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SEPTEMBER 8, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:46 P.M. ET:
POSSIBLE 9-11 TERROR THREAT – Dept of Homeland Security says it has a report of a "specific, credible but unconfirmed" threat of a terror attack in the U.S., using car and truck bombs, timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9-11. Local authorities have been alerted. The threat is said to focus on New York City and Washington, D.C. We obviously will watch this story, if in fact it develops.
DEMS GO INTO PANIC MODE – And they can't blame it on global warming. Democrats are showing real worry that they may lose the special election in New York Tuesday to fill the vacancy in the House created when Anthony Weiner resigned in disgrace. The vote is being held in the 9th C.D., which is normally considered "safe" for Democrats. Now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will spend almost half a million dollars on a last-minute ad buy. Late polls show the race as a tossup between Dem David Weprin and GOP candidate Bob Turner. This is a "traditional" Democratic district, not one of the trendier ones where liberals weep for the workers while driving around in BMW 700s. I still think the Democratic candidate has the edge, but Obama is unpopular in the 9th, and the GOP is trying for an upset.
ROMNEY ATTACKING – I'm sure his team has done polling on this, and Mitt Romney was on the attack today, focusing on Rick Perry's description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme. Social Security is enormously popular, as virtually every pundit has pointed out. Perry's hostility to the system, if not satisfactorily explained, can cost him big in a general election, and may cost him the race itself. Perry did nothing last night to ease concerns. Romney is exploiting this weakness, which is the intelligent thing to do. Romney wants to turn Perry into a one-week wonder.
HALEY SWINGS THE AX – Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, a state that has great clout in the Republican primary sweeps, said today that she will not support Jon Huntsman for the GOP presidential nomination. Singling out Huntsman for a negative endorsement is a serious blow to the former Utah governor, who has the largest operation in South Carolina of all the candidates, and has made the state critical to his chances. I don't think Huntsman has much of a chance anyway.
September 8, 2011 Permalink
THE SPEECH – AT 8:54 P.M. ET: The president delivered his jobs speech tonight. It contained pretty much what had been expected. From Bloomberg:
COMMENT: The reaction to the speech thus far has been muted. Democrats expressed mild enthusiasm, Republicans mild disapproval. There will be more reaction, including opinions of economists, tomorrow. The GOP plan apparently is to take individual parts of the president's program that they can accept, and add ideas of their own. Mr. Obama presented his program as a complete package. However, no one seriously believes it will go forward that way.
The administration will have other proposals in coming weeks. It is difficult to see, though, how the plan the president announced tonight can make much of a difference. Our problems are very deep, have developed over decades, and will require a rebirth in many sectors of the economy.
September 8, 2011 Permalink
SIGN OF THE TIMES – AT 9:34 A.M. ET: When you read this story, you can't help but be reminded of the Great Depression. No, I don't think we're there yet, and I hope we don't get there. But, under our current leadership, we're not heading in the other direction either. From USA Today:
COMMENT: It's sad that businesses are striving for a bigger slice of the food-stamp pie. Food stamps are a poverty program, and poverty is increasing dramatically.
Another welcome for the president tonight.
September 8, 2011 Permalink
A GREETING FOR OBAMA – AT 9:12 A.M. ET: The new unemployment report, out minutes ago, is a grim greeting for President Obama, as he prepares to speak to Congress tonight. From Bloomberg:
COMMENT: Well, I'm relieved they didn't blame the hurricane, or global warming. But the fact is that any number above 400,000 is considered very bad, and that's where the numbers have been, week after week.
There is now growing, and serious, talk of a double-dip recession, just as we head into the presidential election season. Hope and change, those winners from the 2008 campaign, are losers today.
September 8, 2011 Permalink
NEW WORRY OVER LIBYA – AT 8:58 A.M. ET: As we count down to the 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9-11 attacks, America is on alert for new ones. And now we have a new worry, which reflects a general concern about proliferation of major weapons, including WMD. The question, which has planners concerned, revolves around the Gaddafi arsenal. From WaPo:
And that mustard gas can also find its way across borders, even oceans.
