Friday, August 31, 2007
At the very beginning of today's press conference, it was disclosed that Tony Snow would be stepping down as Press Secretary on September 14th, being replaced by longtime deputy press secretary Dana Perino. When Tony did start fielding questions, there was one interchange that showed the class of Tony Snow, and why he will be missed very much at the White House.
It was a very interesting political day. Not only did Snow announce, but Virginia Senator John Warner announced he would not seek re-election, and the rumors grew that disgraced Idaho Senator Larry Craig would announce his immediate resignation tomorrow.
What now will Tony do? He responded to health questions by saying he received his last scheduled chemo treatment about two weeks ago, the cancer is in check, and he feels good. He hinted that a lecture circuit was in the offing, as is a book or two, maybe some radio and TV. But as Fred Barnes has proposed, and we continue to encourage from afar, Tony needs to go ahead and make a few speeches, but he needs to seriously consider a run for Warner's seat in the Senate.
Tony possesses a skill set that would make him, as Washington Post columnist Jeffrey Birnbaum called him just a little bit ago on the Hugh Hewitt Show, "a spectacular Senator," high praise from a Beltway pundit. He knows Virginia, knows how to do politics as well as anyone in the upper chamber, and as he showed in this clip from today, he can think and talk on his feet, alternating between grace and eloquence, and still mix it up on the issues without getting personal. One of the marks of a good Senator is being able to take a hammer to the foot of your opponent, but do it with a smile on your face and yet remaining collegial enough about it to be able to work with your opponent down the road when you're invetibably going to need him or her. Tony Snow has spent his time at the White House dealing daily with an ideologically hostile White House press corps, not giving an inch on core political issues, but yet still maintaining his friendship with many off the members of the corps.
I understand Tony was seen at Fox News a few weeks ago, and according to Mort Kondracke and Birnbaum today, he was asked about a possible run, and said it's not going to happen. But that was before the announcement today by Warner. From a skill set standpoint, Tony Snow would be as natural of a Senator as this country has seen in a very long time. The path to the Senate would be challenging, but certainly not impossible. Tom Davis, the moderate Congressman, is likely to run for the seat, but the conservative support would go to Snow if he got into the game. Tony's got to take another look at the opportunity now that Warner is retiring.
Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night, "Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." Tony, be not afraid. Greatness is calling.
Friday, August 31, 2007
To borrow a line from the Clash's Should I Stay Or Should I Go, "This indecision's buggin' me."
In order to start out this post right, a little Fred Dalton Thompson quiz must be taken. When was the first date Fred Thompson publicly announced that he was considering a run at the presidency in 2008?
A) March 11, 2007 B) April 11, 2007 C) May 11, 2007
The answer is A, March 11, 2007, on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.
We are now under two weeks away from the six month anniversary of Thompson’s announcement he was considering getting into the race, and here’s what’s transpired at Team Thompson.
- April 4 – Fred gives a speech in conservative hotbed of Orange County, California to the Lincoln Club. Speech is fine on substance, but he gives a lackluster delivery.
- April 11 – Fred announced on Fox News to Neil Cavuto he has non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
- May 09 - Talk is now about Fred 2.0, trying to improve on public speaking skill demonstrated at Lincoln Club the week before.
- May 21 – Fred dissolves his Senatorial PAC and hires former George H.W. Bush staffer Tom Collamore as campaign manager of the campaign that doesn’t exist yet.
- May 30 – Inside sources tell Politico’s Mike Allen that Fred will officially jump into the race over July 4th weekend.
- June 01 – Fred announces exploratory “testing the waters” committee.
- June 03 – Fred gives speech to Virginia GOP in Richmond. Former Dick Cheney staffer Mary Matalin announces she’s joining the campaign that doesn’t exist yet.
- June 13 – Fred appears on Tonight Show and tells Jay Leno while he’s never craved the office of president, there are things he wants to do that can only be done as president.
- June 27 – Fred tells crowd at GOP luncheon in South Carolina, “We'll be talking about that later, not today, but not too long.”
- July 11 – Carl Cameron reports on Fox News that his sources say an August announcement by Thompson saying he’s running is likely. Mike Allen of Politico gets a more cryptic answer from a Thompson staffer – “When FDT is ready to announce.”
- July 15 – Fred adds staff to communications and a political director.
- July 17 – Rumors are that Fred definitely won’t announce anything official in July.
- July 24 – After 65 days on the job, Tom Collamore is out as the campaign manager of the camapaign that doesn’t exist yet. Randy Enwright would take over.
- July 25 – J.T. Mastranadi quits as head of research for the campaign that doesn’t exist, citing lack of structure.
- July 27 – Fred appears on Hannity & Colmes, and says a final decision on whether he’s running or not will be made soon, 139 days after he first hinted to Chris Wallace he was considering the run for the presidency. Team Thompson also loses Tom Frechette, formerly the deputy under Tom Collamore as campaign manger of the campaign that doesn’t exist.
- August 07 – Fred website 2.0 launches.
- August 08 – Bill Lacy takes the reins as campaign manager for the campaign that still doesn’t exist. Rumors of a post-Labor Day announcement surfaces as Fred prepares for first arrival in Iowa.
- August 20 – Burson Snyder resigns as spokeswoman, citing a desire to find a better professional fit.
- August 27 – Communications director Linda Rozett is fired. Rozett is understood to be the reason why Burson Snyder resigned just a week earlier.
- August 30 – Todd Harris is hired to replace Linda Rozett in communications. Team Thompson makes announcement that Fred will make official announcement on September 6th, by way of webcast. If Senator Thompson keeps this date, it will be exactly 180 days after he first publicly hinted he was thinking about it.
There are many downsides to having a presidential campaign begin in earnest this far out in front of Election Day, as it has in this cycle. Voter fatigue is surely going to occur along the way. But if there is one positive note about such a long campaign cycle, it’s to see how effective each candidate is at managing their campaigns. Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani have run the best campaigns thus far on the Republican side, and you have to give Hillary Rodham Clinton credit. Her campaign is literally a machine that should be studied and emulated for generations to come. Fred Thompson, however, does present the Republican voter concerns over such a turbulent summer with key officials in an under-the-radar campaign coming and going, many of them citing lack of structure as the reason for their departure. That doesn’t exactly imbue the average voter with confidence that a Thompson administration will hit the ground running in 2009, especially during wartime.
Another aspect of a long campaign cycle is you get to see more opportunities to see how candidates make decisions. And here, Republican voters can judge all of the leading contenders, but again, the one person that sticks out the most for analysis is Fred Thompson. Perhaps the most important decision a presidential has to make is the most obvious one – the decision to enter the race. And while many Beltway pundits will debate the strategy that Thompson has employed thus far to time the entry into the race, trying to raise money below the radar, capitalizing on the television celebrity without having to discuss issues in a debate format, giving opponents ammunition, the perception of the average voter, after six months of hearing that Thompson is getting in the race, is he begins to sound like the boy who cried wolf. When he finally does announce, if he does, there is not going to be the initial excitement and bump in the polls that a candidate usually hopes for.
