FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2009
$42,000 A YEAR - AT 8:37 P.M. ET: That's what "top" colleges charge for their services these days. Those services too often include four years of liberal indoctrination. And if that's what you're looking for, you get your money's worth, right up through graduation, as Fox News reports:
It's not enough that Democrats have command of some key real estate in Washington. This month, they've also got the ear of just about every college student in the country.
Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and White house chief of staff Rahm Emanuel all have multiple invites to be keynote speakers at graduations this spring.
And while President Obama is pulling a hat trick at Notre Dame, Arizona State and the U.S. Naval Academy, you won't see one of that last institution's most famous graduates on stage anywhere this year.
John McCain ... Sarah Palin ... Mitt Romney ... Rudy Giuliani ... they aren't on anyone's program in 2009. Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich? Persona non grata, thank you very much.
So whatever happened to conservatives?
Education watchdogs say it's nothing strange for conservatives to be shunned from the academy, and that the one-sided invitations have become a permanent fixture of the ivory tower.
COMMENT: Colleges receive millions in federal aid each year, yet many of them have become propaganda mills. Yet, there are no questions asked in Washington.
Imagine, Oprah Winfrey can be graduation speaker at Duke, but John McCain, who served this country with such distinction, can't get a major invitation. During World War II, it was common for college presidents to instruct their charges in their obligations to their country. Today, such sentiments are mocked, and called "stupid."
Of course, there are still many fine college instructors and courses. But enough has gone wrong to warrant some serious soul searching. But who will do the searching? And in what condition are their souls?
May 15, 2009 Permalink
REMARKABLE POLL RESULTS - AT 5:41 P.M. ET: There will be major protests when President Obama addresses the graduating class at Notre Dame on Sunday. As you know, some graduates feel it was wrong for the Catholic university to invite a man, even the president, who runs afoul of Catholic teachings about abortion.
The controversy erupts at the same time that two stunning polls are out. Gallup reported that, for the first time in the 15 years the firm has polled on the subject, the majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life. The numbers reinforce Fox News polls showing similar results:
Fifty-one percent of Americans consider themselves "pro-life," the first time a majority of the country has stated a personal objection to abortion since Gallup polls began tracking the data 15 years ago.
The numbers correspond with FOX News polls this month showing 49 percent of Americans as pro-life and 43 percent as pro-choice on abortion. Last year the numbers were essentially the reverse of the current findings: 41 percent were pro-life and 49 percent were pro-choice in September 2008.
The Gallup poll released Friday also marks a massive shift from one year ago, when 50 percent of Americans called themselves pro-choice, and just 44 percent said they were pro-life. Today 42 percent say they are pro-choice, by far the lowest level of support for abortion ever measured by the Gallup poll.
Despite that change in opinion, most Americans still believe that abortion should remain legal. Yet Gallup reports that the new numbers come in stark contrast with the last four years, when polls found a strong tilt of public opinion in favor of unrestricted abortions, which is now declining.
COMMENT: Difficult to know what caused this, and it's much too early to predict political consequences. Abortion has probably been the single most controversial issue of our time. With two polls showing a major shift on the subject, some good investigatory journalism is required. Is it possible that the weak, sometimes catastrophic economy has forced people to think about basic, religious values? That is pure speculation, but the numbers are fascinating.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
AND NOW GM - AT 5:17 P.M. ET: It was widely predicted. (Please see our 6:43 a.m. post.) GM has now lowered the boom on 1,100 of its dealers, as CBS reports:
CBS/AP) A day after Chrysler LLC moved to eliminate nearly 800 dealerships, General Motors Corp. on Friday told about 1,100 U.S. dealers their franchises will be terminated late next year.
The cuts are part of a larger GM plan to slash 2,600 of its 6,200 dealerships as the automaker tries to restructure to become profitable again. The moves likely will cause the loss of thousands of jobs across the U.S. Local governments will lose thousands of dollars in tax revenue as dealerships are forced to close.
The dealerships notified will have until October 2010 to close out their businesses, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Gilbert.
COMMENT: The history of the auto industry shows that car companies do go out of business. Stanley Steamer is no longer around, and neither are Packard or Studebaker. But the extent of the economic calamity brought on by the virtual collapse of GM and Chrysler is unprecedented in the industry's history. And there is some serious question as to whether either company can actually survive. Who will buy their cars? This is big trouble.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
BARONE - AT 5:01 P.M. ET: I just returned from a briefing by Michael Barone, who probably knows more about politics than anyone else in the country. He feels that we may - repeat may - be entering an era of open field politics, where the country can shift either toward the Dems or the GOP. He doesn't believe that the 2008 election results are set in stone, or that the Republican Party faces certain death.
