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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 12, 2011
DISSENT AND TRIUMPH – AT 11:53 P.M. ET: I was in lower Manhattan yesterday and had a chance to observe one of the "Occupy Wall Street" sites.
I couldn't linger long because the police kept the public moving, apparently to avoid confrontations. I can't honestly say that I saw any horrible behavior, although I know it exists within this group. Remember, the cops were there.
The whole thing took me back to the late sixties, when I'd visit "anti-war" demonstrations in these same locations, lugging my Leica cameras and an occasional movie camera. Aside from the fashions, and some of the slogans on placards, there was very little difference between then and now. The protesters seemed festive rather than angry, and I wondered whether this was more social than political.
This time, bowing to modernity, I brought along my Canon G12 digital. (Although I still favor Kodachrome film, even we traditionalists and true artists must yield occasionally to the new gadgets. It's our little sacrifice to the calendar.)
Here are some of the protesters, demanding justice, fairness, and increased benefits:
This demonstration was a few blocks from Ground Zero. I had not seen the progress on the Freedom Tower, so I walked over. I found the tower inspiring. The architecture is elegant:
Demonstrators on one block, the Freedom Tower on the other. In a way, that's very appropriate. No matter how much we may disagree with the protesters, they have the freedom – within the law – to make their feelings known. That's what the Freedom Tower is all about.
October 12, 2011 Permalink
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:22 P.M. ET:
SWITCH BRANDS, QUICK – Ben and Jerry's, the hippie ice cream company, has issued a statement in solidarity with the "occupy" movement. Odd. Ben and Jerry's is capitalism personfied, and the company, which was hot and heavy with "idealism," was actually sold to Unilever, a big, bad international conglomerate. The hypocrisy just flows. Ben & Jerry's is good ice cream, but overpriced. I will now give my loyalty to Edy's light, chocolate chip. Terrific stuff. No politics.
THE GROWN-UPS BACK IN CHARGE – After a blundering first response to the disclosure of an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., on U.S. soil, the administration is now saying that "all options are on the table" for dealing with the scheme, which involved an alleged bombing that could have killed hundreds of Americans. The Obmans' first statement said that no military action was contemplated, an amateurish reply that told our enemy what we weren't going to do. Maybe the grown-ups have gotten back in control.
SHOCK, EVEN IN ILLINOIS – As one politician said, even in Illinois this is shocking. It turns out that a public employee, who is also a union leader, will retire with total pensions of half a million dollars a year. Another can get $438,000 a year. Republican Senator Mark Kirk released a report saying that Illinois has the worst credit rating of any state, and maybe now we know why. Well-connected union officials are apparently collecting multiple pensions more appropriate for the CEO of a major corporation. This is another black eye for the union movement, which can't afford very many more.
CAIN SURGES, BUT FOR HOW LONG? – A new Wall Street Journal poll shows Herman Cain in the lead for the GOP presidential nomination. A PPP poll released hours earlier shows the same thing. Cain has become immensely popular, in part because conservatives see him as an alternative to Romney, whom many conservatives don't trust. But expect Cain to come under withering fire in the next week. Independent analysis of his 9-9-9 tax plan does not confirm his claims, and the "economist" he claims is advising him on tax matters turns out to be a local accountant in Cleveland. Thus far Cain has gotten a free ride, but that is going to end.
October 12, 2011 Permalink
A BRIDGE TOO FAR? – AT 9:20 A.M. ET: We've seen attempts recently to force religious institutions to get in line with liberal doctrine – such as a lawsuit to require a Catholic university to have co-ed dorms. But some of it may be getting to be too much even for liberal justices. Maybe, just maybe, the Obama crowd is attacking a bridge too far. From the Washington Examiner:
Extraordinary act, even for the EEOC...intervening in the affairs of a religious institution.
