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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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JUNE 13, 2011
10:06 P.M.: They're going home. Good.
9:55 P.M.: They're discussing who was the better vice presidential candidate in 2008, Biden or Palin. Silly. Debate is winding down. Everybody was respectable. But the format and the sheer number of candidates made for a frustrating two hours. I don't think anyone was particularly helped or hurt, although Bachmann will probably get the most chatter.
9:49 P.M.: Santorum gave the best answer of the evening in discussing the need for American leadership around the world, and decrying the lack of that leadership under Obama, correctly accusing Obama of embracing our enemies and undercutting our friends.
9:42 P.M.: Troops out of Afghanistan? Ron Paul gives a classic isolationist, 1930s reply, which is why he should not be taken seriously. Others give a more nuanced, saner answer. All oppose our operation in Libya.
9:38 P.M.: They're on a break, going into foreign policy. You know, save the world in 30-second segments. This I gotta hear. Stand by.
9:31 P.M.: It's getting really boring. I'd imagine a lot of people have tuned out. They're going to go to two hours, but I'm not getting a real portrait of any of the candidates because of factors I've already mentioned.
9:24 P.M.: They're on abortion. Again, they are stuffing so many subjects into this debate that it's impossible to think. This should have been a debate with a few well-selected subjects. And the candidates are spending most of their time appealing to the GOP base, not the general voter. We can only give general impressions. I can't imagine deciding on a candidate on the basis of this rushed format.
9:18 P.M.: Same-sex marriage is the subject. Question is whether the federal government should intervene in state decisions. Some candidates said they favored a constitutional amendment defining marriage, others said they would not interfere in state decisions. Now they're on "don't ask, don't tell." It is impossible to discuss these complex issues with only a few sentences. Useless time.
9:04 P.M.: Question about separation of church and state. Lots of bromides. But Cain is hung up on a question about whether he'd appoint a Muslim to his administration. The moderator is trying to nail him as a bigot, which isn't fair. Romney takes it up, and gives the fairly standard "everyone is welcome" answer. Not a useful segment, in my view.
9:00 P.M.: We're an hour into the debate, and I really couldn't give you the specific positions of the candidates on issues. We only get impressions. If I had to pick a winner thus far, I'd say Bachmann. Everyone is looking at Romney because he's the presumed frontrunner. He's fine, and knowledgeable, but we really can't evaluate him until he's on a platform with fewer candidates.
8:48 P.M.: Question now on Medicare. Ron Paul answers, but starts to rail against military and foreign spending. Give him a counselor. Pawlenty on. Perfectly fine. Again, this is a complex issue and there are too many candidates. The blur factor increases.
8:45 P.M.: The debate is becoming a blur. There are so many people on that platform, and things move so quickly, that it's hard to concentrate. Also, the points made by almost all the participants are too general. We keep hearing the moderator's voice, trying to interrupt, and it drives one crazy. The best we can do here is get a general impression. This is not a format for examining issues carefully.
8:41 P.M.: What Romney needs to do is to propose policies, and make them specific. They're talking about the auto industry, and his father was head of American Motors. Okay Mitt, what would you do to save that industry, or not to save it? He does know his stuff, though.
8:36 P.M.: There was a commercial break, and they're back. Ron Paul is on. Look, I'm prejudiced. I think he's a kook, with a crazy foreign policy, and I don't take him seriously. Romney on now. He's fine, but for some reason he still comes off as a bit wooden. Bachmann is far more dynamic, and the contrast shows.
8:31 P.M.: Cain on. Always more impressive than people think he'll be. But I wish the moderator would speak more slowly, and less nervously. After a while, you want to take a pill.
8:27 P.M.: Bachmann on again. Once more, I think she's coming out as the most impressive. That may be because she's the only woman, and people are fascinated by her. But she knows her stuff and she knows how to drive home a point.
8:24 P.M.: Cain finally got a shot, and spoke well. But again, the speed of this debate is so fast that you just can't follow the ideas. Bad format, hard-driving host, candidates who aren't allowed to develop their thoughts.
8:19 P.M.: A good, new question from a member of the audience, asking how the candidates could avoid simply representing a segment of the party. All the candidates are doing reasonably well, but the format isn't giving them much of a chance. Of all, however, I'd say Michelle Bachmann is giving the best impression. She is prepared, provocative, a kind of Sarah Palin who has done her homework.
8:17 P.M.: John King, the moderator, is a bit annoying. He keeps interrupting and sounds a bit hostile, rather than probing. Also, he's not giving equal time to each candidate. Herman Cain has gotten no time since his opener.
8:14 P.M.: Bachmann on again, pledges to repeal Obamacare. Describes it as a jobs killer. Well spoken, but she should insert a few lines on her health-care program. Romney on now, defending the health-care plan he introduced as governor of Massachutts. An effective, substantive answer.
