was paid more than $67,000.
Many of the payments appear to relate to a highly-publicized debate on democracy between Giddens, Barber, and Khadafy hosted by Frost in Libya in 2007.
The documents, which represent the culmination of a three-month internal investigation by Monitor into its own activities in Libya, were filed retroactively to comply with a federal law that requires firms that lobby or do public-relations work on behalf of a foreign government to submit public disclosures. The firm, which ended its work in Libya in 2008, had said it will no longer take on public-relations work, which is outside of its core area of expertise.
I'm sure they were shocked, shocked, at what they found. I love these organizations that investigate themselves, then go into high self-righteous mode.
Of course, the excuses are now being peddled:
Yesterday, Nye said he had no problem with the public disclosure that Monitor paid him his usual business consulting fee of $25,000 - plus $2,500 for late payment - but that he felt misled by the firm about its secret public-relations agenda.
“I was told my visit was to help promote reform,’’ Nye wrote in an e-mail to the Globe yesterday. “The documents I was shown in preparation for my trip were plans to reform the Libyan economic and political system.’’
That may well be true. But common sense should have told any knowledgeable person what kind of government was operating in Libya. A lot of bigwigs visited Nazi Germany in the 1930s and assured us they were there just to marvel at the technological development.
Monitor’s work in Libya has sparked soul-searching at Harvard about what standards its professors should meet in their outside work. The firm was founded by a group of people linked to Harvard, including Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter and Mark Fuller, who earned three degrees at Harvard and served as an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and on Harvard’s major gifts steering committee.
There's a lot of soul-searching that should be going on in many universities about many things. The list is too long for this entry.
July 6, 2011 Permalink
ON GUARD – AT 9:41 P.M. ET: Of course, we must understand and respect their cultural traditions, like sewing bombs into themselves. I mean, who are we to judge? Why, it's the same as a tatoo, right? From Fox:
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government has warned domestic and international airlines that some terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans to carry out attacks, The Associated Press has learned.
There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the U.S. shared its concerns last week with executives at domestic and international carriers.
People traveling to the U.S. from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
"These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same activity at every international airport," TSA spokesman Nick Kimball said. "Measures may include interaction with passengers, in addition to the use of other screening methods such as pat-downs and the use of enhanced tools and technologies."
Placing explosives and explosive components inside humans to hide bombs and evade security measures is not a new idea. But there is new intelligence pointing to a fresh interest in using this tactic, a U.S. security official told the AP. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security information.
COMMENT: What's also interesting here is the continued obsession of terrorist groups with airlines and transportation systems. We should be concerned in this country, not only with airports, but with trains, buses and ferries. We have been lucky so far. Luck can never be 100%.
July 6, 2011 Permalink
ADMINISTRATION GENIUSES AT WORK – AT 10:59 A.M. ET: From the Omaha World-Herald:
WASHINGTON — A new, higher-ethanol blend of gasoline could be available soon at a gas station near you.
Before you hit that new E15 pump, consider this: Using the Midlands-made fuel could void your vehicle's warranty, according to letters from a dozen automakers that a Wisconsin congressman released Tuesday.
Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and others criticized the federal government's moves to allow the sale of the 15 percent ethanol blend and said warranties on the cars and trucks they produce might be voided if owners use it.
The administration might have checked on this before acting. But who in Washington knows from this private-industry stuff?
Their letters came in response to inquiries from Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who is seeking to block the introduction of E15, which contains 50 percent more ethanol than the common E10 blend that consumers know.
The Environmental Protection Agency, under Clean Air Act waivers, has studied and approved E15 to be sold for use in cars and light trucks as old as model year 2001. The agency last week announced an orange and black label to be used at pumps that sell the 15 percent blends.
Probably took a year, and a team of outside consultants, to develop the orange and black label.
The automakers said the EPA proposal to allow the sale of E15 fuel could damage engines and fuel-supply systems in vehicles made to run on gasoline with a lower ethanol content.
Correct. A Honda service expert told me that ethanol, even at the current level, is bad for cars.
