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TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2009
AND THEY'LL TAKE THEIR TEN VOTES WITH THEM - AT 7:48 P.M. ET; The delusions of the left never cease to amaze. Far more Americans identify themselves as conservatives than liberals, but the left believes it has vast power. Consider this, from The Hill:
Democratic votes may stay home from the polls in retribution for Congress failing at health reform, a top liberal lawmaker said Tuesday.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), the co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said that members of the Democratic Party's base "aren't even going to go to the polls if they don't have a public option."
You know, these people never learn. In 1968 a number of "progressives" stayed home to protest the nomination of Hubert H. Humphrey, a genuinely great liberal, and they helped elect their nemesis, Richard M. Nixon...and they didn't care. Revenge is more important to the self-loving left than governing.
Liberal activists have expressed outrage on Tuesday that the public option, as well as the Medicare buy-in, have been sacked by Democratic leaders in Congress in order to win over enough centrists' votes to pass a bill.
Yeah, in the minds of "liberal activists" it's better to have nothing than 80%. That's why they're so effective at getting things done.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the other co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, also sternly warned he would vote against the Senate proposal.
"The Senate has somehow managed to turn the House’s silk purse into a sow’s ear," he said. "If what the Senate is doing isn’t corrected in conference with the House, I will not support the bill. Since the Senate won’t use reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes, it doesn’t look promising for any real change.”
Well, maybe the liberals will actually be doing us a favor by killing the whole thing. Then we gain, and they remain pure. A win-win.
HOUSE ACTION AGAINST IRAN - AT 6:31 P.M. ET: The House, actually acting intelligently, passed major Iran sanctions legislation today:
WASHINGTON — The House voted Tuesday to impose new economic sanctions on Iran as lawmakers cast doubt on Iran's willingness to respond to diplomatic efforts to curtail its purported nuclear arms program.
The legislation, approved 412-12, would end access to U.S. markets for foreign companies selling refined petroleum products to Iran or helping that country develop its petroleum capacity. While Iran is a major crude oil producer, its lack of ability to produce enough gasoline and other refined petroleum products is a major economic vulnerability.
With no Senate action on the legislation expected this year, the House vote was for the time being mainly a warning that the United States is ready to act on its own if the Tehran government doesn't respond to current international efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The reason for the lack of Senate action, according to news reports, is John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who's holding things up. Surprise.
I'm always interested in who's on the losing end of these lopsided votes. I'll try to get the names of the Iran 12, those who voted against sanctions. The "no" bloc was led, naturally, by Dennis Kucinich, and also contained Ron Paul. Paul tends to be lionized by some conservatives. But on foreign policy he's pretty dismal, and more radical left than right.
The first actual step toward stiffer sanctions will apparently be taken by the Obama administration in January, as it tries to line up support in the UN Security Council. China and Russia, both members of the Council, are already signalling opposition to any sanctions that actually have a chance of working.
GETTING RID OF JOE - AT 6:14 P.M. ET: The diversity-crazy Democratic Party has difficulty with diversity within its own ranks. The party's handling of Joe Lieberman, its 2000 vice presidential candidate, is Exhibit A. From The Politico:
A House Democrat from Connecticut said Tuesday that Sen. Joe Lieberman should be recalled from office over his opposition to the Senate health care bill.
"No individual should hold health care hostage, including Joe Lieberman, and I'll say it flat out, I think he ought to be recalled," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) told POLITICO.
Great respect for democracy. Vote our way or else. Unfortunately, Ms. DeLauro, a hard-left Democrat, forgot a minor item:
Connecticut has no recall law for state officials, and the Constitution does not authorize states to recall members of Congress since each house has the authority to police its own members. DeLauro acknowledged that she didn’t know “what the Connecticut process is because I never found myself in this position — but I think it is unconscionable that he would hold up health care.”
And why bother finding out before making the speech? And then she comes out with this:
She said that millions of people die because they lack health insurance.
Yes, we find the bodies in the streets every morning. In fact, people who need health care can get it through a variety of programs. The system does need reform and improvement in many areas, but we don't just let people die.
At the same time, many people do not seek medical care, because of their own negligence or cultural attitudes. That issue is too delicate for Washington to explore.
