"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
IT SURE IS - AT 7:40 P.M. ET: Talk-show host Erich "Mancow" Muller volunteered to be waterboarded, in effect to prove it wasn't torture. His request was accommodated. He went through it, and concluded it was torture. He lasted only six or seven seconds before signalling to stop.
A stunt, obviously. And the host came out of it very sober about this technique. And it teaches us a lesson: Waterboarding isn't funny. No knowledgeable person thinks it's a joke. Those of us who believe it must remain an option argue that it should be used only as a last resort, and only in extreme circumstances. That seems to be the way it was used the few times it was employed by the Bush administration.
No more talk-show stunts. Former Vice President Cheney discusses enhanced interrogation techniques in a mature, restrained manner. As it should be.
PRESS BIAS? WHAT PRESS BIAS? - AT 2:19 P.M. ET: The New York Times informs us of President Obama's graduation appearance at the Naval Academy today:
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Nobody protested President Obama’s commencement address Friday morning at the United States Naval Academy. Nobody told Mr. Obama he was undeserving of an honorary degree. Instead, under a nearly cloudless sky, Mr. Obama was treated to a 21-gun salute, a Blue Angels flyover — and a respite from graduation controversy.
It was Mr. Obama’s first commencement speech as president to graduates of a military academy — a rite of passage for every commander-in-chief — and he used it to reiterate the message he offered Thursday at the National Archives in Washington, that in an age of terrorism, he can both protect Americans from attack and uphold fundamental American values.
COMMENT: Yeah, not like those pesky, committed Catholics at Notre Dame. Who were those people?
Oh, memo to The Times: Did the reporter who wrote this story, Cheryl Gay Stolberg, actually think that cadets would demonstrate against the president at a service academy? They don't do that in the military.
And the president always gets a 21-gun salute.
And the Blue Angels normally appear at Naval Academy graduations, president or no.
GINGRICH ALSO RIDES AGAIN - AT 9:28 A.M. ET: Another Republican figure back from the political graveyard, where resurrections periodically occur, is Newt Gingrich. Neither he nor Cheney would currently win any popularity contests, but both are hitting their mark once again. They are making the Republican argument better than anyone else out there.
Why is that? Consider: Both men are extremely intelligent, both are extremely articulate, and both possess a characteristic that Americans admire immensely: They are passionate. They believe in something.
Newt gives a very convincing argument as to why Republicans should be optimistic. He writes in the increasingly important Washington Examiner:
Astute analysts ignore the Washington conventional wisdom and focus on the political winds blowing from the fifty states. And the public opinion currents in America today are becoming eerily similar to those circulating in 1993.
Today, just as then, Washington liberals are getting complacent. They’re ignoring mounting evidence that the American people don’t share their desire for bigger government, higher taxes and a liberal social agenda.
Take, for instance, the political earthquake that shook California this week. On Tuesday, Golden State voters resoundingly rejected five ballot measures that would, among other things, raise taxes, borrow against future lottery receipts and lock revenue surpluses in a Sacramento slush fund—all ostensibly to close California’s gapping $42 billion budget deficit.
Even though supporters of the measures outspent opponents by 10-to-1, the only measure that passed was one that prohibits pay raises for elected officials in times of deficits.
And there's more:
And not just in California, but across the country, opinion is shifting against major parts of the liberal Washington agenda.
Recent Gallup polling contains two major public opinion shifts away from liberalism that Americans have yet to see reflected in their leadership in Washington.
First, in April, Gallup found that fewer Americans support gun control than at anytime in the 50-year history of the poll. Only 29% of Americans said possession of hand guns should be made illegal in the United States.
Then, just this month, came a truly shocking finding. The Gallup poll found that, for the first time, a majority of Americans describe themselves as “pro-life.”
COMMENT: As Newt points out, only time will determine whether all this is building toward a major trend. But recent news should push Republicans out of their self-induced depression.
LOOKING CLOSELY - AT 8:40 A.M. ET: Despite Dick Cheney's critiques of some parts of the Obama security policies, the fact is that in many other areas the president has adopted Bush/Cheney programs, to our considerable relief. Charles Krauthammer, who has become one of the prime targets of the journalistic left, explains that you have to look carefully, not only at what President Obama says, but what he does:
If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.
Ouch. And we have to believe that the president's decisions are based in some measure on the rap he's taken for appearing soft in national-security matters. That's one effect of the kind of critique that the former vice president is giving.
