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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 18, 2011
The main idea I'm hearing in some of the post-debate commentary is that Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan is now in trouble. Every Republican candidate except Cain attacked it tonight, and Cain's defense was not very strong. He could not, for example, answer Romney's complaint that a 9% sales tax, which is part of the plan, would be imposed on top of state sales taxes, where they exist. Also, independent evaluators are now saying that the Cain plan would raise taxes on all but the wealthy, something that Americans will not buy.
Is it possible that Cain has peaked? Hard to say, but he clearly needs to be sharper on the issues, especially in defense of his own plan. Cain comes offf as capable and thoughtful, but not very knowledgeable. If his 9-9-9 plan comes under even more negative scrutiny, he has to come up with cogent, convincing arguments to support it.
DEBATE OVER. PUNDITS NOW ON MAKING PROFOUND AND HISTORIC STATEMENTS.
9:44 P.M. ET: They're back, talking about which candidate would have the best chance to defeat President Obama. Strangely, each candidate thinks he (or she) is the fairest of them all. I am shocked. Perry is up, again attacking Romney. Romney responds well. The focus is on these two right now. Between the two, Romney comes off better because Perry has that knife edge, and this is a debate among Republicans. Cain up. Boasts his business experience, and does it with a smile. Cain has learned a bit of the Reagan style – no matter what you say, never turn ugly.
9:36 P.M. ET: They're on a break. The foreign policy segment was indifferent. A lot of talk, but no one broke through or blundered badly. At this point we look forward to the end of the debate, which is about 18 minutes. away.
9:31 P.M. ET: They're onto foreign aid. They're drifting. No one is making any significant points.
9:27 P.M. ET: They're talking about defense. Nothing new here.
9:20 P.M. ET: They're back, and getting into other issues. Should a candidate's religion count? Perry is up, asked about a major supporter who attacked Romney's Mormonism. His answer is flat and somewhat vague. Romney now speaks, and gives a very thoughtful and knowledgeable statement on both religious freedom and the importance of not having a religious test for public office.
9:14 P.M. ET: They're on a break. Impression so far: Romney stands out as the most presidential, as he's unflappable. Perry may well have succeeded in establishing an identity tonight, but he did it at the expense of a "nice guy" image. Cain is holding his own, but not much more. When the going gets rough, Herman just doesn't have the breadth. Advantage: Romney, but not by a great deal. There are too many candidates up there anyway.
9:09 P.M. ET: They're now talking about the "occupy" movement. Herman Cain repeats his condemnation of the protests, and gets much applause. The problem with that is that there is an appearance of coldness toward people are truly hurting out there, something other candidates are now saying.
9:05 P.M. ET: The debate is starting to drift. There's a point in every debate when the eyes start to glaze over. That point is very close. They need to change the subject and the moderator needs to ask for detailed answers.
9:03 P.M. ET: Romney again makes a good statement, this time on energy and economic policy. Perry replies, but is calmer than before, and avoids attacking Romney.
9:01 P.M. ET: The debate is half over, and has been the liveliest one that we've seen. It's clear that no one intends to drop out. It's also clear that Rick Perry intends to fight. Herman Cain, who's had some good debates, has been buried a bit tonight. His focus is somewhat narrow, and he's not speaking about broader issues.
8:53 P.M. ET: Perry up and actually makes a good statement. But, once again, he's been compromised tongiht by a certain nastiness that the audience senses.
8:47 P.M. ET: They're now formally on immigration policy. Perry makes a strong, coherent statement, as does Cain. Perry is having his best night, but it's being hurt by his showing a darker, almost vicious side. Romney makes a reasoned statement and sounds presidential. He knows how to maintain an image. Whether it's genuine or not is another story. Now, again, Perry attacks Romney again on immigration and the audience boos.
8:38 P.M. ET: They're back, and talking health care. Cain has a detailed answer to what he would do to replace Obamacare. Now, stunningly, Perry accuses Romney, out of the blue, of hiring an illegal immigrant as a domestic worker. The audience is shocked. Romney parries the charge without completely denying it, but Perry is getting very tough, and a little surly. This is very tough stuff. Perry is trying to stand out and show some life, but I'm not sure this is the way to do it.
