"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
AMERICANS STILL LOVE THE MILITARY, BUT THERE ARE PROBLEM AREAS - 9:35 P.M. ET: A Rasmussen poll shows that Americans still love their military. However, not all Americans do, and it is troubling to see how one of our parties has been compromised:
...75% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the U.S. military.
Only 11% view the military unfavorably, and 14% are undecided in a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey...
...Eighty-five percent (85%) of Republicans have a favorable view of the U.S. military, compared to 68% of Democrats and 73% of adults not affiliated with either major political party.
COMMENT: Only 68% of Dems have a favorable view of the military? This is, or was, the party of Roosevelt, Truman, and Jack Kennedy, the party that was willing to "pay any price" for freedom. And a third of that party today does not have a favorable view of our fighting forces.
Gee, do you think it would be hard for us to figure out which Dems these are? Can you say Manhattan? Can you say Ivy League? Can you say northern California? Or Seattle?
I'm being unfair. There are people in those areas who appreciate our military. But you know what I mean.
UN SWINGS INTO ACTION (LAUGH NOW) - AT 7:55 P.M. ET:
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council swiftly condemned North Korea's nuclear test on Monday as "a clear violation" of a 2006 resolution banning them and said it will start work immediately on a new one that could result in stronger measures against the reclusive nation.
COMMENT: Devil in details. This resolution means nothing. It's the "new one" that counts, that has the teeth, or lack of them. The excuses and rationalizations start tomorrow.
HANSON ON THE CRISIS - AT 7:01 P.M. ET: Victor Davis Hanson weighs in on what President Obama faces with North Korea and Iran. Hanson is kind, but makes clear the good will toward the president can vanish in an instant if he fails:
I have a great deal of empathy for President Obama on matters like North Korea and Iran — both lunatic players that I think represent firsts in his own experience. You see, there are no good choices, and he can't simply vote "present" this time. Any decision he makes will be evaluated not necessarily on the basis of its superior logic or the eloquence with which it is presented, but solely on whether it works or not. If it does, he will be praised; if it doesn't, he will be damned, unfairly or not.
Neither Ahmadinejad nor Kim Jong-il care a whit about Obama's landmark advance to the presidency, or his sober and judicious efforts to show rational concern for their own predicaments; instead, they calibrate only the degree to which Obama poses an obstacle to their regional ambitions, whether they be rational or not.
Worse still, the soft-power advocates and internationalists abroad who praised Obama to the skies for his restraint and postmodern campaign rhetoric will be the first to damn him as Carteresque and hesitant should these two rogue nations begin to act a little crazy and start testing the waters.
COMMENT: Well stated. The president might well remember the advice Douglas MacArthur's father, a civil war general, gave to his son, that councils of war breed defeatism. Problems become overintellectualized and abstract, and the reality of the situation becomes blurred by rhetoric and self-appointed "experts."
Crunch time coming. Results, Mr. President. Results.
A NEW ROSE GARDEN, OR GOLF COURSE, STRATEGY - AT 6:22 P.M. ET: It used to be called the "Rose Garden strategy" - the notion being that the best strategy for a sitting president seeking reelection is to be seen working in the White House and appearing in the Rose Garden.
Today we had a variation: The president appeared in the Rose Garden to make a statement proclaiming North Korea's nuclear test a grave threat. He then went to Arlington to lay the wreath honoring those who had faced down other threats in the past. He then went to play golf.
MEMO TO THE PRESIDENT: Playing golf on Memorial Day, after declaring that a grave threat to the peace has erupted, is not a good idea. Check with those visiting graves at Arlington for a full critique.
AND THE BEAT GOES ON - AT 10:07 A.M. ET: Now the Iranians pile on, adding to the North Korean shock:
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday rejected a Western proposal for it to "freeze" its nuclear work in return for no new sanctions and ruled out any talks with major powers on the issue.
The comments by the conservative president, who is seeking re-election in a June 12 presidential vote, are likely to further disappoint the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama, which is seeking to engage Iran diplomatically.
The United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain said in April they would invite Iran to a meeting to try and find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear row.
COMMENT: Looks like we will have Mahmoud to kick around again. He's heading for victory, and this is his policy. It's also the policy of the bigger shots in Iran, who control what comes out of the Mahmoud mouth.
We've said before at Urgent Agenda that the second half of 2009 will be very, very interesting. The North Koreans and Iranians have now made that look like an understatement.
THE GAP - AT 9:31 A.M. ET: The North Korean test, Pakistan, and Iran, have placed national security front and center again, and dramatically so. That calls attention to a growing gap in Washington - between those who've served and those who haven't. I wrote about this at The Angel's Corner on Friday, and it got the biggest response of any piece I've done to date. Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal gives us the sorry facts:
Certainly the number of Washington decision-makers with military experience continues to decline. In its profile of the Congress that convened at the beginning of the year, the Congressional Research Service notes that it continues a long-term slide in the number of lawmakers in Washington who have served in the military:
“In the 111th Congress there are 121 Members who have served in the military, five less than in the 110th Congress. The House has 96 veterans (including two Delegates); the Senate 25...