“While Chrysler has been a strong advocate of renewable fuels, we have concerns about the potential harmful effects of E15 in engines and fuel systems that were not designed for use of that fuel,” Jody Trapasso, Chrysler's senior vice president of external affairs, wrote in a June 23 letter to Sensenbrenner, the vice chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Corn belt lawmakers have been key proponents in recent years of higher ethanol blends to help meet ambitious national targets for growth in use of the alternative fuels. Iowa and Nebraska are the country's two largest ethanol-producing states.
COMMENT: It's about money and politics. Always is. When the repair bills start coming in, Washington might condescend to notice.
July 6, 2011 Permalink
SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 10:37 A.M. ET:
CHETUMAL, Mexico (AP) — Police say a woman was caught trying to sneak her common-law-husband out of a Mexican prison in a suitcase following a conjugal visit. A spokesman for police in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo says staff at the prison in Chetumal noticed that the woman seemed nervous and was pulling a black, wheeled suitcase that looked bulky. Spokesman Gerardo Campos said Monday that prison guards checked the bag of 19-year-old Maria del Mar Arjona and found inmate Juan Ramirez Tijerina curled up inside in the fetal position.
Foolish move. Didn't she realize the airlines charge extra when there's a husband in the bag?
YOUR EDUCATION DOLLARS AT WORK – AT 9:45 A.M. ET: As the cliché goes, you can't make this stuff up. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes.
Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.
Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.
Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.
Yeah, the agenda at work. Ridicule anyone who asks questions.
For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.
In the report, the governor’s special investigators describe an enterprise where unethical — and potentially illegal — behavior pierced every level of the bureaucracy, allowing district staff to reap praise and sometimes bonuses by misleading the children, parents and community they served.
The report accuses top district officials of wrongdoing that could lead to criminal charges in some cases.
The decision whether to prosecute lies with three district attorneys — in Fulton, DeKalb and Douglas counties — who will consider potential offenses in their jurisdictions.
Unleash the D.A.'s.
For teachers, a culture of fear ensured the deception would continue.
“APS is run like the mob,” one teacher told investigators, saying she cheated because she feared retaliation if she didn’t.
The voluminous report names 178 educators, including 38 principals, as participants in cheating. More than 80 confessed. The investigators said they confirmed cheating in 44 of 56 schools they examined.
COMMENT: My gut feeling, based on other stories, is that this is far more widespread nationally than we'd like to believe.
Question: How angry will the public be? Or will some parents stay silent, satisified that their own kids' scores were raised by compliant, corrupt "educators"? I'm not at all confident of the answers.
July 6, 2011 Permalink
WASHINGTON'S ILLUSIONS – AT 8:54 A.M. ET: Normally, when discussing our defense needs, we'd assume that those living in a world of illusions are on the leftist fringe of the Democratic Party. Sadly, some Republicans have begun to drink the Kool-Aid. We not only are fighting a war against terror, we're facing a rising, and disciplined military force in China. Have a nice day. From The Wall Street Journal:
In Washington the season of budget cuts is in full blossom. Unfortunately, leaders of both political parties may soon agree to further slash the defense budget. Yet this comes as the military is fighting an ongoing war against jihadi terrorists while also confronting a China that is using its growing military power more aggressively. The prescription should be more, not less, U.S. military power. It is easy to see how cuts will save today, but difficult to assess how much cuts will cost tomorrow. In Asia, the price will be unacceptably high.
China's military rise is changing the balance of power in its neighborhood. While Washington debates how to cut America's military, China continues to spend generously on defense. Last year, the Obama administration took the first steps in a $400 billion defense spending cut, ending several crucial programs. The White House has now asked for another $400 billion in cuts. China, meanwhile, has averaged 10% annual spending increases for more than 20 years. As former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown once said of the Soviets, "When we build, they build; when we cut, they build."
Beijing has the most ambitious missile program in the world—including an anti-ship ballistic missile that threatens U.S. aircraft carriers. China is also investing heavily in submarines and surface ships; stealthy fighter aircraft; and space and cyber-warfare capabilities. The equation budget cutters should ponder is that China's aggressive build-up plus American defense cuts equals Asian instability.
That instability could have far-reaching consequences. America's military has ensured peace and stability in the region, made the seas safe for trade and transit, provided Asians with the political space to prosper, and guaranteed that no hostile power would again use the Pacific as an avenue of approach for an attack on American soil.
