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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 14, 2011
BUZZ, THY NAME IS BACHMANN – AT 9:37 P.M. ET: We continue to monitor coverage of last night's debate, and the name that keeps coming up is Bachmann. Clearly, she changed at part of the nature of the race last evening, and that is major in a presidential campaign. From The Wall Street Journal:
COMMENT: Bachmann has also had another effect: She has made the race much more interesting. She has a certain magnetism. She's obviously attractive. She comes prepared, speaks very well, and is a learner. She has a commanding style.
The inevitable question is whether Bachmann's strong performance will have an impact on Sarah Palin. I think it has to. There's room for both women, of course, but they appeal to the same constituency, and that means they must be considered competitors. You may be sure the old boys' club in the media will play up that part.
More combat ahead.
June 14, 2011 Permalink
YOU HAVE TO LOVE THIS, YOU JUST HAVE TO – AT 9:18 A.M. ET: Look, not every story has to be about profound political decisions. This is a high-tech happy-ending story, and it's great. From Fox:
COMMENT: Go to the link in the story, which actually shows the photos, bottom of the page, that the software took of the alleged thief. Ah, modern technology.
June 14, 2011 Permalink
IS THIS PATHETIC, OR WHAT? – AT 8:31 A.M. ET: In the United States Navy they refer to Britain's Royal Navy as "the senior service," a sign of respect for a navy that once ruled the waves. Now, consider this, from London's Telegraph:
How sad, how sad. Britain is a symbol of what's happened all over Europe – defense cuts made to fuel the welfare state, without any understanding that a strong defense is what allows any nation to exist at all. As we've said here, there's the great Britain, and the not-so-great Britain. The latter is winning, even with nominal conservatives in power.
Britain has a great defense minister in Liam Fox, whom I've had the privilege of meeting. His vision is a strong Britain, firmly allied with the United States. But Britain has a left wing that won't budge, and will become a defense backwater before too long.
I'm sure they'll even send James Bond into retirement.
June 14, 2011 Permalink
OBAMA CAMPAIGN FLOP – AT 8:08 A.M. ET: This is one thing we usually don't see with Obama – a failed campaign rally. You can be sure there'll be hell to pay at the White House. But if this is an indication of things to come, Obama can be in real trouble. From the Politico:
That's damage control.
COMMENT: Obviously, the shortage of people was caused by global warming. Or was it Bush? Or Cheney? Or Bush's economy.
By the way, among other gems delivered by the president was a line claiming he isn't given to partisan rhetoric. You can start laughing now, and finish at the end of the year. This guy is the most partisan bird I've seen in a long time.
Obama is vulnerable. The talk on the internet this morning is that Republicans, more and more, want a winner, not an idealogue whom they can cheer in defeat. That's good. Good thinking.
June 14, 2011 Permalink
THE DEBATE – AT 7:39 A.M. ET: I realize that many readers may not have been with us as we live blogged the GOP debate last night. Let me give you my impressions, and a review of what I've seen from others:
The format was bad, things went by much too quickly, and there were too many candidates on the platform. However, we got some strong impressions. If there was a "winner," it was Michele Bachman. (She spells it with one "l".) Michael Barone sums it up:
And if there was a strong survivor, it was Mitt Romney. As the assumed "frontrunner," he was the target, but the rest of the group went easy on him, and he answered questions with brief, substantive replies. He may not have gained much, but he didn't lose anything. Again, Barone:
The disappointment was Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota. His job was to break out of the second tier, and make himself better known, but didn't do it. As for the others, I just don't think they have a realistic chance at the nomination.
Important individuals were not there. Governor Rick Perry of Texas wasn't there. Neither was former Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah. Perry would be an instant, serious contender if he gets in, but I must tell you that, the more I read about him, the more reluctant I am. Yes, he has a great jobs record in Texas, but he tends to sound a bit on the fringe a times, and more local than national. I don't know if he'll travel well. He's speaking in New York today, and we should get a taste of Rick Perry without a Texas backdrop. As for Huntsman, it's currently "Jon who?" He served as Obama's ambassador to China, which won't sit well with the GOP base. How can you serve a president and then run against his policies?
On balance, it was Mitt's and Michele's night last night. I agree with Barone that Romney was better than we'd thought he would be. Can Michele be taken as a serious candidate? If she continues with the kind of solid performance she gave in the debate, yes.
This is only the start. More action ahead.
June 14, 2011 Permalink
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
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
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