“The number of veterans in the 111th Congress reflects the trend of a steady decline in the number of Members who have served in the military. For example, there were 298 veterans (240 Representatives, 58 Senators) in the 96th Congress (1979-1981); and 398 veterans (329 Representatives, 69 Senators) in the 91st Congress (1969-1971).”
COMMENT: It's not just the decline in numbers that's alarming, it's the change in tone. In the Democratic Party there is a bloc that seems to have an open antagonism toward the military. Many others in today's Washington appear to lack a "feel" for military affairs or strategic planning.
The threats today are as great as they've ever been. We miss those who've actually felt the mud, the salt sea, and the sky.
THE REALITY WE FACE - AT 9:06 A.M. ET: While administration officials in Washington will no doubt glory in the legalisms they will throw at North Korea, The Times of London presents a stark, well-reported picture of just what we are now facing.
Oh, by the way, we are cutting our anti-missile budget. Thought you'd want to know:
The world’s intelligence agencies and defence experts are quietly acknowledging that North Korea has become a fully fledged nuclear power with the capacity to wipe out entire cities in Japan and South Korea...
...This puts it ahead of Iran in the race for nuclear attack capability and seriously alters the balance of power between North Korea’s large but poorly equipped military and the South Korean and US forces ranged against it...
...Now North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong Il, has the potential to kill millions in Japan as well as the South, and to lay waste US bases and airfields in both countries. It will force military strategists to rethink plans for war in Korea and significantly increase the potential costs of any intervention in a future Korean war.
COMMENT: I suspect it will be only hours, days at most, before we're told by some administration guy or a friendly journalist that this is all Bush's fault. Believe me, it's coming, but I think it will backfire this time.
It's been clear in recent weeks that Dick Cheney's critiques of Obama have struck home. The North Korean test will magnify that effect. Americans will ask themselves who they'd rather have defending them right now. If enough Americans start feeling a newfound warmth toward the Bush administration, that is major trouble for President Obama.
THE BAMWATCH - AT 8:39 A.M. ET: The president has reacted to the North Korean boomer with big words:
“Today, North Korea said that it has conducted a nuclear test in violation of international law,” Mr. Obama said in a statement early Monday. “It appears to also have attempted a short-range missile launch. These actions, while not a surprise given its statements and actions to date, are a matter of grave concern to all nations. North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile program, constitute a threat to international peace and security.
“By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community. North Korea’s behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia. Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea’s isolation. It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery,” the statement said.
COMMENT: We had big words to greet the recent North Korean missile test, but that's where the matter ended. The Russians and Chinese, who have veto power at the Security Council, will not go for stronger action. We seem to have no other policy than UN action, which is no policy at all.
BOOM - AT 8:22 A.M. ET: North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, not announced in advance. Washington Post:
TOKYO, May 25 -- North Korea exploded a nuclear device Monday morning, startling the world with its second underground test in three years and vexing the Obama administration, which has said it wants to solve the nuclear impasse with North Korea.
The test, described as "successful" by the communist state's official Korean Central News Agency, escalates a pattern of provocation that this spring has included a long-range missile launch, detention of two U.S. journalists, kicking out U.N. nuclear inspectors, restarting a plutonium factory and halting six-nation nuclear negotiations.
Well, the North Koreans apparently looked at the White House and saw nothing to deter them. Hate to be so blunt about it.
North Korea said that its second nuclear test was more powerful and better controlled than its first, which was conducted in October, 2006, and which many experts characterized as a semi-failure.
Early evidence suggests that may be true. The explosion produced a 4.7-magnitude tremor, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was measured in South Korea as a 4.5-magnitude quake. The previous nuclear test registered 3.58 on the Richter scale.
The Richter Scale is logarithmic, meaning that a 4.5 is not a third larger than a 3.58, but is dramatically larger. This is not good news. They have the bomb. They know how to set it off, and now we must ask whether they will share this information with other regimes around the world.
Suddenly, Iran looks, potentially, even more dangerous, and North Korea itself is a clear and present danger.
CRITICAL REMINDER - AT 11:48 P.M. ET: Terror expert Steve Emerson reminds us of a painful truth that came out of this week's bust of a terror group in New York - that the chaps learned their hatreds in prison. We ignore this at our peril:
Amid all the shocking details in the disrupted plot to bomb Bronx synagogues and fire missiles at American military aircraft, one component of the case should come as no surprise - three of the alleged culprits converted to radical Islam in prison.
Radical Islamists have targeted prison populations for recruitment for years.
In New York, the man who was the head Muslim chaplain for state prisons considered the 9/11 hijackers to be martyrs. Warith Deen Umar spent 20 years working with New York prisons, overseeing the hiring of Muslim chaplains and leading prayer services.