He said something else that I thought was especially perceptive. He noted the tremendous majorities built up by Barack Obama among young voters. He got two thirds of the under-29 vote. But he also noted that the lifestyle of these young people contradicts the nanny state approach of many of Obama's policies, and he wondered whether there's a built-in clash of values coming. He pointed out that the young generation is fiercely independent and suspicious of people giving orders. They don't even accept what the music industry gives them. They create their own playlists on iPods. If Barone's hunch is correct, they may, especially as they get older, turn against the New Dealism of the Democratic Party.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
GM WILL FOLLOW - AT 6:43 A.M. ET: Despite a few good signs, most of the economic indicators are depressing. We learned today that Europe's economy has contracted at the fastest pace in 13 years. And here at home, one of the great names in American industry is in agony:
DETROIT — The historic downsizing of the American auto industry swept through new-car showrooms on Thursday, as dealers across the country, from Fuller Jeep in Rockland, Me., to Island Dodge in Hawaii, learned that they would be forced to close their doors.
In all, nearly 800 dealers selling various Chrysler brands were given notice Thursday that they would be cut off next month. Meanwhile, General Motors is preparing to close up to 2,600 more of its dealers by next year.
Dealers like Ward Drennen, who runs the business his great-grandfather opened 101 years ago near Birmingham, Ala., learned of their fate in letters delivered Thursday morning by U.P.S.
“I had a small crowd around me when I opened it, all hoping for the best,” said Mr. Drennen, who took over ownership of Don Drennen Chrysler Jeep from his ailing father only a few days ago.
COMMENT: The total dealer closings, including those of GM, are expected to cost about 187,000 jobs. That is a staggering loss.
We have yet to see any evidence that the president's "stimulus" package is stimulating anything but a lot of pork spending by Congress. We have serious problems, and a precarious international situation. It's a time for vigilance, and for a minimum of false economic platitudes. If our economic plight continues, the mid-term election campaign could be one of the most combative, and bitter, in recent memory.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
A REMINDER OF WAR - AT 6:23 A.M. ET: Most of the military men I've known have had the most sober and mature view of war. They know what those weapons can do, and they understand what happens on battlefields after the folks at home give their cheering sendoffs. Understanding war is critical to understanding the current debate over harsh interrogation techniques. So I commend to you a piece by historian Warren Kozak in today's Wall Street Journal. Kozak deals with Gen. Curtis LeMay, not a man known for kindness in war:
On Sept. 12, 2001, it is highly doubtful that any member of Congress was worried that our government would be too harsh in its treatment of terrorists. When countries are threatened, basic survival trumps civil liberties not just for enemy combatants but for citizens as well. Our priorities change.
We saw that with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Days before Japanese warplanes destroyed the U.S. Pacific fleet on Dec. 7, 1941, 80% of Americans did not want to go to war against either Germany or Japan. The day after the attacks, those numbers reversed themselves. Over the next four years, the United States did things it would never do in normal times -- Japanese-Americans were placed in prison camps, press reports and the mail of American soldiers were censored by the military, and the FBI tapped phones without court orders.
No one claims that these were wonderful things. A sergeant once told me that people see things in war zones that no human being should ever see. But LeMay, a young general in the Army Air Force, and later head of the Strategic Air Command, understood the nature of war, and did what he could to bring the war against Japan to a quick conclusion. His air raids on Japan were ghastly by any account. He himself said that, had America not won, he probably would have been considered a war criminal.
In the strange calculus of war, LeMay helped prevent an estimated one million American casualties and upwards of two million Japanese by helping push Japan's Emperor Hirohito to surrender before the invasion. Killing large numbers of people to save even more lives is not a decision most of us would want to make. But at the time, the majority of Americans were thankful that LeMay was willing to do it.
Today, some question whether the ends justified the means. In 1945, no American with a husband, brother or son serving in the military did. For them, the speediest end of that horrible conflict was the only goal.
COMMENT: That is the point. No civilized human being takes the subject of war, or the brutal treatment of prisoners, lightly. But the current discussion of enhanced interrogation techniques is unreal, simplistic and adolescent. I don't want my country engaged in torture, but I do want my countrymen to survive. That does not mean a blank check, but it does mean an understanding of what war entails.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
CONGRESS SHOULD ACT - AT 5:38 A.M. ET: But won't. The CIA has turned down a perfectly proper request from the former vice president. Washington Post:
The CIA has rejected a request from former vice president Richard B. Cheney to release documents that he says show that the agency's harsh interrogation methods helped thwart terrorist plots.
