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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 30,  2011

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:52 P.M. ET:

SHADES OF CLARENCE THOMAS – The Politico is reporting that two women accused Herman Cain of inappropriate sexual comments when he was president of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.  The allegations remind us of the charges made by Anita Hill against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.  It's odd that these allegations are only surfacing after Cain has soared in the polls.  The Cain campaign has put out statements denouncing the press reporting, but not completely denying the charges, or the report that the two women were given financial settlements.  Stand by for more on this.

LIBYA CONFIRMS CHEMICAL WEAPONS – The country's interim prime minister confirms that chemical weapons are in Libya, and that international inspectors will soon arrive to deal with the problem.  The prime minister said that Libya has no interest in the weapons.  The problem, of course, is not what happens in the future, but what may have happened in the past.  Were any of these weapons slipped out of Libya during the rebellion?  Have any of them fallen into the hands of terror groups?  I doubt very much if inspectors will be able to answer these questions, which should be a source of major concern.

DEMS TARGET ROMNEY – The Washington Times reports that Democratic operatives in the Obama campaign are convinced that Mitt Romney will win the GOP presidential nomination, and they are laying out their strategy to defeat him.  The approach is no surprise.  Dems will assert that Romney is a man with "no core," as one operative put it, their term for "flip-flopper."  That's the same charge many conservatives make against Romney.  Unfortunately, in an age of videotape and sound recordings, the Dems will have plenty of ammunition to back up the charge.  The Romney campaign will have to come up with a serious strategy to counter the charges.  It is already trying to shift the focus to President Obama's record, in effect saying that, while Romney isn't perfect, he can do a far better job of fixing the economy.  That may work if conditions in the country worsen, and if Romney, assuming he's the nominee, can be effective against Obama in debates.  But I can just see those Dem TV ads, backed up by news clips.  Not fun.

October 30, 2011       Permalink

 

TOUGH-TALKING FROM THE FIRST LADY – Michelle Obama is, according to the polls, a popular first lady.  And she has done some good work among military families and on behalf of children.  But she has a view of her own country that is sometimes sinister, at best.  Victor Davis Hanson reminds us about that, and calls out the first lady on some of her recent comments, which seem to reflect the coarseness of the 2012 campaign the Dems have planned for us: 

It was wise late in the 2008 campaign to suggest that Michelle Obama cool it and retrench a bit. There had been one too many “raise the bar,” one too many “downright mean country,” one too many “for the first time in my adult life I’ve really been proud . . .” whines, and the picture was emerging of one who had become increasingly angry since her undergraduate days in direct proportion to the privileges extended her.

Now she’s back on the campaign trail, and for some reason is returning to the same hardball politics. The other day, she thundered, “Will we be a country that tells folks who’ve done everything right but are struggling to get by, ‘Tough luck, you’re on your own’? Is that who we are?”

Given that the federal budget has increased by $2 trillion in just a decade, entitlements are at record levels, and this administration is now running $1.5 trillion annual deficits, it is hard to imagine that any government has told anyone “tough luck.” And it is even harder to suggest that nine months of a Republican-controlled House — voted in as part of the largest midterm correction since 1938 — has had much effect on the Obama employment agenda of nearly three years, the majority of which time Obama controlled both houses of Congress and borrowed nearly $5 trillion in sending unemployment over 9 percent.

And when Ms. Obama charges, “Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top? Who are we?” one wonders, why, then, in the past three years of hard times, did she insist on vacationing, in iconic fashion, at Vail, Martha’s Vineyard, and Costa del Sol, the tony haunts of “the few at the top”? In these rough times, surely a smaller staff, less travel, and budgetary economies would have enhanced her populist message of some at the top enjoying perks at the expense of others.

In short, even if she does not revert to 2008 style and restart her lamentations about life in her country being unfair, I think it a mistake for any president to put the First Lady out, in highly partisan fashion, on the campaign trail to attack her husband’s political rivals. And, I think, the public unease with it will soon prove the point.

COMMENT:  Very well stated, but I think Hanson is overly optimistic about public unease.  Michelle Obama's comments will be filtered through the press, and the Republicans will be reluctant to attack her.  First ladies are usually fairly immune, although Eleanor Roosevelt got some arrows sent her way because she was so publicly active, a departure for first ladies.  Things were fairly quiet after her tenure until we got to Hillary Clinton, who was indeed attacked because she saw herself as a public-policy "partner" to her husband, even though I never found her name on the ballot.  Must have been those new voting machines. 

My greatest fear is that, should Obama be re-elected, he will revert back to the leftism that informed his youth, and set this country on a course that will make us a clone of failed European nations, and leave us weak and poorly defended.  After that he can be rewarded by being made secretary-general of the UN, where the damage can continue.  And Michelle can have even better vacations.

October 30, 2011       Permalink

 

NEWT NAILS IT – AT 10:41 A.M. ET:  One of the most interesting developments in the GOP campaign thus far has been the emergence of Newt Gingrich is a kind of intellectual guide to conservative thinking.  Newt is clearly the best informed candidate in the debates, knows history thoroughly, and has reasoned through his positions.

