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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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SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE - HELP NEEDED!!

DAY THREE.

Our new subscription drive is still a bit sluggish, but respectable.   While, as we reported yesterday, some new readers have subscribed, and a number of readers have asked how they can subscribe by mail, most of our support is still coming from our stalwarts, subscribers who have supported our work regularly. 

Urgent Agenda seriously needs subscriptions and donations to continue our work! 

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But publishing Urgent Agenda is costly, and we count on subscribers and donators to keep us going.  Without you, we're history.  Our first two years showed dramatic growth, but this last year has been tougher.  Clearly, the economy is a factor.   But we must have a stable financial base in order to continue.

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SEPTEMBER 8,  2011

SHORT TAKES ON THE DRIFTING WRECKAGE – AT 9:46 P.M. ET:

POSSIBLE 9-11 TERROR THREAT – Dept of Homeland Security says it has a report of a "specific, credible but unconfirmed" threat of a terror attack in the U.S., using car and truck bombs, timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of 9-11.  Local authorities have been alerted.  The threat is said to focus on New York City and Washington, D.C.  We obviously will watch this story, if in fact it develops.

DEMS GO INTO PANIC MODE – And they can't blame it on global warming.  Democrats are showing real worry that they may lose the special election in New York Tuesday to fill the vacancy in the House created when Anthony Weiner resigned in disgrace.  The vote is being held in the 9th C.D., which is normally considered "safe" for Democrats.  Now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will spend almost half a million dollars on a last-minute ad buy.  Late polls show the race as a tossup between Dem David Weprin and GOP candidate Bob Turner.  This is a "traditional" Democratic district, not one of the trendier ones where liberals weep for the workers while driving around in BMW 700s.  I still think the Democratic candidate has the edge, but Obama is unpopular in the 9th, and the GOP is trying for an upset. 

ROMNEY ATTACKING – I'm sure his team has done polling on this, and Mitt Romney was on the attack today, focusing on Rick Perry's description of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme.  Social Security is enormously popular, as virtually every pundit has pointed out.  Perry's hostility to the system, if not satisfactorily explained, can cost him big in a general election, and may cost him the race itself.  Perry did nothing last night to ease concerns.  Romney is exploiting this weakness, which is the intelligent thing to do.  Romney wants to turn Perry into a one-week wonder.

HALEY SWINGS THE AX – Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, a state that has great clout in the Republican primary sweeps, said today that she will not support Jon Huntsman for the GOP presidential nomination.  Singling out Huntsman for a negative endorsement is a serious blow to the former Utah governor, who has the largest operation in South Carolina of all the candidates, and has made the state critical to his chances.  I don't think Huntsman has much of a chance anyway.

September 8, 2011      Permalink

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THE SPEECH – AT 8:54 P.M. ET:  The president delivered his jobs speech tonight.  It contained pretty much what had been expected.  From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama called on Congress to pass a jobs plan that would inject $447 billion into the economy through infrastructure spending, subsidies to local governments to stem teacher layoffs and cutting in half the payroll taxes paid by workers and small-business owners.

The package is heavily geared toward tax cuts, which account for more than half the dollar value of the stimulus, and administration officials said they believe that will have the greatest appeal to Republican members of Congress.

“The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy,” Obama told a joint session of Congress tonight.

A $105 billion infrastructure proposal includes money for school modernization, transportation projects and rehabilitation of vacant properties. Most of the economic impact from the infrastructure spending would be next year, though some of it would come in 2013, an administration official said.

“Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and workers,” the president said. “But we can help. We can make a difference.”

The administration estimated that $35 billion it’s seeking in direct aid to state and local governments to stem layoffs of educators and emergency personnel would save the jobs of 280,000 teachers, according to a White House fact sheet.

The centerpiece of the plan is cuts in payroll taxes, which cover the first $106,800 in earnings and are evenly split between employers and employees. Obama would reduce the portion paid by workers next year to 3.1 percent from 4.2 percent now. The rate was cut 2 percentage points under the terms of a tax deal reached last year. That cut is set to expire Dec. 31, which would push it back to 6.2 percent.

