APRIL 27, 2011
BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT – AT 11:50 P.M. ET: First, let me apologize for the gap in posting. We had a technical problem tonight, rare, but it happened. We're back operating right now.
Of course, the joyous news today – I've heard church bells ringing – was the announcement that the president of the United States had actually been born. Not only that. The White House now assures us that he was born in the United States, and produced a certificate to prove it.
Our great national nightmare is over. True, many of us understood that our president was born in a manger, but we just weren't sure what country the manger was in. It was in the U.S., in Hawaii, not far from Pearl Harbor, where a lot of other questions were asked.
So, what are the pundits saying? Just about all of them, including most conservatives, believe that the whole birther thing has been put to rest. But a number of the best pundits – those who agree with me – are uneasy about Mr. Obama's behavior throughout the birth controversy. He could have released this birth certificate years ago, but chose not to. He spent over a million dollars to prevent its release, even though it doesn't say anything horrible.
Some suggest that the president got some joy out of this. According to this theory, he believed that, by keeping the matter alive, he could paint his opponents as kooks and conspiracy theorists. He may have been right, but that certainly doesn't say much about Mr. Obama's respect for the presidency, his countrymen, or his colleagues. Anyone else would have just released the thing.
And then there are the number of false statements, some by White House spokesmen – that the certificate couldn't be released under Hawaii law, or, more recently, that the president thought the whole thing silly, even though it's now clear the White House had petitioned for the release of the certificate several weeks ago.
There are still some who maintain that the certificate released today may be a forgery. Given all the machinations by the president, I can't honestly blame this crowd. Let them work. Maybe they'll tell us something.
Bottom line, I think we have a very strange man in the White House, someone who allows a controversy to go on when he could have ended it, then presents himself as above the fray, someone too important to deal with paperwork. We have seen that Mr. Obama is not much of a leader. Now, I wonder about his ability to reason through his own policies.
April 27, 2011 Permalink
SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 9:56 A.M. ET:
From WaPo: Hubert J. “Hub” Schlafly Jr., a television engineer who aided countless politicians and performers when he helped invent the scrolling public-speaking crutch known as a teleprompter, died April 20 of undisclosed causes at a hospital in Stamford, Conn. He was 91.
President Obama sent a wreath with a note saying, "You made me possible, Hub." He tried to read the note to a press conference, but the teleprompter jammed. (No, no, no.)
April 27, 2011 Permalink
BULLETIN: AT 9:17 A.M. ET: The White House has just released President Obama's "long-form" birth certificate. The release came as a total surprise, after years of stonewalling. You can see the certificate here:
I am not a legal expert on these things, so I will leave it to others to examine the document, and determine its authenticity, and whether it passes muster.
In reading the document, one wonders why Obama spent more than a million dollars to prevent its release. It doesn't tell us anything that we didn't already know. True, the middle name "Hussein" is prominent, right in the middle of the form, and maybe Obama worried that it would emphasize his heritage. And his mother's age is listed as 18. Maybe he was sensitive over that, for some reason. The whole thing is baffling.
The certificate was certified as legitimate on April 25th, just two days ago, which means the White House has been aware that it was requested.
By the way, didn't the Democratic governor of Hawaii recently say that he couldn't find the certificate? It has apparently been found.
Fox News is being cautious in its report of the release, its bulletin saying the White House has released "what it says" is the president's certificate.
Mr. Obama is expected to discuss the release later today.
Obviously, we'll stay with this. You may be certain that Donald Trump will be asked for his reaction. This certificate will be gone over line by line, for any indication of deception. And, of course, we want to know whether this is the entire document, or if there's anything more to the "long form" that we should know about.
April 27, 2011 Permalink
RYAN GETS HEAT – AT 8:53 A.M. ET: Paul Ryan, as noted below, is one of the bright young stars of the Republican Party, and the author of the comprehensive Republican budget plan, recently passed (symbolically) by the House. It's being widely reported that Ryan is also a major target for Democrats, hoping to cut him down early. From The Hill:
Attendees at Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) town hall meeting on Tuesday heaped more scorn on the powerful congressman for backing an extension for the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.
Protesters chanted "Ryan stop lying!" at the House Budget Committee chairman outside his event in Kenosha, Wis. and several members of the capacity crowd interrupted Ryan as he defended his budget plan, according to WTMJ-TV.
