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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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OCTOBER 11, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 11:51 P.M. ET:
ALLEGED IRAN PLOT FOILED – The Justice Department says that the U.S. has broken up an Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil. A suspect has been arrested and has confessed, Washington says. If the facts are right, this is close to planning an act of war against the United States. The State Department responded by increasing sanctions on iran, an ineffective gesture. Others in the Neville Chamberlain Appreciation Society, otherwise known as the Obama administration, issued reassuring statements that the U.S. plans no military response. Nothing like appearing strong and resolute.
CHRISTIE BLESSES – Only a week after declining to enter the presidential sweeps, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Most endorsements aren't remembered the next day, but occasionally one is significant. Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries helped considerably to seal the deal for Obama. Christie is an immensely popular figure among conservatives, and his endorsement of Romney might well ease conservative fears that Romney is not ideologically pure.
CAIN SOARS – A new South Carolina poll shows Herman Cain at the top, ahead of all other GOP candidates. Cain is at 26%, Romney at 25% and Rick Perry at 15%. The Cain number is surprising enough. The fact that Rick Perry comes in third in a deep South state is further evidence that Perry's campaign is in serious trouble, and in need of an energy transplant. Commentators on TV confirm our initial impression that Perry did nothing at the New Hampshire debate tonight to help his cause.
RUDY OUT – Rudy Giuliani has ruled out a presidential run this season, removing the last "question mark" about potential candidates, now that Chris Christie and Sarah Palin have also dropped out. Rudy says it's just too late. He might have glanced at a calendar three months ago. Rudy was a terrific mayor, and turned New York City around, but it's many years since he left office, and I'm afraid the glory has irrevocably faded.
October 11, 2011 Permalink
Debate over. Observations: Perry did nothing to help himself, which means his objective, to resurrect his campaign, was not met. Herman Cain probably strengthened himself by confirming that he can handle the heat and can debate like a winner. Romney, I think, also confirmed his capability. But the single-issue format reduced the opportunity for liveliness, and the fact that the debate was only carried by Bloomberg TV limited the audience.
9:45 P.M. ET: There was a brief discussion of economic inequality, an important and current issue, but there was little exploration of the subject. That deserved more time. Candidates are making closing statements, but yawns are evident.
9:27 P.M. ET: They're back. Perry speaks on health care. Gives a reasonable answer. He's gotten a bit better in the last half hour. Herman Cain may have fallen into a trap by saying he thinks Alan Greenspan did the best job of any Fed chairman. Greenspan is unpopular in the Republican Party. The debate is inevitably deteriorating. Too many candidates. Too many inside references. Too much esoteric economic talk. And the exclusive focus on the economy has made the debate less lively than the former ones, and less current. Given the fierce controversy that developed in the last week over Mitt Romney's Mormonism, it would have been useful to hear the candidates address that. But the rigid format did not allow it.
They're on another break.
9:06 P.M. ET: They're back. Now the candidates will question each other, which is a nice change. Bachmann questions Perry, and Perry gives his best answer of the night, defending his record in Texas. But I think it's too late.
They're on another break. The big news of the night: Rick Perry is sinking as a candidate. He has the look of a man who really doesn't want to be there. And I don't think that will be a problem much longer.
8:52 P.M. ET: Perry wakes up a bit. Talks about the importance of energy, which is what he talked about before. Perry must demonstrate that he can get beyond Texas, where energy is king, and he isn't doing it.
8:41 P.M ET: Perry finally speaks, and makes some reasonable points, but he seems almost like an unexpected visitor. He is making no impact. One of the problems of discussing economic issues is that numbers are thrown around, and after a time your eyes glaze over. So it's hard to evaluate the substance of what each candidate is saying. You'd have to run the numbers. The impression is that the frontrunners, Romney and Cain, know their subjects and they come across as capable and confident. Some of the lesser candidates are perfectly fine, but it's hard to break through when you're discussing esoteric economic concepts. We look to Perry to try to jump start his campaign. I'm afraid the tow truck may be needed.s
They're on a break. Summary so far: Romney and Cain are performing well, although Romney got off to an unsteady start. Newt Gingrich, as usual, provides more intellectual depth than anyone else. Rick Perry, despite his desperate need to prove that he's a tier one candidate, is making no impression.