The White House also would use temporary payroll tax cuts next year to offer incentives for new hiring and assist small businesses.

Businesses would get the same 3.1-point reduction on taxes they pay on the first $5 million of their payroll, a limit that skews the benefit toward smaller firms. The full 6.2 percent employer contribution would be waived on the first $50 million net increase in a company’s payroll.

COMMENT:  The reaction to the speech thus far has been muted.  Democrats expressed mild enthusiasm, Republicans mild disapproval.  There will be more reaction, including opinions of economists, tomorrow.  The GOP plan apparently is to take individual parts of the president's program that they can accept, and add ideas of their own.  Mr. Obama presented his program as a complete package.  However, no one seriously believes it will go forward that way.

The administration will have other proposals in coming weeks.  It is difficult to see, though, how the plan the president announced tonight can make much of a difference.  Our problems are very deep, have developed over decades, and will require a rebirth in many sectors of the economy.

September 8, 2011       Permalink

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We will not
be live-blogging the president's speech.  Political abuse should not be rewarded.  But we will have comments later on its content, or lack thereof.

 

SIGN OF THE TIMES – AT 9:34 A.M. ET:   When you read this story, you can't help but be reminded of the Great Depression.  No, I don't think we're there yet, and I hope we don't get there.  But, under our current leadership, we're not heading in the other direction either.  From USA Today:

The number of businesses approved to accept food stamps grew by a third from 2005 to 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture records show, as vendors from convenience and dollar discount stores to gas stations and pharmacies increasingly joined the growing entitlement program.

Now, restaurants, which typically have not participated in the program, are lobbying for a piece of the action.
Louisville-based Yum! Brands, whose restaurants include Taco Bell, KFC, Long John Silver's and Pizza Hut, is trying to get restaurants more involved, federal lobbying records show.

That's a prospect that anti-hunger advocates welcome, but one that worries some current food stamp vendors and public health advocates.

Federal rules generally prohibit food stamp benefits, which are distributed under the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), from being exchanged for prepared foods. Yet a provision dating to the 1970s allows states to allow restaurants to serve disabled, elderly and homeless people, USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel said.

Between 2005 and 2010, the number of businesses certified in the SNAP program went from about 156,000 to nearly 209,000, according to USDA data.

COMMENT:  It's sad that businesses are striving for a bigger slice of the food-stamp pie.  Food stamps are a poverty program, and poverty is increasing dramatically. 

Another welcome for the president tonight.

September 8, 2011       Permalink

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A GREETING FOR OBAMA – AT 9:12 A.M. ET:  The new unemployment report, out minutes ago, is a grim greeting for President Obama, as he prepares to speak to Congress tonight.  From Bloomberg:

Claims for U.S. unemployment benefits rose last week, a sign the labor market is struggling to gain traction more than two years after the recession ended.

Jobless claims rose by 2,000 to 414,000 in the week ended Sept. 3, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected a drop in claims to 405,000, according to the median forecast. The number of people on unemployment benefit rolls and those receiving extended payments fell.

Companies are stepping up the pace of firings, raising the risk that consumer spending will slow further. Job growth stagnated last month and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.1 percent, the Labor Department reported last week. The Labor Department said there was no national effect from Hurricane Irene.

COMMENT:  Well, I'm relieved they didn't blame the hurricane, or global warming.  But the fact is that any number above 400,000 is considered very bad, and that's where the numbers have been, week after week.

There is now growing, and serious, talk of a double-dip recession, just as we head into the presidential election season.  Hope and change, those winners from the 2008 campaign, are losers today.

September 8, 2011       Permalink

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NEW WORRY OVER LIBYA – AT 8:58 A.M. ET:  As we count down to the 10th anniversary commemoration of the 9-11 attacks, America is on alert for new ones.  And now we have a new worry, which reflects a general concern about proliferation of major weapons, including WMD.  The question, which has planners concerned, revolves around the Gaddafi arsenal.  From WaPo:

AL-AJELAT, Libya — Documents showing the shipment of thousands of gas masks and chemical-weapons protection suits to Moammar Gaddafi’s remaining strongholds in the last weeks of his regime raised fresh concerns Wednesday about whether the deposed Libyan leader’s forces could still have access to deadly mustard gas.