WHAT IS IT WITH THESE CHURCHMEN? - AT 10:15 A.M. ET: Britain seems to have a clergy problem. Nile Gardiner, in London's Telegraph, reports on one particularly un-Godlike character:
The Telegraph’s Jonathan Wynne-Jones and Duncan Gardham have an explosive report on the appalling views of the Rt. Rev. Stephen Venner, recently commissioned by Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to serve as Bishop to the Forces. Here’s what Venner said:
“We’ve been too simplistic in our attitude towards the Taliban.”
“There’s a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the west could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation because it’s not honest really.”
“The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.”
That is coming from the man who will be bishop to Britain's armed forces.
As Damian Thompson asked earlier, what would Venner have said about the Nazis? One can only imagine, and it’s not pretty.
During the Second World War, remarks like these about the enemy would have rightly been regarded as an act of treason...
...The Taliban are not an honourable foe deserving of admiration. They are vicious, Islamist thugs, evil terrorists who brutalise the Afghan people while promoting the cause of Osama bin Laden. Their savagery is similar to that of the Nazis and should be universally condemned.
Bishop Venner’s comments are a sickening disgrace, and he should withdraw them, with an unreserved apology to all who have lost loved ones at the murderous hands of the Taliban and their al-Qaeda cohorts.
I wish we'd see that kind of spine in some of our own mainstream media writers. No such luck.
UPDATE: Well, the bishop has indeed apologized, also reported in the Telegraph:
The new bishop to the armed forces has apologised over comments he made about how the Taliban could be admired for their “conviction to their faith”.
“I’m not trying to support the Taliban,” he told the BBC. “At the moment what they are doing is evil.”
He said he would be “deeply grieved” if anyone had taken offence and hoped he had not jeopardised his job.
COMMENT: I guess his apology will be accepted. Frankly, I'd rather see Nile Gardiner as bishop to the British forces.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 9:38 A.M. ET: From Rich Lowry, in the New York Post:
Harry Reid can rightly claim to be making history.
If he passes health-care re form, he'll depend on a series of historic "firsts." It'd be the first time Congress had passed a major new entitlement program without bipartisan support; it'd be the first time it passed such a program without popular support; and the first time it passed such a program without knowing or particularly caring what's in it.
Very well said, and true.
This isn't the behavior of a self-confident majority secure in the knowledge that history is on its side. In fact, it's panicked, weaselly and willfully careless. The historian Richard Hofstadter wrote of the "paranoid style" in American politics. Obama Democrats have perfected the "impatient style." Reid's latest exertions fit the pattern of a headlong rush to a slapdash social democracy, justified by whatever arguments happen to be at hand and effected by whatever means necessary.
Reid acts like a hunted man for good reason. The RealClearPolitics average has 53.5 percent opposed to the Democrats' health-care plan and 37.7 favoring it. A CNN poll last week found the public against it by nearly 2-1. The numbers have gotten worse as the Senate has debated the measure in all its varied splendor -- the tax hikes, the Medicare cuts, the abortion funding. Reid is like the tormented narrator of Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum": With the clock's every tick, a vast blade promising doom swings nearer.
If the health-care bill is necessary and wise, it will withstand a temporary defeat. Democrats could campaign on it around the country next year. They could rebuild public support, turning around the polls. They could enhance their majority in the House and the Senate, bringing more Democrats to Washington determined to pass it. That's how you usually pass historic legislation in a system naturally inclined to the status quo.
But Reid knows long-term persuasion isn't an option. As his approval rating sags below 40 percent back in Nevada, even he might not be returning to Washington after 2010. Every day, every hour matters in the now-or-never calculus of Democrats who already feel their moment slipping agonizingly away.
COMMENT: It happens that I have a routine medical appointment today. And I have found myself wondering whether I'll be able to see this same excellent doctor next year, and if I'll have any choice in health insurance. At this stage in the debate, I shouldn't have to wonder. But the deliberations in Congress are among the most secretive I've ever seen. The American people, doctors and patients, are excluded from the room.
IN DEFENSE OF PEOPLE - AT 9:18 A.M. ET: Anne Applebaum, of the Washington Post, is as miffed as anyone at the kids' stuff in Copenhagen, especially the veddy, veddy chic and fashionable attacks on the human race and its excesses, often delivered by people with limos and private jets waiting outside. Anne defends we mortals:
It's true that I'm not crazy about the Kyoto climate negotiation process, of which the Copenhagen summit is the latest stage. But I'm even more disturbed by the apocalyptic and the anti-human prejudices of the climate change movement, some of which do indeed filter down to children as young as 9.