8:21 P.M ET: Moderator Charlie Rose now asks what advisers the candidates would consult on the economy. Herman Cain shines in his vigorous, and delightful, approach. Romney suddenly appears petty, arguing with one of the questioners over definitions, then rambling on. And yet Romney clearly knows his stuff, and it shows, and now he seems to be righting himself, answering sharply and with conviction. Herman Cain up again. You have to like the guy. You can follow his clear answers and he makes sense. I get the feeling that the candidates are warming to the tempo of the debate. But...where is Rick Perry? He hasn't spoken in a while. We look forward to proof that his heart is beating.
8:02 P.M. ET: Herman Cain is up first. Lots of attention on him because of his surge in the polls. Followed by the others. Romney and Cain performed well. Rick Perry not so well. Once again he stumbled and had no passion. Ironically, Newt Gingrich got the best applause, based on his attack on the Fed chairman. I don't think anyone gained from this segment, but Perry may have been set back once again. It's make or break for Perry tonight. If he can't shake the image he's developed, based on his previous performances, he will seem toasty.
WE ARE ABOUT TO BEGIN OUR COVERAGE OF THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE FROM DARTMOUTH COLLEGE IN HANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE. WE WILL HAVE FEWER COMMENTS THAN IN OUR LIVE BLOGGING OF PREVIOUS DEBATES. I'D PREFER TO SEE A BIT MORE OF THE DEBATE BEFORE COMMENTING.
WILL THE NEW PROTESTS HELP THE GOP? – AT 8:33 A.M. ET: The Brits are starting to write about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, and we're reading. As I've said here before, British reporters are often the sharpest observers of American politics. Consider this, from Tim Stanley in London's Telegraph:
COMMENT: I do hope so. But one negative effect of this movement is that it can do further damage to the decent moderate Democrats, the national defense Democrats, who have been bludgeoned by their own party since that 1968 moment. There are few left, and the country is poorer for that. I don't want either party to become a nut group. It helps no one. So I'm saddened by the embrace that these protesters are receiving from national Democrats like Nancy Pelosi. They should be smarter, but they aren't.
October 11, 2011 Permalink
INNOVATION DEFICIT? – AT 8:11 A.M. ET: Cal Thomas asks a provocative question. Where have the American innovators gone? He asks the question in response to the death of Steve Jobs:
COMMENT: I think Cal is partially right. I'm not sure we have an innovation deficit. Look at Staples, FedEx, and other innovative companies that have cropped up in the last generation. And many innovations made in the high-tech world are difficult to explain to the public, but can have profound impact. It's hard to get excited about a transistor, but in many respects it transformed our world.
But I do think we have other deficits that lead to the belief that we're falling behind: We have a creativity deficit, and it affects the way young people think and react. Look at what Hollywood has become. Listen to our so-called "popular music," and then recall that, two generations ago, kids were dancing to the music of George Gershwin, and loving it.
We also have a guts deficit. Too many young people today have been taught that they deserve guarantees in life. Adventure is to be avoided. That's for the people who can't get the pretty girl. You're "entitled." Aren't you?
I'm sorry to say that our educational system bears blame. It tends to knock the creativity, the dreaming, out of people and replace it with pretty gray stuff. I know a guy who did handstands to get his son into an elite school, then pulled him out after only a year, explaining that he'd lost the bright, imaginative kid he'd once had. They'd pounded him into conformity.
I think we have innovators. I think we have dreamers. As Cal says, we have to start honoring them again, and before they die.