The Pentagon and an international monitoring organization have said that Gaddafi’s remaining stockpiles are secure. But more than 11 tons of mustard gas is known to be accumulated in a country that suddenly lacks a strong central authority and where weapons are fast proliferating. Libyan rebels say they are concerned that Gaddafi holdouts could have access to the mustard gas and could use it in a last-ditch effort to halt advances by the opposition.

And that mustard gas can also find its way across borders, even oceans. 

The concern goes beyond mustard gas, as The New York Times reports:

TRIPOLI, Libya — The sign on the wall reads “Schoolbook Printing and Storage Warehouse,” but the fact that the double gates in the wall have been crudely ripped off suggests that something more interesting might be inside.

It turns out that the only books to be found in any of the three large buildings in the walled compound are manuals — how to fire rocket launchers and wire-guided missiles, among others. The buildings are actually disguised warehouses full of munitions — mortar shells, artillery rounds, anti-tank missiles and more — thousands of pieces of military ordnance that are completely unguarded more than two weeks after the fall of the capital.

Perhaps most interesting of all is what is no longer there, but until recent days apparently was: shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles of the type that could be used by terrorists to shoot down civilian airliners. American authorities have long been concerned that Libyan missiles could easily find their way onto the black market.

COMMENT:  Our airports, and airports around the world, are vulnerable.  Planes taking off and landing could be targeted by one or two men with those shoulder-launched weapons, hiding in the tall grass near airports, or even in a building with an accessible rooftop.  That is one of the nightmare scenarios faced by terror experts. 

Not only could an airliner be brought down, but the act itself could disrupt the entire international air system.  How do you tell passengers their safety is guaranteed after a successful attempt to bring down a plane? 

This weekend's commemoration should remind us that the battle goes on.

September 8, 2011       Permalink

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PASS THE POPCORN – AT 8:30 A.M. ET:  It feels like an old-time double feature at the local movie house.  We got the A-movie last night with the Republican debate.  Tonight the B-movie will run, starring Barack Obama in his latest sequel.  Can you stand the excitement?  Fox News has a preview of coming attractions:

With millions of Americans out of work and out of patience, President Barack Obama is going before a skeptical Congress to pitch an economic plan aimed at creating jobs urgently and forcing Republicans to own the problem with him.

The underlying political strategy: If Obama can't get his ideas passed heading into his re-election year, he at least hopes to show why he shouldn't take the fall.

That is reminiscent of Harry Truman running against the "do-nothing Congress" in 1948.  Problem is, Obama is no Truman.

In his speech Thursday, Obama is likely to offer at least a $300 billion package of ideas that would affect people in their daily lives -- tax relief, unemployment insurance, spending to support construction jobs, aid to states to keep people in their jobs. Businesses would get their own tax breaks. And he will promise a long-term plan to pay for it all.

Yet all of it ultimately will depend on a Republican-controlled House that has a different economic approach and no political incentive to help a Democrat seeking a second term.

So, however cooperative his tone, Obama's goal is also to put Republicans on the spot to act -- in their face, and in their chamber.

That is why Obama chose his most prominent venue, a joint session of Congress, a setting better known for his yearly State of the Union address. While the choice helps give him command of the stage, it also lifted expectations for a breakthrough moment, when the reality is that any sustained job growth will take many months, if not years...

...Before Obama even said a word, political and economic reality raised two questions: Will any of his ideas get approved, and will they actually work?

When asked about some of the ideas Obama is expected to discuss, majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents were all skeptical that the proposals would do a lot to create jobs, a Pew Research Center poll out Wednesday found. A series of new polls by major news organizations finds that the mood of the country is downright dismal about the direction of the country, with Obama's standing and approval on the economy at or near the lowest levels of his presidency.

COMMENT:  Harry Truman was described as a man who "did the biggest things in the biggest ways and the littlest things in the littlest ways.  Obama does the biggest things in the littlest ways, incapable of graciousness and always trying to get in his partisan digs.  Orginally, remember, this speech was intentionally scheduled for the same time as the Republican debate last night, in a petty attempt to steal the GOP thunder.  The president backed down and moved the speech, under pressure from House Speaker John Boehner. 