Here's more from their report:
“If you're yelling, I just want to ask you to leave,” Ryan requested. “If you're going to scream out like that, it's just not polite to everyone. We've got media here. Let's prove to them that Wisconsinites can be cordial with one another.”
TODAY’S TMJ4 set up an interview with Ryan following the meeting, but it was scrapped by staffers and police over a security concern. The congressman changed the door where he planned to exit and left in a different vehicle than the one than he arrived in.
“There were just definitely some loud hecklers who came that gave the police a little concern,” Ryan told TODAY’S TMJ4 reporter by phone. “I left in another car with the police. My car, some people did surround. But, they didn’t cause any problems and I had a staffer who drove my car and we had really no problems.”
Ryan insists the hurried exit should not be “blown out of proportion.”
The incident comes as Democrats are looking to highlight angry town hall moments against Republicans, hoping they will define the debate over entitlement reform and the 2012 budget. Republicans during the summer of 2009 used similar incidents at Democrats' town halls to pin them down during healthcare debate.
COMMENT: It's a very smart move by the Democrats, who retain some excellent political strategists. Scare seniors, and almost-seniors, about Social Security and Medicare, and you pick up millions of votes in a presidential election.
In truth, Ryan's courageous budget was a little rough around the edges, and this morning brings news that Speaker John Boehner is starting to back away from it a bit. The Medicare section is a disaster. It looks as if someone decided how much money was to be saved, then designed the reforms around that. When dealing with something as sacred to Americans as medical care, the proper way is to decide what kind of health care we want each citizen to have, then figure out the most economical way to provide it and pay for it. By suggesting that Medicare become a voucher system with which seniors would buy private insurance, the third rail of American politics has been touched. Americans like Medicare and hate insurance companies. They like simplicity and hate complication. The Ryan budget, which has so many excellent components, flopped on Medicare by waving too many red flags at one time.
April 27, 2011 Permalink
AND NOW FOR A GROWN-UP VIEW – AT 8:34 A.M. ET: Michael Barone, one of the nation's leading political reporters, gives us a sober, grown-up view of the race for the GOP presidential nomination, now that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has pulled out:
I read someone earlier this week confidently stating that Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee were the only Republicans who can beat Barack Obama because they're doing better than other possible nominees in polls.
Please. All those polls show is that these two who ran in 2008 have higher name recognition than others who didn't. Voters will know far more about the Republican nominee in fall 2012 than they know now about any contender.
You can also find lots of articles naming Romney as the frontrunner. Again, please. Most national polls show no one getting as much as 20 percent of the primary vote. That means no one is the frontrunner.
I'm glad someone finally said it. The lack of enthusiasm for the Republican field is palpable, and worrisome.
Romney seems sure to run and, despite the burden of his Massachusetts Romneycare program, may do better this time. Huckabee, enjoying his Fox News show, seems unlikely to run.
So does Sarah Palin. Polls show that all Republicans know her, most like her a lot and relatively few name her as their first choice. The electoral fates of Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell have been instructive. It's one thing to lose a Senate seat by nominating a candidate you love who can't win. It's another thing to lose the presidency that way.
The presidential nomination process remains the weakest part of our political system. It's too lengthy, its rules are too capricious and giving eternal first dibs to Iowa and New Hampshire is intellectually indefensible.
But some Republican will be nominated and will face a president whose positions on issues are currently unpopular. Those who want change must hope for the best.
COMMENT: Barone is right, in my view, on all counts. Obama's policies are unpopular, but he retains a solid base. I will say again that the GOP should consider skipping a generation and going to its young bench.
We forget that this is what the Dems did in 1960 in nominating Jack Kennedy. The Democratic race for the nomination that year was filled with more experienced hands – Lyndon Johnson and Missouri Senator Stuart Symington to name but two. And, indeed, no less a figure than former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt publicly questioned whether Kennedy was ready for the presidency. (The incumbent, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had been a five-star general. Kennedy had been a Navy lieutenant.)
But Kennedy won the nomination, unfair and square, with fatherly money easing the way. And, of course, he was elected president. At least we think he was.
I have a gut feeling the GOP will eventually erupt in dissatisfaction and move to that young bench, where Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan sit. Of course, the Republican Party erupting in anything would be big news, so we might have some enjoyment ahead.