8:34 P.M. ET: They're on a break. The debate is far more ferocious than the previous ones. They're going at each other with real vigor, and some anger. I think Cain was hurt by the relentless attacks on him, and his failure to reply to specific criticisms of his plan. Perry is alive, but we have to see much more. Romney has taken some blows, but he fights back with detail and with good cheer. I don't think he's advanced, but he hasn't been hurt.
8:29 P.M. ET: Rick Perry comes alive in a statement on energy policy. Suddenly he sounds vigorous and certain. The problem, of course, is that a Texas governor talking about energy is commonplace. He's still got to show that he knows something else. He said he'll have a tax plan out this week. Too late.
8:15 P.M. ET: They're debating taxes, and the focus is on Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan. The other candidates are attacking it. They're all over Herman. Herman is fighting back with some good answers, but they are vague. Rick Perry's attack on Cain was particularly vicious, and didn't do him any good.
8:10 P.M. ET: The candidates are introducing themselves. Standard opening lines. I think Hermain Cain got the most applause, but not by much.
8:05 P.M. ET: So it begins. Anderson Cooper introduces the candidates. This is more like a sports event than a debate. Maybe we'll see the Olympics.
WE ARE ABOUT TO BEGIN OUR LIVE BLOGGING OF THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, FROM LAS VEGAS. IT IS CARRIED ON CNN.
October 18, 2011 Permalink
SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 9:54 A.M. ET:
Oh my, oh my. This used to be my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, whose owner betrayed us by leaving sainted Brooklyn in 1957 for some place at the end of civilization. And look at the result. The Dodgers – once home to Reese, Robinson, Snider, Campanella, Hodges – now a mere chip in a divorce settlement. I will spent the rest of the day contemplating man's downfall.
WE HOPE HER EYES ARE OPEN – AT 8:52 A.M. ET: Hillary Clinton has arrived in Libya on an unannounced visit. Remember Libya?
Clinton arrives bearing aid and good will toward the rebels. Why do I sense, though, that we're about to be burned again, just as we've been burned by the deteriorating situation in Egypt following the "Arab spring"? From The New York Times:
COMMENT: We seem to know so little about the rebels and their leaders. Gadaffi is bad news, but I hope the news doesn't get even worse. Al Qaeda has a presence in Libya, and thousands of Libyan missiles are missing. Islamist organizations, suppressed under Gadaffi, are coming to the fore, as they are in Egypt. Democracy, as we define it, seems a long way off. In the Mideast, democracy often means "one man, one vote, one time."
We led from behind during the Libya campaign, with NATO in charge. Now we're trying to exert some influence on people who don't see us as necessarily friendly. Results are not guaranteed.
October 18, 2011 Permalink
BROTHERS AND SISTERS UNITED – AT 8:09 A.M. ET: What has so moved me about the "Occupy Wall Street" protests is the cameraderie, the trust, the friendship, the sheer humanity, as the New York Post joyously reports:
COMMENT: Yeah, I'd say that robbing people blind could discourage new people from coming. Look, I'm sure most of the people down there aren't thieves. But this kind of thing always happens. Young, naive, and immature idealists are ripped off by those in their ranks who have other motives. It happened in the sixties as well.
The demonstrations are being hyped by a sympathetic press, but I really wonder whether they have the kind of steam they claim. We'll know as the cold weather moves into New York.
October 18, 2011 Permalink
DEMS: START WORRYING – AT 7:56 A.M. ET: Wolf Blitzer, still the most solid rock at CNN, blogs that Democrats have plenty to worry about in new poll numbers. Their situation is not improving:
Of course, there are some places where Democrats don't have to vote. Their deceased relatives do it for them.
COMMENT: Blitzer makes sense, but we should not underestimate Obama as a campaigner. Nor should we discount the possibility that some international event could intervene, causing Americans to rally 'round the president.
The economy is key. If it slips further, it's hard to see how Obama can survive. But even a modest uptick can rebound to the favor of a president Americans like personally.
October 18, 2011 Permalink
TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT – AT 7:29 A.M. ET: Game on for the Republican presidential candidates tonight in Las Vegas. The debate will be carried on CNN.