8:11 P.M.: Bachmann, only woman in the group, on now. Informs us that she's definitely running for president. An awkward moment because she was supposed to speak about jobs. Now Ron Paul is on. The candidates have 30 seconds, and that's just not enough to explain an economic policy.
8:08 P.M.: They're speaking in general terms about the need to create jobs, but there are no dramatic or mind-grabbing proposals. Romney on now, spending his time attacking Obama. All the speakers are speaking well, but no home runs in the first inning.
8:05 P.M.: Herman Cain speaks first. The first subject is job-creation policy. A citizen asked the first question, but now John King, CNN reporter and moderator, is asking his own. Tough but good questions.
8:02 P.M.: No opening statements. Candidates are introducing themselves, Miss America style. "I'm Joe Blow, and I..." I can't wait for the evening gown competition.
WE'RE NOW GOING TO START LIVE BLOGGING THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE.
OVERLOAD – AT 9:55 A.M. ET: We have so much to deal with in the news right now, and it's easy to overlook critical stories. None is more critical than the continuing upheaval in the Middle East. It will have a profound effect on us, and could involve us in even more military action.
No country is more important in the Mideast than ancient Syria. Not only is Damascus one of the Arab world's cultural capitals, but Syria is the Arab nation with the closest relationship with Iran. The great Fouad Ajami, of Johns Hopkins, gives a blunt assessment of what's going on in Syria, and how Obama has, surprise, messed it all up:
But get this:
John Kerry? Didn't he run for president? Didn't he pick John Edwards as his vice presidential choice? The man has such good judgment. Next time I buy a car, I'll ask for his advice.
Douglas MacArthur said that all defeats begin with those two words: Too late.
The refugees from the Syrian massacre are streaming across the Turkish border. Americans, meanwhile, are preoccupied with a failing economy. The Brits and the French bravely try to carry on in Libya, but years of gutting their defenses to pay for the welfare state are taking their toll. All this while Mr. Obama makes pretty speeches on things he knows nothing about.
And it is only months to an election in Egypt that may well bring in the worst elements.
It is time for America to lead once more, but our team has an inexperienced, egotistical and shallow manager. Casey Stengel could do a better job, and make a better speech.
June 13, 2011 Permalink
GO, BE GONE WITH YOU – AT 9:14 A.M. ET: When Republicans do naughty stuff, they're gone the next day. When Dems do it, they're indulged. But Anthony Weiner may be too much even for the "tolerant" types in his own party. New photos came out over the weekend featuring the "lawmaker" in various states of undress in a Congressional gymnasium locker room. The man has to resign, and maybe he's realizing it:
COMMENT: Many people have asked why the reaction to Weiner is so much harsher than was the reaction to Bill Clinton. I can only theorize, but here is my theory: What Clinton did was obviously wrong. He hurt his wife. His was seen as an act of immorality, or many such acts. Weiner's behavior is seen as perversion, something with a very substantial "yuch" factor. That's the same kind of thing that brought down Republican Congressman Chris Lee, who had to depart Congress recently after it was revealed that he'd put shirtless photos of himself on the internet and solicited improper contact. The "yuch" factor is important, especially in an age of instant visual imagery.
The verdict on Weiner: Triple yuch.
June 13, 2011 Permalink
ROMNEY SHOWS A LITTLE GLOW – AT 8:47 A.M. ET: He didn't do well the last time out, but Mitt Romney seems to be inching up in the polls as tonight's debate draws near. Andrew Malcolm, at the L.A. Times's Top of the Ticket blog, headlines "Mitt Romney surges as GOP debate season opens." The Politico, which is tilting more and more leftward, warns readers, "Mitt Romney underestimated." From The Politico:
COMMENT: Well, we'll see. One thing Romney does have going for him is an ability to appeal to the middle. And people do know him. His reputation as a successful businessman helps. Having been born to wealth doesn't. Many people, rightly or wrongly, write off the success of the well-born as being more a matter of connections than talent, and in some cases they're right.
Right now, Romney appears to be the man to beat. We'll see tonight if he's a fighter, or a guy who'll "sit on his lead."
June 13, 2011 Permalink
DEBATE TONIGHT – NO WEAPONS ALLOWED – AT 8:29 A.M. ET: The first serious debate of the presidential campaign will be held tonight in New Hampshire. There was a debate some weeks ago, but the big guys didn't show up. This one will be different.
We're hoping for something out of "West Side Story," but Republicans are too polite. From the Manchester Union-Leader:
Still, two heavyweights won't be on the playbill – Sarah Palin and Texas Governor Rick Perry, who looks like he may make the plunge. Others mentioned by the Great Mentioner are Congressman Paul Ryan, who says he's not running, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who says he's definitely not running.
What to look for tonight: First, a pulse. We want to be sure our candidate has one. It's not always the case. Second, practical solutions to problems the nation actually feels. Third...and this really is critical, a style and approach that appeals to independents, because they will determine the election.