April 27, 2011 Permalink
CHANGES COMING – AT 7:53 A.M. ET: A number of news organizations are reporting this:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Administration sources say President Barack Obama plans this week to name CIA Director Leon Panetta to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Gen. David Petraeus, now running the war in Afghanistan, would take the CIA chief's job.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because the changes are not final.
The changes would probably take effect this summer. Gates has already said he will leave this year.
The officials say Obama is expected to also announce that Lt. Gen. John Allen would replace Petraeus as Afghanistan commander, and that diplomat Ryan Crocker will be the next U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan.
The changes are expected to be announced Thursday at the White House.
COMMENT: Rumors about these changes have been circulating for weeks. My first thought about Panetta taking over Defense is that, bottom line, Obama didn't appoint a screwball like former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. My fear, though, is that Panetta isn't being appointed to keep America strong, but to cut the defense budget still further. He has a credible history as a budgetary expert, and we have a right to be worried that Obama, should he get a second term, will take the ax to the left wing's favorite target.
I also have mixed feelings about Petraeus taking over the CIA, which means taking him out of uniform. As the nation's most renowned currently serving soldier, CIA would seem to be a steppingstone to nowhere. But getting Petraeus out of the spotlight and into the inner circles of the administration probably removes him as a dark horse candidate for president in 2012. Petraeus has denied any such ambition, of course, but Republicans did indeed dream. The good news is that CIA will be in the hands of a patriot, and, once again, not some Hagelesque theoretician.
Of course, policy is made at the top. If Obama stays, he could have George Washington at Defense and Lincoln at CIA, and it might not make that much of a difference.
April 27, 2011 Permalink
APRIL 26, 2011
YOUR UN TAX DOLLARS AT WORK – AT 11:35 P.M. ET: We are the largest single contributor to the United Nations. Sometimes that makes me feel that we are the largest single contributor to the world's biggest house of ill repute. What goes on in the UN is just sickening. Consider this:
The brutal crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad may finally be getting the attention of world leaders -- but apparently not enough to stop Syria from becoming the newest member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
And despite calling for an independent investigation into the crackdown, which has left hundreds dead, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon apparently won’t do much about blocking Syria’s path to the human rights group.
"That's not really for the secretary general to suggest to a member state," said Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for the secretary-general, when asked if the U.N. chief would ask Syria to drop out of the running for the post. When asked if Ban had brought up the point during his telephone conversation April 9 with Assad, Nesirsky told Fox News, "that's not really something the secretary general would raise specifically, because it's for other member states to decide on the membership of the Human Rights Council."
Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian human rights activist based in Washington, called on the secretary-general "to have a greater sense of decency and courage, and to realize that his position gives him a certain moral authority and puts him exactly in the position to tell the Assads that their candidacy at this stage is unwelcome."
COMMENT: Decency and courage are not exactly signature characteristics at the UN. There are some UN agencies that do good work, but the organization, overall, is hopelessly corrupt and dishonest. Time for a new guy on the block, like the League of Democracies that some conservatives have proposed.
April 26, 2011 Permalink
BRACE YOURSELF AND TAKE A PILL – AT 11:24 P.M. ET: I think this is nonsense, but I just had to quote it for you so that, when you attend your next party, you'll sound thoughtful, intellectual and deep...just like the writer of the piece dreams of being. From the Washington Post, dear Lawd:
When I covered George W. Bush’s White House, my job was made easier by the simplicity of the subject. The president had a few defining mantras — Cut taxes! Rally the base! Terrorists hate freedom! With us or against us! — and most of his decisions could be understood, even predicted, by applying one of the overarching philosophies.
With President Obama, there is no such luxury. The political right is befuddled as it tries to explain him: First, Obama was a tyrant and a socialist; now he’s a weakling who refuses to lead. The political left is almost as confused, demanding to know why Obama gave away so much on health care and in budget negotiations. Nearly everybody puzzles over Obama’s ad hoc responses to Egypt, Libya and now Syria, grasping for a still-elusive Obama Doctrine.
Seeking a template to understand the enigmatic president, I consulted three leading academics in the fields of psychology and behavior. With their help, I put Obama on the couch and came away with a reasonably coherent diagnosis: There’s too much going on in the poor guy’s head.
