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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SEPTEMBER 13,  2011


TROUBLE IN THE NINTH – As we watch returns come in from tonight's exciting special congressional election in New York's 9th C.D., Republican forces are expressing open concern about voter fraud, and have started the legal processes needed to deal with that issue.  Voter fraud would not shock anyone familiar with machine politics.  I'd imagine that a number of people voting in the district today, and dragged to the polls by the Dem machine, have been deceased for years, but their names on the voter rolls live on.  It's the machine's answer to religious concepts of eternal life.

IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH – Now we know.  We've always known that laughter is good for us, and even feels good physically.  Now a team of scientists explains why.  It seems the very act of laughing produces endorphins, known for their feel-good effect.  Maybe that's why so many of us feel good after an Obama speech on the economy.  It's all that laughter we experience reacting to his talking points.

VERY DISTURBING – New census statistics out today show that more Americans are living in poverty than at any time since the 1950s.  The poverty rate has jumped six percent in just one year, to 15.1%.  Every American should be concerned about this.  It represents catastrophic economic failure.  The fact that the rate is increasing so quickly during the Obama administration demonstrates that the Democratic Party has no real answers to the problem.  This country is in serious trouble when one out of six lives below the poverty line.

WARREN RUNNING IN MASSACHUSETTS – Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, a severe critic of Wall Street, and someone who fancies herself a consumer advocate, will announce her candidacy tomorrow (Wednesday) for the Democratic nomination to run against Senator Scott Brown.  Brown, in a spectacular upset, won a special election to fill out the unexpired term of Ted Kennedy.  Next year's election is for a full term.

September 13, 2011       Permalink

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NEW POLL BOOSTS ROMNEY – AT 10:23 P.M. ET:   As we reported earlier, the general consensus is that Rick Perry had a less-than-stellar night in Tampa last night, and that the attacks on him are beginning to take their toll.  A new Gallup survey tends to confirm that impression.  From Andrew Malcom at the L.A. Times's Top of the Ticket blog:

Rick Perry, the Texas governor who strode on stage so confidently to announce his candidacy 31 days ago, still holds the numerical lead over former Gov. Mitt Romney, who hasn't not been running for years.

What the Gallup organization calls the Positive Intensity Score shows Perry holding strong at 24. However, for the first time since Perry surged to the front of the GOP field, Romney's score has increased significantly.

In a new rating just released Gallup shows that now with a month to compare the two men, Romney's score has surged from 11 just two weeks ago to 16 now.

At the same time the scores for two GOP women have faded. With Perry in the race Michele Bachmann's score has dropped from 13 to 10. And the train appears to be leaving the station for Sarah Palin's hypothetical candiacy; her score plunged from 16 to 10. The 10 for both women are new lows for 2011.

Gallup's Positive Intensity Scores are devised by subtracting the percentage of Republicans with highly unfavorable views of each candidate from the percentage with highly favorable views among those who know the candidate.

Perry's first debate performance at the Reagan Library last week was workmanlike. He held his own standing next to the ever-polite, ever-attentive Romney. no big Perry mistakes.

Monday night's CNN/Tea Party Express debate was a different affair with six of the other seven candidates attacking Perry somehow. Newt Gingrich has reserved virtually all of his ammo for President Obama -- and the media.

COMMENT:  The word from the Romney camp today is that he will stay on the offensive.  While Romney did not score any knockout punches Monday night, he did get in some solid jabs.  Enough of those, and Perry can lose on points. 

At the same time, Perry has a sharp political team and he's known as an astute campaigner.  I suspect they're working on improving Perry's performance right now.  He has much going for him, including an image of strength and a set of passionate beliefs.  Americans, historically, have tended to admire candidates with strong, clear beliefs, even if they didn't always agree with those beliefs. 

We'll be looking for Perry 2.1 pretty soon.

September 13, 2011     Permalink

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From the New York Post:  Columbia University students may get the unique chance this month to dine with madman Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he visits New York, according to the school's student newspaper.  In an email sent to members of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association, students are invited to a private dinner Sept. 21 in Midtown with the man whom University President Lee Bollinger introduced as “a petty and cruel dictator” when he spoke on campus in 2007.  Members of the group were notified earlier this summer that they would have a chance to bring 15 students to the dinner, The Columbia Spectator reported Saturday.