Over the years there have been many radical statements of this latter creed. In the infamous words of a National Park Service ecologist, "We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. . . . Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." A former leader of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals once declared that "humans have grown like a cancer; we're the biggest blight on the face of the earth." But it is a mistake to think that this is the language of only a crazy fringe.
Look, for example, at the Optimum Population Trust, a mainstream organization whose patrons include the naturalist David Attenborough, the scientist Jane Goodall and professors at Cambridge and Stanford -- and that campaigns against, well, human beings. Calling for "fewer emitters, lower emissions," the group offers members the chance to offset the pollution that they generate, merely by existing, through the purchase of family-planning devices in poor countries.
The poor countries must love that. Talk about imperialism...
The assumption behind this calculation is profoundly negative: that human beings are nothing more than machines for the production of carbon dioxide.
But it's such a wonderful thing to say at a Manhattan dinner party.
Anne to the rescue:
For while it's true that humans are often greedy, stupid and destructive, it's also true that we got to where we are at least partly thanks to human creativity, ingenuity and talent. Electricity is a miracle, an invention that has brought light and life to millions. Modern communication and transportation systems are no less extraordinary, helping to create economic growth in places where poverty and misery were the norm for centuries.
Well, at least someone finally said it.
All of them depend on fossil fuels, but they don't have to: A profound change in the nature of human energy consumption is possible -- thanks to the entrepreneurship that created the Internet, the compassion that lies behind the advances in modern medicine and the scientific reasoning that sent men into space. As for nihilism and hatred of humankind, it teaches us nothing, except to give up. And we shouldn't be passing that on to our children either.
COMMENT: And I've never seen a penguin cure an animal disease, either. But don't get me wrong. I love penguins. Great creatures, and so well dressed.
The problem, of course, is that pseudo-intellectuals (not real intellectuals) have created that anti-human mindset. These are the kind of people who would have, on their gravestones, their College Board scores. You know, JOHN G. EGGHEAD, VERBAL 780, MATH 740 (but will retake).
WE HAVE BEEN GORED, AGAIN - AT 8:20 A.M. ET: As the grown-ups plan our missile defense (see story below), the children meet in Copenhagen. Al Gore made his appearance, and immediately committed a major-league gaffe, adding to Climategate. From The Times of London:
There are many kinds of truth. Al Gore was poleaxed by an inconvenient one yesterday.
The former US Vice-President, who became an unlikely figurehead for the green movement after narrating the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, became entangled in a new climate change “spin” row.
Mr Gore, speaking at the Copenhagen climate change summit, stated the latest research showed that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in five years.
Not so fast, esteemed prophet.
However, the climatologist whose work Mr Gore was relying upon dropped the former Vice-President in the water with an icy blast.
“It’s unclear to me how this figure was arrived at,” Dr Wieslav Maslowski said. “I would never try to estimate likelihood at anything as exact as this.”
Mr Gore’s office later admitted that the 75 per cent figure was one used by Dr Maslowksi as a “ballpark figure” several years ago in a conversation with Mr Gore.
COMMENT: Geez! You'd think by now that the global-warming priesthood would try to get things right, or at least avoid mistakes like this. But the arrogance just overflows. Good for Dr. Maslowski, in standing up to the Goracle. Now let's reexamine the entire subject of global warming and nail down the facts before we bankrupt the West.
Oh, by the way, you'll notice the word "poleaxed" in the story. I didn't know what it meant either, and so I went to a dictionary. For those young readers educated in American schools, that's a book that lists a lot of words, the way the iPod lists songs, and tells you their meaning. Poleaxed means to be knocked down, hit or shocked, as if with a poleax, which is a form of battle-ax.
We don't do enough on language here, and I'm just easing my guilt.
NATIONAL DEFENSE STUNNER - AT 8:03 A.M. ET: A wake-up call to those who haven't taken the Iranian threat seriously. Apparently, the Pentagon is taking it very seriously:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will test its core missile defenses for the first time in January against a simulated long-range Iranian attack, a top Pentagon official said on Monday, amid tensions with Tehran.