A letter released by the CIA today cites pending legal action as the sole reason for keeping the documents under seal.
"For that reason -- and that reason only -- CIA did not accept Mr. Cheney's request for a mandatory declassification review," agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano said.
COMMENT: There may be technical legal reasons why the CIA cannot release the documents, but it sure looks funny. They were releasing a whole truckload full of memos just a few weeks ago. Sherwood Forest was required just to provide the paper.
Congress can act on this, but of course it won't. It could legislate the release, which would be the fair thing to do, and would thus inform the American people on the effectiveness, or lack of it, of the techniques defended by the Bush administration. This refusal to release documents, combined with Nancy Pelosi's increasingly ludicrous explanations of what she knew and when she knew it, is not helping the image of the Democratic Party on national security issues. The problem is, the people who run the party don't seem to care.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
ONWARD TO THE PAST - AT 5:09 A.M. ET: Pretty soon this crowd will be speaking with Texas accents. New York Times reports:
WASHINGTON — President Obama has decided to keep the military commission system that his predecessor created to try suspected terrorists but will ask Congress to expand the rights of defendants to contest the charges against them, officials briefed on the plan said Thursday.
COMMENT: As believers in the Judeo-Christian ethic, I feel it's incumbent on all of us to feel a tug of sympathy for our good friends on the political left. It has been a bad week for them. Let us count the ways:
First, the president changed his mind on releasing a bunch of prison photos. The left went into depression.
Second, the president apparently set a deadline for negotiations with Iran to produce results. The left became hysterical.
Third, the administration went ahead with a command shakeup in Afghanistan, and will pursue an active military strategy. The left started forming the word "fascist" on its lips.
And now this. If you see a leftist today, please kiss a little. If you're concerned about the flu, send him an ethnic hi-five.
May 15, 2009 Permalink
THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2009
THE DIVIDING LINE - AT 6:52 P.M. ET: We've said before at Urgent Agenda that we may see developing on the Hill a traditional coalition of Republicans and moderate Democrats, the kind of coalition that ran Congress for decades, starting with the 1938 election. Today we may have some stark evidence of that development, as liberal Dems in the House refused to back their own president in a war-funding bill. From The Washington Post:
The House of Representatives passed a bill today that would provide $96.7 billion in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through Sept. 30, as President Obama had requested, but a bloc of 51 House Democrats opposed it.
Democratic opponents are accusing Obama of pursuing the same policy that united them against his predecessor: escalating a war without a clear exit strategy.
The bill passed by a vote of 368-60, with all but nine Republicans supporting it.
Democratic opponents did not attack Obama by name, but some likened his decisions to increase funding for the war in Afghanistan and send 21,000 additional U.S. troops there to former president George W. Bush's efforts in Iraq.
"When George Bush was president, I was on this floor saying we need an exit strategy," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). "The same applies with Afghanistan. I'm tired of wars with no deadlines, no exits and no ends."
COMMENT: A lot of this is the California and Massachusetts crowd. What a shock. But stories like this will increase in number if the Republicans pick up seats in both houses of Congress next year. Then at least the nuttier aspects of the president's agenda will be blocked or modified.
What this proves also is that there are many in the Democratic Party who aren't prepared to commit suicide to accommodate the fringe. That is good, and we should cheer it.
May 14, 2009
NOW HE TELLS US - AT 6:25 P.M. ET:
RIO RANCHO, New Mexico (Reuters) - President Barack Obama raised the prospect on Thursday that China and other nations could stop buying U.S. debt and said the United States needed to tackle its deficit to avoid long-term economic damage.
"The long-term deficit and debt that we have accumulated is unsustainable. We can't keep on just borrowing from China or borrowing from other countries," Obama told a town hall meeting event in New Mexico.
"We have to pay interest on that debt and that means that we're mortgaging our children's future with more and more debt," he said.
COMMENT: Wait a minute. Isn't this what Republicans and moderate Dems have been warning about all along? Did Mr. Obama just discover this? Where's he been?
Is he prepared to go the high-spending types who dominate his party and tell them this to their faces? Why don't I think so?
May 14, 2009
PAKISTANI NUKES - AT 2:32 P.M. ET: Rowan Scarborough, now reporting for Fox News, has a superb story on what the U.S. plans to do if Pakistan falls to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. This is required reading, for the issue is one of the most serious that we face. If you get the sense of wishful thinking here, you're not alone:
The United States has a detailed plan for infiltrating Pakistan and securing its mobile arsenal of nuclear warheads if it appears the country is about to fall under the control of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or other Islamic extremists.
