"The left needs two things to survive. It needs mediocrity, and it needs dependence. It nurtures mediocrity in the public schools and the universities. It nurtures dependence through its empire of government programs. A nation that embraces mediocrity and dependence betrays itself, and can only fade away, wondering all the time what might have been."
- Urgent Agenda
THE U.N. SWINGS INTO ACTION - AT 8:04 P.M. ET: Watching the international community marching shoulder to shoulder. From The Politico:
The 15-nation UN Security Council unanimously adopted a statement noting that the launch a week ago was in contravention of an earlier resolution and demanded that no further launches take place.
It took a while -- and no small bit of cajoling of the Russians and Chinese -- but a compromise was eventually fashioned by agreeing to issue to a "statement" rather than a "resolution."
“The U.S. is very pleased that the Security Council today issued a strong, unanimous statement clearly and unequivocally condemning the launch,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said after the deal was reached.
COMMENT: Well, we certainly are impressed, aren't we? What's next? A statement expressing emotional upset over genocide? A hard-hitting comment about mass murder in Darfur?
As we argued earlier, we lost in the U.N. The mainstream media just won't put it that way.
MAN OF STEELE ATTACKS OBAMA - AT 7:48 P.M. ET: The timing isn't the greatest because of the hostage rescue off Somalia, but new Republican National Chairman Michael Steele is making a strong attack on President Obama, specifically over the president's global groveling. The Washington Times reports:
Republican National Chairman Michael S. Steele has launched a direct attack on President Obama in a new mass mailing, accusing the president of being part of the "blame America first" crowd, The Washington Times has learned.
Criticized by some in the party for not taking on the Democratic president hard enough or often enough, Mr. Steele took the gloves off in a fund-raising letter sent out Monday to 12 million party supporters. Recipients included RNC donors as well as the mailing lists of two conservative organizations, Human Events and GOPUSA, according to RNC communications director Trevor Francis.
Mr. Steele wrote that Mr. Obama's comments criticizing the United States on his recent European tour showed "an absence of wisdom."
COMMENT: A good beginning. What the GOP needs, in addition, is a clear, attractive program, like 1994's contract with America. The next congressional election is a bit more than 18 months away.
WILL WE OR WON'T WE? - AT 7:24 P.M. ET: From The Jerusalem Post:
The United States is likely to wait until the last moment before deciding whether to hold to its original decision to withdraw from the United Nations' anti-racism conference, which opens this coming Monday in Geneva, according to diplomatic sources.
As of press time Monday, the US was expected to issue a statement clarifying its position regarding the week-long event, dubbed Durban II, which opponents fear will single out Israel and will take a stand against free speech.
Initially, only Canada and Israel said they would not attend. But when the United States and Italy followed suit, and other European countries threatened to boycott the event as well, steps were taken to amend the draft text of the conference document to stem the growing swell of opponents.
COMMENT: I don't care if they "amend" the conference document to include the words to our Declaration of Independence. Durban II will be an anti-Western, anti-freedom, and anti-Semitic conference, as was Durban I in 2001. We should not lend our good name to this farce.
Further, I don't see how we can undercut allies like Canada, Italy and Israel, who have already decided to boycott. Undercutting allies is a serious thing for an administration that claims to regard multilateralism as the Eleventh Commandment.
Stand by for the American decision. An informed source told me today that the United States has already decided to attend, and that all this public agony is window dressing. I hope not.
OBAMA POLL NUMBERS DOWN - AT 9:34 A.M. ET: This may well change as a result of the bump the president is likely to receive because of the hostage rescue, but Rasmussen is reporting declining poll numbers for Mr. Obama.
Some 55 percent of respondents approve of the job the president is doing, as opposed to 44 percent who don't. That is a remarkably thin spread, given that the gap was 65-30 on the day after inauguration.
Even more distressing for Mr. Obama is Rasmussen's "presidential approval index," the gap between those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove. That stands this morning at 34-32, only two points apart, the worst rating the president has received in the Rasmussen survey thus far.
IT DOESN'T TAKE LONG, DOES IT? - AT 8:39 A.M. ET: I used to call it the 48-hour rule. That is, it takes about 48 hours for the international left to reorganize after an event and readjust its propaganda to fit the circumstances. Recall that 48 hours after the 9-11 attacks, the BBC went on the air with a vicious anti-American program.
Well, the 48-hour rule is now the 24-hour rule. The left has become more efficient, and their crowd now takes 24 hours to swing into action. Notice:
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The killing of three Somali pirates in the dramatic U.S. Navy rescue of a cargo ship captain has sparked concern for other hostages and fears that the stakes have been raised for future hijackings in the busy Indian Ocean shipping lane.
Sunday's rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips followed a shootout at sea on Friday by French navy commandos, who stormed a pirate-held sailboat, killed two pirates and freed four French hostages. The French owner of the vessel was also killed in the assault.
The two operations may have been a setback for the pirates, but they are unlikely to quell the brigands, who have vowed to avenge the deaths of their comrades.
Experts indicated that piracy in the Indian Ocean off Somalia, which transformed one of the world's busiest shipping lanes into one of its most dangerous, has entered a new phase with the Navy SEAL rescue operation of Phillips.
