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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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JUNE 7,  2011

RUDY II? – AT 8:59 P.M. ET:  We've been watching Rahm Emanuel as he takes the reins as mayor of Chicago.  He clearly has ambitions that go beyond windy cities.  He was chief of staff to President Obama, and there are reports that his wife was seen measuring the White House drapes.

Now he faces his first crisis – a series of brutal muggings on Chicago's presumably "safe" lakefront, carried out by groups of "youths."  Some of the muggings targeted physicians attending a medical convention.

One of the great tests of any mayor is how he or she handles crime.  Is it the Rudy approach – no excuses, effective police action; or is it the sixties method – sociological explanations and "understanding" of the plight of the poor, oppressed kids?

Rahm has learned from Rudy:

CHICAGO (CBS) — While he is pleased with the quick arrest of suspects in a series of mob attacks over the weekend, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday made no secret that he wants everybody involved “brought to justice.”

“I want all the young men that were involved in this,” Emanuel said. “Because I want to be very clear up front that as it relates to this crime, the full force of the law enforcement community and justice system will deal with it.”

Good for Rahm.  No sociology.  No anguished meetings with "black leaders."  (The kids involved were black.) 

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said yesterday that about 20 arrests were made in connection with the attacks, and five people were charged.

Emanuel said he spoke with McCarthy over the weekend and again this morning about the situation. The mayor said the city’s reputation as a safe place to work and shop downtown is being endangered by the thuggery. Many of the attacks are happening near the biggest tourist and shopping attractions in the city.

But, CBS 2′s Jim Williams reports, the problem of mob attacks downtown is much bigger than the weekend beatings, according to beat cops who wanted to remain anonymous.

The officers said some victims refused to file police reports, even though they been pushed around by mobs, knocked off bikes or even had their possessions stolen. They just don’t want to get involved with the criminal justice system, the officers said.

This will be Rahm's initial test.  If he flinches, and goes liberal Dem, he's finished beyond Chicago.  If he stands up to the muggers and demands the finest police work from the not-always-great Chicago Police Department, he becomes a hero.

By the way, these flash mob attacks are occurring all over the country.  Tragically, all the incidents involve African-American youngsters.  Some of the attacks may be organized.

If this continues another few weeks, President Obama will have to become involved.  When a black professor at Harvard complained about the police, Obama held a beer summit at the White House between the professor (Henry Louis Gates Jr.) and a police officer.  This is far, far, more serious.  The nation's first black president has an absolute obligation to speak out, to offer cities federal assistance if need be, and to go to a black high school and read the riot act in no uncertain terms.

We should stress, of course, that the great majority of black kids are not involved in these incidents and shouldn't be stigmatized.  But those who are responsible should do serious time.

June 7, 2011      Permalink

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SNIPPET – AT 8:07 P.M. ET: 

There's a journalistic mess occurring right now.  The cable nets have been running a story for several hours saying that a tip led police in Texas to a site where, presumably, many bodies were buried.  Then Reuters ran with a story saying police had discovered at least 30 bodies, many of children, with some dismembered.  Now we learn that no bodies have been discovered, at least thus far, and that the tip came from a psychic. 

We're standing by for more "news."  We know that mainstream media's high standards of accuracy will protect us from falsehoods.  (Choke.)

 

SNIPPET – AT 7:48 P.M. ET: 

It's clear from our monitoring of news accounts today that the Democratic Party is prepared to cut loose Congressman Anthony Weiner, he of the internet photos. Weiner isn't all that popular to start with, and off-the-record comments made by his Democratic colleagues are driving the knife in. Among other things, he's described as a publicity seeker, and not very helpful in legislating.  He's become a liability and an embarrassment.  He may be pushed out by an ethics probe, or by one more bizarre revelation. 

This is a time when a man turns to friends.  Weiner is turning.  Not many friends are showing up.  Was New York City's next mayor last week.  This week is New York City's next politically connected private "consultant."

 

NONE DARE CALL IT WEINERGATE – AT 8:10 A.M. ET:  Personally, I find the Anthony Weiner story pretty depressing.  I cannot understand how a man, especially a public figure, can be so stupid as to send out compromising photos on the internet.  Did Weiner believe that he was immune to exposure?