The concern goes beyond mustard gas, as The New York Times reports:
COMMENT: Our airports, and airports around the world, are vulnerable. Planes taking off and landing could be targeted by one or two men with those shoulder-launched weapons, hiding in the tall grass near airports, or even in a building with an accessible rooftop. That is one of the nightmare scenarios faced by terror experts.
Not only could an airliner be brought down, but the act itself could disrupt the entire international air system. How do you tell passengers their safety is guaranteed after a successful attempt to bring down a plane?
This weekend's commemoration should remind us that the battle goes on.
September 8, 2011 Permalink
PASS THE POPCORN – AT 8:30 A.M. ET: It feels like an old-time double feature at the local movie house. We got the A-movie last night with the Republican debate. Tonight the B-movie will run, starring Barack Obama in his latest sequel. Can you stand the excitement? Fox News has a preview of coming attractions:
That is reminiscent of Harry Truman running against the "do-nothing Congress" in 1948. Problem is, Obama is no Truman.
COMMENT: Harry Truman was described as a man who "did the biggest things in the biggest ways and the littlest things in the littlest ways. Obama does the biggest things in the littlest ways, incapable of graciousness and always trying to get in his partisan digs. Orginally, remember, this speech was intentionally scheduled for the same time as the Republican debate last night, in a petty attempt to steal the GOP thunder. The president backed down and moved the speech, under pressure from House Speaker John Boehner.
I'm not expecting much, but I'm obligated to watch. I feel like a critic forced to go to a bad movie.
September 8, 2011 Permalink
SEPTEMBER 7, 2011
9:47 P.M. ET: The debate abruptly ends. On balance, a reasonably good debate. Again, the number of candidates minimizes our ability to focus on specific answers. As the months go on, I assume we'll get dropouts, possibly Herman Cain and Rick Santorum. (Possibly.) If I had to choose a winner, I'd say again...Mitt Romney. He was forceful, more forceful than he's been, and he came prepared. Rick Perry, who was the object of most of the attention, held his own. But whether he did more is an open question. At times he seemed a bit distant from the subjects. However, his last statement, about fighting crime, hit it out of the park. I'd say that, for the Republican base alone, he probably came out ahead tonight, but that base, alone, cannot elect a president. And that is at the heart of Perry's problem – his appeal, or lack of it, to the people in the middle. In that department, Romney triumphed.
A few words about Michele Bachmann: She's been overshadowed by Rick Perry, and both appeal to the same constituency. But we must give her credit for remaining in the race, and giving a number of thoughtful, articulate answers. She was less ideological tonight than on other occasions, and that's to the good. I don't think she can come from behind to win the nomination, but she has an important future if she grows, comes up with innovative proposals, and prepares as well as she has.
9:42 P.M. ET: They're varying the subjects in these last few minutes of the debate. Romney is discussing taxes and economic growth, and he speaks with authority. He knows his stuff. Now the question goes to Perry, about the number of people executed in Texas while he's been governor. He gives the best answer he's given during the debate, and presents a passionate defense of the death penalty. Biggest applause line of the night, and here Perry shines. Whether you agree with him or not on the death penalty, his passion comes through and he came alive.
9:35 P.M. ET: Huntsman on, asked a real zinger about comments by his campaign manager that some of the GOP candidates are cranks. He's evasive on that. Perry is now asked about climate change. He's being pressed to give details. He's vague on climate change, but gives some good points about what's been done in Texas on clean air. He does make the point that the science of climate change is unsettled.
9:22 P.M. ET: They're back. Perry is discussing the debt deal. Proposes a balanced budget amendment. Huntsman is now discussing foreign policy, and sounds a bit isolationist. Romney on. Again, I like the way he hits issues in the center. He gives specific reasons for things. I think he'd do well against Obama in debate. Perry on. Discussing defense. He's rambling a bit. He is giving some credit to Obama on security issues, which is appropriate. But again, I think the contrast with Romney's specifics is telling. Now Bachmann is on, with a firm statement denouncing Obama's foreign policy. She also warns about some of the "rebels" in the Mideast. We don't really know them.