We will watch, and report.
June 13, 2011 Permalink
JUNE 12, 2011
THE RESET BUTTON BROKE AGAIN – AT 11:56 P.M. ET: Remember when President Obama descended from the galaxy to become our president? He promised that our relations with Russia would be "reset," apparently believing that any friction we'd had with Moscow was caused by BUSH (!!) and CHENEY (!!!!).
Uh, apparently the reset button was improperly connected, or maybe the spring broke, or they got the wiring wrong. You know, it's so hard to get good button men today. They're always out playing golf.
The Russians are becoming more hostile every day. There's been no reset. They're uncooperative and they're starting to develop advanced weapons again. Then there's this:
That's pretty strong stuff, especially when directed at a weak American president. Of course, the fact that Obama is weak allows for the Russian strength.
If Russia becomes increasingly hostile, we will face an array of threatening forces greater than that faced since the Second World War – Russia, China, militant Islam, and even some adversaries in Latin America, like Chavez's Venezuela, which has alliances with both Iran and Russia. That will require superb American leadership, which means replacement parts for the chaps we have now.
June 12, 2011 Permalink
GET WELL, GABY – AT 12:07 P.M. ET: The first photos of Gabrielle Giffords taken since she was shot in Tucson have just been released. For someone who's been through her ordeal, she looks fine:
Obviously, Congresswoman Giffords has a long path to travel. Her ability to speak, according to an aide, is still far from normal.
We wish her well. She's a traditional pro-defense Democrat, married to a Navy captain, who is also a senior astronaut. And she has a fine, honorable reputation. We want to welcome her back to Congress.
June 12, 2011 Permalink
COMING SOON TO A TRENDY TOWN NEAR YOU – AT 11:48 A.M. ET: Well, actually, I hope not. There is a disturbing story out of Britain today that shows what political correctness can do to a society. It can destroy its values and its standards.
Of course, there are really several Britains. The Britain we love is the Britain of Churchill and Margaret Thatcher – strong, resolute, with a defiant spirit. But there is another Britain, leftist, conformist, unthinking, under the mindless spell of multiculturalism. That is the Britain we see in this story, from London's Telegraph, and it should worry us:
We are seeing the same thing here. We saw it after the Fort Hood shootings, when even our own Defense Department did handstands to avoid mentioning that the shooter was a committed jihadist.
Please note, in reading the story, that Muslims are among the victims. They often are. More Muslims have been killed in terrorist attacks around the world than members of any other group, giving the lie to the propagandists who tell us that our "policies" lead to terrorism.
This is a great piece of reporting, and I highly commend it to you. We are watching Western civilization eroded, and that erosion may get worse as we avert our eyes to solve our economic problems.
Be on guard...and learn what policies are in place in your local law-enforcement agencies.
June 12, 2011 Permalink
THERE WAS A TIME... – AT 11:17 A.M. ET: I've never been a fan of mindless nostalgia. You know, people who tell us how perfect everything was "back then," as opposed to right now. There were plenty of things wrong in the America of my youth, including the exclusion from full participation in American life of a number of groups.
However, there were many things right about our country back then. A wonderful popular culture, with music written by real composers like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, and lyricists like Oscar Hammerstein II. Great movies that we still watch today, as we wonder whatever happened to our storytelling talent. A media that was respectful of the country and its values. Schools that existed to teach students the fundamentals of a fine education, not to indoctrinate them in leftist babble. And a certain indescribable warmth that linked us together as Americans. It was something we felt.
Bob Greene has a wonderful column today describing something else about that era – the fact that American companies identified with the American soldier, and were proud of it:
If you ever get a chance, go to a library that has the bound volumes of LIFE magazine from World War II. You'll see page after page of the ads that Greene is talking about.
COMMENT: Alas, it was a different America. Sure, it was an America that could stand improvement, and we improved. But it was an America with so many wonderful things about it.
Think of this: Sixty-five years ago, American kids were dancing to the music of George Gershwin. They were going to movies like "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo" and musicals like "Meet Me in St. Louis." They were laughing at the clean comedy of Jack Benny. Contrast please with today.
I'm afraid we threw out the baby with the bath water. If we don't invite that baby back into our homes, we will never have that America again.
June 12, 2011 Permalink
WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 11:02 A.M. ET: The president has suffered a sudden and substantial decline in the Rasmussen survey, which polls likely voters. He had been showing some strength in that survey, but is slipping back to fire-sale numbers:
And get this:
If we had a parliamentary system, Obama might well lose a vote of confidence. He is clearly in trouble, and yet polls show him doing respectably well against any Republican opponent. That means that the GOP clearly has its work cut out for it. It has such opportunities, if it gets its act together, nominates a strong candidate with wide appeal, and constructs a platform that can attract the independents who are abandoning Obama in droves.
June 12, 2011 Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
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