Fred Thompson was an able Senator, a solid conservative, by all accounts a good guy, but his decision-making skills are questionable at best. If a crisis occurs during a Thompson administration, one would expect him to be able to make instant decisions and stick by them, not kick the can down the road until you put together a support team you’re finally comfortable with in order to formally announce six months later that you’re ready to finally make your official announcement a week and a half later. The world doesn’t work that way anymore. Being president in the 21st Century requires real time assessment, and real time decisions being made. Unfortunately, Fred Thompson has not shown he has this skill set. He might possess it, but he’s done a lousy job so far of showing it.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Idaho Senator Larry Craig obviously did a very bad thing in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport in June. Whatever took place between Senator Craig and an undercover police officer was bad enough that Senator Craig tried to hide it from everyone around him, public and private. It was bad enough that he pled guilty, hoping it would stay buried forever. There are many things about this affair that have made him politically radioactive, and fatally so. The press statement he gave to the media earlier Tuesday afternoon did not help make his predicament any less dire. In fact, it made it worse.
Senator Craig said very strongly that he did not do anything wrong, that he is not gay, and that he is not ruling out running for re-election next November. Here's what else Senator Craig has not done.
He has not estimated highly enough that his 'I shoulda hired a lawyer instead of trying to solve this myself' excuse doesn't fly with the American people. If there is one steadfast rule in politics, it often isn't the original crime that gets you, it's the covering up or attempting to bury it that does you in. Senator Craig did not appear as being remotely honest and forthright today. He came across as arrogant, defiant, and the victim of bad decision making because news stories about him.
He has not realized how badly he hurt the Republican Party's chances in '08, especially in the Senate, by his actions both in June and especially now in the last 48 hours. By not facing up to the music and simply announcing he will not seek re-election, or saying today that in order to make sure that Idaho is represented in the manner they deserve, he is resigning immediately, he has now virtually guaranteed that the Republicans can't win back the Senate in 2008.
Although the members are still in their home states enjoying the last couple of weeks of their August recess, I've had many conversations today with Hill staffers on the Republican side who can't emphasize clearly enough how steamed their bosses are at Larry Craig. Consider for a moment the plight of Nevada Senator John Ensign, who drew the short straw this cycle as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He has 22 Republican Senators up for re-election next November, and his task is to try and raise funds that many of these Senators are going to rely on in part to hold onto their seats. If Larry Craig remains defiant and opts to run again, as he strongly hinted today, he's going to be in line for some of that money. And unless Ensign can effectively create a way in the NRSC charter to legally raise money specific to one candidate or another, he's not going to raise a dime if Americans believe that there's a good chance it's going to someone convicted of illicit behavior in a public restroom.
What's Ensign's fundraising letter going to look like? It's an uphill battle because of how many seats the Republicans have to hold this time versus how many the Democrats have to hold, and having our own version of Senator Mark Foley doesn't make Ensign's job any easier.
Senator Craig, if you watch his statement today, is still trying to cover something up. He doesn't appear to have learned anything. He's running the Bill Clinton crisis management play, except he doesn't have the charisma to pull it off, and the media certainly isn't on his side to help downplay it. Alternative media broke the scandal about Bill Clinton and the intern, but even when the media did finally report on the details, it still did so with the spin that private life should be different from public life. What Bill Clinton did then was something disqualifying of public office. Larry Craig's behavior, regardless of what he pled down to, is just as disqualifying. And he's not going to have the media on his side to try and dampen the level of criticism like they did in the Clinton matter.
If Craig had really done nothing wrong as he stated again in his statement today, he would have recounted exactly what did or did not take place in that restroom, exactly what he was charged with, how long the process between when he was charged and when he pled, and stood there fielding every question the press had for him. If he's truly innocent, a prospect increasingly hard to believe, he should having nothing to hide and his political career depending on him coming clean with the voters of Idaho.
Senator Craig complained about a witch hunt and viscious treatment by the Idaho Statesman in their doggedness about reporting stories about Senator Craig. What Senator Craig did not do in today's statement is stop the death of a thousand cuts that awaits him in future editions of the Statesman that's going to make him completely ineffectual and utterly unelectable by next November.
So where do the Senate Republicans go from here? First, in Senatorial terms, the Republican leadership threw Larry Craig under the bus Tuesday by immediately calling for the matter to be referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, which considering all the alleged collegiality in the upper chamber, is a fairly radical move. The last two times I believe it's been done before was in 2002, when Robert Torricelli was referred to the Ethics Committee over bribery implications. Before that, back in 1994, Republican David Durenberger was implicated in unethical behavior concerning outside income, was referred to the Senate Ethics Committee, was disbarred for his actions, and did not run for re-election. So a referral like today's to the Senate Ethics Committee, based on previous examples, does not seem to bode well for Senator Craig's future in the Senate.
While it may be a while before another Republican Senator speaks publicly about Senator Craig, or calls for his resignation, look for one Senator, if not more, if Craig remains stubborn and returns to Washington in September, to play hardball with him behind the scenes and help show Senator Craig quickly and quietly to the door.
With General Petraeus coming to the Hill to discuss serious matters like what we do or not do in Iraq for the next six months, it doesn't seem fair to the General, the troops in the field, or Americans concerned about this debate to try and conduct it in an environment where there is an ongoing circus involving an egotistical Senator bent on protecting a busted political career.
Senator Craig can stop the stories, stop the Ethics inquiry that's sure to embarrass him further, and stop the humiliation of an almost sure defeat in Idaho next November. It all stops for him if he resigns immediately, something Larry Craig, unfortunately, did not do Tuesday afternoon in Idaho.
Friday, August 24, 2007
The Los Angeles Times this morning has a large spread reporting on a private report coming to George W. Bush shortly from outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace calling for a troop reduction in Iraq sometime next year. The Times even runs the sub-heading as,
Advice by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs poses a potential clash with supporters of the buildup.
When linked to the comments yesterday by Republican Senator John Warner and Democratic presidential candidates, the Times is saying this dissention in the general ranks, Pace and Petraeus, could be “awkward for Bush,” as though this were the first time in history that generals may have disagreed on anything important. But the Times is incorrect to compare what Senator Warner said yesterday and what General Pace is reported to be working on today.