9:14 P.M. ET: They're discussing immigration. And Rick Perry, who should have shone in this segment, is largely forgotten. He missed a golden opportunity, as a border-state governor, to really speak with authority and present a program. But he missed it. They're on the second commercial break right now. Again, I think Romney comes out first, and maybe his lead has increased a bit since the last break. But Perry does hold his own, and the others have all acquitted themselves reasonably well.
9:10 P.M. ET: Perry is now discussing immigration. As Texas governor, he knows the subject. But Romney is now outdistancing him with, again, specific proposals. This campaign may come down to a battle between these two men. As of now, Romney comes out better. He is simply better prepared.
9:05 P.M. ET: Perry is now being asked about some poor educational statistics from his state. He answers well, pointing out some accomplishments, and noting the first-class corporations that move to Texas, and which require an educated work force. Good answer, if incomplete. Newt is now talking about education. Again, I point out that he is full of ideas. Sadly, I don't think he has much traction. He is often seen as a man of the past, which is unfair.
9:00 P.M. ET: As always happens in these debates, the session starts to drift. They're talking about whether FEMA should be abolished. I didn't know this was a big issue.
8:54 P.M. ET: Ron Paul is now attacking his fellow Texan, Rick Perry. Now Bachmann is up. She's slipping back into philosophy, rather than practicality, and I have to concede it's a weakness. Perry is being attacked for a mandatory innoculation program for girls that he established in Texas. He answers well, but doesn't add anything in particular. Perry's failure to come up with any specific ideas is beginning to hurt him. He certainly knew that everyone would be attacking him, and that the spotlight would be on him. He speaks well, he's personable, he gives some good answers. But where's the vision?
8:48 P.M. ET: Debate resumes. Perry is asked about his negative views on Social Security, views that can sink him in an election. He continues his attack on the way Social Security is run. But again, he has no proposals. He's in trouble on Social Security. It's obvious. Now Romney is up, also on Social Security. He goes after Perry on Perry's view that states should be able to opt out of the program. Romney wins this going away. Perry is now replying, but he has no ideas for improving Social Security. This is a critical moment in the debate, and Perry loses it, badly.
8:45 P.M. ET: There's now a tribute to Ronald Reagan, and I have to concede it's tasteful and well done. Brian Williams deserves credit for this.
8:39 P.M. ET: There's some back and forth right now among the candidates. This segment of the debate is now over. They've gone to a commercial: Summing up: The candidates are all doing surprisingly well. Focus is on Perry because it's his first time on the presidential debate stage. He's doing well. He's impressive. But he does not have detailed answers on what he intends to do as president. His game tonight focuses on knocking everyone else. He'll have to bring some balance to his campaign. Who's winning? I'd give the edge to Romney because of his knowledge and detail, but it's only an edge.
8:35 P.M. ET: Bachmann up, makes a brief but good statement on energy. Now Huntsman is up again, and I think is the surprise candidate this evening. He's good, and informed.
8:31 P.M. ET: Perry up. Replies to a question about povery by pointing out that the best antidote to poverty is a strong economy. Good answer, but lacking in specifics. Romney up, discussing energy, and again he is more detailed than Perry. He's impressive. At least he has proposals. Between the two men, we have a real, and worthy race.
8:26 P.M. ET: Huntsman discusses health care. I must say he's very impressive tonight, having apparently woken up. He may help himself tonight with his forceful performance, but he's way, way behind. Now Bachmann is up, and again she has that commanding presence. You can't take it away from her. And now Newt launches an attack on the press, charging the questioners with trying to get the participants to fight each other. I don't care for the press either, but I think attacking the press won't do much good tonight.