The vice president of the Columbia group involved says that students are "really enthusiastic" about dining with the Iranian leader, whose government regularly shoots people in the streets.   But, hey, who are we to judge?  Each country is entitled to its own "culture," isn't it?  I hope the students who dine with the Devil will be clearly identified, so they can be treated appropriately by the saner kids at Columbia.


US EMBASSY ATTACKED IN AFGHANISTAN – AT 9:51 A.M. ET:   A bold enemy attack occurs as the president provides timetables for our withdrawal.  From the Washington Post:

KABUL — Suicide bombers and gunmen launched a coordinated attack on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday afternoon, witnesses and security officials said, a rare and sophisticated strike in the heart of the fortified capital.

The Taliban sent a text message to reporters claiming responsibility.

Why not?  They know we're leaving.  And we now learn that the administration wants drastically to slash funds for the training of the Afghan military and police, the only forces that can even partly make up for our withdrawal.  We're also told, although Washington won't confirm or deny it, that Obama has okayed the opening of a Taliban mission in a Gulf Arab country, giving the savagery of the Taliban an aura of respectability. 

An Afghan security official said at least eight people have been confirmed killed and 10 wounded. The figure was expected to rise.

No one at the U.S. Embassy was injured, U.S. officials said.

The attack appeared to be the most audacious in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. It comes as U.S. troops are starting to pull out of the country, amid concern that the Afghan government is far from ready to take on more responsibility for security.

The assailants launched the attack from a tall building that is under construction, located in a traffic circle near the bunkered area that includes the sprawling U.S. Embassy compound and the headquarters of the U.S.-led military mission.

COMMENT:  This comes as we learn of plans to reduce the American presence in Iraq to 3,000 troops, which every military authority has said is not enough even to provide for their own self-protection.

There are things that Obama has done right on national security, like maintaining many Bush-Cheney policies.  But I'm getting an uneasy feeling that he's returning to his left-wing roots in foreign policy, to rally the base of the Democratic Party to his cause for 2012.  We are showing weakness, and that always leads to the same catastrophe.

September 13, 2011       Permalink

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SARAH RISING – AT 8:56 A.M. ET:  Something is happening with Sarah Palin.  A new seriousness, a new sense of reflection.  If you saw her on Greta Van Susteren's program last night, after the GOP debate, she was far more impressive than any of the debaters.

She was poignant, almost sad, very mature and reflective.  She'd given a speech in Iowa last week that even a New York Times writer found outstanding.  Newt Gingrich referred to that speech last night and said he wants to circulate it.

That speech, and her performance on Greta's show last night, was the old Sarah, the Sarah we began to love in 2008 before the roof caved in.  The old Sarah was fiercely independent, a truth teller who took on both parties if necessary, a governor with one of the highest approval ratings in the nation.   

Last night Greta returned to one of the themes of her Iowa speech – crony capitalism, the corruption of the free enterprise system by well-connected, slick operators who distort markets, scream freedom, then rush to the government for a bailout if they mess up too badly.  Even conservatives have begun to talk about this more and more.   It strikes a chord with people who believe fairness is still an American virtue.

Will Sarah run?  I don't know, and we didn't get any word on that last night.  A new poll places her third among the GOP candidates in the race for the nomination.  That is strong for someone who isn't yet in the contest.  But I did get a hint last night that Sarah will not run, that she realizes this may not be her time, that she's got to grow again as a serious candidate for the future, that she will continue to be a gadfly.  But I could be very wrong.

The transcript of Sarah's extraordinary Iowa speech is here.  It is well worth reading.  She has such talent, if only she could get all the moving parts to work together again, as they did when she was governor.

September 13, 2011        Permalink

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DEBATE AFTERMATH – THE CLEAR MESSAGE – AT 8:32 A.M. ET:  A clear message is starting to emerge from last night's Republican debate.  It is coming from American commentators, but also from British observers, who, as we've often said here, are among the most astute observers of American politics.

The message is that Rick Perry is the frontrunner, but that the frontrunner needs some serious polishing.  I agree with that message.   Perry didn't particularly hurt himself last night, but he didn't help himself either.  The question about Perry is whether he could go beyond Texas, or was just a local politician with national ambitions.  The question was not satisfactorily answered in last night's debate. 