Yesterday, I explained how ridiculous of a position it was for John Warner to “break ranks” with the President when he called for Mr. Bush to pick a number, any number, a token reduction in forces by Christmas to send a message to the Iraqi government that we’re not going to be there forever. What is most silly about this logic is that Warner is assuming that there is an Iraqi in authority anywhere that doesn’t realize we’re not going to be there forever. Even David Petraeus, the U.S. and coalition forces commander in Iraq, said the surge is not permanent and we cannot sustain a presence in Iraq on a large scale forever. Picking a token number to try to prove a point is dumb when the point Warner’s trying to make is well known. But his criticism is vastly different than that of Peter Pace.
General Pace is in a much different position than General Petraeus. Petraeus’ job is to implement the surge and govern the military activities in that theater of operations. Pace’s role is more of a big picture role, analyzing potential threats all over the globe, and calculating and predicting where, when and if military force might need to be used in the future, and how best to prepare, plan and equip for those threats. By Pace allegedly saying in the Times story that he is going to report to the President that U.S. forces should be cut in half by next year, he is making that in the context that he wants the U.S. armed forces to be able to respond to other areas, possibly Iran, possibly others if necessary, a prospect that would be much harder to do with the current numbers in Iraq. He is clearly not saying anything about Iraq failing or the surge failing, or Petraeus failing.
In actuality, both Petraeus, in his report this September, and Pace may be right. Petraues may try to claim that improvements on the ground in Iraq suggest that we keep the surge going for up to a year, and Pace may be correct that rotations are such that we need to begin the pulldown about the same time. But in any case, that call belongs to one person, George W. Bush as the commander-in-chief.
The National Intelligence Estimate that was released this week gives their assessment to events on the ground in Iraq since their last estimate in January. The conclusion is that progress is marginally better than January, and that the surge should continue, because to alter the plan now would be to destroy any gains that have been made. The estimate in January was a snapshot then, just as the one this week is now. The net difference between January and now is a net marginally positive effect, but my assessment would be that if you had one estimate every quarter, it would have gone something like this. January, disaster. March, more of a disaster. June, about the low point, but troops are beginning to flood the zone as the surge begins to be implemented. Now, much more of an improvement from June. If conditions on the ground continue at roughly the pace of the last three months from now until summer, we may very well be in a position to be able to safely reduce the amount of troops. If the situation deteriorates, then we certainly reassess our position and strategy there. If things stay static, then it’s a tricky call, but again, Bush must then decide whether it’s still in our best interest to tread water with that many troops still in Iraq. But the conditions on the ground support the view that things will continue to improve by the summer, giving options to begin to handover areas to a more stable local government or capable Iraq Security Force. As for the political progress at the national lever, nature abhors a vacuum, so if the conditions on the ground continue to improve to the point where a central government becomes essential to take the next step, one will probably take shape, whether it includes al-Maliki or not.
So before the L.A. Times tries to put Peter Pace in the same anti-war, defeatist column as the Democrats, maybe they might spend a little bit analyzing what his role is, and maybe look at the conditions on the ground and the trends for the future.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Photo by Palomino
The senior Senator from Virginia held a press conference earlier today to talk about his recent 2 day trip to Iraq with fellow Armed Services Committee member, Carl Levin. He made news by calling for a token withdrawal of troops by Christmas of this year, a stance that few observers of foreign policy have taken seriously. What some people might generously call nuance in Senator Warner's position, others might call talking out of both sides of your mouth.
Whle saying he didn't support the Levin measure requiring a date certain withdrawal of U.S. forces, he also said,
I think no clearer form of that than if the President were to announce on the 15th, that in consultation with our senior military commanders, he's decided to initiate the first step in a withdrawal of our forces. I say to the President respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum, but certainly in the 160,000 plus, 5,000 could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones by no later than Christmas of this year.
But he also added this.
Let the president establish the timetable for withdrawal, not the Congress.
So which is it? He wants the President to pick a number, any number, and start drawing down by Christmas. While I appreciate the sentiment, we're in a war, not a lottery. Who does Senator Warner think he is playing games with troop rotation to try and make a point to the Iraqi government? Does he think the Iraqi politicians won't see this as the hollow stunt that it is? How does the Senator think this will play with the troops? How can you cherry pick which 5,000 get to come home for no other reason than to try and make a political statement? What's that going to do for the morale of the rest that didn't get chosen? It's a silly idea by a Senator whose time in the sun has passed. More Warner:
We simply cannot as a nation stand and continue to put our troops at continuous risk of loss of life and limb without beginning to take some decisive action.
Decisive action like telling the President to pick a number, any number of troops to begin withdrawing? What kind of decisiveness is that? At what point does General Petraeus, the guy trying to carry out the plan in Iraq, have anything to say about a Senator trying to convince the President to make his job a wee bit harder by beginning to squeeze him of troops? The drawdown of troops is going to happen. Everyone knows it. Everyone has said it's coming. But you're being foolish if you casually throw a date out there that has nothing to do with the careful evaluation of conditions on the ground in Iraq. Several years ago, Senator Warner might have known better, too. But now, his comments are showing he's not serious anymore to the right, and he's being touted by the left as now being the latest GOP defection to President Bush. He got nothing more accomplished with his statements today than giving the left more ammo to continue their march towards defeatism.
Paging Tony Snow, the United States Senate is calling. Virginia needs you. Our troops need you. America needs you.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Photo courtesy of Palomino
Ever since the first of the year, Democrats, particularly the ones in the United States Senate, have been all over the map in their comments about the war in Iraq. Comments have ranged from 'we need more troops' to 'we need to withdraw immediately', from 'the surge is not working' to 'General Petraeus is a disappointment', even said at a time when the surge had not even been fully implemented.
Now that the surge is appearing to produce its designed effects, namely providing a secure environment in which the political reconciliation process can begin from the ground up, Democrats here have moved the goalposts in their rhetoric, seizing on the most lagging of indicators of success, the political process at the national level, as the reason we need to declare defeat and get out of there. Wednesday morning, George W. Bush gave an impassioned speech to the national convention of the Veterans for Foreign Wars. For the first time since the war began, the President quantified the capture or kill rate in Iraq as averaging 1,500 per month since January.
It was a serious speech, a well-received one by the audience at the VFW Convention, and a welcome one for supporters of the war effort, because the President finally articulated information that hadn't been readily available in recent months. One of the reasons Americans catch ESPN is because they want to catch up on the scores of their team and see how they're doing. When it comes to the war on terror, many Americans have soured on the war, according to the polls, because they're not getting the updates they need to stay interested in it. When MSM only reports the losses U.S. forces are taking every day, Americans have felt like their team is on a long losing streak, and they naturally find something else to do with their time. The President needs to continue to give these kinds of speeches, and go into more detail about what is going on, where we could use improvement, and how Americans can continue to help support our brave men and women.