COMMENT: Well written and well argued. It's been pointed out that America has cut its defense after every war in the 20th century, and in each case later regretted it.
One of the sillier arguments for cutting defense is that we can no longer "afford" our current level of defense spending. That is nonsense. It's like saying we can't afford a life-saving operation. We find a way. And, in fact, defense spending is one of the most effective economic stimulants that we have. Had Obama devoted more of the so-called "stimulus" to defense spending, rather than to pet projects of well-connected Democrats, we could have created thousands of factory jobs, as assembly lines would start to hum, building equipment that the military needs.
This country, above all others, learned the lesson of the 1930s. Once the immediate demand for disarmament after World War II was out of our system, we started building again, formed NATO, and resisted Communist aggression in Korea. Indeed, at one time the Democratic Party accused Republicans of not being zealous enough about defense...which tells you how far down the Democrats have come.
But we're now forgetting those lessons, in part because they're no longer taught. We won't pay the price, but our children will.
July 6, 2011 Permalink
DISSENT IN THE RANKS – AT 8:38 A.M. ET: We're hearing more and more rumblings from professional military people who are dismayed by President Obama's Afghanistan strategy. Can this come back to haunt the president during the 2012 election campaign? From the Washington Times:
Former battlefield commanders are warning that President Obama’s accelerated troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in time for the 2012 presidential election risks reversing major gains made against the Taliban.
“It is not only too fast a withdrawal, but too large,” said retired Army Gen. Jack Keane, who was a top adviser to Afghanistan commander Gen. David H. Petraeus and an architect of the successful 2007 troop-reinforcement in Iraq.
Keane is a solid guy, and should be heard.
“Fundamentally, we will be asking the troops to do more with less, which, unfortunately, means an increase in casualties,” he told The Washington Times.
Mr. Obama last month ordered the Pentagon to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and an additional 23,000 by next summer. That will leave about 70,000 U.S. troops in the country.
The president ordered a surge of about 30,000 troops in December 2009 to increase the fight against a resurgent Taliban force.
Rep. Allen B. West, Florida Republican and a retired Army combat officer, complained that Mr. Obama has ordered the troop withdrawal without linking it to conditions on the ground.
“The president just put some type of timeline on there that was not conditions-based,” said Mr. West, who held the rank of lieutenant colonel and served in Iraq.
“You have to have conditions-based operations, which dictate how you transition from phase to phase. There is no strategy which the president brought forth.”
Obama has never had a strategy for victory in Afghanistan. He's never even used the word.
He added that the Taliban, which imposed a brutal Islamist rule on Afghanistan and sheltered Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, already is trying to take political advantage of Mr. Obama’s withdrawal schedule. He said some tribal leaders in areas threatened by the Taliban are beginning to worry that the United States will abandon them.
Why shouldn't they worry? There's a big chunk of elite opinion in America that doesn't care about abandoning friends and allies. We abandoned the Vietnamese in 1975 by cutting off aid to the very people who'd been fighting with us, side by side. President Ford called it an act of dishonor, and it was.
There were plenty of people in Washington who wanted to abandon the Iraqis, but President Bush, a better man than Obama, made a politically courageous decision to enact the surge, which worked. There are no guarantees in Iraq, but at least Bush's policy avoided a catastrophe.
I claim no expertise about Afghanistan. There are readers who know far more than I do. I am concerned, though, about a consistent image of weakness and retreat created by this administration. Put yourself in the position of an enemy looking at this. What would you do to take advantage of it? I'm afraid we'll find out in Afghanistan.
July 6, 2011 Permalink
JULY 5, 2011
ANOTHER FINE LEADER FOR EGYPT – AT 11:27 P.M. ET: It is dismaying to see how many certified jerks the Arab world can produce in a lifetime. One of Egypt's new "democratic" leaders sounds pretty much like the old crowd, complete with the pro-Nazi spin. From the Washington Times:
BUDAPEST — A leader of Egypt’s top secular party says the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were “made in the USA,” the Holocaust is “a lie” and Anne Frank’s memoir is “a fake” — comments sure to roil the post-revolution political debate in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Ahmed Ezz El-Arab, a vice chairman of Egypt's Wafd Party, made the remarks in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times last week while in the Hungarian capital attending the Conference on Democracy and Human Rights.