This, from Toby Harnden of Britain's Telegraph:

Rick Perry is now the Republican frontrunner – but he needs to raise his game

Another fascinating Republican debate. You could tell by the way that all the candidates queued up to attack him that Rick Perry is clearly regarded by the others as the undisputed frontrunner. They've been reading the polls as well as the tea (party) leaves. Towards the end, he looked slightly stunned by the combined (though hardly coordinated) assault. Welcome to the big time, Governor.

So did the debate change things? Strangely, very possibly not. Here are some points to take away:

1. Perry flagged after an hour or so (as he did, to a lesser extent, at the Reagan Library) and seemed at times like he was trying to wing it. He needs to prepare better for these things...

And, from John Podhoretz, at Contentions:

The main problem here, though, is that he seems to think he can wing these debates by referring to what he did in Texas here and what he did in Texas there. That is insufficient not just when it comes to giving voters a chance to judge him by the policy choices he might make; it’s insufficient because it suggests he thinks he can get away without getting specific and demonstrating a command of national and international issues.

If he comforts himself with the thought that GOP voters are so simple-minded or singularly focused on government spending they won’t care about his inability to speak with minimal coherence about the American mission in Afghanistan, for example—his worst answer—he misunderstands his own party...

...Perry’s key challenge as he goes forward over the next six months is not appearing to be an empty suit. In the last hour of tonight’s debate, he seemed to shrink inside his finely tailored one. The suit wasn’t empty, but it wasn’t hanging comfortably on him, and he’d better fill it better. There are a lot more of these debates to go—at least seven, if memory serves. And a lot more press coverage. And a lot more controversy. And he’s not ready for it yet.

COMMENT:  You can see the pattern, and I've seen it in other comments as well.  Even those pundits who like Perry feel he is, so far, inadequate.  When he speaks about Texas, he speaks with authority.  When he must speak about national issues, the details float away.  You get the feeling he doesn't study much.

When evaluating these candidates in debate, we must imagine how they'd do against Obama in a close election.  Obama may be an awful president, but he's a smooth candidate, and he'll have the press with him.  Perry has work to do.  Fortunately, he has the overall demeanor of a president, and he is brimming with strength.  He must now complete the portrait.

September 13, 2011      Permalink

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SPECIAL ELECTION – AT 8:11 A.M. ET:  Eyes are on New York's 9th Congressional District today, where a special election is being held to replace Anthony Weiner, the Gypsy Rose Lee of the internet.  Remember, the votes haven't been cast yet, but there are signs of a political upset.  From RealClearPolitics:

The special election in this state's 9th Congressional District, which comprises parts of Brooklyn and Queens, was supposed to be an easy win for Democrats. After all, prominent New York Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer and onetime vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro had held the seat long before Weiner took office in 1999. Democrats enjoy a near 3-to-1 registration advantage here and voters chose Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008 by 11 points.

But since then, voters appear to have soured on the president. A recent Siena Research poll found Obama with negative favorability ratings among voters, a majority of whom feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. That same Siena poll showed Weprin trailing by six points, and the closeness of this race has National Democrats worried: They spent half a million dollars on a broadcast ad buy that has been airing in New York’s expensive media market since Thursday. The Democratic House Majority PAC is running ads, too.


The electorate here has been slowly, and slightly, swinging more conservative in recent years: Democrat Al Gore received 67 received percent support in the 2000 presidential election but John Kerry attracted just 56 percent in 2004; Obama took 55 percent in 2008. Weiner defeated Turner in 2010, but the Republican still managed to take 40 percent of the vote. In this go-around, Turner appears more confident he can win, one volunteer observed. “He is the first Republican I’ve seen to go out and act like he can win; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Republican candidate outside a Stop n’ Shop,” Michael Mets told RCP, referring to the grocery chain.

COMMENT:  It is an extraordinary political sight.  I still believe the Dem might pull it out, based on registration numbers and the fact that turnout is the key in any special election.  But if the Republican wins, it will send shock waves to Washington.  This is the Schumer seat, the Ferraro seat.  It has great symbolic importance.

We'll watch the vote count tonight.  We may be up late.  Sleep deprivation is sometimes worth it.