I'm not expecting much, but I'm obligated to watch.  I feel like a critic forced to go to a bad movie.

September 8, 2011     Permalink

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SEPTEMBER 7,  2011

9:47 P.M. ET:  The debate abruptly ends.  On balance, a reasonably good debate.  Again, the number of candidates minimizes our ability to focus on specific answers.  As the months go on, I assume we'll get dropouts, possibly Herman Cain and Rick Santorum.  (Possibly.)  If I had to choose a winner, I'd say again...Mitt Romney.  He was forceful, more forceful than he's been, and he came prepared.  Rick Perry, who was the object of most of the attention, held his own.  But whether he did more is an open question.  At times he seemed a bit distant from the subjects.  However, his last statement, about fighting crime, hit it out of the park.  I'd say that, for the Republican base alone, he probably came out ahead tonight, but that base, alone, cannot elect a president.  And that is at the heart of Perry's problem – his appeal, or lack of it, to the people in the middle.  In that department, Romney triumphed. 

A few words about Michele Bachmann:  She's been overshadowed by Rick Perry, and both appeal to the same constituency.  But we must give her credit for remaining in the race, and giving a number of thoughtful, articulate answers.  She was less ideological tonight than on other occasions, and that's to the good.  I don't think she can come from behind to win the nomination, but she has an important future if she grows, comes up with innovative proposals, and prepares as well as she has.

9:42 P.M. ET:  They're varying the subjects in these last few minutes of the debate.  Romney is discussing taxes and economic growth, and he speaks with authority.  He knows his stuff.  Now the question goes to Perry, about the number of people executed in Texas while he's been governor.   He gives the best answer he's given during the debate, and presents a passionate defense of the death penalty.  Biggest applause line of the night, and here Perry shines.  Whether you agree with him or not on the death penalty, his passion comes through and he came alive.

9:35 P.M. ET:  Huntsman on, asked a real zinger about comments by his campaign manager that some of the GOP candidates are cranks.  He's evasive on that.  Perry is now asked about climate change.  He's being pressed to give details.  He's vague on climate change, but gives some good points about what's been done in Texas on clean air.   He does make the point that the science of climate change is unsettled. 

9:22 P.M. ET:  They're back.  Perry is discussing the debt deal.  Proposes a balanced budget amendment.  Huntsman is now discussing foreign policy, and sounds a bit isolationist.  Romney on.  Again, I like the way he hits issues in the center.  He gives specific reasons for things.  I think he'd do well against Obama in debate.  Perry on.  Discussing defense.  He's rambling a bit.  He is giving some credit to Obama on security issues, which is appropriate.  But again, I think the contrast with Romney's specifics is telling.  Now Bachmann is on, with a firm statement denouncing Obama's foreign policy.  She also warns about some of the "rebels" in the Mideast.  We don't really know them.

9:14 P.M. ET:  They're discussing immigration.  And Rick Perry, who should have shone in this segment, is largely forgotten.  He missed a golden opportunity, as a border-state governor, to really speak with authority and present a program.  But he missed it.  They're on the second commercial break right now.  Again, I think Romney comes out first, and maybe his lead has increased a bit since the last break.  But Perry does hold his own, and the others have all acquitted themselves reasonably well.

9:10 P.M. ET:  Perry is now discussing immigration.  As Texas governor, he knows the subject.  But Romney is now outdistancing him with, again, specific proposals.  This campaign may come down to a battle between these two men.  As of now, Romney comes out better.  He is simply better prepared.

9:05 P.M. ET:  Perry is now being asked about some poor educational statistics from his state.  He answers well, pointing out some accomplishments, and noting the first-class corporations that move to Texas, and which require an educated work force.  Good answer, if incomplete.  Newt is now talking about education.  Again, I point out that he is full of ideas.  Sadly, I don't think he has much traction.  He is often seen as a man of the past, which is unfair.