8:23 P.M. ET: Perry takes a hit from a question pointing out that Texas ranks dead last in people covered by health insurance. This is the kind of question that can damage him in a general election campaign. He does not answer well. He repeats what "the people of Texas" do not want, but really doesn't prescribe a program. Republicans must come up with visionary proposals. It can't just be negative.
8:20 P.M. ET: Perry just zinged Romney on Romneycare. Romney responds by pledging to overturn Obamacare through executive action – giving every state an opt-out, which is legal. Again, both men are speaking well, but I'd give Romney the edge on details.
8:18 P.M. ET: Gingrich up. He won't get the nomination, but he is always full of ideas, and his denunciation of Obama's leftist policies is right on.
8:15 P.M. ET: Michele Bachmann is up at the plate. I have to say, she gives terrific answers. She's human, and yet very well informed. You have to give her credit for coming so well informed. So far, by the way, none of the candidates has stumbled. Ron Paul is on now. Look, I really think the guy is on the fringes.
8:10 P.M. ET: Rick Santorum is on. Look, he won't get the nomination, and, frankly, as good a guy as he is, he's a distraction. There are only two realistic candidates up there – Romney and Perry. Maybe Bachmann, on the outside. Now Herman Cain is up. Again, great guy, good answer, but I sense that people are waiting for what they saw in the opening minutes – Perry vs. Romney. And now Huntsman is up. Speaking well, surprisingly so, since his campaign has tanked. But the party doesn't really trust him with conservative values.
8:06 P.M. ET: Second question is to Romney, also with a kind of sneering attitude by Williams. Is his business experience that great? Romney, like Perry, answers well. Very solid. There's now a back-and-forth between Perry and Romney, and, I'm happy to say, both men are doing well. Presidential. Knowledgeable.
8:03 PM. ET: Rick Perry gets the first question from the very liberal anchorman, Brian Williams. He's asked about some poor economic statistics in Texas. He responds superbly, strongly, with details, correcting the mistakes in the Williams question. Right away Perry is telling us he won't be blindsided by the MSM. Good opening.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
WE ARE ABOUT TO START OUR LIVE BLOGGING OF THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE FROM THE REAGAN LIBRARY, WHICH STARTS WITHIN SECONDS. STAY WITH US.
GOOD STUFF – AT 12:33 P.M. ET: We're always happy to alert readers to good things in which they can participate. I recently received an e-mail from a chap named Mike Caputo, who's Public Insight Network Senior Analyst for American Public Media in Minnesota. You may have read about his efforts recently at Power Line.
I subsequently had a conversation with Mr. Caputo, and was impressed with the work he and his organization are doing. They provide a means by which members of the electorate can have their voices heard in the mainstream media, something of particular interest to conservatives. Let me quote directly from Mr. Caputo's e-mail:
COMMENT: This is legit, and you might consider participating. Every voice heard is important. It is critical that reporters and editors hear from as many voters as possible, and actually get to know the electorate.
The late Charles Kuralt, who did the "On the Road" series for CBS, once told me that what impressed him most in all his travels around the U.S. was how well informed Americans are. He was correct. Americans are well informed, and they do listen. To prove that, notice how tracking polls change instantly as soon as anything significant happens in a political campaign. Well informed citizens should, in turn, inform the media, which can use citizen help.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
WILL REPUBLICANS GO TOO FAR? – AT 10:23 A.M. ET: We regularly discuss here the conflict between ideology and electability that is going on inside both parties. There are the true believers, then there are the believers, also true, who'd like a little power occasionally.
Conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru has written a very thoughtful column on this for Bloomberg. It's worth mulling what he says, because blowing next year's election would be a sin for the Republican Party, and possibly lead to the party's splitting into endlessly warring factions. From Bloomberg:
COMMENT: That is good reasoning. Ronald Reagan showed us that a candidate can be both committed and electable at the same time, but Reagan did it by tempering his ideology with an ability to work with those who disagree.
