"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
I have a new piece up at Power Line, "Four Deaths and a Rule Change." For anyone interested, it's here.
I also have a new piece up at Hudson New York, "Is The Free Press Failing Us?" For those interested, it's here.
SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2009
CONFRONTING THE NEW RELIGION - AT 9:52 P.M. ET: The great Michael Barone takes on the church of global warming, whose parishioners are being confronted by a growing army of infidels:
I am open to arguments on this issue, but as I have written several times it seems to me that many global warming alarmists are motivated by something that is more like religion than science. It makes sense to try to mitigate negative effects of any change in climate or weather, as we are quite capable of doing, technologically and economically...But imposing huge costs on our private sector economy on the basis of computer models of something as complex as climate, and which have not done a good job of predicting the present or recent past, seems the height of folly.
There are people in the ludicrously called "global warming community" who believe that views like Barone's are the equivalent of Holocaust denial, and stating them is a criminal act. I can see Barone in stripes in Sing Sing.
"Whaddaya in for, Bud?"
"Aiding and abetting global warming through thought and publication."
"Lucky you didn't get solitary."
As for global warming, why assume that every affect will be negative? I grew up in Michigan and would have been grateful for some global warming as I waited in the dark for the school bus. As (Australian geologist Ian) Plimer explains in the opening chapter of Heaven and Earth, climate has been much warmer and much cooler at various times in the past. Human beings have adapted—and it’s been a lot easier to adapt to warming than cooling.
That does it. We're demanding that Sonia Satomayor swear out an arrest warrant before her confirming hearings for the Supreme Court start tomorrow. What we have here is a crime wave. Or a heat wave. Or a 20-foot wave. Or some kind of wave.
THE WORSHIP ENDS - AT 9:18 P.M. ET: A good way to finish the weekend. Experienced Washington hand Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times reports that the time of seeing President Obama as some political messiah is passing:
Barack Obama has fallen back to Earth.
When he ran for president, Obama said his election would be "the moment the rise of the oceans began to slow." And when he made his first big foreign trip in April, he was hailed by adoring crowds -- and almost-as-adoring politicians -- in Britain, Germany, France and the Czech Republic.
But last week, in Russia and Italy, Obamania was little more than a pleasant memory. Yes, his international polling numbers are still high, but the president encountered hardly any adulation in the streets of Moscow or anywhere else...
...And the oceans are still rising too. At the Group of 8 summit, the developing countries said no to a timetable to stop global warming, the reason for the waters' rise.
Reality settles in:
The hard reality of international affairs is that, just as the United States has interests, so do other countries. And when those interests conflict, all the charm and charisma in the world can't resolve the differences.
There are even reports that Chris Matthews hasn't felt a tingle up his leg in weeks. Physicians have been consulted.
On Iran, which aides said was a dominant subject of the meetings, there was no sign that Obama got the Russians to budge. The U.S. wants Russia to support tougher economic sanctions to push Iran toward giving up its nuclear fuel production. Russia, which views next-door neighbor Iran as both a business opportunity and a local security problem, has no appetite for that kind of confrontation.
"Iran is Russia's important partner," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on the eve of Obama's visit. "We cooperate and do so very productively." More sanctions "will only deteriorate the situation," he said. And that was his last word on the subject.
The centrifuges keep spinning and the nightsticks in Tehran keep swinging. There will be a point when the president will run out of conferences. By that time, though, he may be confronting a bomb, not a theory.
The United States and its allies want Iran to negotiate, but Iran's Islamic leaders, facing challenges to their legitimacy at home, are digging in their heels. The next step, probably in September, is a concerted Western effort to step up economic sanctions against Tehran -- but that may mean a confrontation with Russia and China, which don't agree that sanctions are necessary.
All of which left Obama sounding, at the end of the week, as if he looked forward to getting back to solvable problems -- such as the economy and healthcare. "The one thing I will be looking forward to," he said, "is fewer summit meetings."
COMMENT: What a mentality. The president thinks meetings are either a solution or a problem, when it's really facts and attitudes that count. We recall that Douglas MacArthur once said that all defeats begin with two words: Too late. Obama is learning. But, by the time he comes to the right conclusions and gets himself the right advisers, it may be too late. What was gained in the Western (i.e. American) victory in the Cold War can slip away.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT - AT 12:16 P.M. ET: You know when the Democrats sense they're in trouble. They bring in their biggest name - Dick Cheney. The Dems have taken some hits recently, and some have come from Cheney himself. His recent, spirited defense of the Bush administration and his critique of President Obama's national security policies stung, and resulted in a sudden boost in Cheney's own poll numbers.
