Scene above: Constitution Island, where Revolutionary War forts still exist, as photographed from Trophy Point, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York
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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2010
ONE-TERM WONDER? – AT 11:39 P.M. ET: I just wanted to call your attention to one of the most talked about columns since the election. Patrick Caddell and Doug Schoen are long-time Democratic operatives, although they're not close to the Obama administration.
They're now proposing that Obama salvage his presidency by announcing that he will not run for another term, allowing him to become the "above partisanship" president he pledged to be. From their column in the Washington Post, but published in a number of other places as well:
This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.
To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.
If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.
COMMENT: An interesting argument, but I can't imagine it happening. Obama's oversized ego essentially rules it out. If he decides not to run, it would be after all the evidence available proved to him that he could not win, and he would wait until the last practical moment, sometime early in 2012, to decide.
But the fact that well-known Democratic figures are offering such grim advice speaks to Obama's weakened position. He came in as the savior of the nation. Now he's a guy who probably couldn't get Congress to agree to a color change on Washington street signs.
BULLETIN – OBAMA CONFIRMS IT – AT 7:49 P.M. ET: Major news from The Politico:
MINNEAPOLIS - President Obama offered a lesson for Republicans that he learned the hard way during his first two years in office.
"Campaigning is different than governing," Obama told reporters Sunday when asked about his meeting with GOP leaders later this week.
COMMENT: Well, I'm relieved that he confirmed that. There'd been rumors that he'd state publicly that campaigning was the same as governing, but apparently his advisers talked him out of it. Also, it is rumored that the president spent an entire week contemplating the nature of campaigning as opposed to the nature of governing. He supposedly called major religious and moral leaders to get their input.
So, now it's settled. Campaigning is different from governing. I'm just so glad we have a president who has the intellect, the courage, the independence, to come to that conclusion.
Next week the president tackles the question, "Can a political figure be considered a god?" Many of us refuse to return to serious commentary until the question is settled.
WHY WE LOVE HIM – AT 9:47 A.M. ET: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey has emerged as one of the great new governors, getting the job done, and with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. From NRO:
“Let me help you pack.” That’s what Gov. Chris Christie told one of the state’s top administrators when that administrator commented publicly that he could leave New Jersey and go to another state if his $242,000 total compensation were to be capped under the governor’s proposed rule.
Earlier in the day Christie discussed the Parsippany Board and Seitz at a town hall meeting in Toms River. “Let me tell you about the new poster boy for all that’s wrong with the public school system that is being dictated by greed,” the governor told the audience. “This contract is the definition of greed and arrogance. I’m going to be speaking out loudly and clearly every day I can about Lee Seitz. If Lee Seitz wants to try to put his greed and his arrogance ahead of the taxpayers of New Jersey, you elected me to stand up to people like Lee Seitz and others across the state and I will.”..
...The governor reacted to Seitz’s veiled threats to leave New Jersey and go to a nearby state where there is no state salary. “I will say in response to Mr. Seitz, ‘Let me help you pack.’ We have real problems in our state that we have to fix and we don’t have the time, nor the money, nor the patience any longer for people who put themselves before our citizens,” Christie railed.
COMMENT: Christie is increasingly being mentioned as a possible candidate for president, although he vehemently rejects the idea. Well, he rejects it today. He certainly doesn't look like a president. He's obese. And he doesn't act like a president. No "presidential" style. And he doesn't talk like a president. Foreign leaders would engage in their collective wince, once reserved for Dubya.
But Christie has, thus far, been incredibly effective in trying to right New Jersey's listing ship. Like Obama, he inherited a bad situation. Unlike Obama, he decided to do something about it that actually worked.
The jury, of course, is still out. Christie has only been governor for less than a year. But if things work out, and his spirit continues, watch him. He is a sharp contrast with all the other candidates currently being mentioned, and that may just be what we need.
DUBYA'S BACK IN TOWN – AT 9:19 A.M. ET: Toby Harnden, of London's Telegraph, one of the most astute observers of American politics, notes the reemergence of George W. Bush, and the contrast with Barack Hussein Obama Jr.:
Say what you like about former President George W. Bush, but his sense of timing is impeccable. Just after his successor Barack Obama took a self-described "shellacking" at the polls, Dubya was back, mocking the current occupant of the White House by his very presence...