Which brings us to the Three Stooges of the United States Senate. Just a short time after Bush's speech, CNN put up on the screen the knee-jerk reactions of Senators Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Harry Reid. Here's Hillary's comment.
The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution to the situation. It has failed to do so.
I'm sure glad the French didn't tell us you've got a week to get your new government up and running, or we're out of here, and it's between you and the British on your own. That might not have worked out so well for the founding of the United States. And by the way, did that whole Bosnia thing get turned around in three months after U.S. forces were sent by Bill Clinton?
The surge got up to full strength around the end of June. So according to Hillary Clinton, if the surge didn't completely pacify the country in three months and the government had reconciled, too bad, you had your chance, too late? How idiotic of a position is that to take? Can you name any country that is in the middle of a jihadist-induced sectarian war where you can stop the violence and stand up a government in three months? Of course not. It's silly to use that kind of a time restraint as a way of scuttling the surge, because the surge plan had never proposed that that much progress could happen that fast. Hillary knows that, but she's still trying to position herself with her lefty base in the primary, while maintaining her illusion as a centrist in the general election next November. Now we go to Ted Kennedy.
...political reconciliation continues to elude Iraq’s leaders.
Yes, Senator, and sobriety apparently continues to elude you, too. Look at the progress of the Democratically-controlled United States Senate this year. Have they gotten their comprehensive immigration bill passed, the one that they spent much of the first seven months working on? No. And that's just one piece of legislation. And there were no ied's to avoid on the way to work left by Iranian Quds forces. You were a secure environment in which to negotiate, and yet seven months in, you couldn't solve one issue. And yet you expect anyone to take you seriously that the Iraqi leadership should be faulted becuase it didn't go from insurgent war to pacification and functional government in three months? Now let's hear from Harry Reid, a national political leader so feckless he makes al Maliki look positively Jeffersonian.
It is time to change direction in Iraq, and congress will again work to do so in the fall.
Ah, the old off tackle running play in the Democratic foreign policy playbook. Change direction in Iraq. I wonder if Reid would be interested in taking a little survey of the locals in Ramadi and Baquba to see if they like the current change of direction in Iraq since the surge got to full strength, or if they'd like to pursue the kind of change of direction Harry Reid has in mind, the kind of change in direction that has occurred recently in Basra after the Brits bailed out? My guess is probably not. The phrase 'change of direction in Iraq' probably has polled well in the past for the Democrats, so regardless of what happens, good or bad, Reid will continue to blindly use those words, because that's all he's got to offer.
As for the rest of his sentence, he's telegraphing that the Democrats will indeed ignore the September report from General Petraeus, the man they voted unanimously to send to Iraq to implement the same surge of which they are now trying to discount its success. While Reid may be saying this to appease his fringe base, he is running into another trap, because as time goes by, and conditions on the ground in Iraq continue to improve, Republican resolve should continue to strengthen. Mitch McConnell beat Harry Reid twice already this year on precipitous withdrawal resolutions when the chips were down in Iraq. Now that things are looking better in Iraq, don't expect Reid, Clinton or Kennedy to have their defeatist wishes granted anytime soon.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We have been fortunate enough over the last month or so on the Hugh Hewitt Show to interview about a dozen serious players from either the Bush administration, the military, war correspondents or foreign policy experts from all political stripes about the progress of the surge in Iraq. One of the questions that Hugh has posed to most if not all of them is how many bad guys have we killed in Iraq, in order to get a little perspective on how our forces are doing. The standard reaction Hugh has received has been that the military doesn't want to put those kind of numbers out there as the only benchmark of success, fearing a Vietnam-style bounty being put on body counts. While I respect that concern, the mere fact that the military commanders are cognizant of that tells me that the military institution as a whole has instilled that down to the front line officers so that Vietnam doesn't happen again.
President Bush gave a hugely important speech today to a gathering at the Veterans Of Foreign Wars National Convention, and this passage made us sit up and take notice.
An average of 1,500 bad guys a month have been killed or captured since January, or roughly 12,000 bad guys year to date. That certainly is a remarkable achievement. But there are definite questions that have to be answered in order to determine how strong of a metric of success this is.
Do we have any intelligence of how many foreign fighters or insurgents there were in Iraq in January? Do we have any reasonable estimate as to their numbers now? Have the coalition and Iraqi forces been able to gain control over the borders in order to stem the flow of foreign fighters coming into Iraq? Do we have any idea of the ratio of foreign fighers to Iraqi insurgents now as opposed to in January?
The White House should be encouraged to release more of this kind of information, and answer some of the natural follow up questions in order to give the American people a truer picture of how the war in Iraq is progressing, rather than let the mainstream media just trickle U.S. body counts night in and night out. The more Americans hear about what is really going on, the more likely they are to disregard the defeatist spin being fed to them by Democrats in Congress and in MSM.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We've just concluded an amazing couple of days on the Hugh Hewitt Show, starting Monday with a three-hour chat with world class journalist on both sides of the Atlantic, and right hand man to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, John O'Sullivan. John's a man who's been there and done that in every imaginable way if you're a political junkee in the West. He had been in Palm Springs, and was on his way to Los Angeles, so we intercepted his travel plans, and sent Hugh's servant, Moses, out to the Springs to retrieve him. I really wish I had heard that conversation during the two hour car ride back. John's a tremdously gifted writer who was blessed to be able to experience in near proximity many of the events that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. In the other seat, we have Moses, who is conversant in drumming, Shark Week, and Brian Wilson.
John had mentioned he'd like to get a bite to eat before getting to the studio. Did Moses take him to a sit down restaurant? No. Did he take him to a place befitting a man of John's stature? Not exactly. Moses drove through In 'N Out, news of which made both Hugh and I wince in almost exactly the same way. But John was a good sport, and was tremendous on the air.
Today, legendary novelist, blogger and retired Army Colonel Austin Bay was in town, and ventured down to the studio for an hour-long chat about the state of the surge, and what he wants General Petraeus to address. I'd talked to Col. Bay about a hundred times over the years, but this was a treat to meet him in person. He finished the hour and did a quick change into his Walker, Texas Ranger chic clothes to be able to catch the Yankees-Angels game at Anaheim Stadium. While he was transitioning his way out of the studio, in walked Oscar winner Jon Voight and writer/director Chris Cain, in studio to promote and talk about the new movie September Dawn opening up this Friday.
This is the second time we've been able to visit with Jon. Considering his film accomplishments, he's remarkably down to Earth, moreso than you would expect with someone of his caliber. Both times he's been to the studio, he's spent the down time before or after the interview either going around the office and talking to people to find out who we were, what we did and how we thought about things. In this shot, he wanted to see how Hugh did what he did. Hugh is showing him how the call screener program shows him who's on what line. Jon is one of the most naturally inquisitive people I've met.