Krauthammer explains the Obama technique:
Of course, Obama will never admit in word what he's doing in deed. As in his rhetorically brilliant national-security speech yesterday claiming to have undone Bush's moral travesties, the military commissions flip-flop is accompanied by the usual Obama three-step: (a) excoriate the Bush policy, (b) ostentatiously unveil cosmetic changes, (c) adopt the Bush policy.
The genius of democracy is that the rotation of power forces the opposition to come to its senses when it takes over. When the new guys, brought to power by popular will, then adopt the policies of the old guys, a national consensus is forged and a new legitimacy established.
That's happening before our eyes. The Bush policies in the war on terror won't have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.
COMMENT: Krauthammer is fundamentally correct, although he may be overstating it to some degree. There are still troubling aspects to the Obama approach, such as a kind of groveling to foreign nations and cultures that can only encourage the terror masters.
In a few weeks Mr. Obama goes on another magical mystery tour, this time to Egypt, Germany and France. He will deliver a speech to the Muslim world in Egypt, will visit Dresden and Buchenwald in Germany, and commemorate D-Day in France. He's had plenty of time to absorb the criticism that past trips have received - namely that he projects weakness rather than strength. We'll examine how well he does this time, and see if the Krauthammer thesis holds up. As an American, I hope it holds up well.
CHENEY RIDES AGAIN - AT 7:26 A.M. ET: Dick Cheney is riding high. Rising in the polls, his national-security arguments resonating with the American people, he has given the GOP just the kick it needs to move forward and challenge administration policies.
But look for a press backlash. To watch the panic at CNN last night was to achieve a level of satisfaction I've rarely felt. Liz Cheney, who's also emerged as a leading spokesperson for her father's cause, was interviewed by Anderson Cooper, and Liz Cheney is very smart and articulate. But after Cooper's interview with her, CNN brought on the usual suspects, including a New York leftist journalist named Mark Danner. It was obvious that Danner and others felt it was unfair, not very sporting, that this former vice president had the nerve to come out of retirement and actually join the debate. Who does he think he is, an American citizen or somethin'?
I hope Cheney continues. But, if he does, it will get vicious for him in the weeks ahead. He went after The New York Times yesterday. The Times does not forget.
DISTURBING IDEAS FROM A POTENTIAL JUSTICE - AT 7:18 A.M. ET: President Obama will soon announce his choice for the open Supreme Court seat. Stuart Taylor, one of the best legal journalists around, has gone deeply into the background of one leading candidate, and is disturbed by what he sees. This is a classic example of good investigative journalism:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life." -- Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in her Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law in 2001
The above assertion and the rest of a remarkable speech to a Hispanic group by Sotomayor -- widely touted as a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court -- has drawn very little attention in the mainstream media since it was quoted deep inside The New York Times on May 15.
It deserves more scrutiny, because apart from Sotomayor's Supreme Court prospects, her thinking is representative of the Democratic Party's powerful identity-politics wing.
COMMENT: I would hope that Sotomayor's quote would pretty much disqualify her, but it won't. If I were Hispanic, I'd find the quote very demeaning, very insulting. It suggests that a Hispanic-American judge will decide a case differently because of her background, but that is not what the judiciary is about. We just appointed a Hispanic-American general to one of the highest posts in Afghanistan. Did anyone say of him that he thinks like a Hispanic general? Luis Alvarez, a Nobel laureate, was one of the greatest physicists this nation ever produced. Did anyone suggest that he thought like a Hispanic scientist?
We should always remember the American motto, "Out of many, one." Celebrating one's culture is wonderful. Suggesting that it makes one a better or worse public servant degrades that culture.
JOINT CHIEFS CHAIR WARNS ON IRAN - AT 7:36 P.M. ET: I'm getting the sense that the American military is starting to assert itself within this new administration. It's been widely reported by good sources that President Obama is now listening closely to the advice given by military leaders, and following it. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now issues a stark warning on Iran, stronger than that delivered by President Obama:
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said Thursday that the consequences of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon would be "calamitous" and that major powers must join hands and act to prevent it, Reuters reported.
Speaking a day after Iran test-launched a long-range ballistic missile, Mullen told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "I'm one who believes that Iran getting a nuclear weapon is calamitous for the region and for the world."
"It then, in my view, generates neighbors who feel exposed, deficient and then develop or buy the capability themselves," he continued. "The downside, potentially, is absolutely disastrous," alluding to the possibility of a nuclear arms-race in the Middle East.