Anderson Cooper will moderate, which gives cause for concern. Cooper has done some good journalistic work, but his liberal biases are not hidden. He is a left-leaning gay activist, and in recent nightly broadcasts has gone after Herman Cain. He won his journalistic spurs for his reporting of Hurricane Katrina, though his reports turned out to be substantially exaggerated.
However, maybe Cooper will play it down the middle tonight. We hope so.
The intrigue tonight surrounds Herman Cain. Polls show Cain rising in popularity among Republicans, but substantial doubts remain about his electability, about his shoot-from-the-lip statements, and his lack of a real campaign organization:
COMMENT: I'm afraid that's the bottom line. Cain must make a convincing argument that he can win a general election against Barack Obama. We'll be looking for that argument, and it begins with Cain occasionally keeping his mouth shut. He's had a series of gaffes during the campaign, most recently referring to an "electrocution fence" he'd like to build on our southern border.
Romney must crown himself tonight. The next president...
If Rick Perry can't reverse his decline, he's out, the Fred Thompson of 2011. Much promised, little delivered.
I'm looking forward to sparks. I hope Anderson Cooper survives.
October 18, 2011 Permalink
OCTOBER 17, 2011
SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:45 P.M. ET:
CAIN BEATS UNABLE – A new Rasmussen poll has Herman Cain beating the less-than-able Barack Obama in a head-to-head matchup. Cain pulls 43% to Obama's 41%. Of course, Cain has received a flood of good notices recently, and the herd mentality may be in play. At the same time, he's facing increasing scrutiny. Liberal blacks are smearing him as another Clarence Thomas, and CNN's Anderson Cooper has been relentless. Tomorrow night's debate is critical for Cain. We're entering the home stretch before primary voting begins. If he can hit some home runs against his competitors, he could make this a very exciting race.
SOUND FAMILIAR? – Dan Shechtman, who just won the Nobel Prize in chemistry reports that, earlier in his career, he was ridiculed, laughed at, treated like someone who is slow mentally, and thrown out of research groups as a "disgrace," for the very ideas that later won him the Nobel. Sound familiar? Scientist who dare question global warming are often treated the same way, even compared to racists or Holocaust deniers. A New York Times story, just yesterday, on why Americans don't embrace "global warming" made not a single reference to the criticisms raised by first-class scientists. The article attempted to portray those who ask questions as anti-science.
WHY AM I SKEPTICAL? – The Washington Post prominently displays a piece quoting "experts" as saying that Iran's nuclear program has suffered major setbacks. Hmm. You don't think this piece was floated by people trying to take the steam out of the story that Iran plotted to murder the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil, do you? Nah. Couldn't be. But it's a strange thing: every time Iran behaves very badly, it isn't long before we're told that they're beset with technical problems and that we're exaggerating our concerns about their nuclear program. I'd go with the worriers on this one. Iran is becoming increasingly aggressive, and good sense requires that we take their nuclear program with the utmost seriousness.
CALENDAR SET – The critical Iowa caucuses have now been set for January 3rd, leaving only New Hampshire to set the date of its primary. This gives New Hampshire the chance to become "first in the nation" by setting its contest in December, which would mean only two more months of campaigning before voting begins. An early New Hampshire primary could give Mitt Romney a major boost, as he's far ahead in the polls there. New Hampshire, of course, borders Massachusetts, where Romney served as governor.
October 17, 2011 Permalink
IRANIAN INTRIGUE – AT 9:08 A.M. ET: Intelligence and defense types are still debating whether the administration's report of an Iranian plot to murder the Saudi ambassador to Washington on our soil holds water.
One area of skepticism has been the conclusion that the Iranians were using Mexican drug cartels to further the plot. Some observers ridicule this idea, conjuring up the image of sophisticated Iranian operatives of the Quds Force using crude drug dealers. And yet Ken Allard, former dean of the National War College, says it makes all kinds of sense:
COMMENT: We'll be hearing more about this plot in the weeks ahead. As we've reported, Washington is taking it very seriously. Whether our reaction to Iran is effective, however, is another story entirely. Thus far nothing we've done in terms of sanctions has stopped that country, which is moving swiftly toward deadly nuclear technology.
October 17, 2011 Permalink
GOP LATEST – AT 8:44 A.M. ET: We anticipate the GOP debate tomorrow night. I think we can now safely say that this is the GOP field. It is probably now too late for anyone else to start a campaign. Primary voting begins in a few months.