September 13, 2011      Permalink

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SEPTEMBER 12,  2011


NOT WHAT THEY EXPECTED – College graduates are the fastest-growing group who have filed for bankruptcy protection in the last five years.  The percentage of bankrupts with a bachelor's degree rose from 11.2% in 2006 to 13.6% in 2012.  Obviously, statistics like this might discourage some kids, not eligible for scholarship money, from enrolling at all. 

FIRST REACTIONS – First reactions to tonight's debate are coming in.  Perhaps most telling, no one I'd regard as thoughtful is providing deep applause for Rick Perry.  We'll cover more of this in the morning, but there seems to be a widespread feeling that Perry didn't bring it home tonight, and that too many of his answers lacked substance.  I also thought it was striking that Sarah Palin, in an interview just after the debate, went after Perry, not Romney.  Palin gives some indication of shrewdly positioning herself as someone above party, which she did successfully in Alaska.

IRANIAN ARTISTIC EXPRESSION – Iran has banned half-naked men and love triangles from Iranian TV, in an act that will surely lead to higher levels of art and philosophy.  I have no doubt that Holywood, which always seeks the best moral guidance, will study this new directive with an eye toward elevating its own product.  Can't wait to see those fully dressed family men on the new Iranian hit series, "Let us Destroy the Great Satan While Fighting the Cross Worshippers and the Jews."  It's a comedy.

September 12, 2011       Permalink

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9:50 P.M. ET:  Last segment.  They're asked what they would bring to the White House.  This is silly stuff.  Padding.  Okay, the debate is now over.  It was raucous, but not particularly good.  We'll now watch all the pundit yapping that follows. 

9:48 P.M. ET:  The national-security segment was much too short.  They're on another break.  I think these debates should be reduced to 90 minutes.  Two hours is too long.  The eyes glaze over.

9:39 P.M. ET:  National security is up.  Always a critical issue.  Ron Paul is up with his left-wing foreign policy positions that would make Code Pink happy.  Nutbag.  Real nutbag.  Santorum answers very well.  Paul is up again, channelling Code Pink once more.  Fortunately, a good part of the audience booed Paul, which redeems the audience in my eyes.   Perry is giving a mushy answer – got to end our military effort in Afghanistan, but must do it safely.  Not much of an answer.

9:34 P.M. ET:  Hey, Romney is to the right of Rick Perry on immigration.  That's the headline.  They're still talking about it.  Perry holds his ground in defending his more liberalized immigration position.  One thing I really like about Perry:  He doesn't fold just because someone disagrees with him.  He's no bowl of jelly.

9:27 P.M. ET:  The subject is illegal immigration.  Now this is interesting.  Perry's view of illegal immigration is actually more liberal than that of the others on the panel.  And he got booed by the audience.  (That may actually help him with general voters.)  On this Perry is articulate and passionate.  But his views, on this subject, are not popular with Republicans.  Fascinating little bit. 

9:22 P.M. ET:  They're on a break.  I'm not impressed with the debate so far.  I thought the last one was better.  The raucous audience isn't improving things.  Wolf Blitzer's questions are fair and intelligent, a far cry from the obvious bias we saw in the questions asked at the last debate.  I think Romney actually has better answers than Perry, especially in an election that will be decided by independents, but Perry has that visceral gut appeal that can't be denied.

9:16 P.M. ET:  They're talking health care.  I think that, despite the controversy over Romneycare in Massachusetts, Romney came out well ahead here because he knew the subject better than anyone.  He also had specific proposals.  Again, Perry told us what he's against. 

9:07 P.M. ET:  They're talking about executive orders and presidents and governors seizing too much power.  This is inside baseball.  I don't think it has resonance with the average voter.  I'm impressed with Rick Perry's admission that an order he gave requiring a certain vaccine to be given to young girls in Texas was wrongly handled.  He explained how he'd do it now, but also explained why he gave the order.  He sounded good and sincere.  However, when the camera isn't focused on Perry, and you see him in the background, he seems to be sneering at the other candidates.  You're always on when the camera is on, and he's got to correct that.

8:55 P.M. ET:  Back on economics.  They're talking about the Fed.  Bachmann is asked about Perry's statement of several weeks back that Fed Chairman Ben Bernarke is engaged in treasonous behavior.  The audience applauds.  This is kook stuff.  You don't accuse people of treason loosely.  This is a throwback to an old Republican Party that almost destroyed itself on several occasions.  Perry tries to explain the use of the term, but, in a general election, that kind of stuff doesn't play. 