Reagan's political role model was Franklin Roosevelt, who very skillfully presented himself as a man who wanted to strengthen American institutions, not overthrow them. He would borrow programs from, say, the socialist movement, but keep that movement at a distance. (And please remember that, when abortion was a very hot issue, Ronald Reagan never addressed a pro-life rally in person. He always did it by phone.)
Ironically, Obama succeeded, cynically, in convincing a good part of the electorate that he was a centrist when he ran in 2008, a practical man interested in practical solutions.
America is an idealistic nation, but not an ideological one. Ideology means far less here than in Europe, where it's golden. There's an old line about a socialist saying, "I know it works in practice, but does it work in theory?" Americans just want to know that it works. The successful presidential candidate will understand that.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
ATTACK IN INDIA – AT 9:39 A.M. ET: We are regularly reminded that terrorism continues as a major threat around the world. There has been a new attack in India. It was simple in its execution, the kind of attack American authorities dread could come here. From AP, via Fox:
COMMENT: Some terror experts have wondered out loud why we haven't seen attacks of this kind in the United States. There have, of course, been attempts – the attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit, the attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square in New York – but they and other plots have failed. Is it our good security? Is it luck? Is it the possibility that Al Qaeda and its allies only want to plan large attacks?
It's probably a combination of all three. But the Department of Homeland Security has been warning about lone-wolf attacks, attacks carried out by individuals who may have been radicalized on the internet. For the lone wolf, the "bomb in the suitcase" scenario is ideal.
Eternal vigilance, my friends. Eternal vigilance.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
IS THAT CASH OR CREDIT? – AT 9:10 A.M. ET: Tomorrow, one day after the Republican debate at the Reagan Library, President Obama will unveil his jobs plan to Congress. We are being told by the usual informed sources that it comes with a whopping price tag:
More on the White House plan:
COMMENT: The question is whether this is too little, too late. Obama will have been in office three years in January. Yet, only now does he seem to be getting serious about the unemployment crisis.
The bottom line here is that the United States is in trouble. It will only get out of trouble if our economy grows dramatically. No combination of budget cuts in Washington and federal programs can begin to compare with a growing economy as a solution. But our economy is not growing, and one reason has got to be the loss of confidence in the president's leadership and the uncertainly that brings. Even modest private citizens are fearful about making plans, buying large items or taking risks because of their fear of the future. Companies are reluctant to hire workers, fearing their profits may be cut in a declining economy.
It took World War II finally to get us out of the Great Depression. I hope we don't have to go that route again.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
SHOWDOWN AT THE REAGAN CORRAL – AT 8:35 A.M. ET: The nationally televised Republican debte from the Reagan Library is on for tonight. At last report, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the current frontrunner, will attend, having skipped a debate over the weekend to supervise his state's response to wildfires.
This will be the first presidential debate for Perry. Eyes will be on him. Will he be able to solidify his frontrunner status, or will he simply become the flavor of the month? Will he show he can be a national candidate. Or will he show – and many in the GOP fear this – that he's strictly Texas?
Eyes will also be on Mitt Romney, former frontrunner trying to win back his status after the initial Perry surge. Will he attack Perry, quoting from Perry's own words to indict the Texas governor as an outside-the-mainstream extremist who could never get elected?
The jury tonight will be that great body of voters in the center who decide presidential elections. Romney's problem is that, while he can appeal to that center, he fails to excite the much more conservative base. Perry's problem is that he can excite the base, but may repel the center.
There will, of course, be tributes to Reagan flowing tonight. But some analysts point out that Reagan might not be able to win the Republican nomination today. A skilled politician and two-term governor of California, he might easily be seen as a compromiser, not ideologically acceptable to the Tea Party and its allies.
While Obama's poll numbers are down, his numbers against individual Republican candidates remain quite respectable. Beating him will not be easy. I wish many in the Republican Party would start to understand that, and plan accordingly.
Of course, we'll be watching the debate carefully, and live blogging throughout.
September 7, 2011 Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
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THE ANGEL'S CORNER
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