Despite the fact that he is unloved, Mitt Romney continues, like the good foot soldier he is, to make progress toward the nomination. Some have questioned how well he could run outside his home base in New England. The Politico reports:
I still think it's too early to say that the nomination is Romney's to lose. One slip of the tongue for a candidate who arouses little passion can be devastating. And what if Herman Cain shines in tomorrow night's debate? What if Rick Perry suddenly comes alive?
I honestly don't think Perry can cut it. He still comes across as strictly local. His economic/energy plan, released a few days ago, didn't make many waves, although it has solid features. It may be too late for him to make up the ground he's lost. As for Cain, he must now be presidential, without losing his inspiring, infectious style. He's got to prove to the American voter that a man who's never held public office can be president, which means he's got to debate foreign policy as well as his tax plan.
Big stakes tomorrow night.
October 17, 2011 Permalink
OH HOW THEY SUFFER – THE PAIN, THE AGONY, THE MYTHS – AT 8:06 A.M. ET: The political left is endlessly fond of telling us that "the root cause" (oh, they love that term) of terrorism is oppression. Terrorists are terrorists because they are impoverished, with no hope, desperate, and so they turn to blowing up airliners.
Now, from Britain, comes a bit of a corrective, as London's Daily Mail reports:
COMMENT: This is fascinating stuff. I'm especially intrigued by the comment that two thirds of those studied already had criminal records.
I don't know how much impact the British study, which was classified and has now leaked, will have on us here in America. The "he's oppressed" scenario is pretty standard on college campuses, even though Harvard studies debunked it years ago. The political left clings to its myths because the left today is less a set of political beliefs than a medieval religion.
We have difficulty in America understanding ideology. We are a decent society, and we find it hard to accept that people perpetrate the evil that they do. In World War II, many American naval officers could not comprehend the Kamikaze. They could not understand how a soldier could commit suicide. We had an entirely different view of survival.
But let us try to understand that we are facing ideologies that would not hesitate to take out an American city if they could. We can deal with the problem, or pretend it doesn't exist as we cope with other challenges. We will be reminded, I fear.
October 17, 2011 Permalink
THE GRIM REALITY – AT 7:35 A.M. ET: The term is "downward mobility," and it's not the first time in our history we've visited it.
During the one painful term of Jimmy Carter, Carter conceded that America's children might not live as well as their parents. Carter left office almost a generation ago, and the same fears are stalking America today. They are generating much of the economic debate, and encouraging movements, however vague and confused, like the "occupy" demonstrations around the country.
The hints have been there for a long time, especially the fact that two-income families today often don't live any better, and in some cases live worse, than one income families of our youth. Frankly stating it, many American women, and mothers, are today working essentially for nothing. The so-called "feminist" movement hasn't exactly noticed.
Another hint has been the vastly inflated cost of higher education. I'll tell you a story: A year ago I was speaking with a very famous and highly respected educator, who originally trained as a lawyer. He told me that when he attended a distinguished law school in the late 50s, the tuition was about $900 a year. Last year the tuition at the same school was $52,000 a year, wildly higher than the pace of tuition. He asked me rhetorically, "Where is all that money going?" Many young people leave college and graduate school today with debts they will paying for the rest of their lives.
Robert J. Samuelson, a liberal economics writer for the Washington Post, correctly states:
COMMENT: The answer to this dilemma will certainly not be more government programs, which is what the opposition, symbolized by the Obamans, proposes. Our side must propose an economic program that will grow the economy while keeping costs down...which may be Mission Impossible. Or at least Improbable.
Jimmy Carter had no answers. Ronald Reagan let the economy roar again, and we thought we were out of the woods. Now the Carter years are back, and I don't see another Ronnie. What I do see, though, is a growing recognition of one fact – that this country's economic future will depend on our becoming, once again, a nation that makes things, that innovates, that doesn't ship manufacturing abroad.
Great leaders are often remembered for one great thing. I don't recall what Lincoln's tax policy or agricultural program was. If a leader could show us the way toward a maufacturing future, where every iPad said "made in USA," I somehow think that leader would be well remembered.
October 17, 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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