That's an Iranian attack on the United States. Everybody awake?
Speaking at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington, Army Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, the head of the Missile Defense Agency, said the roughly $150 million test was a departure from the more standard scenario of a North Korean attack.
That's serious money for a test. It' a far cry from that disgraceful 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, assuring us that Iran had stopped developing nuclear weapons in 2003.
It also would be more difficult testing the U.S. Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system against a missile that would be faster and more direct as it races toward the United States than a simulated strike from North Korea.
Of course, what we must also worry about is a shorter-range missile launched from a freighter a few hundred miles off Baltimore.
"Previously, we have been testing the GMD system against a North Korean-type scenario," O'Reilly said.
"This next test ... is more of a head-on shot like you would use defending against an Iranian shot into the United States. So that's the first time that we're now testing in a different scenario."
The fact that Iran was mentioned by name is diplomatically significant. A recent series of statements by high American officials, including secretaries Clinton and Gates, have been increasingly, and appropriately, threatening toward Iran.
OUTRAGEOUS - AT 10:47 P.M. ET: We praised President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, and the fact that some Europeans are upset with it makes us more enthusiastic. But in his "60 Minutes" interview with Steve Kroft Sunday night, the president couldn't control his lesser instincts, and once again went after his predecessor, George W. Bush. The New York Daily News reports:
"One of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war," he said. "There was a tendency to say, 'We can go in. We can kick some tail. This is some glorious exercise.' When, in fact, this is a tough business."
COMMENT: That's awful. Do you recall anyone in any high position who said anything of the kind? This is a cheap shot. The president should be embarrassed.
UNDER THE RADAR SCREEN - AT 8:01 P.M. ET: This hasn't gotten anywhere near the attention it deserves, except from Michael Barone. The fact is that Democrats are bailing out of the 2010 midterms, realizing the reality. From The Politico:
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) announced he’s not running for re-election this morning, becoming the fourth House Democrat from a politically-competitive district to announce retirement plans in the last month...
...Gordon becomes the tenth House Democrat to retire this election cycle, with over half of them in districts Republicans plan to aggressively contest. His announcement follows the post-Thanksgiving retirements of Reps. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.), John Tanner (D-Tenn.) and Brian Baird (D-Wash.) – all of whom represent politically-competitive districts.
...internal Republican polls showed Gordon in serious danger of losing his seat next year, running for re-election in a Republican-leaning seat. Gordon didn't help his re-election prospects supporting the Democratic cap-and-trade energy bill and by initially supporting health care reform legislation in committee — even though he changed his mind and voted against the bill on the House floor last month.
COMMENT: With the Dems about to go over the cliff on health care, and with the probable decision (see story below) to try more terror suspects as if they were shoplifters, don't be shocked if more Democrats suddenly announce that "I want to spend more time with my family." Lots of lonely Congressional families out there.
A good sign for Republicans, but overconfidence can kill it all.
OH DEAR LAWD, NOT AGAIN - AT 7:34 P.M. ET: Do these people ever learn? Does Barack Obama's Justice Department - Eric Holder, proprietor - ever understand anything? You won't believe this. From The New York Times:
Justice Department officials in Washington are close to deciding whether to prosecute several accused Al Qaeda operatives currently being held in the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in federal court in Brooklyn, according to people briefed on the matter.
A decision to try the cases in Brooklyn would mean that major terrorism trials would take place not only in Lower Manhattan, where the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks is to be prosecuted blocks from where hijackers destroyed the World Trade Center, but also in New York City’s other busy federal courthouse. Officials have said they are also likely to try detainees from Guantánamo in federal courts in Alexandria, Va., and Washington, D.C.
I love it, I love it, I love it. Are these "officials" living in the real world?
Do you know what Brooklyn is like? Brooklyn is a place where, not many years ago, a minority kid was on trial for murder, was caught with the bloody knife in his pocket, was identified by his victim before the victim died, and was acquitted. And after the acquittal, the jury had dinner with the "innocent" man - who later publicly admitted that he was guilty all the while.
This is not the Brooklyn of the Brooklyn Dodgers. This is liberal, multicultural Brooklyn.
And don't you love the other possible venues for terror trials? Alexandria, Virginia - the leftist suburb of Washington. And Washington itself.