...Who would have thought that the man hailed as a great American orator and whose stage at the 2008 Democratic convention was a faux Greek temple would be shown up in terms of the theatricality and articulation of the presidency by the man derided as a tongue-tied bumbler and global village idiot?..
...Looking at the 43rd and 44th American presidents right now, it is worth reflecting that it was only the unpopularity of Bush and all he represented that enabled someone as inexperienced and unproven as Obama to ascend to power.
By the same token, perhaps only a performance in office as myopic, self-absorbed and hubristic as that of Obama could have brought about a Bush rehabilitation so swiftly.
In two years, American voters might well decide that having lurched from Bush to Obama the time has come to choose a new president with a character and approach somewhere in between.
COMMENT: The greatest resurrection of a former president was Harry Truman, who was practically ridden out of town on a rail after being succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower in January of 1953, but lived to see himself regarded as a great or near-great president.
Presidents aren't always, however, resurrected. Jimmah Carter may have impressed the Nobel Prize committee, but no one looks back on his presidency with great admiration. I suspect the same will be true of Obama.
As usual, the British reporters "got" Obama first.
ALASKA UPDATE – AT 8:58 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
With the majority of write-in ballots opened and counted, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski appeared Saturday to be on track to win reelection over Republican Joe Miller.
Murkowski has won 89.5 percent of the write-in ballots outright, plus another 8 percent that were challenged but counted for the senator anyway. The fate of those challenged ballots will be decided in the coming weeks pending court orders.
COMMENT: Unless there's a miracle for Joe Miller, Murkowski will be back in the Senate, where she'll caucus with the Republican Party, which denied her renomination.
Joe Miller, who on paper was a fine candidate, in the real world was not. After winning the primary he threw away the election to Murkowski, who ran what will probably be only the second successful write-in candidacy for the U.S. Senate in American history.
It is time to contemplate thoughtfully the quality of some of the candidates the Republicans, especially the tea partiers, placed before the voters in Senate races. Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Ken Buck, Joe Miller. These were all winnable races. Proper vetting of candidates, and good campaign strategies, are critical keys to victory. You can't just run someone is "right" on the ideology, but lacks almost everything else. Losing is very boring.
WANTING TO CALL THE SIGNALS AGAIN – AT 9:08 P.M. ET: I suspect this will turn out to be a symbolic action only, given the makeup of the Democratic House delegation, but there could be some exciting Monday-night-politics events:
Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, facing a growing rebellion against her bid to become minority leader, is likely to be challenged for the post by a moderate Democrat.
North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, who has been sending signals since last month that he would run against the San Francisco liberal if she didn't step aside, is expected to launch his leadership bid on Sunday when he appears on CNN's "State of the Union." He's also appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday.
Shuler, a former NFL quarterback, told the Clay County Progress this week that he had no choice but to leave the sidelines.
"At this point, no one has come forward, no one in leadership for a long time," Shuler told the North Carolina weekly newspaper. "It will be very tough. It is probably a race we can't win. But we need a moderate voice in the Democratic Party."
COMMENT: At least the world will learn that there are still some moderate Democrats, although they could probably meet in a closet. Maybe there'll even be a protest vote against Pelosi's leadership.
BOOK REVIEW OF NOTE – AT 8:53 P.M. ET: Late news from the world of books, via The Politico:
Former President Bill Clinton is heartily praising "Decision Points," the new memoir by his successor, former President George W. Bush, as "well-written and interesting from start to finish."
"I think people of all political stripes should read it," Clinton said in a statement Friday. "George W. Bush also gives readers a good sense of what it’s like to be president, to take the responsibilities of the office seriously, do what you think is right, and let history be the judge.
Oh dearie, dearie, dearie. Do you think there's a little dig at Obama here? I mean, the whole Obama cult is based on the idea that BUSH (!!) created all the world's problems. Now here is the Democrats' number one campaigner recommending Bush's book. I don't recall him recommending any volume by Obama.
"The book may not change the minds of those who disagree with decisions President Bush made, but it will help you to understand better the forces that molded him and the convictions that drove him to make those decisions.
"I hope 'Decision Points' will help my fellow Democrats to see why I like George Bush, in spite of our differences, and will encourage all Americans, whatever our politics, to be more open to listening to and working with those with whom we disagree. America needs that now."