9:00 P.M. ET:  As always happens in these debates, the session starts to drift.  They're talking about whether FEMA should be abolished.  I didn't know this was a big issue.

8:54 P.M. ET:  Ron Paul is now attacking his fellow Texan, Rick Perry.  Now Bachmann is up.  She's slipping back into philosophy, rather than practicality, and I have to concede it's a weakness.  Perry is being attacked for a mandatory innoculation program for girls that he established in Texas.  He answers well, but doesn't add anything in particular.  Perry's failure to come up with any specific ideas is beginning to hurt him.  He certainly knew that everyone would be attacking him, and that the spotlight would be on him.  He speaks well, he's personable, he gives some good answers.  But where's the vision?

8:48 P.M. ET:  Debate resumes.  Perry is asked about his negative views on Social Security, views that can sink him in an election.  He continues his attack on the way Social Security is run.  But again, he has no proposals. He's in trouble on Social Security.  It's obvious.  Now Romney is up, also on Social Security.  He goes after Perry on Perry's view that states should be able to opt out of the program.  Romney wins this going away.  Perry is now replying, but he has no ideas for improving Social Security.  This is a critical moment in the debate, and Perry loses it, badly.

8:45 P.M. ET:  There's now a tribute to Ronald Reagan, and I have to concede it's tasteful and well done.  Brian Williams deserves credit for this. 

8:39 P.M. ET:  There's some back and forth right now among the candidates.  This segment of the debate is now over.  They've gone to a commercial:  Summing up:  The candidates are all doing surprisingly well.  Focus is on Perry because it's his first time on the presidential debate stage.  He's doing well.  He's impressive.  But he does not have detailed answers on what he intends to do as president.  His game tonight focuses on knocking everyone else.  He'll have to bring some balance to his campaign.  Who's winning?  I'd give the edge to Romney because of his knowledge and detail, but it's only an edge.

8:35 P.M. ET:  Bachmann up, makes a brief but good statement on energy.  Now Huntsman is up again, and I think is the surprise candidate this evening.  He's good, and informed.

8:31 P.M. ET:  Perry up.  Replies to a question about povery by pointing out that the best antidote to poverty is a strong economy.  Good answer, but lacking in specifics.  Romney up, discussing energy, and again he is more detailed than Perry.  He's impressive.  At least he has proposals.   Between the two men, we have a real, and worthy race.

8:26 P.M. ET:  Huntsman discusses health care.  I must say he's very impressive tonight, having apparently woken up.  He may help himself tonight with his forceful performance, but he's way, way behind.  Now Bachmann is up, and again she has that commanding presence.  You can't take it away from her.  And now Newt launches an attack on the press, charging the questioners with trying to get the participants to fight each other.  I don't care for the press either, but I think attacking the press won't do much good tonight.

8:23 P.M. ET:  Perry takes a hit from a question pointing out that Texas ranks dead last in people covered by health insurance.  This is the kind of question that can damage him in a general election campaign.  He does not answer well.  He repeats what "the people of Texas" do not want, but really doesn't prescribe a program.  Republicans must come up with visionary proposals.  It can't just be negative. 

8:20 P.M. ET:  Perry just zinged Romney on Romneycare.  Romney responds by pledging to overturn Obamacare through executive action – giving every state an opt-out, which is legal.  Again, both men are speaking well, but I'd give Romney the edge on details. 

8:18 P.M. ET:  Gingrich up.  He won't get the nomination, but he is always full of ideas, and his denunciation of Obama's leftist policies is right on.

8:15 P.M. ET:  Michele Bachmann is up at the plate.  I have to say, she gives terrific answers.  She's human, and yet very well informed.  You have to give her credit for coming so well informed.  So far, by the way, none of the candidates has stumbled.  Ron Paul is on now.  Look, I really think the guy is on the fringes. 

8:10 P.M. ET:  Rick Santorum is on.  Look, he won't get the nomination, and, frankly, as good a guy as he is, he's a distraction.  There are only two realistic candidates up there – Romney and Perry.  Maybe Bachmann, on the outside.  Now Herman Cain is up.  Again, great guy, good answer, but I sense that people are waiting for what they saw in the opening minutes – Perry vs. Romney.  And now Huntsman is up.  Speaking well, surprisingly so, since his campaign has tanked.  But the party doesn't really trust him with conservative values.