Nothing like stacking the jury deck.
Any trials set for the American heartland? Nah.
Oh, and get this:
Police officials have compared the planned security deployment for the Manhattan trials to that for the city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, but one that will be sustained over many months, at a price tag Mr. Kelly has estimated at well over $75 million in overtime and other costs.
Mr. Holder has suggested that the cost should not be borne by the city alone.
Thanks, Eric. Start writing the checks. And if some of our Middle Eastern friends decide to protest the trials by blowing up a school bus, start writing the excuses.
WAIT, WAIT, YOU MEAN THERE WAS GLOBAL WARMING BEFORE? - AT 7:13 P.M. ET: Yes, Virginia, there was global warming earlier. And it's one of the reasons why the "global warming community" owes us a far more respectful, detailed examination of the issue today, rather than the "we know best" attitude that has antagonized so many Americans. From AFP:
A surge in sunshine more than 60 years ago helped Swiss mountain glaciers melt faster than today, even though warmer average temperatures are being recorded now, Swiss researchers said Monday.
Their study into the impact of solar radiation on Alpine glaciers made the "surprising discovery" that in the 1940s, and especially summer 1947, the ice floes lost the most ice since measurements begin 95 years ago, according to Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ).
Yet, average temperatures have been rising in the past two decades and scientists have said glacier melt is accelerating at unprecedented levels under the impact of climate change.
"The surprising thing is that this paradox can be explained relatively easily with radiation," said one the ETHZ researchers, Matthias Huss, in the university's online review.
A phase of less sunshine -- global dimming -- from the 1950s to 1980s also corresponded with the advance in the snout of glaciers.
COMMENT: Look, there is climate change. There's always been climate change. Yes, there's been some warming, and human actions may play a role. But many thoughtful people, including leading scientists, are far from convinced that human factors are the main cause, or that changes in human behavior can have that much effect. These are the issues that must be sorted out by good science, not political science.
The global warming crowd has pretty much blown it with arrogance and sanctimony. The majority of Americans have turned into skeptics. They're being asked to pay a huge price for what many see as a set of unproved theories.
The global warming advocates should be challenged, not pampered. It can begin with some tough challenges from the mainstream media.
PRESIDENT'S POLL POSITION - AT 5:45 P.M. ET: West Point speech, Nobel Peace Prize, health care - nothing seems to improve President Obama's position in the polls.
Real Clear Politics has the latest summary of Mr. Obama's poll numbers, and they won't add to the president's Christmas joy. In only one poll taken this month - Bloomberg - has Obama's approval been over 50%. The most recent polls have him lower: Rasmussen has 44% approving, 55% disapproving. Gallup has 48% approving, 42% disapproving. We should note that the Rasmussen poll was taken among likely voters, whereas Gallup polled all adults.
In the generic Congressional ballot, Gallup, which has the latest numbers, has Dems ahead, 48% to 45%. But this poll was taken among registered voters. Polls among likely voters generally show Republicans higher. Rasmussen's latest, taken at the beginning of the month, among likelies, shows the GOP leading, 43% to 39%.
Apparently, America doesn't see change it can believe in.
WE KNEW IT ABOUT THEM ALL THE TIME - AT 11:07 A.M. ET: Reader Sam Indorante refers us to a new study that confirms what we've always known about liberals - that they, uh, see things:
A new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveals some startling differences between Republicans and Democrats on issues of spirituality and supernatural phenomenon.
Read on, read on. This gets good.
"Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics," the Pew study says. For example, 21 percent of Republicans report that they have been in touch with someone who is dead, while 36 percent of Democrats say they have done so.
Well, of course. That's the Democratic voter base. This survey must have been done in Chicago.
Eleven percent of Republicans say they have seen a ghost, while 21 percent of Democrats say so.
Of course, the Democrats are including Jimmy Carter.
Seventeen percent of Republicans say they believe in reincarnation, while 30 percent of Democrats do. Fourteen percent of Republicans say they believe in astrology, while 31 percent of Democrats do.
THIS SHOULD KILL THE WHOLE CONFERENCE - AT 9:22 A.M. ET: Mr. Cold Air has arrived in Copenhagen to bless the multitudes. From The Politico:
COPENHAGEN — As international climate talks appeared in danger of disintegrating, Al Gore arrived to a rock star’s welcome in Copenhagen today.