8:53 P.M. ET:  They're on a break.  Summary thus far:  It's between Romney and Perry, but a highly biased pro-Perry audience is disrupting things.  I get the sense that the audience is way to the right of the nation generally, and I'm interested in winning an election.

8:37 P.M. ET:  Question is how the candidates would restore the economy.  Perry has some ideas, but Michele Bachmann steals the show with a really good presentation of what needs to be done.   And Herman Cain is great. 
Romney is up, but it is so clear that the Tea Party audience is against him, and is making it difficult for him.  Perry has appeal to the party base, and Romney doesn't.  But, as I've said before, I'm not sure Ronald Reagan would make it with this crowd, and that gives gray hair.  No home runs on the economic issues, but traditional GOP ideas, and good ones.

8:30 P.M. ET:  Talking about government spending.  Perry on, very effective about things done in Texas.  Romney on, also effective.  Money is his issue (and he has plenty of it).  Other candidates speak.  I am frightened by the applause Ron Paul gets over his isolationist principles.  Every one of these rounds of applause confirms the worst impressions of the Tea Party.

8:14 P.M. ET:  First question deals with reforming Social Security.  Bachmann says it must be modernized.  No ideas, though.  Perry on.  Stands his ground that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but, again, no specific ideas on fixing it.  Romney on.  Goes after Perry, who wrote that the program is unconstitutional.  An effective attack.  Perry responds.  Gets applause from the Tea Party audience, but his actual reply is vague.  Great two-man Q and A between Perry and Romney.  I thought Romney got the best of it, but the Tea Party audience disagreed. 

Ron Paul gets on and says we have to stop all this foreign war stuff.  Audience applauds. YUCH!  The audience is not doing the GOP much good when it applauds isolationism.  The Tea Party has declined dramatically in popularity, and maybe we're seeing why.  Ronald Reagan would not make it with this crowd.

Newt is on.  Wants to privatize Social Security.  Santorum has some stuff.  But the real debate is between Romney and Perry.  Perry is effective in criticizing the program, but must get down to details.  He'll be debating Obama, poor president, great candidate.

8:11 P.M. ET:  Candidates make opening statements.  Nothing special.  No scandals, no breakthroughs.

8:09 P.M. ET:  Wolf Blitzer announces the rules.  Wolf is a pretty straight shooter, and I don't think there'll be a bias problem. 

8:05 P.M. ET:  The debate program begins.  The lead-in reminded me of how they introduce figure-skating contests, will little personal descriptions of the candidates.  I expected to see Mitt Romney perform a double axel, but it just didn't happen.

This is a Tea Party audience, and, when introduced, Perry got much greater applause than Romney. 

September 12, 2011     Permalink

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We're now starting our live-blogging of the GOP debate.  It's on CNN.

PERRY ROMPS IN PRE-DEBATE POLL – AT 7:51 P.M. ET:   In a few minutes we'll start live-blogging the GOP debate from Tampa.  A pre-debate poll shows Perry with a decisive lead, which means he'll be the main target of opportunity tonight.  From the New York Post:

ATLANTA -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as the firm frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a poll released Monday, outpacing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney among declared candidates by 32 percent to 21 percent.

Registered Republicans over 50 favor Perry over Romney by 41 percent to 22 percent, according to the latest CNN poll. Among those over 65, Perry leads Romney by a whopping three-to-one margin, showing seniors have not been scared by Perry's provocative language about Social Security being a failure and a Ponzi scheme.

The former Massachusetts governor hopes to scare voters away from Perry by arguing that the Texan would be a weaker foe against President Barack Obama in the general election.

But voters see things differently. In the CNN poll, 42 percent thought Perry had the best chance of beating Obama, compared to 26 percent for Romney.

The numbers are not much better when it comes to another core plank of the Romney campaign: that as a former businessman, Romney is the best equipped to turn the economy around.

Asked who in the GOP field would be most likely to "get the economy moving," 35 percent favored Perry, while 26 percent favored Romney.

The poll also underscored the plunge in support for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Among a field that also included the name of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Bachmann won the support of just four percent of registered Republicans, down from 10 percent last month and 12 percent in July.

COMMENT:  Perry has taken Bachmann's supporters.  If she can't turn it around quickly, I'm afraid she's out of it. 

