"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
RASMUSSEN POLLS OBAMA APPROVAL - AT 9:37 P.M. ET: We now enter the period of Barack Obama's first 100 days as president, or, as the left calls it, Holy Week. And yet, the first messiah president's approval ratings aren't that Heavenly, at least according to Rasmussen. Percent approving, 54%, percent disapproving, 45%, a spread of only nine points. Ras's presidential approval index, measuring the gap between those strongly approving and disapproving...three points, 35-32.
It's true that other polls have Mr. Obama stronger, but Rasmussen does the daily tracker and, I think, is more careful about the percent of Dems and Republicans he includes in the mix. The "strongly approve" figure of 35% is barely higher than the general 30% you can count on to support any liberal president, as long as he's breathing. Mr. Obama remains personally popular, but I suspect that some of his policies, and his foreign-policy gaffes, are starting to hurt.
ANTI-IRAN ACTION AT SEA? - AT 2:41 P.M. ET: From the Jerusalem Post:
An Iranian vessel en route to Sudan in order to deliver weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip was attacked by an Israeli or American ship and destroyed, according to a report Sunday in the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbua.
The report quoted sources in Khartoum as saying that all of the crew members who were on board were killed in the incident, which occurred in the past two weeks.
"The ship was destroyed at sea near the Sudanese coast," the sources said, adding that the vessel's cargo was to be led through the Sudanese desert and the Sinai Peninsula.
COMMENT: Very sketchy, but could grow into a major story. Other reports say the ship was torpedoed. My guess is that the action was taken by Israel, which has diesel-powered submarines, assuming the attack was carried out by sub. Of course, it could have also been carried out by a surface ship equipped with torpedo tubes. Both the U.S. and Israel have that capability.
I'm guessing Israel because I doubt the U.S. would launch a torpedo attack on an Iranian ship as just as it's trying to get talks with Iran going, and only to disrupt arms going to Gaza. But it's just a guess.
IS THE PRESS WAKING UP? - AT 10:33 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
Robert gave White House reporters a "strong A" Friday for their work over the first 100 days of the new administration.
Their report card on him is more mixed.
Although White House reporters praise some aspects of Obama's press shop, there’s grumbling about Gibbs' handling of the daily press briefings, where a handful of television correspondents dominate; griping about press management on the president's European trip; and complaints about Gibbs' tendency not to return e-mail messages.
And for a team that rode to Washington on a lot of talk about "transparency," reporters said in interviews with POLITICO this week that the Obama White House has been awfully opaque.
COMMENT: A good critique of the White House press operation. But reporters are only half of journalism. There are the editors, and, as any journalist will tell you, they're often the problem, sitting in their home office, guarding the paper's ideology, seeing the world through their own prism.
Things will get tougher for Obama once we get beyond this week's First Hundred Days Festival, and back to business. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
FROM BRITAIN - WITH REAL LOVE - AT 10:25 A.M. ET: You can always identify your real friends. They'll tell you the truth. We've noted here before that British writers have been rather direct in their disappointment with the Obama administration. Here, one of the toughest, Gerald Warner of London's Telegraph, sounds off once more in a piece called "Obama's Peace Tour has Left US a More Dangerous Place." Certainly says it, doesn't it?
THERE is a certain type of political career that has auto-destruction built into its DNA: look no further than the predicament of the pathetic creature pointlessly lingering on in 10 Downing Street, si monumentum requiris. To this category belongs Barack Obama. This, of course, is heresy to the consensus that is still rapturously inhaling the heady fumes of self-delusion - as it did with Tony Blair.
What most Obama sceptics would have to concede is some surprise at the speed with which he has launched into self-destruct mode. The President Pantywaist tour on which he embarked, embracing America's enemies, was fairly predictable, even if some of the detail was more grotesque than expected. There was, however, one area where most commentators believed Obama would tread warily: it seemed implausible that he would play politics with America's national security within his first 100 days in office.