I just love that sentence. Things are falling apart, so Al arrives. I don't know. Do those two elements go together?
If Copenhagen is the enviros' Woodstock, then Gore is The Who, the Grateful Dead and Creedence Clearwater Revival as a one-man band. The former vice president drew such a big crowd that security had to shut down access, with hundreds of unhappy activists left outside.
And the scare stories:
Inside the mobbed room, Gore watched as Danish and Norwegian officials presented a new scientific report that the sea levels are rising much faster than previous estimates.
Who reviewed this "report"? How accurate is it? Who reviewed the previous estimates? We Americans, in particular, are now demanding far more details when these "studies" are presented.
And now the finale:
The former vice president has scrapped a $1,200-a-head fundraiser for 3,000 guests scheduled for later in the week, to the dismay of Danish organizers.
You mean, no money? How can he do this? Isn't he the money machine?
As the first line of the story says, the talks are in great danger of collapsing. Some "developing" nations, which never seem to develop much, are making outlandish demands on the advanced nations - oh, excuse me, the capitalist, exploitive, war-mongering, greedy, polluting, barbarian countries - and the latter aren't buying the package. Sometimes the Copenhagen conference seems less about warming than about conning, a different scientific concept.
OUTSTANDING - AT 9:01 A.M. ET: More on Iran. The Times of London publishes the best editorial on Iran that I've read in months. It sets the scene perfectly for President Obama and what the president faces. A must read:
Winston Churchill described the actions of Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. The nuclear diplomacy of Iran is constructed more simply: it is one lie after another. Western diplomacy has proved susceptible to the tactic. A US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in December 2007 concluded that Iran was “less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005”. Documents obtained by The Times reveal that this assessment was worthless.
Nice to have clarity of thought, isn't it?
...Iran has sought a nuclear capability. Its efforts have been accelerated in the past decade. The prospect of an Iranian bomb is alarming.
First, a nuclear-armed Iran will feel little constraint in supporting its terrorist proxies, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, with money and materiel.
They're not very constrained now. Becoming a nuclear power will give them a sense of invincibility.
Second, a nuclear stand-off in the Gulf is unlikely to replicate the stable deterrence of the Cold War. In the adversarial relationship of the old superpowers, the threat of massive retaliation deterred the Soviet Union from military expansionism. Communism was brutal, but the Soviet gerontocracy after Stalin was risk-averse. Iran’s leadership is not like that.
An absolutely critical point, ignored by the armies of "multiculturalism" in America. The Russians wanted to live. The Iranian regime is part of the "we love death more than you love life" fringe of militant Islam. We have a very childish tendency to laugh off that ideology, but we learned on 9-11 that it's very real.
Third, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks the annihilation of Israel, a sovereign member of the United Nations. The notion that his noisome anti-Semitic rhetoric is somehow explained by a faulty translation from the Farsi is one of the more bleakly fatuous suggestions of recent diplomatic debate. Israel was founded by a people that had doggedly clung to survival through persecution, pogrom and genocide. Israel’s leaders have not only the right but the historic obligation to take at face value the threats of a religious millenarian who looks forward to a second Holocaust while denying that the first one ever happened.
Finally, someone says that clearly, without a nod to the fashionable leftist antagonism toward Israel.
Fourth, Iran invariably seeks to aggravate regional disputes. It was not the aggressor in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, but its retaliation included mining international waters and attacking Kuwaiti oil tankers.
We have to assume our Navy is preparing to counter new moves like that.
Anticipating the end of America’s brief post-war nuclear monopoly, Churchill also declared: “We ought not to go jogging along improvident, incompetent, waiting for something to turn up, by which I mean waiting for something bad for us to turn up.” Sixty years later, that is precisely what Western diplomacy is doing.
COMMENT: All right, Mr. Obama, just what are you going to do about it?
ANOTHER IRANIAN POKE IN THE EYE - AT 8:48 A.M. ET: Part of President Obama's education in office has been the behavior of Iran, which has responded to every act of presidential "outreach" with a poke in the American eye. Now, the latest poke, as the Washington Post reports:
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran said Monday it would try three Americans jailed since crossing the border from Iraq in July, a step certain to aggravate the U.S. at a time when Tehran is locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki did not say when proceedings would begin or specify the charge other than to say the Americans had "suspicious aims." In November, however, authorities accused the Americans of spying.