8:06 P.M. ET:  Second question is to Romney, also with a kind of sneering attitude by Williams.  Is his business experience that great?  Romney, like Perry, answers well. Very solid.  There's now a back-and-forth between Perry and Romney, and, I'm happy to say, both men are doing well.  Presidential.  Knowledgeable. 

8:03 PM. ET:  Rick Perry gets the first question from the very liberal anchorman, Brian Williams.  He's asked about some poor economic statistics in Texas.  He responds superbly, strongly, with details, correcting the mistakes in the Williams question.  Right away Perry is telling us he won't be blindsided by the MSM.  Good opening. 

September 7, 2011     Permalink

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WE ARE ABOUT TO START OUR LIVE BLOGGING OF THE REPUBLICAN DEBATE FROM THE REAGAN LIBRARY, WHICH STARTS WITHIN SECONDS.  STAY WITH US.

 

GOOD STUFF – AT 12:33 P.M. ET:   We're always happy to alert readers to good things in which they can participate.  I recently received an e-mail from a chap named Mike Caputo, who's Public Insight Network Senior Analyst for American Public Media in Minnesota.  You may have read about his efforts recently at Power Line.

I subsequently had a conversation with Mr. Caputo, and was impressed with the work he and his organization are doing.  They provide a means by which members of the electorate can have their voices heard in the mainstream media, something of particular interest to conservatives.  Let me quote directly from Mr. Caputo's e-mail:

American Public Media (which runs Minnesota Public Radio) operates the Public Insight Network, which works with news organizations around the country <http://www.pinsight.org/>  to add context and relevance to issues like the presidential race. This network has more than 100,000 citizens who have agreed to be on-the-ground sources for those newsrooms. It could always use more.
 
In fact, we recognize the need to have more Republican and conservative voices that inform the news partners in this network, especially with the Republican nomination up for grabs. So we are making a specific plea for more people who describe themselves politically as Republican or conservative.

And that’s where Urgent Agenda comes in. Would you consider helping to make a link between your readers and this network?
 
We have an easy way to do this. The Public Insight Network has a short survey your readers could take. It’s aimed at putting voters’ stories first (rather than candidates’) and helping reporters understand more about what’s motivating and inspiring conservative voters this year. Here’s the link:
 
Assess the GOP presidential field ... and tell us what stories from your life should they know <http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/apm/7cbbfe34279b/gop-voters-who-are-your-top-candidates-at-the-moment> .
 
This isn’t a poll. Instead, it’s designed to help journalists see what motivates and mobilizes citizens. Some people who respond could hear from a reporter wanting to learn more. Trends your readers identify will become the basis for more citizen-centered reporting in this campaign season.

COMMENT:  This is legit, and you might consider participating.  Every voice heard is important.   It is critical that reporters and editors hear from as many voters as possible, and actually get to know the electorate.

The late Charles Kuralt, who did the "On the Road" series for CBS, once told me that what impressed him most in all his travels around the U.S. was how well informed Americans are.  He was correct.  Americans are well informed, and they do listen.  To prove that, notice how tracking polls change instantly as soon as anything significant happens in a political campaign.  Well informed citizens should, in turn, inform the media, which can use citizen help.

September 7, 2011       Permalink

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WILL REPUBLICANS GO TOO FAR? – AT 10:23 A.M. ET:  We regularly discuss here the conflict between ideology and electability that is going on inside both parties.  There are the true believers, then there are the believers, also true, who'd like a little power occasionally. 

Conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru has written a very thoughtful column on this for Bloomberg.  It's worth mulling what he says, because blowing next year's election would be a sin for the Republican Party, and possibly lead to the party's splitting into endlessly warring factions.  From Bloomberg: 

In any presidential primary there’s a tension between the voters’ desire for a candidate who can win the general election and their desire for a candidate who shares their views -- between, in other words, ideology and electability. The more beatable Obama looks, the more the balance for Republican voters will tilt toward ideology and away from electability.