COMMENT: I would have preferred that Mullen go even further, and say that the worst aspect of Iran having the nuclear weapon is that the mullahs might use it. That is, by far, the most tragic scenario.
It's only informed speculation on my part, but I believe that the recent behavior of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the courage shown by Dick Cheney, have energized the national-defense hawks, which is all to the good.
MORE WITH CHENEY - AT 3:22 P.M. ET: A few gems from former Vice President Cheney's vigorous speech, reported in our post just below. First, this has to be the quote of the day:
“In the fight against terrorism,” he said, “there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half-exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist ouf of the United States.”
And, it's about time someone said this:
In addition, Mr. Cheney, a fierce opponent of releasing information about the government’s wiretapping efforts, criticized The New York Times for its coverage of the practice, which he said “let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States.” “It impressed the Pulitzer committee,” he said, “but it damn sure didn’t serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.”
As for the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, Mr. Cheney suggested that Mr. Obama was short-sightedly playing to foreign audiences. “It’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantánamo,” he said. “But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security.”
Did you ever expect that Dick Cheney would wind up as the most effective spokesman for the Republican Party?
GETTING TOUGHER - AT 3:07 P.M. ET: Buoyed by a new poll showing his popularity increasing (see our 9:25 a.m. post), former Vice President Cheney tore into the Obama administration today, escalating one of the most intriguing political battles we've seen in years. Good on Cheney:
Accusing President Obama of giving Americans "less than half the truth," former Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday tough interrogation tactics worked, and said the tactics had the approval of members of Congress including current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The former vice president said the president's attempt to find a middle ground that angers the right and the left is compromising American security: "in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half-exposed."
Mr. Cheney said tough interrogation tactics "were legal, essential, justified, successful and the right thing to do."
Without naming names, Mr. Cheney said that "some members of Congress are notorious for demanding they be briefed into the most sensitive intelligence programs. They support them in private, and then head for the hills at the first sign of controversy."
COMMENT: Is this juicy, or what? The tragedy is that the Bush administration never mounted this kind of defense while in office. It should have.
President Obama spoke earlier in the day, defending his own policies and saying he was cleaning up the mess he'd found. But, if it was such a mess, why is he adopting so many of the same policies, including military tribunals? He will soon learn that, no matter what he does, the left will never be satisfied. It will never be satisfied until all our military activity ceases, the war on terror is abandoned, and we admit that it was all our fault.
MORE POLLING TO CORRECT MEDIA IMPRESSIONS - AT 10:21 A.M. ET: There are any number of stories out there announcing the death of the Republican Party. But wait. Don't the voters have a say in this? Fox News reports:
Some in the media believe the Republican Party is washed up and dying. Leslie Savan wrote in The Nation earlier this month: "What sort of psychological bent would lead people to want to be part of a dead-end political party like the GOP has become?"
But, a new Gallup poll from May 7 – 10 shows it's not quite that bad for the GOP. Thirty-two percent of participants in the survey identified themselves as Republicans, 32 percent as Democrats, and 34 percent Independents. And if you include Independent "leaners," Republicans and Democrats are also tied at 45 percent between May 7 – 10.
Compared to last month, from April 20 — 21, Republican Party identification has risen five percentage points while Democrats have fallen four. With "leaners" included, the GOP gained six and Democrats lost five.
COMMENT: We always caution that polls are snapshots in time. But the trend here is more than interesting. Combine this please with the solid rejection, in California, of all ballot initiatives on Tuesday, which would have raised taxes. California is a liberal state, and the voters knew that rejecting the new taxes would reduce services. Yet, they turned them down decisively.
Maybe we're seeing the start of a backlash. Maybe not. It will take more time and more polling, but I'm encouraged.
CNN IS AT PAINS TO REPORT - AT 9:25 A.M. ET: You can almost sense the pain and anguish in this polling report from CNN. Why, the writer should put in for disability leave:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As Dick Cheney prepares to give a major speech on the battle against terrorism, a new national poll suggests that favorable opinions of the former vice president are on the rise.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to give a major speech on the battle against terrorism Thursday.
But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Thursday morning, indicates that a majority of Americans still have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney.
Fifty-five percent of people questioned in the poll say they have an unfavorable opinion of the former vice president. Thirty-seven percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cheney, up 8 percentage points from January when he left office.
In the past two months, the former vice president has become a frequent critic of the new administration in numerous national media interviews.
"Is Cheney's uptick due to his visibility as one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration? Almost certainly not," says Keating Holland, CNN polling director.