COMMENT: Good for Kagan. Clearly, religious groups have the same legal obligations as everyone else. They cannot, for example, order the murder of someone or act as sanctuaries for terrorism. But the selection of religious leaders must go untouched if freedom of religion is to have any meaning at all. We're glad to see that Elena Kagan appears to agree, although the final verdict hasn't been rendered in this case. Maybe she won't be a party liner after all. From my word processor to God's ears. I can say that in the age of Obama, can't I?
October 12, 2011 Permalink
OBAMA, IN DEFEAT, VOWS A NEW FIGHT – AT 8:38 A.M. ET: President Obama's jobs bill, which has been largely ignored by the public, did not make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate, but the president vowed to fight on:
COMMENT: What strikes us is how irrelevant Obama seems. Now, to be sure, some pundits declared Bill Clinton "irrelevant" after the Republicans won the 1994 congressional elections, but Clinton roared back, in pre-Wilensky days, to win the 1996 presidential race against the politically inept Bob Dole.
It does not appear, based on the trends, that the economy can spring back in time for Mr. Obama to neutralize it as an issue in the 2012 election. But, as we saw with the alleged Iranian plot yesterday, a foreign crisis might intervene to put him centerstage once more. And there's renewed talk, based on very little I might add, of Obama possibly replacing Joe Biden on the ticket with Hillary Clinton.
The campaign is just starting.
October 12, 2011 Permalink
THE BOMB PLOT – AT 8:03 A.M. ET: It is almost impossible to overestimate the impact of the news that, according to the Justice Department, Iranian operatives organized an attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, in Washington, even if it meant killing hundreds of Americans in the act.
The assassination, if successful, would likely have been carried out by placing a huge bomb in a restaurant. A number of American political figures are calling this an act of war. From Fox:
The question, of course, directed at the Iranian government is the classic, "What did they know and when did they know it?" It is unclear who in the Iranian government authorized this plot. At the same time, Hillary Clinton has been blunt:
COMMENT: Obviously, a very serious and provocative act. But what will our actual response be? In act I consider a major diplomatic blunder, the Obama administration quickly made clear that military action against Iran was not contemplated, a foolish statement that projected weakness rather than fury. Apparently, our grand strategy will be to ramp up sanctions that, so far, have had no impact at all. I would imagine that Mr. Reagan would have had a more creative response.
But Obama must worry about a militant base in his party that would have probably welcomed the Japanese pilots over Pearl Harbor as visiting tourists.
October 12, 2011 Permalink
DEBATE AFTERMATH – AT 7:32 A.M. ET: The headline in the Washington Post says it well: "Romney Solidifies Front-Runner Status." The Republican masses may not be cheering Romney hysterically, but he's the runner who doesn't stumble.
By contrast, Rick Perry had another bad night. Maybe we should say another nonexistent night. He didn't seem fully there most of the time, and, had he been physically missing, no one would have noticed. He lacks the presence of a presidential candidate, which is sad because he's done many fine things in Texas of which he can be proud. This is not his year unless Romney makes a catastrophic mistake and throws the race into turmoil.
We come to Herman Cain. Cain has a forceful, yet engaging personality. He's a man of conviction. But, in retrospect, I may have overestimated his performance during the debate. He did indeed falter several times. As one commentator noted correctly, there was no growth. He kept advertising his "9-9-9" plan, and that was it. He could not identify, by name, more than one of his economic advisers. There was nothing beyond the plan, which includes a 9% corporate tax, 9% income tax, and 9% sales tax. One of the other candidates asked the audience, show of hands, how many wanted a 9% national sales tax, and not a hand went up. I don't think Cain's plan is going over well, and he personally must show an ability to discuss other economic issues. Not a bad night for Cain because of that infectious personality, but not great either.
The other candidates did well, especially the always informed Newt Gingrich. Michele Bachmann came alive. Both Rick Santorum and Hon Huntsman performed well. But all of them are too far back to make much difference unless there is a real shakeup in the race.
Romney came away without bumper damage. We may be seeing a classic Republican contest, where the guy who's next in line gets the nomination.
October 12, 2011 Permalink
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
"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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© 2011 William Katz