October 11, 2011 Permalink
UTTERLY RECKLESS – AT 8:01 A.M. ET: The mainstream media is always pronouncing on "the people's right to know" while, at the same time, withholding gobs of facts each day that are politically inconvenient. The media is great at trotting out its cheer lines whenever it feels heat. "First Amendment rights," "We stand by our story," "freedom of the press," etc., etc. You've heard them all.
But for irresponsibility, this one must take some kind of prize. From Fox:
The Boston Globe is owned by The New York Times, which itself has a history of printing irresponsible stories – as it did when it revealed a sensitive intelligence operation aimed at terrorists. "People's right to know," you know.
COMMENT: The Boston Globe has done damage. And where is the public benefit? There isn't any. There would only be a public benefit if the informant turned out to be a corruptionist who gave false information that entrapped an innocent person.
We saw, in the 2008 campaign, that there is a long list of things the public apparently "doesn't have a right to know," and most of them involved the background of candidate Barack H. Obama. Mustn't say this, mustn't reveal that. Why, it would be (check one or more than one) racism, McCarthyism, guilt by association, and so on. The MSM is very selective about that "right to know."
This story reminds me of a famous one from my youth. There was a fellow in my neighborhood in Brooklyn named Arnold Schuster. He was a salesman, a good guy. One day he saw, on the street, a face he was sure he knew. It was Willy Sutton, renowned bank robber, and a wanted man. So Schuster called the police. Sutton was arrested, one of the more spectacular arrests in New York history. There was no witness protection program then, and Schuster became a celebrity, the public-spirited citizen who remembered those civics lessons in school. After briefly becoming a celebrity, he also became dead. His bullet-ridden body was found not long after Sutton's arrest.
That's why witnesses must be protected. Shame on the Boston Globe.
October 11, 2011 Permalink
RUMBLE IN NEW HAMPSHIRE – AT 7:30 A.M. ET: There's more anticipation for tonight's GOP debate than for any other GOP debate this season.
The reason is that things are coming to a head. The debate will be held in New Hampshire, essentially Romney's home turf. He was governor of nearby Massachusetts, which is in the same TV market. Romney is emerging as the frontrunner again, but, as always, his support is an inch deep. He arouses no passion, even though his performances on the stump get better and better.
In the last day Perry has launched new attacks on Romney, trying to get back in the game. But TV coverage has been dominated by the charge, made by a major Perry supporter, that Romney's Mormonism is "a cult." Tonight's debate is focused on the economy, but don't be surprised if someone brings up that charge. If Perry were smart, and that's an if, he'd bring it up himself and disassociate himself from the poisonous comment, which has taken the air out of the Republican discussion, at least for a weekend.
No candidate has done more TV in the last few days than Herman Cain, so eyes will be on him. Can he pull off another fine debate performance, or will Baskin-Robbins retire him as flavor of the month? Cain has a great life story – African American son of a maid and a man who held four jobs simultaneously, raised himself to prominence in the business world. But his campaign is underfinanced and undermanaged, and he shoots from the hip. He has improved recently. He has great personal appeal. Hey, you never know.
As for the others, they remain "the others." Michele Bachmann's campaign was almost knocked out by Perry's entry, as they appeal to the same followers. She will look to resurrect tonight, but I really think she's cooked for this cycle. There are no other candidates who have a serious shot. Ron Paul is Ron Paul, and his foreign-policy views, essentially far left, are repugnant to most Americans. Jon Huntsman has failed to gain any traction. His foreign policy speech yesterday, while intelligent, was a shadow of the fine speech Romney gave on foreign policy last week.
The sad fact is that tonight's debate will only be carried on Bloomberg TV. I didn't even know there was a Bloomberg TV, but found it on channel 105 in my cable system. The Bloomberg factor will reduce the TV audience, which means the impact of the debate may well be less than we'd anticipated. The pundits will buzz, but will enough Republicans watch to make a difference in the polls?