Now the charges are flying that Cheney ordered the CIA not to reveal details of a secret surveillance program, as The New York Times reports:
The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.
This dovetails quite nicely, don't you think, with our first story today hinting that Attorney General Holder may start major investigations of the Bush administration. That will certainly bring the country together and do wonders for those involved in defending it. The Democrats dream of putting Cheney in the dock, but they should be careful what they wish for. He snaps back, and knows more about intelligence and defense than all of Congress put together.
If you read the whole Times story, and I recommend it, you'll see that it has more caveats than a UN resolution. It may well be that Cheney, whatever he did, was acting well within the law and wise practice.
It's time to start estimating the costs of the upcoming investigations. I'm guessing $100-million. Other bids are welcome.
ENIVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT - AT 11:45 A.M. ET: Just a short comment about the president's trip to Europe and Africa. We'll be doing more of these short takes in the future:
Have you noticed that, with each foreign trip, the president's impact internationally seems to diminish? What has this trip actually accomplished? Who acted impressed? The president is suffering from the following: 1) He is overexposed; 2) He hasn't achieved any success worth noting; 3) He never understood that the public eventually tires even of stars.
Noel Coward once said that there's an invisible curtain between performer and audience. It's good advice in theater and in politics. We have too much Obama too much of the time. It's all about him, not enough about substance, which is often lacking in his news conferences and statements.
Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," said, in denying her decline, "I am big. It's the pictures that got small." The way a president stays big is to keep the picture big. If it's all about him, he will get small very quickly.
THE REAL LINCOLN - AT 11:09 A.M. ET: We don't use words like "wisdom" very much. We seem to have replaced it with "education" or "SAT scores." It is not wisdom we usually look to in this age, but diplomas and degrees. This, to some extent, represents the triumph of the edutocracy.
But when we think of Lincoln, we think of wisdom, not education. The man, after all, had a year of formal schooling.
There's a wonderful, small-town editor out west named Frank Miele. I don't quote him enough. He's managing editor of Montana's Daily Inter Lake, and he appreciates wisdom, not merely letters after names. Today he notes that President Obama is fond of referring to Lincoln, and some borderline nutbag fans are already comparing Obama to President Lincoln. But which Lincoln? Miele quotes Lincoln on the subject of genius, of very bright men who know they're very bright men, and it's a cautionary tale for our current present, who has surrounded himself with the brightest and the even brighter. Frank Miele:
"Towering genius disdains a beaten path." Lincoln warns us. "It seeks regions hitherto unexplored... It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen."
That is an interesting turn of phrase, isn't it? Lincoln would have us believe that for the towering genius, the primary goal is to make a mark on history. Whether for good or ill does not matter.
Thus, Lincoln notes the responsibility of "we the people" to be on guard. "Men of ambition and talents' will continue to spring up among us, he warns -- men comparable to "an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon" -- and, when they do, "they will... naturally seek the gratification of their ruling passion, as others have so done before them... Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs."
COMMENT: We have a lot of towering geniuses running around Washington these days. They know much and think much. They think about what they know.
Harry Truman once said that you can't tell an expert anything because then he's not an expert anymore. Truman would overrule "experts" routinely because he saw things they refused to see.
President Obama worships at the altar of intellect and education, but he has little practical experience. The lack of experience is starting to show. He should have listened to the ghostly voice of Sam Rayburn, who warned then Vice President Lyndon Johnson about all the intellects surrounding the new president, John F. Kennedy. We referred to Rayburn's warning earlier in the week. He lamented that he wished one of the men around Kennedy had run for sheriff.
The president reveres Lincoln. He might read him the way Frank Miele reads him, in some detail. Lincoln was truly one of our most intellectual presidents, not because of letters or test scores, but because of the wisdom he brought to his life's work. His warning about men of genius is part of that wisdom. Read again, Mr. Obama.
GET THE SEASICKNESS PILLS - AT 9:28 A.M. ET: In a fawning piece that would make a North Korean journalist blush, Newsweek examines the life, loves, and needs of Attorney General Eric Holder, who appears about to make some very nasty news. Please note:
Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision."
COMMENT: Nothing like a good movie line to start the day. "But that can't be a part of my decision." He gets on his horse, and rides toward trouble. Gary Cooper has come back to us, and it's high noon.