Warner is referring to memogate. And he concludes:
Obama has no hope of controlling the process he has precipitated. In this climate, what CIA officer could possibly feel motivated to do anything more controversial than make paperclip chains in his office? Dubya left the White House with just one plus point: on his watch, there was no further atrocity on US soil after 9/11. Now that Obama has emasculated the security forces, an outrage representing even 1% of the September 11 toll would consign The One to the ferocious vengeance of the American people.
COMMENT: That is not a positive review. With violence increasing in Iraq, with Iran closer to the bomb, with Pakistan collapsing, with North Korea restarting its nuke program, with Russia rearming, with China building its military, with Latin American leftists in the ascendant, you'd think Obama would have something better to do than release old CIA memos that can only hurt this country.
The president took the oath of office twice. Maybe re-reading it another time would be helpful.
THE PAKISTAN CRISIS - AT 9:45 A.M. ET: The New York Times, I'm glad to say, does a terrific job day in reporting the rise of the Taliban in Pakistan, illustrating how the movement operates and claims its victims. This is what The New York Times can be, but, sadly, isn't these days. Try to read the whole thing, for notes like this:
The Taliban took over Buner through both force and guile — awakening sleeping sympathizers, leveraging political allies, pretending at peace talks and then crushing what was left of their opponents, according to the politicians and the residents interviewed.
Though some of the militants have since pulled back, they still command the high points of Buner and have fanned out to districts even closer to the capital.
In some places, the Taliban have entered mosques saying they had come only to preach, but in fact the strategy is to spread fear that pushes people into submission and demoralizes the police, he said.
Everywhere, they have preyed on the miseries of the poor, saying that Islamic courts would settle their complaints against the rich. “Every district is falling into their lap,” Mr. Sherpao said.
COMMENT: The Pakistani nukes are, reportedly, spread around in different locations throughout the country. This is not a good situation, and is potentially far more dangerous than anything happening in Afghanistan, or even Iran. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. If two or three fall into Taliban hands, along with some personnel who know how they work, it's a major game changer.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 9:23 A.M. ET: From the terrific Mark Steyn, summing up the Obama foreign policy at NRO:
Since January, President Obama and his team have schmoozed, ineffectively, American enemies over allies in almost every corner of the globe. If you’re, say, India, following Obama’s apology tour even as you watch the Taliban advancing on those Pakistani nukes, would you want to bet the future on American resolve? In Delhi, in Tokyo, in Prague, in Tel Aviv, in Bogota, they’ve looked at these first 100 days and drawn their own conclusions.
COMMENT: Steyn is right. One of the fundamentals in foreign policy is to ask, "Who will trust us?" I suspect that list is getting shorter and shorter by the day. We hope for a correction, especially after the damage done in the past few weeks by memogate - the reckless release of those CIA internal memos. We hope and hope.
AND NOW THE GOOD NEWS - AT 4:17 P.M. ET: It's rare that we get any good news out of Pakistan, and I wouldn't make too much of this, but there has been a victory of sorts. From The Washington Times:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | The Taliban on Friday started withdrawing from Buner, a district close to the troubled Swat Valley and about 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad, as Pakistan's top political and military leadership warned of a possible military operation in the region.
The top administrator in the region said the Taliban began withdrawing after successful talks between the district administration and Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the cleric who negotiated a deal with the government for enforcement of an Islamic legal system in the Malakand region.
COMMENT: There has been much American pressure on the Pakistani government to take action against the Taliban. It is much too early to say if this one victory has any permanence. It could just as easily be a tactical withdrawal, with fighters living to fight another day.
UH OH - AT 3:51 P.M. ET: The kind of news we don't like to read, from the New York Post:
A stack of blank birth certificates has been stolen from the city Health Department's offices, leading investigators to worry that they may have fallen into the hands of terrorists, The Post has learned.
On March 12, an employee discovered that 104 certificates with the agency's stamp on them were missing from the department's offices at 125 Worth St., near City Hall, sources said.
It was the first time in 10 years that blank birth certificates were stolen from the department.
The NYPD and the city's Department of Investigation are investigating.
"It's like hitting the Lotto for a terrorist," one investigator said.