People can wonder why so much attention is being given to this one congressman.  The reason is that he was, and is no longer, a rising star in the Democratic Party.  Weiner was the odds-on favorite to be the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City in 2013.  New York is a pretty liberal place, but I doubt if he can still run in that race.  A Democrat has not been elected mayor of New York since 1989, and the Dems will not be in the mood to take chances.  Note that former Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York, who had to resign in a prostitution scandal, has not been welcomed back into politics. 

Weiner says he will not resign from the House.  He may not have to.  He can run again in his heavily Democratic district, and will probably win.  But his career in the House, as anything but a backbencher, is probably over.  And, indeed, he may be forced to resign if he's censured as a result of an ethics probe into his conduct, or if more revelations and photos come out.  Charlie Rangel remains in the House, despite a probe that turned up misbehavior on the part of this chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  He had to give up his chairmanship, with his powers snipped.

Anthony Weiner has been married for about a year.  I could understand it if his wife now thinks she made a poor choice.

June 7, 2011       Permalink

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LATEST 2012 POLL SHOWS ROMNEY UP – AT 7:27 A.M. ET:   From WaPo:

It's one of those polls that says on-the-one-hand there's good news while on the other hand there's more good news.

A new Gallup Poll out this morning finds that President Obama's poll bump from courageously having the Navy SEALs whack Osama bin Laden has evaporated, and Republican former Gov. Mitt Romney is indeed the GOP front-runner heading into tonight's New Hampshire debate.

The new ABC/Washington Post survey finds that among all Americans Romney and Obama are tied at 47% each. However, ominously for the incumbent, among registered voters, the millionaire businessman leads the ex-state senator who often voted Present, 49%-47%.

By a two-to-one margin Americans told pollsters the country is seriously on the wrong track under the current Democratic admninistration and nearly six-in-ten say that regardless of government stats, the economy is not recovering. Time for another big speech on the huge hole he inherited from you-know-who.

COMMENT:  The key number is that "registered voters" figure.  Registered voter polls tend to tilt slightly more Democratic than likely voter surveys, so the situation for Obama in a race with Romney is probably even worse for the president.

Romney is not a beloved figure, and arouses little passion.  The fact that he is beating Obama in the polls right now is stunning, and a sign that the GOP nomination will be worth a great deal next year.

June 7, 2011       Permalink

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NATO INCREASES ATTACKS IN LIBYA – AT 7:06 A.M. ET:  If ever there was a forgotten war, Libya is it.  We really don't talk about it much, or even think about it, but American military assets are in play in Libya, whether wisely or not.  NATO is increasing the pressure, and I have to believe that Washington has a hand in that increase because Obama, politically, wants this problem out of the way fast.  From Fox:

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Low-flying NATO military craft hit Tripoli in eleven successive attacks on Tuesday in rare daytime strikes on the Libyan capital as pressure mounted on the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.

The strikes shook the city and appeared to land close to Qaddafi's sprawling compound, but government officials were not immediately available to confirm the targets. After some of the strikes, pro-Qaddafi loyalists inside the capital fired anti-aircraft weapons into the air.

NATO officials have warned for days that they were seeking to increase the scope and intensity of their two-month old campaign to oust Qaddafi after more than 40 years in power.

NATO is assisting a four-month old rebel insurgency that has seized swaths of eastern Libya and pockets in the regime's stronghold of the country's west.

COMMENT:  But NATO's policy is inconsistent.  The crackdown in Syria is just as brutal as Qaddafi's actions in trying to put down the Libyan revolt, but the Syrian regime gets little more than a stern tut-tut, with no hint of military intervention.  There does not appear to be, on the part of Washington, or the other NATO nations, a clearly thought-out strategy. 

I would hope that a message will be sent to Qaddafi threatening to kill him and all around him, but offering some kind of deal that will let him live, as long as he leaves the country.  Our killing of bin Laden gives us ample street cred, and it's important to get this Libyan operation finished as soon as possible.