COMMENT: The next phase will be an "agonizing reappraisal" of the rescue operation, beginning with, "Of course we're glad that Captain Phillips is free, but..." Then will come words like "reckless," "dangerous," "ill-considered," and the inevitable "Bush-like." Can't wait for the reaction from Code Pink, which is probably buying first-class air tickets right now so they can "stand with" the "pirate community." Watch for the NO WAR ON CAPTAIN HOOK signs.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 8:03 A.M. ET: From the great Michael Ledeen, who notes that Iran and North Korea are holding American hostages, even as Captain Phillips is freed. Ledeen comments:
The president’s promise to change the world by showing “respect” to our enemies was never going to succeed, and the mounting number of hostages seems to demonstrate that our enemies believe they can push him around. There was a moment–in 2003-2004–when the Iranians were frightened of President Bush, but that passed, and I don’t think they view Obama as a dramatic change from the last Bush years. They are doing what they are doing, taking hostages because that is what they do, and because they know it works. Just as the scorpion explained to the crocodile, who thoughtfully gave the scorpion a ride to the other side of the river, only to be stung. “Why?” cried out the croc. “Because I am a scorpion.”
COMMENT: Ledeen has warned repeatedly about Iran. It's apparent that this administration will ignore his warnings. But the Iranian regime is a scorpion.
GM HEADS FOR THE REMODELING - AT 7:52 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
DETROIT — The Treasury Department is directing General Motors to lay the groundwork for a bankruptcy filing by a June 1 deadline, despite G.M.’s public contention that it could still reorganize outside court, people with knowledge of the plans said during the weekend.
Members of President Obama’s automotive task force spent last week in meetings and on conference calls with G.M. officials and its advisers in Detroit and Washington. Those talks are expected to continue this week.
The goal is to prepare for a fast “surgical” bankruptcy, the people who had been briefed on the plans said. G.M., which has been granted $13.4 billion in federal aid, insists that a quick restructuring is necessary so its image and sales are not damaged permanently.
COMMENT: Not damaged permanently? What do these boys think is happening right now? The damage to GM's image is overwhelming. It will take years to repair, if it can be repaired at all. It will take financial backing, but it will also take great engineering and great cars. The best thing would probably be for GM to get the bankruptcy behind it, and to try to break free of federal control. Possible? Maybe. But maybe not. This will be a struggle.
THE RESCUE - AT 7:29 A.M. ET: Americans are rightfully cheering the rescue, by the United States Navy, of Captain Richard Phillips. But in our gratitude, we should also take note of two other items:
First, on the day of the rescue we learned that Washington has accepted, at the UN, a pathetically weak draft dealing with the recent North Korean missile launch. We couldn't even get a resolution. Instead, according to news reports, we'll accept a "presidential statement," a consolation prize. So, once again, while trying to "engage" the international community, we have lost. The response to the provocative missile launch will be words and vague, unenforceable warnings. We will just "move on."
Second, on the day of the rescue we learned that the United States, according to news sources, is "leaning" toward attending the upcoming Durban II conference, sponsored by that self-same UN, which will presumably deal with racism.
Durban I was held a few days before the 9-11 attacks, and degenerated into an anti-American, anti-Western, anti-freedom, and anti-Semitic rant. The United States walked out. The same suspects will be running Durban II, and some of our allies have already decided, correctly, to boycott the conference. It's dismaying to learn that we are "leaning" toward attending, and lending the good name of the United States toward this farce.
Lenin used to teach that the march of communism would involve a strategy of "two steps forward, one step back." A Leninist interpretation of the last few days would suggest that the UN and Durban II are the two steps forward, the rescue of Captain Phillips the one step back.
So let us be cautious. The president's correct decision to authorize force to free the captain was a no-brainer. The authorization was apparently given if the Navy believed Phillips was in danger. Well, obviously.
But using force in this case must be placed up against a long list of concessions, acts of appeasement, verbal grovelings and images of weakness, that have characterized the Obama administration from its first day. As one Urgent Agenda reader wrote, the freeing of the captain was the first encouraging sign from the Obama White House. Let us hope it is not the last. The record, though, should cause us worry.
VATICAN REPORTEDLY BLOCKS KENNEDY APPOINTMENT - AT 3:43 P.M. ET: From London's Telegraph:
The Vatican has blocked the appointment of Caroline Kennedy as US ambassador, according to reports.
Vatican sources told Il Giornale that their support for abortion disqualified Ms Kennedy and other Roman Catholics President Barack Obama had been seeking to appoint.
Mr Obama was reportedly seeking to reward John F Kennedy's daughter, who publicly gave her support to his election bid. She had been poised to replace Hillary Clinton as New York senator, but dropped out amid criticism that she lacked enough experience for the job.
COMMENT: You'd think the White House would be more sensitive to Vatican feelings. At the same time, it's another setback for Caroline Kennedy.
We are fair here. As a New Yorker, I can tell you that Caroline Kennedy has a fine reputation in our state for her charitable work, and for the manner in which she's conducted herself over the years, unlike some other members of the family. Although wealthy in monetary terms, she has suffered severe personal losses, and never exploited them. I hope some way can be found for her to serve.