But I don't think Perry has this won.  Romney has substantial resources and an appeal to the center.  This two-man battle will develop over the next few months.

Question:  If Sarah Palin gets in, will she take votes from Perry?  Possibly.  That will be intriguing.

Romney won the endorsement of former Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.  Pawlenty is a good man, but his endorsement means little.

Perry is expected to be endorsed by Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a favorite among Republicans.  That means something.  It also places Jindal on the v.p. list.

Stand by.

September 12, 2011       Permalink

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MARKET JITTERS – AT 9:49 A.M. ET:  There are economic worries aplenty this morning.  The debt crisis in Europe gets worse and worse.  You may have noticed that Europe has difficulty solving grown-up problems.  Stocks are dramatically down on European exchanges.  Our own markets opened lower.  There is real foreboding that nothing is going in the right direction.  From Bloomberg:

U.S. stock futures tumbled, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will extend last week’s decline, as speculation Germany is preparing for a Greek default spurred turmoil in global financial markets.

Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) slumped at least 1.3 percent, following losses in European banks, and as Citigroup Inc. slashed its third-quarter profit estimates for the U.S. lenders. Caterpillar Inc. and Alcoa Inc. (AA), which are among companies most-dependent on economic growth, decreased more than 2.1 percent...

...“There’s so much anxiety among investors,” Richard Sichel, who oversees $1.6 billion as chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co., said in a telephone interview. “There’s troubling news out of Europe. People are concerned that if Greece defaults, there could be a ripple effect. It’s fear of the unknown. There’s an abundance of bad news overseas. And in the U.S., the economic news has not really been enough to boost confidence.”

COMMENT:  The president presents his jobs bill to Congress today.  (Can you sense the excitement?)  It's unlikely to gain much traction in its original form.  There's a sense that time is wasting, and no real economic progress is being made.

September 12, 2011       Permalink

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THE GREAT AWAKENING (CHOKE) – AT 9:09 A.M. ET:   Many foreign nations are like spoiled teenagers.  The more we do for them, the more they abuse us and show their ingratitude.  Now that we may be pulling back, they're starting to worry about their meal tickets...and defense tickets.  From Max Boot at Contentions:

I have to admit I chuckled while reading Philip Stephens’s op-ed in the Friday Financial Times on “The dangers of American retreat.” Now they tell us.

After spending years complaining about the overweening arrogance and unilateralism of the “hyperpower,” Europeans are now fretting that we are a crippled giant that will no longer be willing to defend them–something they are unwilling, indeed unable, to do for themselves because of the enormous costs of their welfare states. As Stephens notes, even “the emerging powers”–the likes of India, Brazil, Turkey and China–”have prospered from the security and opportunity afforded by U.S. oversight of a rules-based system. They are not yet ready to shoulder the burden. A Hobbesian world will be uncomfortable for the rising and the risen alike. Some – think of India, Vietnam or Indonesia– already see the U.S. as a balancing force.”

Should we send them thank-you notes, or what?

Glad the Europeans are now discovering the benefits of American hegemony–just when it appears to be endangered by a combination of fiscal short-sightedness and lack of political will in Washington. Luckily, the fundamentals of American power–whether demographic or economic–remain sound. There is no reason why we have to retreat and decline–and I see little desire among the American public to accept a secondary role in the world.

COMMENT:  I certainly hope Max Boot is right.  But he goes on to warn that the American role can come crashing down if, as some in Washington threaten, the defense budget is irresponsibly slashed.  The left wing of the Democratic Party is eager to slash it, and will be eager to slash it still more.  They believe we're a force for evil.  And, sadly, som green-eyeshade Republicans, nostalgic for simpler times, seem ready to go along with drastic defense cuts to prevent any tax increases. 

This country's future survival, and its influence, will depend heavily on the state of its defenses.  I deeply fear that there are some in Washington who do not accept that premise, and they have powerful support in journalism and the academy.  The next year will shape our budgetary future for as much as a decade.  We can be responsible, or slide into the European mentality, which many in this administration worship.  It may be a close call.

September 12, 2011       Permalink

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THE NEW SCOTT BROWN? – AT 8:43 A.M. ET:  All political eyes will be on Tampa tonight, but tomorrow they will shift to the 9th Congressional District in New York.   Polls suggest that we may see the biggest political upset since Scott Brown won the Senate seat in Massachusetts previously occupied by Ted Kennedy. 