It's trumped up. The three may be witless and immature, drifting across a dangerous border, but I really don't think they're "spies." Americans, as anyone with intelligence experience knows, don't normally become spies in foreign countries. We recruit "native assets" for that. An American stands out like a sore thumb.
There are concerns in the U.S. that Iran could use them as bargaining chips in talks over its nuclear program or in seeking the return of Iranians they say are missing.
Yes, of course. The Iranians love to hold hostages. They could even house them at Iran's main nuclear facility at Natanz, and publicize the fact, making an American strike on Natanz that much more complicated.
THE NEW DAY COMING - AT 7:59 A.M. ET: We are about two weeks away from the start of 2010, which is shaping up, politically, as the most momentous non-presidential-election year in memory. Never have the stakes been so high. Americans will have a clear choice between a runaway Democratic Party, increasingly contemptuous of public opinion, and a resurgent Republican Party, hardly imaginative in its prescriptions, but responsible enough to try to halt a ten-wheeler that is driving off a cliff.
And yet, the political landscape ahead raises an intriguing question: Will 2010 be the year in which the Democrats lose, and Barack Obama wins?
I know, I know, it sounds like a nutty question, so let me explain. We wrote last week that there has been, in recent decades, a major role reversal in American politics. Republicans, once the party of isolation, have become the party of national defense. Democrats, once the party of NATO, of Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy, have become the party of neo-isolationism. Republicans, once the snooty, often sleepy party of "business," have increasingly embraced the values of the common American. Democrats, once the party of those common Americans, increasingly find their inspiration in the trendy salons of Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and Aspen.
And so on, and so on.
But if Barack Obama knows how to do one thing, it's survive, and win. We know that, every Wednesday, at the White House, his political team goes over polls. The news for them recently has been nothing short of devastating. The honeymoon is over, the marriage is weakening, a 2012 divorce may be in prospect.
And why? These White House political guys know why - because Mr. Obama has 1) allowed himself to be dragged down by the breathtakingly unpopular Democratic leadership in Congress; 2) has, after trying to portray himself as a moderate in 2008, governed from the solid left; 3) projected an image of indecisiveness and weakness in foreign affairs; and 4) given the impression that he doesn't much like his own country.
They know that must change. So does their boss, who enjoys the house and the perks. In recent days we may have seen the start of that change. (I stress may.) As Bill Kristol asks in The Weekly Standard, was Obama's speech in Oslo last week a Nobel War Speech? Was the president laying the groundwork for a revised, more muscular, more American foreign policy? Was, Kristol asks, Obama preparing the world for a possible American strike on Iran?
These things are all questions, but the Barack Obama of Oslo was not the Barack Obama we came to know and dislike, which is why his speech drew so much conservative praise, if restrained praise.
Further, the president's stiff-arming of pleas for action on behalf of African Americans by the Congressional Black Caucus may (again may) have been a kind of declaration of independence for this nation's first African-American president.
Questions: Has the decision been made by the White House to distance itself from the left wing of the Democratic Party? Is Obama pulling a Harry?
In 1948, Harry S. Truman not only distanced himself from Southern segregationists, moving the Democratic Party into the age of civil rights, he also slammed the door on the party's left, sending poor Henry A. Wallace, a former vice president, to run for president on the Progressive ticket.
Some of Obama's recent moves suggest that he may be trying to win next year's coveted Harry from the Academy of Practical Politics and Survival.
He may also be trying for the Ronnie. Conservatives idolize Ronald Reagan, conveniently forgetting that Reagan never once addressed a pro-life rally in person, but only by telephone. Reagan knew that, to survive and to govern effectively, he had to have the broad American middle, and he never got all that cozy with his party's hard right or social conservatives.
So we may have another role reversal coming. It's too early to tell. Obama must back his recent symbolism with action, and Iran may be his first test. He is, instinctively, on the left, whereas Harry Truman came from a far less ideological base. But if Obama cuts loose from his party's left, he may well prosper politically while his party sinks. And he might squeeze by in 2012, as Harry did in 1948, even though his party becomes splintered and directionless.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism." - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his son, Douglas.
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of this week's Angel's Corner was was sent late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late Friday night.
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"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
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