Stay tuned. We'll be there.
October 11, 2011 Permalink
OCTOBER 10, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:58 P.M. ET:
DOLLARS FOR THE CAUSE – Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor and "consumer advocate" who's taking on Senator Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate seat from Massachusetts in the 2012 election, is being flooded with campaign contributions. Warren raised $3.1 in the last six weeks, making her one of the top fundraising candidates in the country. It appears that most of the loot was raised out of state, which we'd expect, since defeating Brown is a national Democratic priority. Brown is in for a major fight. He's already being accused of being anti-woman, a pretty typical charge from the kind of trendy liberals who support Warren. Next he'll be a racist. Or a descendant of cowboys who fought native Americans. You see where this is going.
THANKS FOR YOUR WISE COUNSEL – Al Qaeda in Yemen has confirmed the deaths of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, the American propagandist, both killed in an American drone attack. And the terrorists are joining the anguished souls of America who worry about the practice of an American president ordering the killing of American citizens. Never mind that these two birds were making war on their fellow Americans. “Where are what they keep talking about regarding freedom, justice, human rights and respect of freedoms?!” the Al Qaeda statement asks. We appreciate their concern for our civil liberties, but somehow don't think Al Qaeda is a worthy authority on the subject of human freedom.
BANZAI! – Apparently channeling the Japanese kamikaze of World War II, the Democratic National Committee embarked today on its latest suicide mission – throwing its support behind the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Nancy Pelosi has expressed her delight, as has the director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Apparently, the TV footage of the demonstrations, complete with vivid descriptions of some of the "protesters" – fine if you're not eating – failed to deter the Dems. This is a far cry from the Democratic Party some of us used to know. It's back to the sixties. If you still have tie-died jeans in your closet, get 'em out. LSD also welcome.
THE SON SOMETIMES RISES – Jesse Jackson Jr. is now facing the fight of his life to hold onto his congressional seat, which he first won in a special election in 1995. His district has been redrawn, bringing in white suburban voters who might not automatically pull the lever for the son of a civil rights icon. He is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by former Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson, who is more of a centrist, and who considers Jackson a do-nothing congressman. Jackson's name has been dragged through a number of recent political scandals in Illinois, and he is no longer considered untouchable. But it will probably take a third candidate, drawing votes from Jackson, to allow Halvorson to win the nomination, considered tantamount to winning the election in the heavily Dem district.
October 10, 2011 Permalink
LOWERING OBAMA, RAISING CAIN – AT 8:35 P.M. ET: A new IBD/TIPP poll, which has produced respected results in the past, reports that, by 51%-41%, Americans don't think President Obama should be re-elected.
Among independents the gap is 54-36.
At the same time, Gallup is reporting a further rise for Herman Cain.
COMMENT: What's noteworthy is that no one has a commanding lead, unusual for the history of Republican nomination fights. Usually, by this time, one candidate stands out.
The numbers do emphasize, however, the crucial importance of tomorrow night's debate for Rick Perry. Expect a lot of combat, not all of it in good taste.
October 10, 2011 Permalink
CALL AL GORE! QUICK! QUICK! – AT 8:58 A.M. ET: What's going on here? Didn't these Brits get the message? Don't they know we're all about to burn up? What's wrong with these colonialists? From Britain's Express:
COMMENT: Al Gore must immediately leave his mansion – well, one of his mansions – get into his private jet and fly to England to set things straight. How dare anyone predict cold weather? Don't they realize the damage they can do to the global-warming industry?
Anti-science, that's what it is. Anti-science. I hate it when people start asking questions. Real scientists don't ask questions when Al Gore arrives. That's right, isn't it?