COMMENT: Obviously a source of concern. Question: Why was the agency's stamp placed on the certificates before they were filled out? Seems a bit foolish. We'll follow this, if there's any further news.
ANOTHER NORTH KOREAN RESPONSE TO OBAMA'S OUTREACH - AT 8:57 A.M. ET:
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea has restarted its nuclear facilities to harvest plutonium for atomic weapons, the regime said Saturday, just hours after the U.N. imposed new sanctions on the communist state for its recent rocket launch.
Though it could take months before the facility is fully operational, the move is a key step away from a 2007 disarmament deal -- signed months after North Korea conducted a nuclear test -- that called for the North to disable its atomic faciliti es in exchange for much-needed energy aid.
COMMENT: North Korea has also announced that it's trying two American journalists as spies. Thus, another country melts into submission in the mere shadow of the saintly American president.
This is dangerous stuff from North Korea. Our diplomacy has failed, and we should admit it. The North Koreans will not keep their agreements. But there is no sense of urgency at the White House, as the Korean nuclear arsenal is set for another big boost. The illusion continues that just a little more talk from Obama, and all will be turned around.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 8:41 A.M. ET: Former CIA director and member of Congress Porter Goss, on the claim by some Dems in Congress that they didn't know about enhanced interrogation techniques. From the Washington Post:
Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.
COMMENT: Right on. If the Democrats force an investigation of Bush-era appointees, it can blow up right in their collective faces. There are records of those congressional briefings, and attendance was taken.
This is a test case: Can the Democrats control the left wing of their party? So far, the record isn't encouraging. We may get a "truth commission," a term the leftists like to use to compare us to South Africa, which had a truth commission after apartheid came down. The commission can tear the country apart, and damage us further before other countries, something the left would dearly love to do.
A PRESENT FROM RASMUSSEN - AT 8:32 A.M. ET: Rasmussen reports:
For the first time since Barack Obama was elected president last November, more than half of U.S. voters (53%) say it is at least somewhat likely that the next occupant of the White House will be a Republican. Thirty-one percent (31%) say it is Very Likely.
COMMENT: The mainstream media is doing everything to create the image of the GOP as a dead or dying party, with little hope for the future. A bunch of regional rednecks, that's what they are. And they're stuck with BUSH (!!).
Not so fast, according to Rasmussen.
If the Republican Party comes up with a positive program, advances the solid candidates it has in the wings, and gets out of its psychological paralysis, it can snap back. So far, after all, Obama's policies have not shown any positive result.
OH DEAR, DID THE WHITE HOUSE CLEAR THIS? - AT 7:53 A.M. ET: We said at The Angel's Corner earlier in the week that Hillary Clinton always positions herself slightly to the right of the White House. And, as Mr. Reagan liked to say, there she goes again. From Fox News:
BAGHDAD — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here Saturday morning for a one-day visit, delivering an American show of support for Iraq as it battles a sudden eruption of violence, in the wake of suicide bombings that killed at least 140 people and wounded several hundred more on Thursday and Friday.
But she played down suggestions that the attacks augured a return to the relentless sectarian violence that convulsed Iraq in 2006...
...“In Iraq, there will always be political conflicts,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters before setting off on the unannounced visit Friday evening. “But I really believe that Iraq, as a whole, is on the right track.”
MoveOn and the House Progressive Caucus just put her on their target list. What kind of heresy is this?
She characterized the latest bout of violence as the last gasp of “rejectionists” who fear that the government will succeed in creating a united and peaceful Iraq.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. Didn't Rumsfeld say something like that, something about "dead enders"? Remember the Dem response? They went crazy.
“Are there going to be bad days? Yes, there are,” Mrs. Clinton said. But she added, “If you look at the evidence, overwhelmingly the progress that’s been made has been positive.”
What? Who does she think she is, Joan of Arc? Didn't she get the memo? The surge has no chance of working. Pass it on.
At least Hillary sounds like she's representing the United States of America. her boss had some problems with that concept during recent travels.
"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
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