He denied that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II.
In the interview, Mr. Ezz El-Arab also said that Osama bin Laden was not behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“He could not have the know-how or the ability to do it,” he said, even though he called the dead al Qaeda leader “an American agent.”
“If he had the ability, one plane only landing on the Knesset would give more effect,” Mr. Ezz El-Arab said.
Asked who was responsible for the attacks, Mr. Ezz El-Arab identified the CIA, Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, and the “military-industrial complex.”
Mr. Ezz El-Arab spoke of “the intelligent American elite that is ruling” and said it had responded to the “disaster” of President George W. Bush by electing Barack Obama president: “Obama is a nice face that has been brought up, the black rabbit taken out of the American hat when it was needed.”
COMMENT: The future of Egypt is certainly in good hands, isn't it? Of course, we can't wait for the U.S. State Department to announce that it is "engaging" with this character.
Ah the Arab spring. Tra-la, tra-la.
July 5, 2011 Permalink
WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 11:05 P.M. ET: A number of polls now show President Obama's approval rating in the high forties, give or take a few points. But Stu Rothenberg, one of the most astute political analysts around, has written a very persuasive piece arguing that the president may be in worse shape than the numbers indicate. From Roll Call:
In March of 2006, Bush's job approval fell to 33 percent in Pew polling, and immediately before the 2008 elections, in late October, his job approval stood at 20 percent, while a stunning 70 percent disapproved. In December 2008, as he was about to leave office, Bush's job ratings stood at 24 percent approval and 68 percent disapproval.
In comparison with those numbers, Obama looks wildly popular.
But Obama continues to earn much higher marks, in part, because his base, including liberal Democrats and African-Americans, has been standing by him, which has tended to prevent his overall job approval numbers from falling as much as they otherwise might.
For example, while Obama's job approval in the Pew survey stood at 46 percent among all adults, it was 87 percent among African-Americans and 81 percent among liberal Democrats.
In comparison, the president's job approval stood at 77 percent among all Democrats, at just 42 percent among independents and at a weak 39 percent among white independents.
Of course, all of the president's numbers could change between now and November 2012, but for now, they constitute a considerable problem for him, since independents are a key swing constituency and Obama's strong showing among swing voters was one of the most important reasons why he did so well overall and in key states such as Ohio and Florida.
COMMENT: Independents will decide the next election. That is why the choice of a Republican candidate is so critical. He or she must, of course, articulate conservative values, but must also have the unique ability to appeal to independents. No appeal to the "I" vote, no victory. And I'm not interested in second place or "moral" victories. The future of our country may depend on the next election.
July 5, 2011 Permalink
THE CRUMBLING CASE – AT 10:07 A.M. ET: The Dominique Strauss-Kahn case continues to make waves. After all, a American district attorney charged a potential president of France with sexual assault and threw him in jail, only to find out later that the accuser had, to put it mildly, as credibility problem. Now it appears the case will be dropped altogether:
Pop the champagne, DSK.
Prosecutors will agree to drop the charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn -- either on his next court date in two weeks or even sooner, according to a top investigator in the case who called the eventual dismissal "a certainty."
"We all know this case is not sustainable," the source told The Post exclusively yesterday.
"Her credibility is so bad now, we know we cannot sustain a case with her," the source said, referring to the Guinean hotel maid who accused Strauss-Kahn of trying to rape her in his plush Midtown hotel suite -- shocking charges that got the international banker bounced as head of the IMF and also derailed, at least for now, his bid to become president of France.
"She is not to be believed in anything that comes out of her mouth -- which is a shame, because now we may never know what happened in that hotel room," said the source, who is at the center of the investigation and would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
"Did [Strauss-Kahn] use force? Was there actually a crime? I don't think we'll ever know."
Meanwhile, defense sources described a different scenario, in which DSK admittedly engaged with the maid in a consensual, sex-for-money exchange in his Sofitel suite, with no force involved -- and she turned against him only when he stiffed her.