At the same time, there is almost no reporting on the political nature of the Libyan opposition.  Is it made up of true fighters for democracy, or are we going to see another Iranian situation, where we replaced a dictator with another dictator with a longer beard and neat costumes?  We should also be chastised by the situation in Egypt, which saw a "glorious" revolution earlier this year, but which is now seeing a gradual drift toward greater influence by the Islamists.  We're not exactly sending the Welcome Wagon in.

June 7, 2011       Permalink 

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THE BOTTOM LINE – AT 6:46 A.M. ET:  Interpol presents us with some hard facts following the death of Osama bin Laden.  Al Qaeda marches on:

(Reuters) - Al Qaeda and groups linked to it remain the world's biggest security threat despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, the head of Interpol said on Tuesday.

Airlines and other forms of public transport are most at risk, with terrorists using fraudulent passports to travel undetected an area of particular concern, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble told reporters on the sidelines of an aviation meeting in Singapore.

"Even before bin Laden was captured and killed, the biggest threat was not only al Qaeda but al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups around the world," he said "I think that remains the biggest threat now as it was before his death.

"The airline and air industry continues to be a prime target for terrorists, but we've seen from recovered intelligence etc that they are also focusing a lot on mass transit. But airlines continue to be a special target."

A major worry, he said, was the use of stolen or missing passports and the fact that many countries did not match passports of passengers to a database of missing documents.

And get this:

"One out of every two international air arrivals is not being screened. That's almost half a billion each year not being screened," Noble said.

COMMENT:  One out of every two, and this is ten years after the 9-11 attacks.  And here in America, there are signs that both political parties are growing weary of the war on terror, especially now that federal budgers are being looked at with an eye toward cuts. 

It would be a tragedy if the United States disengaged, or even pulled back, from the international struggle against terrorism.  That would almost guarantee that we'd be hit again.  But isolationism has always been a powerful, if lazy temptation.

June 7, 2011     Permalink 

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JUNE 6,  2011

MORE LIKE IRAN? – AT 11:20 P.M. ET:  Egypt is drifting more and more toward becoming a new Iran.  The Muslim Brotherhood, a militant, dangerous organization, has been declared legal, and is now moving toward participation in politics, using some blatantly fraudulent front names:

The Muslim Brotherhood's political party, set up to run in polls, was declared legal in Egypt on Monday, state news agency MENA said, for the first time since the movement was founded eight decades ago.

"The commission on party affairs has given its approval for the formation of the Freedom and Justice Party," it said.

Yeah, right.  Freedom and justice.  The brotherhood was born in fascism, was an ally of Adolf Hitler, and today is a front operation for jihadists.

The Muslim Brotherhood was officially illegal but mostly tolerated during the rule of president Hosni Mubarak, ousted in a popular revolt on February 11. It was set up in 1928 and an official ban imposed in 1954.

As the best-organised political movement in Egypt, the Brotherhood announced on April 30 the formation of a "non-theocratic party" to contest up to half of parliament's seats in a September election.

The Freedom and Justice Party announced last month that it had almost 9,000 founding members.

COMMENT:  It's become pretty clear that the modern visionaries who tried to point Egypt in a new direction at the start of the Arab Spring are going to be keenly disappointed.   Egypt may well become the new Iran, drifting back to medieval times.

June 6, 2011       Permalink

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SUPPORT FOR AFGHAN WAR RISES – AT 9:30 P.M. ET:  A new poll shows a dramatic rise in support for our effort in Afghanistan, although the war is still only supported by a minority of Americans.  But the new support can give muscle to outgoing Secretary Gates's belief that we must be careful about withdrawing too quickly or too steeply.  From WaPo:

The number of Americans who say the war in Afghanistan is worth fighting has increased for the first time since President Obama announced at the end of 2009 that he would boost troop levels, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The finding may give Obama slightly more political breathing room as he decides how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan in July, the deadline he set 18 months ago to begin bringing home the additional U.S. forces.

In the Post-ABC News poll conducted last week, 43 percent of Americans say the war is worth fighting, compared with 31 percent in March. A significant amount of the fresh support came from the independent voters Obama is courting as he campaigns for reelection next year.

But a majority of Americans still say the war, which is in its 10th year, is not worth fighting, despite the killing last month of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan.

The 16-point bump in support that Obama received for his handling of the war immediately after bin Laden’s death has been cut in half, the poll found.