"Former President George W. Bush's favorable rating rose 6 points in that same time period, and Bush has not given a single public speech since he left office."
COMMENT: Some of this is very silly. Obviously, Cheney's rise is related to his recent speeches, no matter what CNN's exalted polling director says. What else could be the cause? Nostalgia? And the ridiculous statement that Bush has gone up six points without uttering a word is shallow. If Cheney is effective in defending the Bush record, and he has been, clearly some of the gain will show up in President Bush's poll numbers.
You just sense that CNN is choking on this story. I am smiling.
THE DANGER OF EMP - AT 8:23 A.M. ET: We are properly focused on a number of potentially catastrophic threats from Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan, and on the possibility of terror groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction. However, there is another threat looming that may dwarf the others, and that is an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack on the United States. It would involve, in a typical scenario, an an enemy firing a missile from a ship off our shores, and setting off a nuclear device high above the nation. The EMP effect would essentially destroy our electronic and electric infrastructure, and send us back to a primitive form of civilization.
William D. Forstschen, who often co-authors with Newt Gingrich, has written a novel, "One Second After," that portrays what an EMP attack would do to the United States. There is an excellent, informed review of the book at American Spectator by John C. Wohlstetter, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, and proprietor of his own website, Letter from the Capitol. The review is here, and should get any thinking person concerned...and angry that so little is being done about this severe threat.
PRETTY PATHETIC, AT 7:44 A.M. ET: When the president of the United States makes groveling a hallmark of foreign policy, can eager allies be far behind? Now Britain, in the form of Foreign Minister David Miliband, goes into full grovel mode, weeks before Mr. Obama's much anticipated speech to the Muslim world:
David Miliband will reach out to Muslim states today, placing the Iraq war alongside the Crusades and colonialism in a list of “prejudices that British history generates”.
Having previously apologised for using the phrase War on Terror, the Foreign Secretary will acknowledge the damage that the Iraq war caused to Britain’s standing.
“The invasion of Iraq, and its aftermath, aroused a sense of bitterness, distrust and resentment,” he will say as he appeals for a “new coalition of consent” between the West and the Islamic world.
Although he will not apologise for voting for the war in 2003, he will say that it is “well to be clear” about how Britain is viewed as a consequence of its decision to back George Bush, adding that it reinforces a prejudiced view created by British history.
Thus has Obama wrought. It goes on:
“Decisions taken many years ago in [the Foreign Office] are still felt on the landscape of the Middle East,” he will say. “Ruined Crusader castles remain as poignant monuments to the religious violence of the Middle Ages. Lines drawn on maps by colonial powers were succeeded, among other things, by the failure to establish two states in Palestine.”
COMMENT: Thus has Obama wrought. All the problems in the Muslim world were caused by the West. There never was any bigotry or conquest that came from Islam. We are at fault.
It is pathetic and sad. There are certainly things the West did in the Muslim world that are, by today's standards, wrong. But Islam has often been narrow, aggressive, and bigoted. However, one does not get invited to the right Washington or London parties by pointing that out.
ISRAEL DISTANCES ITSELF FROM OBAMA IRAN VIEWS - AT 7:31 A.M. ET: While the talks between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel apparently were civilized, there are clear differences in perception over several issues, especially Iran. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel is asserting an independent position:
Israel will not sit on the sidelines and watch while Iran attains nuclear weapons capability, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's senior security advisor said Thursday, adding that the US was aware of Israel's security needs and knew that it would not necessarily receive forewarning of an Israeli strike against Teheran's nuclear facilities.
Israel maintains its liberty to operate against Iran, Netanyahu's National Security Adviser Uzi Arad told Army Radio. During this week's visit to Washington, Arad said, the prime minister "clarified that Israel reserves itself operational freedom, and several of the most senior figures in the administration said 'of course.'"
COMMENT: Hard to determine how much of the Israeli official's statement is policy and how much is meant for domestic consumption. It's difficult to believe that high administration officials said "of course" to Israel's assertion of operational freedom. A few days ago, CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed that he visited Israel and told the Israelis there'd be major trouble if Jerusalem attacked Iran's nuclear facilities without American approval.
This story is still evolving. It comes at a time when some Israeli observers believe that President Obama has accepted the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran, although Obama denies it. Some of the problems emerging between the U.S. and Israel are a direct result of the Obama administration's failure to develop a clear, consistent Iran policy. Can anyone describe our Iran policy? There may be a generous reward for anyone who succeeds.
"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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