CAPTAIN FREED - AT 2:34 P.M. ET: Other news organizations are now confirming that the American captain held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia has now been freed, and that three of his four captors have been killed. From The New York Times:
MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) -- An American ship captain was freed unharmed Sunday in a swift firefight that killed three of the four Somali pirates who had been holding him for days in a lifeboat off the coast of Africa, the ship's owner said.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said a pirate who had been involved in negotiations to free Capt. Richard Phillips but who was not on the lifeboat was in custody.
Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, was safely transported to a Navy warship nearby.
COMMENT: Pretty great, thanks to the U.S. Navy. Ironically, Phillips comes from Vermont, which is represented by two of the most left-leaning members of the U.S. Senate - Patrick Leahy and the socialist Bernie Sanders. I can almost see them ordering an investigation into whether the freeing of Captain Phillips offended the peace-loving pirate community.
BULLETIN - AT 1:26 P.M. ET: CNN is reporting that the American captain held by pirates off Somalia has been freed, and that three of the four pirates holding him have been killed. We will seek further details.
TAKE THAT, NORTH KOREA! - AT 9:44 A.M. ET: From The New York Times:
UNITED NATIONS — The major players on the United Nations Security Council reached a compromise Saturday to chastise North Korea for launching a rocket while avoiding tough new punishments that Russia and China had feared would drive the North away from negotiations over dismantling its nuclear program.
The Council may vote as soon as Monday on the American draft of a presidential statement, a step less forceful than a resolution, that would tighten existing sanctions by singling out specific North Korean organizations and expanding the list of banned goods related to its nuclear and missile programs.
After haggling all week, the five permanent members plus Japan agreed to the compromise in order to project unity, although the United States and Japan had initially pushed for a stronger response.
Russia and China, in calling for a measured reaction, publicly avoided characterizing the rocket launching as a ballistic missile test, and the word missile never appears in the statement. But it condemns North Korea for the event and warns the country against any further launchings.
COMMENT: If I were North Korea, I'd get the surrender documents ready. Wouldn't you? Not.
EGYPT AND THE HEZZIES - AT 9:22 A.M. The mainstream press isn't doing much on this, but there's growing tension between Egypt, the Arab world's most important country, and Hizbullah, the Iranian-influenced terror organization with a grip on Lebanon. From the Jerusalem Post:
Egyptian parliamentarians and legal experts called to issue a warrant for the arrest of Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and to put him on trial for "encouraging terror activities in an attempt to destabilize the [Egyptian] state," the Saudi-based Al Arabiya television network reported Sunday.
The MPs called to include Nasrallah in the indictment expected to be served against 49 members of a terror cell arrested in Egypt several days ago on suspicion that they were planning to carry out attacks inside the country.
Also Sunday, Al Ahram reported that Hizbullah loyalists had purchased an entire building in Cairo and several villas in the Sinai Peninsula as part of the terror cell's efforts.
COMMENT: This, potentially, is a major story with significant implications for American policy in the region. Egypt, although a dictatorship, is friendly toward the United States. If it is destabilized by Hizbullah, it's a major setback for us. Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel, which Hizbullah would undoubtedly scrap, upping the damage even more.
The Obama administration has shown no stomach for resisting Hizbullah, and I'm sure the Hezzies are noticing. Watch this one. A collapse in Egypt would be as significant as the overthrow of the shah in Iran in the 1970s.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 9:14 A.M. ET: From a Washington Times editorial:
Respectfully said, Mr. President: Enough already. The world has gotten your point.
They've heard your oft-repeated message that America has made "mistakes" and "shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" in the recent past. Understood. It is time to retire those speeches and work on a few aimed at North Korea, Iran and maybe Venezuela, full of promising phrases like "play nice or else" and "please take care of your people."
COMMENT: I'm not optimistic, in the short run, that Obama will make the change. He's getting too much applause from his millions of groupies, and the mainstream media loves the new grovel. But I serious jolt may - repeat may - change him. At least we can hope.
PIRATE UPDATE - AT 9:02 A.M. ET: From the Washington Post:
MOMBASA, Kenya, April 11 -- The Maersk Alabama cargo ship docked at this Kenyan port city Saturday night, its American crew appearing tired but in high spirits, with some sailors leaning over the ship's railing to wave, ask for a beer and tell how they thwarted an attack by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
But there is no news about the fate of the captain, still being held hostage by pirates in a life raft. Negotiations for his release broke down yesterday. The administration, at least at this stage, is treating the hijacking as a crime, rather than a military act.
"What you see is news. What you know is background. What you feel is opinion."
- Lester Markel, late Sunday editor
of The New York Times.
THE ANGEL'S CORNER
Part I of a two-part edition of The Angel's Corner was sent Wednesday night.
Part II was sent Friday night.
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THE CURRENT QUESTION
This space will regularly raise questions that relate to the news, but transcend daily headlines. The idea is to stimulate talk about basic issues. Our last question asked:
Last week we asked:
President Obama is in his third month as president. From what you've seen, what frightens you most, or encourages you the most, about his presidency?
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