COMMENT:  I suspect that the bin Laden raid contributed mightily to the increase in support for the war effort.  Nothing contributes to morale more than a victory, something President Roosevelt understood in 1942 when he ordered the immortal Doolittle raid on Tokyo.  That raid was fundamentally a morale booster.

The problem here is that Obama has very poor leadership skills.  He doesn't take the American people into his confidence, and he doesn't have the knack of rallying the country to his cause.  We get the feeling that he doesn't believe too strongly in some of the things he's doing.  Presidential leadership, important in all areas, is critically important in war, and we're not getting it.

We need change we can believe in...a new face.

June 6, 2011       Permalink

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SNIPPET – AT 7:13 P.M. ET – Prince William and Kate are moving into Kensington Palace in London, where William and his royal brother Harry grew up. 

Even in Britain they have problems getting young marrieds out of family housing.

June 6, 2011

 

SNIPPET – AT 7:05 P.M. ET – Katie Couric has signed to do a talk show with ABC. Our great national wait is over.  All three networks were after her, demonstrating how fresh and up-to-date they are.  They all heard the great wanting of Katie.

It is understood that NBC is still after Walter Cronkite, and refuses to give up.

June 6, 2011


SNIPPET – AT 6:58 P.M. ET – Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York admitted that he did indeed send to a young woman that photo of him in his undies, and admitted that he lied about it.  He also admitted to six other inappropriate relationships with women.  He said he didn't have sex with any of them.  Refuses to resign.

There are rumors that Bill Clinton has offered his personal counseling services.

Recent Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer, also of New York, was forced to resign because he sought comfort in prostitutes. He now has a prime-time show on CNN.  So, look for the Spitzer-Weiner Report soon.  It will feature a centerfold.

June 6, 2011

 

FINAL WORDS FROM GATES – AT 9:51 A.M. ET:  Something quite remarkable is going on, but the press seems little interested.  Outgoing Secretary of Defense Bob Gates is making a farewell tour of bases, and giving some stern advice at the same time.  Some of the advice is designed to counter trends he sees as dangerous, even within the administration he serves.  From The Politico:

CAMP EGGERS, Kabul, Afghanistan—As his final act before leaving the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is working to build support for what he is calling a “modest” drawdown in Afghanistan, even though a war-weary Capitol Hill wants more.

Gates, who retires June 30, is hoping that his 12th and final trip to Afghanistan will help steer the Washington debate subtly away from the number of troops that will come home next month — a figure that is almost certain to disappoint the growing number of Washington critics of the war.

Instead, the secretary wants to keep his foot on the gas — and, at the same time, give President Barack Obama political running room — with the “bookend”:  Keep the promise to begin bringing home the 30,000 surge forces in July, then specify a date when they will all be home, and leave everything in between to commanders in the theater.

Gates, a wily Washington operator who took his first White House job 36 years ago, is being careful not to box in Obama — but, instead, to leave the commander-in-chief plenty of “decision space,” as they say in the military. But on an around-the-world farewell tour, Gates is bluntly arguing for patience in appearances and interviews.

COMMENT:  He's worth listening to.  He is also arguing against cuts in defense budgets that are so deep they will imperil us in the future. 

With a weak president, and an impatient Congress, coupled with our financial crisis, there is a tendency toward reckless talk in Washington.  That's bad enough on domestic policy.   On foreign and military policy it can be catastrophic.  I fully understand the frustration with Afghanistan, and with our Afghan and Pakistani "allies."  But it is not the time for arbitrary, emotional decisions.  Like the Cold War, the war against terrorism and its sponsors will take decades.  If we don't decide to endure, we will lose.

June 6, 2011       Permalink 

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ON THIS DAY – AT 8:52 A.M. ET:  Two days ago we reminded readers that June 4th was the anniversary of the liberation of Rome in 1944.   Today, of course, is the anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of France in that same year.

D-Day was the most famous day of World War II, with the possible exception of December 7, 1941, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  I'll be curious to see how much attention is paid to the D-Day anniversary today.  Do our young people know anything about that day, about what their grandparents achieved?  Do they know how important it was? 