The idea that the White House wouldn't be involved in such a profound decision twists credibility out of shape. And note the editorializing - "the Bush administration's 'brutal' interrogation practices." If you're going to have a probe, Mr. Journalist, you leave those determinations up to the probers.
So, we may have an investigation of the Bush years after all, just as this president's poll numbers are slipping badly, and just as we enter the 2010 election cycle. This is almost as convenient as the financial shock of late September, hitting us just in time to clinch the election for Barack Obama.
BULLETIN - AT 9:22 P.M. ET: All right, I know it's Saturday night, but drop everything. Wrap the pizza, freeze it, get out of the house. Bring your children if you can. If you can't, those are the breaks. But get out now!! We've received the final warning:
WASHINGTON — If the Senate doesn't pass a bill to cut global warming, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer says, there will be dire results: droughts, floods, fires, loss of species, damage to agriculture, worsening air pollution and more.
COMMENT: Coward. What she doesn't tell you, because she hasn't got the GUTS, is that, without this bill, hot-fudge sundaes will melt before you get to that little smidge of fudge they always put at the very bottom, just under the vanilla ice cream. I guess she didn't want to break our hearts.
But you see the handwriting. Unless Barbara gets her way, you're doomed. Not her. Just you.
WELL AT LEAST HE WARNED US - AT 8:45 P.M. ET: No one in Washington can say now that "I didn't know." One of Hugo Chavez's biggest shots has revealed to the world exactly what the Chavez regime is really about:
Trade Minister Eduardo Samán unveiled at a business forum President Hugo Chavez's Economic and Social Development Plan, which will change the guidelines related to domestic and foreign trade...
...The chavista government will only approve foreign investment which ensures the transfer of technology to industry. "Not all are beneficial and bring progress to society's well being," Samán said, who added: "Don't be afraid when I speak of Marxism. It is the only system which does not exclude."
COMMENT: Said and done. But wait. You can be sure that the next observer who accuses the Chavez regime of being pro-Communist will be called a "McCarthyite." That's the way the game is played.
WHITE HOUSE RALLY FOR IRAN - AT 8:24 P.M. ET: The Iranian-American community is notoriously fractured, but one faction at least managed a demonstration for Iranian rights at the White House today:
WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of protesters, many of them Iranian-Americans, marched from Capitol Hill to the White House on Saturday, most holding Iranian flags and chanting demands for the U.S. to take more action after Iran's disputed election.
After marching through several blocks of downtown Washington, more than 200 people rallied in front of the White House. They shouted demands for President Barack Obama and leaders of other countries to "reject the sham elections, impose complete sanctions."
They also shouted "death to Ahmadinejad," referring to the Iranian president whose disputed June 12 re-election prompted days of street protests in Iran. Some carried pictures of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman who bled to death in a Tehran street. She became a symbol of the postelection protest movement after videos of her death by gunfire were posted online.
COMMENT: This is potentially important. As we reported earlier, Iran is about to present the "international community" with a negotiations package. The danger is that it will suck the "negotiations yesterday, negotiations today, negotiations tomorrow" crowd into endless talks, during which the repression in Iran will be effectively ignored.
But if Iranian-American dissidents organize, can stay reasonably united, and can avoid being co-opted by pro-mullah operatives posing as something else, they can keep the heat on the White House and force public recognition of their position. It's tough work, but that's what effective lobbying is about. My fear is that skillful Iranian government negotiators will trap us into talks that will let the nuclear program go forward and let Tehran continue to arrest and harass its opponents.
QUOTE OF THE DAY - AT 11:45 A.M. ET: From Princeton Professor Angelo Codevilla, via columnist Jack Kelly:
"The distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, are being overshadowed by that between what we might call the 'Court Party,' made up of the well-connected who see themselves as potters of the great American clay, and the 'Country Party,' the many more who are tired of being treated as clay," Mr. Codevilla wrote in National Review Online.
Hmm. And Jack Kelly adds the following thoughts:
People in the Court Party think it proper they should decide what kind of cars the hoi polloi in fly-over country should drive and how much medical care they may have. Theirs is an aristrocracy not of birth but of connections, connections forged mostly by where they went to school. Every president since Ronald Reagan (Eureka College, 1932) went to Harvard or Yale.