Break time during the two-hour interview with Chris Cain. By the way, Cain is the father of Dean Cain, himself an accomplished actor, most notably remembered in the ABC series Lois And Clark in which he starred alongside Teri Hatcher.
Team Hewitt...or at least some of them. The guy with his eyes closed on the left, a site we're growing used to seeing at the Hugh Hewitt Show, is Andy the Intern, a remarkably good kid who was Hugh's spy at Disneyland, following me around to make sure I rode all the Fastpass rides in three hours, and to call 911, if neccesary, in the case I collapsed. Then there is some radio producer with a million dollar arm available to throw out first pitches at any major league stadium at a moment's notice. Next is Chris Carter, Mr. Voight, Adam Youngman, the person who is the third leg of radio Hewitt, who presses the buttons and makes the trains run on time, the secret weapon of the Hugh Hewitt Show. Front right is Aabria the Bruin.
Aabria is easily the most lively intern we've ever had. It's virtually impossible to have a flat show when she's around. She knows everything about Harry Potter, and being a UCLA Bruin, absolutely nothing about football.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Carl Levin, the senior Senator from Michigan, returned from a two-day Iraq trip, and issued a statement on Monday co-authored by hopefully retiring Virginia Republican Senator John Warner, saying the surge appears to be showing "measurable" signs of progress, but the political front is hopeless. Here's a little of what Senator Levin had to say in his statement:
We have seen indications that the surge of additional brigades to Baghdad and its immediate vicinity and the revitalized counter-insurgency strategy being employed have produced tangible results in making several areas of the capital more secure. We are also encouraged by continuing positive results -- in al Anbar Province, from the recent decisions of some of the Sunni tribes to turn against al Qaeda and cooperate with coalition force efforts to kill or capture its adherents. We remain concerned, however, that in the absence of overall “national” political reconciliation, we may be inadvertently helping to create another militia which will have to be dealt with in the future.
In Tuesday morning's Washington Post, Jonathan Weisman writes the first couple of paragraphs summarizing the take away from Levin's trip:
Declaring the government of Iraq "non-functional," the influential chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said yesterday that Iraq's parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his cabinet if they are unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions in a matter of days.
"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said after a three-day trip to Iraq and Jordan.
So does Carl Levin have the credibility for anyone to trust his analysis of what should or should not now happen in Iraq? I suggest absolutely not.
One of the architects of the surge plan is Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute. Here's a link to the key elements of the surge plan. Most of the goal of the surge is to finally provide security for Iraqis, something that never was one of the primary objectives in the four years U.S. and coalition forces have been there. The security aspect alone makes this policy a different strategy in Iraq. The last two planks in Kagan's piece are this:
As security is established, reconstruction aid will help to reestablish normal life, bolster employment, and, working through Iraqi officials, strengthen Iraqi local government.
Securing the population strengthens the ability of Iraq’s central government to exercise its sovereign powers.
It's a bottom-up strategy. As the Iraqi population, city by city, recognizes the level of violence decreasing and that security is being taken seriously, that allows the reconstruction effort to bolster, which has happened very rapidly in former al Qaeda hotbeds like Ramadi and Baquba, good signs which even Senator Levin acknowledge. Once local governments are established, that naturally leads to an environment in which a central government can start to grow. As Kagan said on the Hugh Hewitt Show last week,
And then they [Democratic opponents] focus on the political problems, and I think that’s going to be the nature of the debate in September, but I think it’s a false debate, because the truth of the matter is if you’re improving security, the logic of the surge all along was that political progress follows that.
So far, by and large, the elements of the surge have delivered what was advertised. The surge was never designed to say that troops move in on X date, leading to national political progress by Y time. But after four months or so of full implementation of forces, the plan seems to be playing out as it was intended.
Now back to Carl Levin and his questionable credibility. He spends two days in Iraq, begrudgingly admits the military end of the surge is working, but wants to completely overturn the national government unless they can reconcile and govern in a matter of days, a ludicrous demand. I watched the United States Senate, one body of one arm of a three branch system in the greatest democracy on Earth, try to unify on an immigration bill in a matter of days. It didn't happen. Levin's new line in the sand is unrealistic.
Levin previously offered a resolution before the surge even had time to build up to full strength, a measure which thankfully the Republicans, under Mitch McConnell's leadership, defeated before it could get voted on. Here's what Carl Levin said in the Democrats' weekly radio address in July.
This week, the Senate had the opportunity to do what most Americans want us to do: change course in Iraq. Although a bipartisan majority of the Senators supported an amendment to do just that, we were blocked by the Republican leadership from voting on it.
By now, nearly everybody agrees that there is no military solution to the violence in Iraq and that only a political settlement by the Iraqi leaders themselves can stabilize that country. Even the Iraqi Prime Minister has acknowledged that. “The crisis is political,” he said, “and the ones who can stop the cycle of bloodletting of innocents are the Iraqi politicians.”
If those Republicans who say they want a change in course in Iraq will vote for one, we can start bringing our troops home and force the Iraqi political leaders to take responsibility for their own country. That is the only hope of success in Iraq.
Was he right? The surge itself was a change of course in Iraq. Ask anyone in Iraq. The Petraeus offensive was a completely new way of looking at American policy in Iraq, and has shown signs of progress. The most glaring example of where it hasn't gone well is in Basra, where the British implemented Levin's proposed plan of a quick withdrawal and handover of security to Iraqi officials who weren't ready to handle it. Basra is now a mess.
Was Levin right about there being no military solution to the violence in Iraq? It doesn't look like it. Tribal sheiks of both Sunni and Shiite stripe have seen U.S. forces alongside Iraq Security Forces clear out al Qaeda from cities, and then roll from previously being enablers of al Qaeda to helping us root them out. The political process is beginning to work on the local level.
Levin also fails to remember that the national politicians weren't in a position to be able to stop the bloodletting, specifically because the United States didn't want a strong central government. The last thing anyone here wanted after the despot Saddam Hussein was another up and coming despot. The framework of the new national government was to be a much more weakened central government, with more power and control located with provincial leaders. So it makes sense for a bottom-up strategy to develop, something which again appears to be happening from the accounts of left, right and center foreign policy experts who have spent the requisite amount of time to assess the effect of the surge.
Was Senator Levin right about cutting and running being the only hope of success in Iraq? Nope. There's more hope now in Anbar and Diyala Province than at any recent time. Baghdad is still rough. But the safe zones for al Qaeda and insurgent militias are getting smaller every day. But clearly us leaving is not the only chance Iraq succeeds. That is flatly untrue.