American intelligence sources say the operation would be conducted by Joint Special Operations Command, the super-secret commando unit headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.
"Small units could seize them, disable them and then centralize them in a secure location," the source said.
A secret Defense Intelligence Agency document first disclosed in 2004 said Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal of 35 weapons. The document said it plans to more than double the arsenal by 2020.
What makes the Pakistan mission especially difficult is that the military has its missiles on Soviet-style mobile launchers and rail lines. U.S. intelligence agencies, using satellite photos and communication intercepts, is constantly monitoring their whereabouts. Other warheads are kept in storage. U.S. technical experts have visited Pakistan to advise the government on how to maintain and protect its arsenal.
Also, there are rogue elements inside Pakistan's military and intelligence service who could quickly side with the extremists and make JSOC's mission all the more difficult.
COMMENT: It's good, of course, that we're preparing for this. It's good that the Obama administration hasn't, apparently, interfered with the planning, and supports it. But you don't have to be a military genius to realize the risks, and the statistical possibilities of failure. Securing Pakistani nukes means securing all of them - a one hundred percent success rate. If two or three are missed, the potential for catastrophe somewhere in the world, including American cities, is extreme. A nuclear device doesn't have to be put on a missile or a plane. It simply needs to be sailed into an American harbor in the hold of a freighter, and set off by suicidal Islamists who are part of the crew.
We've urged readers before to watch Pakistan closely. It may be the biggest story of the year.
May 14, 2009 Permalink
GETTING UGLY - AT 1:50 P.M. ET: The dispute over what Nancy Pelosi knew about enhanced interrogation techniques, and when she knew it, is getting ugly, and uglier. Today the speaker went to war against the CIA, as Fox reports:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused the CIA of misleading Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terror detainees.
"Yes I am saying the CIA was misleading the Congress, and at the same time the (Bush) administration was misleading the Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to which I said that this intelligence doesn't support the imminent threat," Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.
"Every step of the way the administration was misleading the Congress and that is the issue and that's why we need a truth commission," she said.
Under a barrage of questioning, Pelosi adamantly insisted that she was not aware that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques were being used on terrorism suspects.
"I am telling you they told me they approved these and said they wanted to use them but said they were not using waterboarding," she said.
The CIA, now under Democratic leadership, was having none of it:
The CIA immediately disputed Pelosi's accusation, saying the documents describing the particular enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed are accurate. CIA spokesman George Little noted that CIA Director Leon Panetta made available to the House Intelligence Committee memos from individuals who led the briefings with House members.
Pelosi is in trouble here. She has not gotten support from anyone briefed by the CIA, including members of her own party. She also repeats the lie that the Bush administration misled Congress on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It did not. It used exactly the same intelligence that President Clinton used. The intelligence never changed. It simply proved to be inaccurate in some respects. No stockpiles of WMD were found in Iraq, but the WMD development programs, and plans to restart them, certainly were found, but never emphasized by the media.
The fact that the current CIA is snapping back against Speaker Pelosi is not good news for her. On her left she finds the screamers who want a "truth commission," even if it doesn't tell the truth. On her right and in the middle, she finds people who aren't rushing to her defense after she's presented, oh, maybe five or six versions of what happened in those briefings, held as long ago as 2002.
This story is growing. It involves the woman second in line to the presidency, and the highest ranking Dem in Congress. Republicans are licking their lips.
May 14, 2009 Permalink
"WHO LEAKED THIS? - AT 8:40 A.M. ET: From The Wall Street Journal:
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration and its European allies are setting a target of early October to determine whether engagement with Iran is making progress or should lead to sanctions, said senior officials briefed on the policy.
They also are developing specific benchmarks to gauge Iranian behavior. Those include whether Tehran is willing to let United Nations monitors make snap inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities that are now off-limits, and whether it will agree to a "freeze for freeze" -- halting uranium enrichment in return for holding off on new economic sanctions -- as a precursor to formal negotiations.
The moves are partly driven by concerns in Israel and among Washington's Arab allies that Tehran could drag out negotiations indefinitely while advancing its nuclear program, the officials said.
COMMENT: The Israeli and Arab concerns are entirely justified, and the strategy makes some sense, although I would have hoped for a date earlier than October. However, leaking this information to the press is problematical, as it gives a road map to the Iranians. Now they know what they must do, or appear to do, to keep negotiations going and not compromise their nuclear program.