The 9th, a heavily Democratic district, will see a special election to replace disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner.  Ordinarily, the GOP would put up only a token candidate in a district like this.  But Bob Turner, this year's Republican nominee, has chosen to fight.  And he's ahead.  And it's because Obama is so unpopular.  From The Daily Caller:

Two days before the special election in New York’s 9th Congressional District, yet another poll confirms that Bob Turner, the Republican, holds an improbable lead in the heavily Democratic district.

A Public Policy Polling poll released Sunday night found Turner leading his Democratic opponent, David Weprin, by a 47–41 margin. A Siena poll released last week found Turner leading by the same split, 50 to 44 percent.

Weprin and Turner are competing to fill the House seat vacated by former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Turner has a strong lead with independent voters, 58 percent of whom say they will vote for him. Just 26 percent plan to vote for Weprin. Turner also has the majority of the Jewish vote, a demographic that makes up 36 percent of the district according to PPP’s results. Fifty-six percent of Jews say they will vote for Turner, while 39 percent say they have chosen Weprin.

The Turner campaign has claimed that Tuesday’s election will be a referendum on Obama’s presidency, and specifically on his policies relating to Israel.

The PPP poll illustrates a major shift in the district, which Obama won with 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Now, the President’s approval rating there is just 31 percent, with 56 percent of the district’s voters disapproving of his job performance. Twenty-three percent of voters who pulled the lever for Obama in 2008 say they will cross party lines and vote for Turner on Tuesday. By contrast, Weprin has attracted the support of just 8 percent of McCain voters.

COMMENT:  We stress that special elections are won by turnout.  The Democratic Party in New York still has a large turnout operation.  We'll follow the result tomorrow night.  But even the possibility of an upset in such a Dem district has got to concern the White House. 

September 12, 2011       Permalink

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TUMULT IN TAMPA – AT 8:18 A.M. ET:  We alerted readers last night in our "Short Takes" that there'll be a Republican debate in Tampa tonight, broadcast by CNN and hosted by CNN and the Tea Party.   This will be Rick Perry's second time at bat against the other GOP contenders. 

Perry knows he's in trouble because he called Social Security a "Ponzi scheme."  Now, it may well be a Ponzi scheme, but voters may well interpret Perry's words as an attack on Social Security itself.  It is by far the most popular government program.

Perry has now tried to preempt the attacks he'll get tonight by publishing a piece in USA Today on Social Security: 

The first step to fixing a problem is honestly admitting there is a problem. America's goal must be to fix Social Security by making it more financially sound and sustainable for the long term. But Americans deserve a frank and honest discussion of the dire financial challenges facing the nearly 80-year-old program.

As I said at the Reagan Library recently, Social Security benefits for current recipients and those nearing retirement must be protected. For younger workers, we must consider reforms to make Social Security financially viable.

It's hard to dispute those first two paragraphs.  Perry goes on to explain how Social Security is headed for red ink.  And he says we have to fix it.

And there's the problem.  He has no solution.  He doesn't propose anything other than "fixing" Social Security.  This is not only Perry's problem, it can become the GOP problem in the election – too few solutions chasing too many criticisms.  The Republican brand is not popular, as every survey shows.  It will only rise in popularity if voters believe the party has real answers, not just slings and arrows. 

Do read the Perry column.  It was obviously rushed out, and it falls short.

This must be Perry's month.  There are several more debates scheduled for September, after tonight's.  Perry is ahead in the polls, and is much loved by the base.  But he is weak among independents, and doesn't poll as well in matchups with Obama as Romney does. 

I'll be intrigued to see how Perry holds up tonight after an acceptable, but not home-run-class, debut in the debates last week.  I'll also be intrigued to see how Romney, who's slipped from frontrunner status, handles Perry, whom he must obliterate.  At least it's getting to be fun, but I'm not sold on any of the candidates yet.

There is still talk that Giuliani and/or Palin might enter the race.  It's getting awfully late, and candidates wear out their welcome by playing coy.  Both must make their decisions this month.

I would still prefer to see Marco Rubio in the race, for I believe he can defeat Obama, and possibly do it handily.  But I don't think he'll jump in.

September 12, 2011     Permalink

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