COMMENT: The Secret Service is probably working to keep these comments from Barack and Michelle Obama, whose Asian trip got somewhat lesser reviews.
LET'S GET PAST THIS – AT 9:03 A.M. ET: Michael Steele has been a controversial national chairman of the GOP, and it was almost inevitable that he would have challengers when his term was up. It's an awkward situation because Steele is African-American, at a time when Republicans are trying to attract minority support. It's important to get this matter behind us. From The Washington Times:
WASHINGTON (AP) — A prominent Michigan Republican said Friday he is running against Michael Steele, arguing the GOP can win in 2012 only if the party chairman steps out of the limelight and allows candidates to be the voice and face of the party.
Saul Anuzis, who lost his bid for Republican National Committee chairman two years ago, made his plans known in an e-mail.
"My agenda is very straightforward. I have no interest in running for office. I won't be writing a book. It is not my goal to be famous," said Mr. Anuzis, who promised to serve just one two-year term and work hard to elect Republicans "from the top to every township and city across this great country of ours."
His statement was a slap at Mr. Steele, who has generated controversy repeatedly in his tenure as party chairman, sometimes drawing attention that was detrimental to the Republican cause.
Mr. Steele has not said whether he will seek re-election to a new two-year term in January. Republicans have been seeking to recruit a strong challenger to Mr. Steele, whose tenure has been marked by ill-chosen remarks and questions about the party's finances.
COMMENT: I've always liked Michael Steele, but he's been a divisive chairman. It might be wise for him to step aside at this point, rather than force the party into an internal shooting war. What's needed in the top spot is a mechanic and a manager, someone who can put together a superb organization for 2012. Steele's talents, and they are considerable, lie elsewhere. I'd love to see him as governor of Maryland.
GREAT MOMENTS IN RELIGION – AT 8:59 A.M. ET: As with the story just below, some things just remind us of what we're up against, as we begin the process of selecting a candidate for the 2012 presidential election. From The Australian:
MALAYSIA'S parliament this week debated whether or not it was right for teachers to cane a 10-year-old boy for bringing pork to school.
The Malaysia Star reported the argument centered on whether the boy, who was caned 10 times across the hand for eating a home-cooked meal of fried rice with pork, is Muslim or Christian. If the boy was Christian he would not have broken any rules by eating pig products.
Angela Jabing said her son Basil was disciplined for eating a non-Halal meal. She is a Christian and her husband, Beginda Minda, has denied being a Muslim.
The Star reported that a decree issued by the National Fatwa Council means that if either parent is Muslim the child must be Muslim.
"I admit I was a Muslim before. But in 1999, I changed my religion. Now I am a non-Muslim," Beginda said.
The government is now investigating whether Beginda is a Muslim or non-Muslim.
"Only after this can conclusions be drawn on why his son was caned," said government minister Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.
COMMENT: In this day and age. In this day and age. And yet, in our esteemed universities, there are people teaching, with a straight face, that we must blindly "respect" other cultures and not be "judgmental."
I don't know how anyone can do that to a child. I wonder how many "human rights" groups will show any interest.
PERSONNEL NEWS – AT 8:55 A.M. ET: We always want to keep you up to date on the important executive promotions. From Fox:
Usama bin Laden reportedly has a new terrorist assigned to targeting the West.
Saif Al-Adel, a native of Egypt, is Al Qaeda's new chief of international operations, Britain's The Telegraph reported, citing unnamed U.S. and Pakistani sources.
But sources tell Fox News that investigators cannot agree on whether Al-Adel has taken on one of Al Qaeda's top operational positions, partly because there is disagreement over whether Al-Adel is still hiding in Iran.
The respected NEFA foundation, which tracks terrorists worldwide, cites a European intelligence source who says Al-Adel is believed to be in Waziristan, part of the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Al-Adel has served as the head of the military committee of Al Qaeda after the death of Mohammed Atef in late 2001, making him the commander over Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.
He also has a longstanding working relation with Iran, going back the early 1990s, when he went from Sudan to Lebanon to be trained by Hezbollah in improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
COMMENT: Well, we'll wait for confirmation in the form of a public announcement. There is no news about compensation, or whether Al-Adel, should he be ousted, would get a golden suicide belt.
The very fact that this story is running shows that Al Qaeda, far from being moribund, is alive and planning.
"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
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of The Angel's Corner was sent late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late Friday night.
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