By the way, IranPressNews reports the following, in an AFP dispatch:
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Iran is very close to acquiring nuclear weapons, the head of Israel's military intelligence was reported as telling a powerful parliamentary committee on Tuesday. "Iran is at the moment very close to getting a military nuclear arsenal," Amos Yadlin told parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee, adding that "Iran can manage to stabilise its military nuclear programme by 2010."
"The Iranian strategy was not to get the international community against it, but to discreetly continue nuclear armament without crossing red lines," he was quoted by Israeli media as saying.
This is not going well for Washington. We should try to accelerate the negotiations process, which will not work to our advantage, and move to something much stronger, if the Obama administration has the guts.
May 14, 2009 Permalink
TROUBLE IN AFGHANISTAN - AT 7:47 A.M. ET: One of the big stories of the week was the public, and somewhat graceless dismissal of the American commander in Afghanistan, and his replacement by another officer. This may not go smoothly. We got this exclusive report from a highly qualified observer traveling in Afghanistan:
The most interesting aspect is how it will be received by NATO/ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). Today, they are the warfighting command on the ground. The US is a force provider, but the operational chain-of-command in ISAF does not run to Washington. It runs to Brussels. How will ISAF receive having its commander suddenly changed and having a new US three-star general thrust upon them? They already have a three-star deputy general.
Obama was supposed to be the leader who would coordinate and consult and cooperate more. This move will be seen as typical American pushiness by our NATO allies.
The outgoing commander...
--has been hampered from the beginning by the realities of coalition warfare. Not all of our allies come with the same goals, the same rules of engagement, the same willingness to take risks in pursuit of objectives, the same willingness to get off their bases and get amongst the people.
--does not have a special forces background; Afghanistan has been
perceived as a special forces fight.
--may have been seen as too close to NATO and too anxious to preserve the coalition at the expense of "bold new moves." For example, the push to make this an Afghanistan-Pakistan theater may be resisted by some of our NATO brethren.
--was a key leader in the very successful initial invasion of Iraq;
may have been tainted as a "Bush guy."
--was unfortunate to enough to be in place when the the mantra of
"change" started being chanted.
That all said, I must say that much of the emerging plan is on target:
appropriately resourced, aggressive, conditions-based, not entirely
dependent on military force (though this will be trickiest to pull
off) and not unrealistic in its goals for the Afghan government.
COMMENT: This is increasingly Obama's war. It's his commander who's now in charge. Obama and his vast political apparatus can no longer blame it on Bush.
May 14, 2009 Permalink
HISTORY, FROM AN ACTUAL HISTORIAN - AT 7:23 A.M. ET: The Wall Street Journal reprints a piece by distinguished British historian Andrew Roberts, spraying a dose of reality on our current, and artificial debate over rough interrogation techniques. Nobody likes this stuff, but there are realities we should understand:
When troops need information about enemy capabilities and intentions -- and they usually need it fast -- moral and ethical conventions (especially the one signed in Geneva in 1929) have repeatedly been ignored in the bid to save lives...
...The very success of the D-Day landings themselves can largely be put down to the enhanced interrogation techniques that were visited upon several of the 19 Nazi agents who were infiltrated into Great Britain and "turned" by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) between 1939 and 1945.
It seems the Allies wanted the Germans to believe that the landings would take place somewhere other than Normandy, where they did occur. The plot to convince the Germans of this was called Operation Fortitude, and it succeeded.
If anyone believes that SIS persuaded each of these 19 hard-bitten Nazi spies to fall in with Operation Fortitude by merely offering them tea, biscuits, and lectures in democracy, they're being profoundly naïve.
COMMENT: So true. It goes to the horror of war, and what war is about. We fail to understand the nature of war at our peril.
May 14, 2009 Permalink
AND NOW NORTH KOREA - AT 7:16 A.M. ET: It seems we just went through this with Iran. From The New York Times:
SEOUL — Two American journalists who have been detained in North Korea for two months on charges of illegal entry and “hostile acts” will be put on trial June 4, the Communist North announced on Thursday.
The reporters, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were arrested by the North Korean military on March 17 on the border between China and North Korea. They had been in China reporting on North Korean refugees for Current TV, a San Francisco-based media company founded by Al Gore, the former vice president.
COMMENT: We wonder what Gore is doing to get these people back.
North Korea has been particularly belligerent recently, and we have to speculate that these two are being held as bargaining chips. We did not punish Iran in any way for improperly holding an American journalist (now released), and we're sure North Korea absorbed that message. They have reason to believe that they will not suffer any ill effects either.
May 14, 2009 Permalink