“What distinguishes Obama particularly is the depth and carefulness of his thinking, which renders him somewhat unfit for politics,” said Jonathan Haidt, a professor of social psychology at the University of Virginia. “He is a brilliant social and political analyst, which makes it harder for him to play hardball or to bluff.”
COMMENT: That wasn't hard, was it? The man is simply above us all. We now have that on good authority.
Now you understand why newspaper circulation is declining.
April 26, 2011 Permalink
TRUMPED – AT 11:12 A.M. ET: As readers know, I have expressed severe skepticism over the campaign waged by Donald Trump. We know him well here in New York. He is not regarded, to put it mildly, as a statesman. He is kind of the P.T. Barnum of real estate. He has had his business successes, but a number of failures as well.
His campaign is a distraction from more serious and far better qualified candidates. And yet, Trump gets plenty of attention. Tom Sowell, one of the best political and economic observers writing today, explains why, in the form of a warning to the Republican Party, a warning I endorse heartily:
The boomlet for Donald Trump as a Republican nominee for president of the United States ought to be a wake-up call for Republican candidates and Republican party leaders alike.
Why has Trump surged ahead of other Republican candidates and potential candidates in the polls? It is not likely that his resurrection of the issue of Barack Obama’s birth certificate has aroused all this support...
...Trump has what so many other Republicans are so painfully lacking: the ability and the willingness to articulate arguments clearly, forcefully, and in plain English. Too many Republicans talk like the actor of whom a critic once said, “he played the king like he was afraid that someone else was going to play the ace.”
Right on the button. Absolutely correct. Once again the Republicans are playing country-club politics.
What electrified so many Republicans about Sarah Palin in the 2008 election campaign was that her speeches offered such a contrast to the usual mealy-mouthed talk common among other Republican candidates, including Sen. John McCain. Whether you agreed or disagreed with her position on the issues, you didn’t have to wave your hand in front of her eyes to see if she was awake.
Why Republicans seem not to understand the crucial importance of putting the same time and attention into articulating their positions as the Democrats do is one of the enduring mysteries of American politics.
...how many Republican catch phrases can you remember? Republican rhetoric tends to range from low key to no key.
Nor is there much evidence that Republicans have asked themselves how the left wing of the Democratic party gained such ascendancy in recent years, in a country where millions more people identify themselves as conservative than as liberals.
I hope they're reading this at Republican national headquarters.
Sowell believes, properly so, that Trump is dangerous for Republicans. He will eventually be seen as the contradictory blowhard that he is, but he will, in the interim, use his vast fortune to attack other Republican candidates, diminishing or possibly destroying them.
Barack Obama’s declining support in public-opinion polls makes some conservatives feel that his reelection hopes are doomed. But Donald Trump can be Barack Obama’s secret weapon in his fight to remain in the White House. The Donald can be his Trump card.
True. And more true if Trump runs as an independent, where he'd take votes away from the GOP, dooming its chances.
We have written here before that the Republicans should skip a generation, throw the long ball, and look to its young candidates, like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan. It's not just a matter of finding someone qualified to be president, it's a matter of finding someone who could be elected president. I don't see that guy among the "frontrunners."
April 26, 2011 Permalink
OBAMA AT THE PUMP – AT 9:08 A.M. ET: As expected, the price of gasoline is starting to take a political toll on President Obama. From the Washington Post:
Soaring gasoline prices are biting into household incomes and nibbling at Americans’ fuel consumption — and support for President Obama, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
About six in 10 respondents said they had cut back on driving because of rising fuel prices, and seven in 10 said that high pump prices are causing financial hardship.
Obama, like previous presidents in times of high oil prices, is taking a hit. Only 39 percent of those who call gas prices a “serious financial hardship” approve of the way he is doing his job, and 33 percent of them say he’s doing a good job on the economy.
That sort of hardship could slow Obama’s reelection campaign. The Post-ABC poll shows that 60 percent of independents who say they’ve been hit hard by surging gas prices also say they definitely won’t support Obama in his bid for reelection.
In a hypothetical matchup with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the top GOP performer in the Post-ABC poll, Romney wins by 24 points among the independents who have taken a severe financial hit because of gas prices, and the president is up 7 percentage points among other independents.
COMMENT: The president will try to blame the oil companies, and may succeed unless Republicans can articulate alternative, compelling arguments. But without a clearly defined leader right now, the GOP is at a disadvantage.