While he won't get the nomination, for a variety of reasons, Gingrich is a man worth hearing.  During the last week, President Obama announced a plan to ease the debt burden on those holding student loans.  Gingrich explodes it for the illusion that it is.  From The Hill:

Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said President Obama's recently announced student loan proposal was a "Ponzi scheme."

Obama's plan would allow for easier consolidation of outstanding student loans, and would forgive outstanding balances on federal loans after 20 years of payments, rather than 25. Federal loan repayments would also be capped at 10 percent of a borrower's income, down from 15 percent now. The president would begin implementing the changes next year, as opposed to the 2014 start that was currently planned.

But Gingrich (R-Ga.) says that Obama's plan lies to students "by promising to every young person, 'You won't have to pay off your student loan as a student.' " Instead, the former Speaker of the House says, those who benefit from the program will just "have to pay off the national debt" as taxpayers later in life.

He went on to say that the proposal was "a Ponzi scheme even by [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry's standards," riffing off his primary rival's remarks on Social Security.

COMMENT:  Student loans are now a huge proportion of the loans out there, and, in a hard economy, well-intentioned students are having a tough time paying them off.  Maybe some device can be introduced that would make payments easier, and we should certainly start looking intelligently at the wild cost of education itself.  But the president's plan does little to help.

One idea that's been floated is that loan payments be pegged to the student's choice of subjects studied.  If you study something the country "needs," you make lower payments.  That is a dreadful idea, absolutely awful.  It is not a conservative idea, it is a very liberal idea, wherein the government plays favorites.  Students should be able to study what they wish, even if we have doubts about the subject, and loan programs should be universal.

October 30, 2011       Permalink

 

PERRY REVERSES – AT 10:25 A.M. ET:  In a smart reversal of a dumb move, Rick Perry has now agreed to participate in more TV debates, where he has not exactly gotten A's.  A previous trial balloon floated by his campaign had him pulling out of the debates, which, in our view, would have killed his campaign entirely and branded him as a quitter.  Now the revised strategy:

(AP) WASHINGTON - Rick Perry plans to participate in at least five more presidential primary debates, his campaign said Saturday, dismissing speculation that the Texas governor's lackluster performances so far would lead him to skip future Republican debates.

Perry, who has struggled through parts of his first five debates, will attend all of the events currently scheduled in November as well as a December debate, his spokesman, Ray Sullivan, told The Associated Press.

The decision comes after questions over whether Perry would bypass some debates to concentrate on other types of campaigning. He has always conceded he is not a strong debater, and has often avoided the sparring matches in his past campaigns.

But he's not giving up.

"Shoot, I may get to be a good debater before this is all over," Perry joked during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Friday.

COMMENT:  Perry has criticized the debates, and some of his criticism is correct.  It's basically a zoo up there.  There are, at this stage, only two months before primary voting begins, too many candidates up there.  There should be no more than three or four.  How can we actually analyze a candidate's views? 

And the debates are too long.  They're two hours, and after an hour your eyes glaze over because of the sheer number of voices. 

Newt Gingrich has challenged other candidates to one-on-one Lincoln-Douglas-style debates.  I'd love to see it.  We're told that Americans have short attention spans, and that is true.  But maybe that trait can be challenged by some superb, informed debating.

October 30, 2011     Permalink

 

 

 

OCTOBER 29,  2011

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 10:55 P.M. ET:

CAIN EDGES ROMNEY IN IOWA – A Des Moines Register poll shows Herman Cain at 23% and Mitt Romney at 22%.  Ron Paul is third, with 12%, and Rick Perry, who is trying for a comeback in Iowa, is at only 7%.  That would have to be some comeback.  The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for January 3rd.  That gives Perry a bit more than two months to get politically reborn.  It can be done in that period of time, but only if a very different, and more attractive Perry emerges.

SUNLIGHT WHERE IT WASN'T WANTED – A leaked document in Britain reveals that the government plans to drastically cut subsidies to the solar panel industry and to those who install solar power.  The move, expected to be announced this week, could cost 25,000 jobs and seriously reduce the attractiveness of solar energy.  This, of course, is what happens when governments make economic choices that should be made by the populace, and an industry becomes dependent, not on its own merits, but on bailouts and handouts.

CLINTON OFF THE CLIFF? – Bill Clinton is sounding increasingly bizarre, his statements more and more extreme and unsupportable.  He recently expressed embarrassment that there are those in the U.S. who doubt the global-warming establishment, although more and more Americans are becoming skeptics.  He made an outlandish attack on the Israeli prime minister, at a delicate time in negotiations.  Now he's saying that we are the only country in the world where people say government is the problem, although populations are revolting against governments in a number of other nations.  He also says Obama's student-loan debt-easing program is a "huge deal," when virtually all analysts say it is minor.  Sometimes it's best to take a rest.