That doesn’t just mean they will be more likely to support candidates such as Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, who will have trouble winning votes from independents and Democrats. It also means the terrain of the primaries will shift: The candidates will place more emphasis on outflanking one another on the right and less on showing they can win in November 2012.

Even if Obama were doing better, the Republican primary would put a heavy weight on ideology. Whenever someone suggests that a candidate can’t win, many conservatives retort that people said that about Reagan, too. (What they forget is that people also said it about Barry Goldwater, and they were right.)

And...

Already the Republican primaries have seen candidates take positions that will be hard sells in the fall of next year. Both Bachmann and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, for example, want to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. Polls suggest that while the public doesn’t consider environmental protection its top priority right now, it favors regulation and trusts Democrats over Republicans on the issue. Texas Governor Rick Perry has suggested that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and that they should be replaced by state-run programs. There’s a reason no Republican candidate since 1964 has run on a platform anything like this one on entitlements: Both programs are extremely popular.

And...

It’s possible, of course, for a party to concentrate too much on electability and to care more about gaining power than about accomplishing anything with it. But at least a party that cares about electability is looking outward, beyond its members. Today’s Republican Party is more interested in refining its doctrines than gaining converts. It has turned inward.

That is good news for Obama, at a time when he isn’t getting much. The more his political standing falls, the more Republicans will think they are sure to beat him. And the more they think that, the less likely they will be to win.

COMMENT:  That is good reasoning.  Ronald Reagan showed us that a candidate can be both committed and electable at the same time, but Reagan did it by tempering his ideology with an ability to work with those who disagree. 

Reagan's political role model was Franklin Roosevelt, who very skillfully presented himself as a man who wanted to strengthen American institutions, not overthrow them.  He would borrow programs from, say, the socialist movement, but keep that movement at a distance.  (And please remember that, when abortion was a very hot issue, Ronald Reagan never addressed a pro-life rally in person.  He always did it by phone.)

Ironically, Obama succeeded, cynically, in convincing a good part of the electorate that he was a centrist when he ran in 2008, a practical man interested in practical solutions. 

America is an idealistic nation, but not an ideological one.  Ideology means far less here than in Europe, where it's golden.   There's an old line about a socialist saying, "I know it works in practice, but does it work in theory?"  Americans just want to know that it works.  The successful presidential candidate will understand that.

September 7, 2011       Permalink

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ATTACK IN INDIA – AT 9:39 A.M. ET:   We are regularly reminded that terrorism continues as a major threat around the world.  There has been a new attack in India.  It was simple in its execution, the kind of attack American authorities dread could come here.  From AP, via Fox:

NEW DELHI – A powerful bomb hidden in a briefcase ripped through a crowd of people waiting to enter a New Delhi courthouse Wednesday, killing 11 people and wounding scores more in the deadliest attack in India's capital in nearly three years.

The blast at the gate outside the High Court was the second that targeted the building in five months and came despite a high alert across the city. It renewed doubts about India's ability to protect even its most important institutions despite a security overhaul that followed the 2008 Mumbai siege.

"Have we become so vulnerable that terrorist groups can almost strike at will?" opposition lawmaker Arun Jaitley said in Parliament.

The bomb left a deep crater on the road and shook the courthouse, sending lawyers and judges fleeing outside.

"There was smoke everywhere. People were running. People were shouting. There was blood everywhere. It was very, very scary," said Sangeeta Sondhi, a lawyer, who was parking her car near the gate when the bomb exploded.

A Muslim militant group claimed responsibility for the blast in an email, but investigators said it was too early to name any group as suspects. The government rallied Indians to remain strong in the face of such attacks.

COMMENT:  Some terror experts have wondered out loud why we haven't seen attacks of this kind in the United States.  There have, of course, been attempts – the attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit, the attempt to set off a bomb in Times Square in New York – but they and other plots have failed.  Is it our good security?  Is it luck?  Is it the possibility that Al Qaeda and its allies only want to plan large attacks?