I'm not saying that Maliki is going to be the Iraqi version of George Washington, and he might indeed need to be replaced, if the Iraqi population deems him to be too weak of a leader. But whatever the reality about the assessment of Iraq's national leaders, I'd trust the opinion of General Petraeus in September, who has spent a lot more time in Iraq than Carl Levin's little Weekend At Bernie's jaunt.
Levin has gotten too many things wrong to now make proclamations of who should go and when. He never wanted to give the surge a chance to work, and now that it is, he's trying to move the goalpost in order to continue making a case for cutting and running and appease his base.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Tony Snow appeared on Hugh's show two days ago, and made national news by stating that he wasn't likely to stick around in his present job of White House Press Secretary all the way to the end of the second Bush term. To most of us who have followed politics, this wasn't much of a surprise. In fact, the fact that Tony actually took the job in the first place was more of a surprise to a lot of us than the "news" that he would probably bail out before the term. Tony has kids who are about to head off to college, and he's made references for a long time that he needs to go make some money in the private sector before too long.
But being August, the mainstream media often goes out of there way to create a story where there is no story, and this one is no exception. Hugh had Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer on the program earlier today, and asked Fred Barnes about Tony's impending departure, and what he ought to try next. Here's what he had to say.
HH: Gentlemen, I started a little firestorm. It's August, I should have known better, when I asked Tony Snow if he'd be going the distance, and he said no, he'd be leaving. Fred Barnes, this has been all over the media today. How long do you expect Tony Snow to stay? And what do you think he ought to do when he leaves?
FB: Well, look, he'll be gone obviously before the end of the years, I think probably in the middle of the fall, and you know, he's suggested this from the beginning that he was not necessarily going to stay all the way to the end. I have a particular job in mind for him. Hugh, as you know, John Warner, the Republican Senator from Virginia, is 80 years old, and is considering retirement, which I hope he follows through on, and does retire. And the perfect candidate is the man who's lived in Virginia for twenty years now, Tony Snow, to run for the Senate. Look, you've seen him as Press Secretary. He's been very good. He's smart, he knows the issues, he talks well, and Tony has a great stage presence. He loves to be on stage. He'd be a great candidate. The guy we know is going to run if Warner doesn't run is Tom Davis, the moderate Congressman from Northern Virginia. There needs to be a conservative alternative in the Republican primary, and I think the perfect person would be Tony Snow.
I know the lecture circuit is calling, Tony. Tuition at prestigious universites aren't cheap. But you have a gift, one that hasn't shown itself in very many national conservative figures in recent years. If the golden opportunity of a vacancy arises due to the retirement of John Warner, you have to take a hard look at it. It's an easy commute, and you could have an immediate impact on the direction of the Senate.
Don't dismiss it out of hand, Tony. Never say never, and if John Warner presents the moment with an announcement that he's not seeking re-election, seize the day. You will have more support than you can possibly know.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
CNN released a new opinion poll today, and it appears that the slime campaign on General David Petraeus has now officially begun with a month to go before his report to Congress. CNN claimed on their Situation Room that only 28% of responders would be more likely to support the war if Petraeus reports the surge is showing signs of progress, 72% wouldn't. And worse news, if one were to believe this poll, only 43% of those polled trusted Petraeus to give an accurate report in September, while 53% said they don't trust the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.
Now let's dive into the numbers a bit, to see how trusted this poll ought to be. The sample given by CNN is 1,029 Americans, with no political idenfitication given, taken over a three day period from the first part of August. Question 24 is the first question CNN released, which is:
24. Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq? 24a. Is your mind made up about the war in Iraq or do you think you could change your mind?
Favor/mind made up 21%
Favor/could change mind 12%
Oppose/could change mind 17%
Oppose/mind made up 47%
No opinion 3%
So a total of 50%, if you include the supporters and those who state they could change their mind on Iraq are reported among the 1,029 sample. This actually might not be a bad number. But look what happens when you get to the stats against Petraeus and his upcoming report that CNN ran with.
32. As you may know, in September the top U.S. commander in Iraq will report to the President and Congress about how the war is going. If he reports that the U.S. is making progress, would that make you more likely to support the war, or would that have no effect on your view of the war? (ASKED OF HALF SAMPLE)
More likely to support the war 28%
No effect on your view of the war 72%
No opinion *
33. As you may know, in September the top U.S. commander in Iraq will report to the President and Congress about how the war is going. Do you trust him to report what's really going on in Iraq without making the situation sound better than it actually is, or don't you feel that way? (ASKED OF HALF SAMPLE)
Trust him to report what’s really going on 43%
Do not trust him to report what’s really going on 53%
No opinion 4%
Only half the sample was asked on each question, bringing the sample size of a U.S. population of 300 million people down to a little over 500 people. Which 500 were asked this question? Were only the left-leaning respondents asked the question on Petraeus? Why weren't all respondents asked all the same questions? Would the results have been different? Why would CNN tout a 1,029 sample size when they really didn't use a sample size that big to ask the juicy questions, the ones they're manipulating to try and turn the tide against a positive Petraues report to Congress a month before he gives it?
I don't trust CNN to not play around with the poll numbers. Until they cough up the rest of the methodology and questions, like which half they popped the full set of questions on, or if the full set were asked of the full sample size, why only half were used in certain questions, it's a propaganda poll to push CNN's agenda to declare defeat in Iraq no matter what the cost.
Show us the political ideology of who the half sample is, and the political ideology of the full sample size, and show a little transparency in the polling process if you want it to be believed. It's hard to take a poll seriously when on the one hand, 50% can support the war or say they're open minded to change their mind, and then in the next breath say 72% wouldn't change their mind on Iraq regardles of what General Petraeus might say, because most people don't trust him anyway. It's a contradiction that busts this poll. CNN ought to have seen if it they wanted to be fair, but then again, CNN is not in the fair business.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
One of Yahoo's top stories circulating right now is about a group of researchers at the University of Texas, Austin who have studied every called pitch in the Majors between 2004 and 2006, and have found that umpires are racists. I kid you not. Here's the story
Major League Baseball umpires are more likely to call strikes for pitchers of the same race or ethnicity, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed every pitch from the 2004 through 2006 major league seasons to explore whether racial discrimination factored into umpires’ decisions to call a pitch a strike or a ball.
Just as discrimination in the labor market can affect disparities in wages, promotion and performance evaluation, the researchers said, possible discrimination by umpires could affect the outcome of games and careers.
During a typical baseball game, umpires call about 75 pitches for each team (they call about 400,000 pitches over the whole season—this figure excludes foul balls), so an umpire’s evaluation heavily influences pitcher productivity and performance.