October 10, 2011 Permalink
DEBATE TOMORROW – AT 7:56 A.M. ET: A critical Republican debate will take place tomorrow evening at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
It is critical because, I think it is safe to say, it will be make-or-break for Rick Perry. When he announced his candidacy several months ago, he was seen by many Republicans as the great hope. And it's been downhill from there. His debate performances have been shockingly poor. He often appears indifferent and poorly prepared. He has a history of making incendiary statements about key issues like Social Security, and they've come back to bite him. After leading in the polls immediately after his launch, he's slipped back, trailing Mitt Romney in most of them, and even trailing Herman Cain in some.
It's now reported that his political staff, which is highly regarded, is making drastic changes in the Perry campaign, and in the candidate, insisting on rigorous debate preparation, and also insisting that the candidate, who's had a habit of fading away as debates progress, get more sleep.
And there's something else. In the past week the ugly issue of Mr. Romney's religion – he's a Mormon – has erupted, tanks largely to a key supporter of Mr. Perry's, a pastor in Dallas. The man called Mormonism "a cult." That's pretty disgraceful stuff in this day and age. As one who recalls when candidate John F. Kennedy had to go to Houston to assure local ministers that his Catholicism would not interfere with his presidency, I'd thought we'd gotten beyond this stuff.
Rick Perry had a chance to show that he could be a truly national candidate by responding vigorously to that pastor's slur, and he blew it. He issued a lukewarm written statement about religious tolerance, etc., etc. He missed the moment to show presidential leadership. So, I'm sorry to say, did Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, who ducked the issue. But it was Perry's supporter who made the statement, and Perry had a special responsibility to disassociate himself, and he did not. What is Rick Perry thinking? Anything? Perhaps he will use the debate to show that he isn't just a local pol with a swelled head. He doesn't have too many chances left.
There is much that is good about Rick Perry. He's been a successful governor of one of our largest states. He strikes me as, fundamentally, a decent man. But there's a difference between the minors and the majors, and right now Perry is hovering in between.
October 10, 2011 Permalink
SEVERE WARNING ON IRAN – AT 7:36 A.M. ET: I think the American mindset is that we, or the Israelis, might have to strike Iran to take out its nuclear program, and that we have time to make that decision. But now a serious expert is warning us that the window is closing. If it does close, we will be in for a very different, and far more frightening, Middle East. Have a nice day.
COMMENT: Douglas MacArthur said that all military disasters begin with two words – too late. It probably will be too late fairly soon to do anything serious about Iran's march to the bomb. And it's reliably reported that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently visited Israel with the specific mission of pressuring the Israelis not to launch an attack on the Iranian program. No one seriously believes that Obama will.
The Iranian bomb, whether announced or not, will change the Mideast equation. Iran may believe it then has no reason to fear a nuclear strike by the U.S., Israel or other nations because Iran's opponents will know that Iran could strike back in kind, at least on a limited basic. Also, when Iran gets the bomb, many other countries in the region will want it as well, setting off a regional nuke race.
We have not taken this seriously enough.
October 10, 2011 Permalink
THIS NAILS IT – AT 7:16 A.M. ET: We're told we're in an economic recovery, yet no one I know believes it. Now we have the key reason for that gut feeling, and it's devastating. From The New York Times:
COMMENT: And Americans' anger is magnified by the feeling that the pain is not being shared equally. We pick up a paper and read regularly of what Sarah Palin correctly calls "crony capitalism" – the vast payments to well positioned members of the old boys' network, whether the recipients have performed well or not. The ousted CEO of Hewlett-Packard reportedly received a $13-million golden parachute...for failing.
There is nothing worse economically than watching your standard of living fall. It leads to frustration, anger, and a flailing out. We can ridicule these "occupy Wall Street" demonstrations, and sneer at the screwball statements made by some of the demonstrators, but this movement will grow unless there's an economic turnaround...and soon. And there must be a sense that the economy is working fairly.
I think we will have a very volatile 2012. Election years have that potential, this one in particular.
October 10, 2011 Permalink
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
"Councils of war breed timidity and defeatism."
"Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred. "
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