AH, FOR THE DAYS OF SAIL – Four environmental groups plan to bring suit, claiming the Obama administration has not done proper research on endangered species when considering the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, which will bring Canadian crude to our Gulf Coast refineries.  The pipeline will mean thousands of jobs and bring America closer to energy independence.  Indeed, recent advances in extracting shale oil have essentially increased dramatically the amount of crude reserves available right here in the United States.  We can achieve energy independence through a combination of actions, if environmental extremists become more reasonable and make thoughtful compromises.  Some chance.

October 29, 2011    Permalink

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DISGRACEFUL – AT 10:31 A.M. ET:  It is going to be a rough campaign.  It will be Chicago politics on steroids.  And what goes out over the air these days is embarrassing to this republic.

We have always had roughness in American politics.  We have always had hatred.  But broadcast journalism, at one time, tried at least to relegate extremism to the fringes.  No longer.  This is from the Weekly Standard, reporting on the treatment of Herman Cain:

On Martin Bashir's television program this afternoon, Democratic strategist and MSNBC analyst Karen Finney said that Republicans are supporting Herman Cain because of his race:

"One of the things about Herman Cain is, I think that he makes that white Republican base of the party feel okay, feel like they are not racist because they can like this guy," Finney said. "I think he giving that base a free pass. And I think they like him because they think he's a black man who knows his place. I know that's harsh, but that's how it sure seems to me."

"Thank you for spelling that out," Bashir responded.

Yeah, we wouldn't want any doubts, would we?

This isn't the first time liberals have made this kind of charge about Cain and his supporters. During an online production of NBC's Meet the Press this week, Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland said white voters support Cain to show they aren't racist. “I think when [members of the Tea Party] can vote for a Herman Cain and hear him say the things that he says they feel like, ‘Well, you know, I can, I support this guy and...so it shows that I’m not racist and I’m supportive,'" Cummings told host David Gregory.

COMMENT:  Pretty pathetic, isn't it?  These are people stuck in the 1960s, their views reinforced by teachers and professors who believe the world consists of race, gender, and ethnicity, and nothing more. 

If I were Herman Cain, I'd reply this way:  "Yes, I'm a black man who knows my place.  My place is at the top."

What is remarkable is that the real racists here are the liberals, who believe they have the right to determine how an African-American lives his life, and what thoughts he must have.  How refreshing it would have been if Congressman Cummings, himself black, had praised Herman Cain for his accomplishments, instead of demeaning his candidacy. 

There is indeed a party line.  Never doubt it.

October 29, 2011       Permalink

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THE STOP ROMNEY EFFORTS – AT 9:58 A.M. ET:  We wrote yesterday about "stop Romney" actions in some parts of the Republican Party.  We also noted that "stop" movements rarely work because they usually get started too late.

But I must report that I find growing concern among Republicans that Romney not only arouses little enthusiasm in the party's base, but that his main argument for the nomination, electability, may be eroding as well.  George Will has written a devastating piece on Romney that is bound to have some influence.   He calls Romney the "pretzel candidate," because his policy statements are so twisted and convoluted.  Will writes:

The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.

Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.

Ouch.  And...

Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

COMMENT:  That quote will be circulated.  Romney nationally hovers in the mid-twenties, and has been running for president for years. 

But Romney also leads handily in the early primary states.  And, with the possible exception of Herman Cain on a good day, no one is seriously challenging him for the nomination.  Rick Perry is running vigorously, but thus far has not gained much traction.

We are only a few months away from primary voting.  You can't beat somebody with nobody, and right now Romney, despite his lack of visceral appeal, is on a winning track.  Ah, but there could be a surprise, couldn't there?  George Will clearly hopes there will be. 

This site urged months ago that the Republican Party skip a generation and go to its young bench – to Paul Ryan, to Marco Rubio, to others.  That has obviously not happened, and I believe that has been a terrible mistake.   

October 29, 2011       Permalink

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WHERE OBAMA STANDS – AT 9:46 A.M. ET:  President Obama has made some polling gains in the last week.  This is possibly attributable to the elimination of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the strong stock market performance, his vigorous campaigning, and a lack of enthusiasm for any of the Republican candidates.

Gallup now pegs the president's approval rating at 43%, getting him out of the frightening 30s, where he'd dipped in recent Gallup surveys.  At the same time, Rasmussen tells us that 46% of likely voters at least somewhat approve of the job the president is doing.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls put Obama's approval at 44% and disapproval at 50.4%.  Look, that's not a report card you want to take home to your mother, but it isn't all that terrible either.  Obama continues to defeat or hold even with all named Republican candidates in a number of polls.  If current trends continue, and they may or may not, Obama still stands a good chance, as the incumbent president, to be re-elected.  The Republican dilemma is that the party has not found a candidate who has caught fire.  True, there were plenty of doubts about Reagan during the 1980 race, many of them stoked by the liberal media.  But Reagan had a style that allowed him to speak over the heads of the pressmen, directly to voters.  That style isn't evident today.

These, of course, are early trends, and our comments are little more than speculation.  Everything can change with one terrorist attack, or a one percent increase in the unemployment rate.   The one thing I do know is that the Republican Party, as a party, must do much better in presenting itself to the American people.  The party is not helping its presidential prospects.  It is dragging them down.

October 29, 2011     Permalink

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