“Umpires judge the performance of players every game, deciding whether pitches are strikes or balls,” said study leader Daniel Hamermesh, who will present his findings next month at his campus and later at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. “Discrimination affects the outcome of a game and the labor market, determining the pitcher’s market value and compensation.”
The researchers found if a pitcher is of the same race or ethnicity as the home plate umpire, more strikes are called and his team’s chance of winning is improved.
The power to evaluate players’ performances disproportionately belonged chiefly to white umpires, while negative calls particularly impacted minority pitchers, Hamermesh said.
But, this behavior diminishes when the umpire's calls are more closely scrutinized—for example at ballparks with electronic monitoring systems, in full count situation where there are 3 balls or 2 strikes, or at well-attended games.
Hamermesh said the study is drawing more comments, so far, from his colleagues than any of his previous work. "I did not know how many economists are hung up on baseball," he told LiveScience.
No, most likely, colleagues are commenting more on this because of the increased level of garbage this particular report is. Is there racism in baseball? I'm sure there is, to some degree. There's racism in all walks of life in America, just as there is in every society, to varying degrees, around the globe. But can you statistically prove that umpires are racist? I don't think so.
Umpires in the Major Leagues are there because they've shown at every stop along the way through the minor leagues that they were among the best umpires in the level they were working. By the time an umpire gets to the majors, if there was a problem with calls made for racial reasons, it would have been complained about during their stint in the minors. It's not like the Supreme Court where a nominee can pretend to be a judge of one particular ideology and migrate to the other side once they're confirmed. It's a peer reviewed process, and making it to the Bigs as an umpire is much harder than making it as a player. Each of the 30 teams have 25 players on their roster, or 750 playing for most of the season. There's 17 four-man umpire crews in the Majors. Do the math. The road is much higher. You have to be the best to make it.
This "study" only charts the apparent increased likelihood of strikes being called if the pitcher and the home plate umpire are of the same race or ethnicity. The problem with this premise is that there's only two variables being discussed, according to this story, that being the race or ethnicity of the pitcher and the batter. Baseball is a game that is completely full of diversity and complexity. There is diversity on the four-man umpire crews, each making calls that affect the outcome of the game at all four bases. There is diversity among all 30 teams, each one, like any of us, being able to have good days and bad days, all effecting the outcome of a game. There is diversity in the fan base in all 30 baseball markets. It's not like we're talking about the racism that showed its ugly head when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier 60 years ago. There are eight other positions out there besides the pitcher, and then you have nine different hitters stepping into the box from every region on Earth.
If a white umpire has a white pitcher out on the mound, will he get preferential treatment with a black batter, and then immediately get non-biased calls when the next batter in the lineup, a white, digs in at the plate? In this story, the study doesn't factor in any of the other variables that change with the ethnicity of each batter or pitcher.
Is the racist umpire sophisticated enough in his racism to realize that pinching a pitcher's strike zone that is of a different ethnicity may result in the victory by a team being managed by someone of a third ethnicity different than the umpire?
What about the umpire's racism on the other three days they're on the bases and not behind the plate? If you're a white umpire, is a black base runner stealing second more likely to be thrown out on a close play because they're black? If there's a bang-bang play at first, does the tie go to the white guy if it's a Caucasian umpire? This is truly silly. But the part that throws the whole stupid study out the window is this paragraph:
But, this behavior diminishes when the umpire's calls are more closely scrutinized—for example at ballparks with electronic monitoring systems, in full count situation where there are 3 balls or 2 strikes, or at well-attended games.
The theorum they were trying to prove is umpires call strikes based on racial preference, and they set out to chart two seasons worth of calls to "prove" their theorum. Except the data obviously didn't back up their claim, because they had to throw out all full count pitches, well attended games, which who knows what each umpire's idea of a well-attended game is, or where there is electronic monitoring systems. So in other words, any of the games that matter, or any part of a game that matters, there's no racism. It only happens when no one is paying any attention. Then the racism can clearly be shown...unless the game falls on a Sunday, usually the last of a weekend series for all the umpire crews, which means they've got to get the game over with quick so they can get to the airport to the next city. In that case, they're all strikes to make the game go quicker, so those can't count either. But then there are those Wednesday businessman special day games, where it's so blinking hot out. Those games are all strikes, too. So we can't count those in our racism study. And then there are the rain games, where the umpire crew doesn't want to have to redo the game as part of a doubleheader later, so they need to get five innings in before the Heavens open up. Those games certainly can't be applied towards the racism study. See what I mean? When you cherrypick what games or situations will or won't count in order to make your theory pan out, you've got a busted study.
More likely than rampant racism on the part of only home plate umpires is the likelihood that like all facets of baseball, it is a human game, full of human emotion, and played and managed and umpired by people with human memories. If pitchers by and large have a reputation of being around the plate, they get strikes called more often. Rookies often don't get calls on the edges until they prove themselves. That kind of stuff has been going on since the game began. If a pitcher is a hothead, and there are lots of them out there, and they show up one particular umpire, it very well may be that that umpire might get even with that pitcher some other time, some other day, and not give him as wide a zone as he might otherwise give. But it's not because of ethnicity.
Umpires have good days and bad days, just like the rest of us. One day behind the plate, the outside corner might look pretty good. Other days, maybe for no other reason than their eggs were undercooked at the Denny's that morning, they have a strike zone the size of a postage stamp. That's baseball. The human element is what makes it maddening a lot of the time, but it also is what makes it the great sport that it is. It's not perfect. It was never designed to be.
If we're at the place in this country where we have to look for statistical date to try and find racism in pitch calling behind the plate, I'd say we've actually come pretty far in this country regarding race. In other parts of the world, if you are of a different race, or of a different religion, you are killed. Let's try and keep some perspective.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
We have lots of interns that flow in and out of the Hugh Hewitt Show, depending on the year. And sometimes, like this summer, Hugh lets his guard down and he has allowed a USC student named Daren to allegedly work at the studio.
Now Hugh has spent a lot of time over the years creating new ways to tweak with the USC people, but today, Daren presented an opportunity that literally fell into Hugh's lap. Around the start of the show, Daren took off one of his new hightops, and had this idea he was trying to work out. The other interns couldn't figure out exactly what he was up to, but it even included a quick trip to a local gas station where he could buy a lighter.
Literally two and a half hours later, after burning off frayed ends, and actually including a few stitches, this is what one of USC's best and brightest spent his afternoon at work creating.
The hind dangle knot, for the time when you want to fashion style of laces, but you're just too damned lazy to bend over and tie them off.
When asked on the air what in the world he was doing all this time, Daren remained defiant, unaware of the glee he was providing to Hugh on behalf of USC students everywhere. Want to know the funny thing? As I was taking the pictures of the shoe for the bog, Daren wanted me to TM the pictures, because he said he's going to patent the idea.