COMMENT: There is no doubt that Strauss-Kahn is a sleaze. His reputation preceded him. That doesn't, however, make him a criminal. There was a rush to judgment here, frighteningly similar to rushes in other, similar cases, like the Duke University lacrosse case.
We simply have to do better. This has been an international incident, costing a man, however slippery he may be, his job and probably his future. We should begin reform by eliminating the "perp walk," the practice of parading the accused in front of TV cameras. The presumption of innocence is lost. It's demeaning to our justice system.
And as we must insist on justice for a legitimate accuser, we must be on guard against the false charge. The tradition of our justice system is that we'd rather see a hundred guilty people go free than see one innocent person imprisoned.
I'm certainly no bleeding heart, as readers know, but there have been too many disturbing cases like this. I once interviewed a man for The Tonight Show who'd spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He was eventually pardoned. But who gives him back the 25 years?
July 5, 2011 Permalink
ANOTHER OBAMA RETRENCHMENT FOR THE WORLD'S GREATEST POWER – AT 9:10 A.M. ET: You have a perfect right, even a responsibility, to be enraged at what Obama is doing to the space program, perhaps the single most important symbol of American engineering prowess. From WaPo:
When astronaut Garrett Reisman returned from an 11-day space shuttle mission last May, he knew he was headed to the back of the line. If he wanted to return to orbit, he would have to wait at least five years for a second tour aboard the international space station, which he had called home for 95 days in 2008.
And even if he were offered a chance to return to space, Reisman would have to fly aboard a cramped Russian capsule, not an American space shuttle. After NASA’s Atlantis rolls to a stop later this month, the Soyuz will be the only ride to space — and slots are limited.
Imagine, a Russian capsule will be the only ride into space...for the first time in almost half a century. Obama certainly has changed things, hasn't he?
For the foreseeable future, NASA plans to send just four to six astronauts — American and international — to the space station each year, paying Russia up to $56 million per seat.
Instead of waiting, Reisman joined a steady flow of astronauts drifting away from NASA like so many untethered spacewalkers.
The agency’s vaunted astronaut corps, trained to withstand high acceleration, dangerous spacewalks, isolation and countless technical hiccups, now confronts a challenge with no handy checklist: the unknown.
“A lot of astronauts have to make a decision. Do they want to wait five, six, seven years?” said Thomas D. Jones, a Baltimore native who flew four shuttle missions before leaving NASA in 2001.
At that time, the agency employed 150 astronauts, the largest space-going workforce in its history. By October 2009, that number had fallen to 92. Now it stands at 61, with two retirements imminent — including that of Mark Kelly, the commander of a recent shuttle mission and the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the wounded Arizona congresswoman — and “a few more departures” likely later this year, said Peggy Whitson, chief astronaut at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
COMMENT: I know, I know. Some space exploration can be done more cheaply by machines rather than astronauts. But the symbolism of the astronaut cannot be matched, not can the sheer thrill of men and women in space speaking to Earth, and expecially to their countrymen.
Great nations require great symbols. "Showing the flag" is a time-honored way in which a nation displays its abilities and its strength. It enrages me to think that the only flag that will be shown in space for a long time will be the flag of a corrupt, struggling Russia, a nation no one ever described as the last great hope of mankind.
July 5, 2011 Permalink
NOW WE'RE TALKIN' – AT 8:49 A.M. ET: Conservative columnist Cal Thomas is the latest to suggest that the GOP skip a generation and pick Marco Rubio as its candidate next year. Rubio is adamantly refusing, but they all say that:
At first he didn't want to do any national media, preferring to focus on Florida issues. He didn't make his maiden speech on the Senate floor until June 14, five months after being sworn-in.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) so gifted at age 40, combines passion for his conservative ideas with a humility that could easily spill over into arrogance, if he didn't have a strong sense of self. On the morning of our first meeting, I arrive early. He arrives before his staff and goes around turning on lights with no sense that such action is below his pay grade. In a town full of hubris and self-absorption, Rubio appears not to have yet caught the disease. Perhaps he will turn out to be the Hispanic version of Jimmy Stewart's movie character, "Mr. Smith."
I'll take that.
That doesn't mean Rubio can't attack President Obama, but when he does, it is the president's policies he goes after, not the man.