There have been a number of D-Day ceremonies held in France since the end of the war.  But the most memorable was the one addressed by Ronald Reagan on the 40th anniversary of the invasion, in 1984.  As usual, Reagan captured the occasion and showed that great presidential addresses have substance, not just style.  He was speaking to American Rangers, veterans of D-Day.  A few of his words:

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.

The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.

That's the Reagan touch, which is why he was exactly the right man to make that speech.  And he had some advice:

We in America have learned bitter lessons from two world wars. It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.

COMMENT:  Ronald Reagan was ridiculed as "an amiable dunce," but in fact was a smart, informed and historically sensitive statesman.  He understood the lessons of D-Day, and he knew that they were eternal, not temporary.

I fear that we're forgetting those lessons today.  Even in the Republican Party there is an isolationist temptation.  It must be resisted, but only presidential leadership can give shape to that resistance.  If we fade into isolationism again, or even partial isolationism, we will pay a bitter price, and another president will be delivering another memorial address on a foreign beach.

June 6, 2011       Permalink

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RICK IS IN – AT 8:30 A.M. ET:  Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has just announced his candidacy for president.

Santorum is clearly a second-tier candidate.  I've always liked him and the clarity of his arguments, but his appeal is limited to the ideological right.  He was defeated in 2006 for releection to the Senate by Bob Casey, by a wide margin.

I'm guessing, with no proof, that Santorum's real motive here is to stay in the news and run for the Senate again, but I stress that this is pure speculation.  From Fox:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum announced Monday that he is entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination, saying he's "in it win it."

"We're ready to announce that we're going to be in this race," Santorum said on a television news show ahead of a rally in Somerset, Pa. He will then fly to Iowa for events on June 7, and to New Hampshire on June 8-9.

Santorum, the former No. 3 Republican in the U.S. Senate, was to rally at the Somerset County Courthouse, a location that his team said is significant because it is near where Santorum's grandfather settled in the U.S. "after leaving fascist Italy to work in the Pennsylvania coal mines until he was 72 years old. He chose to come to America for the freedom our nation offered him."

COMMENT:  Santorum is issue-oriented, and thoroughly familiar with the issues he chooses to emphasize.  He will always make things interesting.  But his narrow appeal fundamentally limits his potential on the national stage.

June 6, 2011       Permalink

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NEW WARNING ON IRAN – AT 8:15 A.M. ET:  We've taken the eye off the ball on Iran.  Its nuclear program has faded into the media background, and the Obama administration barely mentions it.  Obama's recent "major" speech on the Mideast hardly brought it up.

That doesn't change the facts on the ground, and the potential extreme danger to us.  From Reuters:

The UN atomic watchdog has received further information regarding activities that "seem to point to the existence" of possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program, the agency's head said on Monday.

"There are indications that certain of these activities may have continued until recently," Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a speech to the agency's 35-nation governing board.

The phrasing is odd.  I assume that what he means by "continued until recently" is that he doesn't have information after a certain date.

Amano's statement underlined the UN body's concern that the Islamic Republic may be working to develop a nuclear-armed missile. Tehran rejects such suspicions, saying its nuclear program has only civilian aims, mainly generating electricity...

...For several years, the IAEA has been investigating Western intelligence reports indicating Iran had coordinated efforts to process uranium, test explosives at high altitude and revamp a ballistic missile cone so it can take a nuclear warhead.

COMMENT:  Of course Iran has a military nuclear ambition.  There'd be no other reason for the kind of nuclear program it has developed.  And none of the sanctions regimes that have been directed at Iran have worked.  An ideological regime will absorb the sanctions damage and push on with the program.

I've always believed that the danger from Iran isn't necessarily in nuclear-tipped missiles, but in the placement of a nuclear device aboard a ship, and sailing it into an American harbor, then setting it off.  As an alternative, Iran might fire a short-range missile, much easier to develop than an ICBM, from a ship 50 miles off our shore.

The Iranians do not seem to be stoppable at this stage.  I suspect that only regime change – the toppling of the mullahs by a revolution – can alter the Iranian course.

June 6, 2011     Permalink

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"What you see is news.  What you know is background.  What you feel is opinion."
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      of The New York Times.

 

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    - Lt. Gen. Arthur MacArthur, to his
      son, Douglas.

 

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