At about ten seconds a tie, he could have laced these suckers up 900 times in the time it took to mutilate them.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Volunteers, anyone? That's the report from Jerry Seper and Stephen Dinan this morning in the Washington Times.
The U.S. Border Patrol is asking for volunteers among its agents to help build fences on the U.S.-Mexico border, even as President Bush is withdrawing half the National Guard troops he sent there last year to build fences.
A memo circulated last week to Border Patrol sector chiefs said fence-building efforts on the Southwest border were going to fall short of Mr. Bush's goal of finishing 70 miles in fiscal 2007, which ends Sept. 30, "so the Border Patrol is now going back into the fence-building business."
This is precisely why the blowback at the Senate's comprehensive bill a couple of months ago was as high as it was. People simply don't trust the government to keep its word, especially when it comes to enforcing immigration. 700 miles of fencing was passed by Congress and signed by the President at the end of last year. Seven months later, the Kennedy-McCain compromise immigration bill failed largely because it did not have enough border security first enforcement, and it had too many loopholes in national security when it came to granting probationary visas to people coming here from countries of special interest to the State Department.
Once the bill was killed off, the Republicans, especially in the Senate, were left with how to reconnect with their estranged base that felt as if the Senate was trying to ram the legislation through. Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the chief negotiator for the Republican side when it came to crafting the Ted Kennedy lead balloon of a bill, took an enormous amount of heat from the conservative base by promising that the proposed comprehensive bill would guarantee that 371 miles of fencing would be completed during the first 18 months after signing the bill, on the way to the full 700 miles. In fact, Senator Kyl also claimed that the fencing was currently being constructed, and would continue on that same pace to 371 miles regardless of whether the bill passed or not, as was repeated by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and White House Press Secretary Tony Snow.
Now that the bill has no chance of passing, it seems that there's not quite as much of a push to get the fence done at the clip being touted during the debate earlier this summer.
It is up to the Bush administration to get this fence built. The authorization for it was signed by the President last year. There was an amendment for $3 billion dollars as part of the Homeland Security appropriations bill just attached specifically to fund the construction of border fencing and increased Border Patrol agents.
If this story is true, then the Republicans in the Senate, including Senators Kyl, Graham, Cornyn, McConnell, DeMint and Sessions, should at once publicly hold the administration accountable for why the Homeland Security Department is now looking for volunteers to work on the fence, and why the 371 miles by the end of next year isn't even close to realistic if they can't get 70 miles done by the end of September, and why they can't seem to find a good contractor.
Senator Kyl along with several co-sponsors just dropped a new border security first bill on the Senate floor right before the August recess. It's an appropriate step politically to try and differentiate between the parties about which one takes national security at the border seriously. Immigration and border security are going to be one of several issues next year, But the administration seems to be playing games with the construction of the fence, negating any political gains that might be made by offering this legislation.
If I were Senator Kyl, having taking the slings and arrows to try and give the President the immigration bill he wanted this summer, and I opened up the Washington Times this morning to read that they're now looking for volunteers that might know how to build fences, I wouldn't be too happy.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Sometimes they make the Democrats in our Congress look sane on foreign policy by example. The House of Commons foreign affairs committee just submitted a wide ranging assessment of every aspect of the Middle East, and where they wanted to see British policy affect it in the near future. There were many striking examples of why so many in the UK, while still our fiercest ally, just don't understand the threat we face here and abroad by a radical Islamist ideology.
For example, when discussing events on the ground in Iraq, even the Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate have gone mute when it comes to criticizing the surge. As soon as the ink was dry on the Mike O'Hanlon-Ken Pollack assessment on the op-ed pages of the New York Times a week or so ago, the Democrats went silent on their critique of the surge. No longer do you hear Senate majority leader Harry Reid saying it's a failed policy and General Petraeus is a disappointment. Even John Murtha has been relatively quiet since the surge was shown by even left of center journalists to be empiracally working. But in the report released in the House of Commons, the following was said about the surge. From yesterday's Guardian:
The US "surge" tactic in Iraq appears likely to fail, a committee of MPs warned in a wide-ranging assessment of the Middle East.
A report by the Commons foreign affairs committee delivered a pessimistic verdict on Washington's bid to restore peace by committing 30,000 extra troops.
"It is too early to provide a definitive assessment of the US 'surge' but it does not look likely to succeed," the MPs concluded.
"We believe that the success of this strategy will ultimately ride on whether Iraq's politicians are able to reach agreement on a number of key issues."
It called on the British government to set out what actions it was taking to help foster political reconciliation amid growing pressure to withdraw coalition forces.
There is one place in Iraq that currently displays the largest amount of sectarian violence, and that place is in the south, in the city of Basra. Why is that place such a mess right now while other places like Anbar and Diayala Province have made remarkable turnarounds? Because that's an area that was relatively stable until a few months ago, when the British basically cut and run, turning the city over to the Iraqis who were not yet ready to handle the security on their own. The surge, wherever it's been applied, has shown increased security on the military front, and has resulted in many documented cases of political reconciliation from the local level on up. The national government is still not where anybody wants it to be, but to say that reconciliation is not taking place on many levels in Iraq is to turn a blind eye to the realities on the ground. Where coalition forces have precipitously withdrawn, like the Brits have done in Basra, chaos has ensued.
One other note, it's good that the MP's on the committee have asked the Brown government to explain what efforts they were taking to foster reconciliation while retreating at the same time. It's about as silly as demanding the fire department state how they were going to put out the forest fire while grounding the planes and bugging out with all the fire trucks.
Also from the Guardian recap of the report, regarding Iran, we read this:
Welcoming growing engagement with Iran over the situation, the committee's report also demanded to know what evidence the UK had the neighbouring country was supporting terrorism.
Evidence? The Brits want evidence Iran is supporting terrorism? Are they kidding? They're on the foreign relations committee and they've never heard of the Quds forces? Their generals are that much inferior to ours in that they can't recognize Iranian Quds force uniforms being worn by the people we've captured in Iraq meddling with the insurgents to kill coalition forces? They think Hezbollah and Hamas just print their own money and make their own rockets to send into Israel? Evidence? Do they think that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when speaking publicly that it won't be long before Israel is wiped off the map, is not supporting terrorism in his statements? Or do they just think he's making a joke, trying out for the international jihadi version of Last Comic Standing?
It's sad that a once powerful and good country is so unserious at a time when the West needs seriousness to face the most dangerous enemy it has ever been confronted with. Let's continue to hope that our military keeps up with their progress, making an environment possible for the political future of Iraq to take hold, because America may just be the last best hope for the West.
Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson is the producer of the nationally syndicated "Hugh Hewitt Show". In a sense Duane is "the man behind the curtain" -- and this is his blog.
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