Of the president's harsh verbal assault on Republicans during his news conference last Wednesday, Rubio says, "I was taken aback by some of the rhetoric the president used, which I think is more appropriate for some left-wing strong man than for the president of the United States."
What does he think of the Republican presidential field so far? "I think it's underrated. ... I think we're going to have a good nominee. ... The question for the American people in November 2012 is: are we going to extend Barack Obama's contract for another four years? If the election were today, you would say every meaningful measure of life in America is worse than in January 2009."
Rubio is aware this sounds Reaganesque as in, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
What about the vice presidency? Does he see himself as a possible running mate? "I don't think I'll be asked. I doubt very seriously you are going to see me on that ticket."
Maybe not, but if Rubio's stock continues to rise, he might not have to think about being asked in 2012. In four or eight more years, he might well be the Republican presidential nominee asking someone to run with him.
COMMENT: Rubio has that rare gift, the ability to command an audience, keep its attention, and make it want to follow his lead.
True, his national experience is thin thus far, but his overall experience, including a stint as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, is more extensive than was Obama's when Obama ran for president. Of course, Obama was always running for president.
I can't see how Rubio can jump in, given the firm denials of current interest...unless a boomlet can be started for him somewhere outside his Senate office. And, of course, a speaking tour by Rubio himself could help, as it is that rapport with voters that is his most powerful selling point, that and a clear conservative platform that is thoughtful, without a bit of nuttiness. Rubio also has the rhetorical ability to take on the press, a clear necessity for a Republican candidate next year.
July 5, 2011 Permalink
COULD THIS BE REAL? – AT 8:30 A.M. ET: Ordinarily, I'd dismiss political speculation like this, but it comes from one of the best, old-time shoe-leather political reporters around, Fred Dicker of the New York Post:
A Prominent Republican is joining a prominent Democrat in predicting that Gov. Cuomo will become President Obama's running mate for vice president next year.
Former New York GOP boss William Powers, credited with playing a key role in electing Rudy Giuliani mayor and George Pataki governor, was effusive in his praise of Cuomo's successes in the just-ended legislative session, and in his prediction of the freshman governor's political future.
"Andrew had a fabulous session. It was fabulous. A property-tax cap, ethics reform and, for Democrats, gay marriage," said Powers.
"I don't think there's any doubt Obama is going to pick him as his running mate. The president is in trouble and [Vice President Joseph] Biden doesn't bring anything to his ticket.
"The president will call him up later this year and say, 'Andrew, you have to do this for the good of the country.' What's Andrew going to say, 'No?' "
Yes, Cuomo did have a solid opening year as governor. First of all, he has a pulse, which, for a New York governor, is an unusual characteristic. He got things done, and most of them flashed "moderate" rather than liberal.
Cuomo, who saw a flurry of predictions last week in the wake of the gay-marriage victory that he'll run for president in 2016, has repeatedly refused to discuss the possibility of higher office.
He wouldn't comment either on Powers' prediction, but a source familiar with his thinking half-jokingly said this when asked what action Cuomo would take if Obama called to offer him the nation's No. 2 position: "He won't answer."
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown earlier this year also predicted that Obama would pick Cuomo to replace Biden, who he claimed would be named by the president to replace Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"He's a big name, a big-state governor, and a Democrat who is taking on the issue of public-employee salaries and pensions. Plus, he looks good," Brown said of Cuomo.
Clinton has announced she'll leave after one presidential term. Replacing her with Biden makes sense because Biden has what the inside-the-Beltway crowd calls "extenstive" foreign-policy experience. Trouble is, he's been wrong most of the time. If we had listened to Biden, we'd still be fighting the Cold War, and probably losing.
I'm skeptical of the story. Biden may bring nothing to the Democratic ticket, but I'm not really sure what Cuomo brings. He's governor of a state that's already in the bag for Obama. Also, dropping Biden may look like Obama, once again, throwing a friend under the bus. It's getting crowded under there.
Finally, Cuomo is a shrewd political operator, and much more hard-knuckled than his philosophical father, Mario, a three-term governor. He knows something about appearances, and abandoning the state to run for national office barely two years into his term just doesn't look very good. Too ambitious. Too eager.
But I'm willing to be convinced.
July 5, 2011 Permalink