It's probably a combination of all three.  But the Department of Homeland Security has been warning about lone-wolf attacks, attacks carried out by individuals who may have been radicalized on the internet.  For the lone wolf, the "bomb in the suitcase" scenario is ideal. 

Eternal vigilance, my friends.  Eternal vigilance.

September 7, 2011       Permalink

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IS THAT CASH OR CREDIT? – AT 9:10 A.M. ET:  Tomorrow, one day after the Republican debate at the Reagan Library, President Obama will unveil his jobs plan to Congress.  We are being told by the usual informed sources that it comes with a whopping price tag:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The economy weak and the public seething, President Barack Obama is expected to propose $300 billion in tax cuts and federal spending Thursday night to get Americans working again.

Republicans offered Tuesday to compromise with him on jobs — but also assailed his plans in advance of his prime-time speech.

In effect, Obama will be hitting cleanup on a shortened holiday week, with Republican White House contender Mitt Romney releasing his jobs proposals on Tuesday and front-running Texas Gov. Rick Perry hoping to join his presidential rivals Wednesday evening on a nationally televised debate stage for the first time.

Lawmakers began returning to the Capitol to tackle legislation on jobs and federal deficits in an unforgiving political season spiced by the 2012 presidential campaign.

More on the White House plan:

According to people familiar with the White House deliberations, two of the biggest measures in the president's proposals for 2012 are expected to be a one-year extension of a payroll tax cut for workers and an extension of expiring jobless benefits. Together those two would total about $170 billion.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan was still being finalized and some proposals could still be subject to change.

The White House is also considering a tax credit for businesses that hire the unemployed. That could cost about $30 billion. Obama has also called for public works projects, such as school construction. Advocates of that plan have called for spending of $50 billion, but the White House proposal is expected to be smaller.

Obama also is expected to continue for one year a tax break for businesses that allows them to deduct the full value of new equipment. The president and Congress negotiated that provision into law for 2011 last December.

COMMENT:  The question is whether this is too little, too late.  Obama will have been in office three years in January.  Yet, only now does he seem to be getting serious about the unemployment crisis.

The bottom line here is that the United States is in trouble.  It will only get out of trouble if our economy grows dramatically.  No combination of budget cuts in Washington and federal programs can begin to compare with a growing economy as a solution.  But our economy is not growing, and one reason has got to be the loss of confidence in the president's leadership and the uncertainly that brings.  Even modest private citizens are fearful about making plans, buying large items or taking risks because of their fear of the future.  Companies are reluctant to hire workers, fearing their profits may be cut in a declining economy.

It took World War II finally to get us out of the Great Depression.  I hope we don't have to go that route again.

September 7, 2011        Permalink

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SHOWDOWN AT THE REAGAN CORRAL – AT 8:35 A.M. ET:  The nationally televised Republican debte from the Reagan Library is on for tonight.  At last report, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, the current frontrunner, will attend, having skipped a debate over the weekend to supervise his state's response to wildfires. 

This will be the first presidential debate for Perry.  Eyes will be on him.  Will he be able to solidify his frontrunner status, or will he simply become the flavor of the month?  Will he show he can be a national candidate.  Or will he show – and many in the GOP fear this – that he's strictly Texas?

Eyes will also be on Mitt Romney, former frontrunner trying to win back his status after the initial Perry surge.  Will he attack Perry, quoting from Perry's own words to indict the Texas governor as an outside-the-mainstream extremist who could never get elected?

The jury tonight will be that great body of voters in the center who decide presidential elections.  Romney's problem is that, while he can appeal to that center, he fails to excite the much more conservative base.  Perry's problem is that he can excite the base, but may repel the center.

There will, of course, be tributes to Reagan flowing tonight.  But some analysts point out that Reagan might not be able to win the Republican nomination today.  A skilled politician and two-term governor of California, he might easily be seen as a compromiser, not ideologically acceptable to the Tea Party and its allies. 

While Obama's poll numbers are down, his numbers against individual Republican candidates remain quite respectable.  Beating him will not be easy.  I wish many in the Republican Party would start to understand that, and plan accordingly.

Of course, we'll be watching the debate carefully, and live blogging throughout.

September 7, 2011     Permalink

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