April 26, 2011 Permalink
THE REAL RON PAUL – AT 8:45 A.M. ET: Ron Paul, the wacko "Republican" congressman from Texas, is apparently running for president. But the real Ron Paul isn't exactly the "libertarian" he claims to be, but a vitriolic clown with decided sympathies for some of America's enemies. In fact, some of his views are usually found on the far left. From The Politico:
Ron Paul on Monday night dismissed Sean Hannity’s fear that Sharia law is coming to the United States.
In a somewhat contentious interview with the Fox News host, Paul asserted that Hannity’s perspective on American relations with the Muslim world is far from reality. Discussing the run-up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Paul told a perturbed Hannity that “the 9/11 Commission recognized there was a blow back phenomenon from the fact we were over there and had a base in Saudi Arabia.”
Hannity then shot back with the concern — often floated by conservative talkers like Glenn Beck — that Islamic leaders are seeing to created a new, worldwide caliphate.
It goes well beyond the controversial Beck. Many of the most thoughtful conservatives are concerned. But the writer of this piece is sympathetic to Paul's position, which, as noted, reflects a leftist, not a rightist, point of view.
“If they were at war with us for a decade, do you not agree there is a desire among Islamic extremists to have an Islamic caliphate, Sharia law?” an incensed Hannity asked.
“I think because we are over there, their numbers grow,” Paul responded. “You have radicals in all religions, if there is some way to incite them, their numbers will grow.”
The two revisited their fight over Sharia when Hannity needled Paul for defending the Imam who wanted to set up a near Ground Zero in New York.
Ron Paul is an extremist who has long sympathized with radical Islam. There are several like him on the far right. His son, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, is somewhat better, but not by much. Ron Paul attracts a fringe following that often packs Republican meetings where straw polls are taken, making him look much stronger than he actually is.
April 26, 2011 Permalink
SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 8:37 A.M. ET:
From Fox: Van Jones, the Obama administration's controversial former "green jobs czar," has found a new calling: helping to push for a new, global architecture of environmental law that would give Mother Nature the same rights status as humans...Jones is taking up the challenge as one of the newest board members of an obscure San Francisco New Age-style organization known as the Pachamama Alliance, which has been creating a global movement to make human rights for Mother Nature an international reality — complete with enforceable laws — by 2014.
So, can a bush in the front yard divorce its owner? If you throw a paper cup off a boat, do you have the right to remain silent? If the catalytic converter on your car fails for an hour, can you be sent to the chair? I want answers.
April 26, 2011 Permalink
JUICY, JUICY, JUICY – AT 8:21 A.M. ET: Was someone in the BBC a sympathetic conduit for Al Qaeda propaganda? From London's Telegraph:
The BBC is accused of being part of a “possible propaganda media network” for Al Qaeda, according to the leaked US files on the Guantanamo detainees.
The files, obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph, disclose that a phone number of someone at the BBC was found in the phone books and phones of a number of extremists seized by US forces.
A detainee assessment, dated 21 April 2007, states: "The London, United Kingdom (UK), phone number 0044 207 XXX XXXX was discovered in numerous seized phone books and phones associated with extremist-linked individuals.
“The number is associated with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).” Analysis by The Daily Telegraph suggests the number is one for Bush House, home of the BBC World Service.
The assessment continues that US forces uncovered many “extremist links” to this number, suggesting that extremists could have made contact with BBC employees who were sympathetic to extremists or had information on “ACM [anti-Coalition Militia] operations”.
It says: “(Analyst Note: Numerous extremist links to this BBC number indicates a possible propaganda media network connection. Network analysis might provide leads to individuals with either sympathetic ties to extremists or possibly possessing information on ACM operations.)”
COMMENT: We caution that there's no absolute proof here, and no name of a specific BBC employee. But the BBC has a history of leftist and often pro-Arab bias. Two days after the 9-11 attacks it ran a vicious, anti-American program that stunned the program's guest, a former American ambassador to Britain.
I think there have been some efforts in the last few years to correct this, with apparently some success. But the BBC's bias is less institutional, then reflective of the kind of people the organization hires – young, urban and often minority. I'm not sure the leftist bias can be entirely eradicated.
I'd like to see further reporting on the possible Al Qaeda link.
April 26, 2011 Permalink