For members of the Court Party, where you went to school is more important than what you learned there. Mr. Obama is said to be brilliant because he went to Columbia and to Harvard Law School. Someone who went to, say, the University of Idaho would be mocked mercilessly for thinking "Austrian" is a foreign language, that the United States is one of the largest Muslim countries, or that Canada has a president.
THE FAST HUSTLE BEGINS - AT 10:56 A.M. ET: Iran is apparently preparing a diplomatic overture. From Fox:
Iran is preparing a new package of "political, security and international" issues to offer the West, Reuters reported Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying Saturday.
"The package can be a good basis for talks with the West. The package will contain Iran's stances on political, security and international issues," Mottaki told a news conference.
President Obama said Friday the international community is "not going to just wait indefinitely" for Iran to renounce an interest in developing nuclear weapons.
Speaking as the G-8 summit concluded in Italy, Obama stressed that he and others were not looking for their summit partners to embrace sanctions at this week's meeting. Instead, he said that "what we wanted was exactly what we got" — a statement of condemnation about Iran's actions in the wake of its disputed presidential election.
COMMENT: This is a period of extreme danger. The Iranians are skilled diplomats. They may offer just enough to keep talks going indefinitely, allow Obama to brag about the "success" of his approach, while the centrifuges in Tehran's nuclear program keep spinning.
And some Europeans will grasp at any talk of negotiations, so they don't actually have to do anything, and can keep their business relationships with Iran strong.
The crunch will come in two months. The G-8 nations gave Iran until September to show real progress in canceling nuclear-weapons projects. I suspect that deadline will be allowed to slip if "encouraging" signs are detected in the Iranian attitude. We've all been here before, especially with North Korea.
This will be a major test for Obama - torn between reality and his party's increasingly delusional left wing.
RASMUSSEN STEADY - AT 10:34 A.M. ET: We've been following the presidential polls closely, as they've become a major story. Well, the actual story is the president's decline. Today's Rasmussen tracker shows no change from yesterday, not good news for a president who's abroad. Often, a foreign trip gives a president a boost, but those days appear to be over. Mr. Obama's overall approval remains steady at 51-48 approve. Ras's presidential approval index - the gap between those who strongly approve and those who strongly disapprove, is at -7, with more in the disapproval column.
This rapid decline began at the end of last month and shows no sign of reversing. Other polls have the president stronger, but there's been an overall decline in some of them as well. There have also been dramatic declines in state polls, especially in key states like Ohio and Virginia.
THE PRESIDENT IN THE OLD COUNTRY - AT 10:27 A.M. ET: We give credit where it's due here. President Obama made a very solid speech about Africa yesterday. It may be that only a person of color could have given such a speech, bluntly stating reality to people who've been made into professional victims by the usual suspects:
L'AQUILA, Italy | President Obama on Friday said African countries cannot blame colonialism for problems caused by corruption and their own bad governance as he embarked on his first trip as president to sub-Saharan Africa.
Mr. Obama also announced that he has secured a commitment from major countries to spend $20 billion on food security aid, or $5 billion more than expected from world leaders meeting in Italy this week. But he said rather than simple assistance, this money will be managed "to help people become self-sufficient, provide for their families and lift their standards of living."
"We do not view this assistance as an end in itself. We believe that the purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it's no longer needed," he said.
He said he delivered that message in Italy at a meeting of major economies and African countries, when some fellow leaders started blaming "colonialism and other policies by wealthier nations."
Mr. Obama said he told them the parallel between Kenya and South Korea, which 50 years ago had similar-sized economies. Today South Korea's economy is nearly $1 trillion, while Kenya's is about $30 billion.
Excellent analogy. Have you read that in The New York Times? I don't think so.
It's great to hear the president speak some truths that needed to be spoken. I recall the days, not long ago, when African diplomats would float around New York in their native garb - often running up huge lists of parking tickets - and thrill Manhattan's chic hostesses with their presence. Everyone groveled appropriately and nodded knowingly as the diplomats spoke of 1) oppression, 2) colonialism, 3) racism, 4) imperialism, and 5) capitalism. At the end of the session, one distraught audience member would always ask, "What can we do to help?" Another would apologize for the West and its entire history, going back to prehistoric times, to racist dinosaurs. Everyone left, feeling very good about themselves, not realizing that the "diplomats" were often relatives of some gunslinger in power back home.
Maybe Obama can make some headway. I wish, however, he had the same moral clarity about other parts of the world as he has about Africa.
"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 this week's Angel's Corner was e-mailed late Wednesday night.
Part II was sent late Friday night.
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