That President Obama now wants to transfer hundreds of hardened jihadists into American prisons is a guarantee that they will serve as emissaries and proselytizers of jihad to the thousands of prisoners they are exposed to.
The Guantanamo prisoners will be looked up as jihadi rock stars and each one could potentially produce a hundred new ticking time bombs ultimately walking the streets of America. Although the President tried to reassure us that no inmate has ever escaped from a super maximum security prison, what about the newly indoctrinated jihadists among the existing inmates who will be certainly released after their terms are up?
Unless prison authorities start collecting intelligence on those in prison who belong to radical groups and who talk about carrying out violence once they get out, law enforcement is faced with a total blank slate, critically dependent upon confidential informants to help them thwart terrorist attacks.
COMMENT: Nothing has been done to stop the infiltration of our prisons, and nothing probably will be done by this administration. Any move would undoubtedly bring a flood of lawsuits by the ACLU, claiming violation of religious freedom. We came close to paying a terrible price for our indifference this past week. We may not be this lucky next time.
CREEPING UP - AT 11:01 A.M. ET: It isn't getting anywhere near the attention it deserves, but the price of gas at the pump is rising again, something that can only hurt any economic recovery. As usual, our OPEC "allies" aren't being helpful, but they have armies of lobbyists in Washington explaining things away:
May 23 (Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al- Naimi said the price of oil will climb to $75 a barrel when demand picks up.
“We’ll get there eventually,” al-Naimi told reporters in Rome today where he will attend meetings with energy ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations. “The trick is keeping it between $70 and $80. It will be achieved as demand rises and the fundamentals are better than they are now.”
COMMENT: The administration will use this as a further argument for its new standards for fuel efficiency. What they don't tell you is that these new standards will result in smaller, lighter, less safe cars. There are already authoritative stories in print predicting as many as 5,000 additional deaths a year as a result of this "progress." Let me gently point out that we can lose as many citizens to accidents each year because of smaller cars as we have lost in the entire Iraq war. How many demonstrations do you see?
WHY THE SUDDEN CONSERVATISM? - AT 9:23 A.M. ET: The liberal New Republic has an informative piece on why some recent polls show a cultural shift to the right among Americans. One Gallup poll showed the public pro-life for the first time since the poll was first taken. Another poll showed narrowing support for gun control. We are fair here, and will quote liberal publications when they have something important to say. John B. Judis notes the history. You can ignore the leftist spin that goes with it:
Prosperity nourishes social experimentation and libertinism; a steep recession makes us want to preserve and protect family, job, and community, and to restore what we think we have lost. In so far as abortion is seen by many Americans as a threat to the sanctity of the family, opposition to abortion--or simply discomfort and displeasure at the idea of abortion--would surface during economic downturns.
Judis notes that, even during the great Depression, when leftist organizations flowered, there was a stress on what we now call traditional values. A publication for the Young Communist League, discovered by the late historian, Warren Susman, actually said the following:
Some people have the idea that a YCLer is political minded, that nothing outside of politics means anything. Gosh no. They have a few simple problems. There is the problem of getting good men on the baseball team this spring, of opposition from ping-pong teams, of dating girls, etc. We go to shows, parties dances and all that. In short, the YCL and its members are no different from other people except that we believe in dialectical materialism as a solution to all problems.
Nothing like the light Marxist touch at the end. Judis says:
I laugh every time I read this quote, but Susman was making a serious point--that even left-wing organizations were drawn in by the social conservatism that gripped the country during the economic crisis of the 1930s.
OH PLEASE! - AT 8:44 A.M. ET: The president takes a meeting, as The Washington Times notes:
Sometimes momentous events happen without much notice in Washington.
Such was the case of Rolling Thunder and the White House. At 3:30 p.m. Friday, President Obama met privately with representatives of the group famous for its support of active-duty military, veterans and prisoners of war not to mention its distinctive blend of patriotism that includes Old Glory and motorcycles.
The moment was totally unexpected.
"The president stopped by while members of Rolling Thunder were meeting with administration officials about veterans' issues," said White House spokesman Nick Shapiro.
"He was very happy to meet with them," he added.
COMMENT: Yeah. He was so happy that, as the story points out, the White House turned down a meeting last week, saying the president was too busy. Guess the work load lightened up.
PURE INTIMIDATION - AT 8:30 A.M. ET: From The Politico:
The labor movement is taking square aim at Wall Street with a new tool in its fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act: the hundreds of billions of dollars in pension funds it manages for union workers and retirees, some of it held by the same firms that are fighting the provision known as "card check."
"Has your company made any public statements in support or opposition to EFCA?" asks one of nine pointed questions in a polite, detailed four-page questionnaire.
"If 'Yes,' please explain."
The detailed questionnaire has three parts. The first asks about fund managers' public positions, lobbying and political contributions. The second asks managers to "disclose any relationships during the past five years between your company and any organization(s) opposing the passage" of EFCA. The form lists 14 organizations, from anti-EFCA organizations like the Workforce Fairness Institute to trade groups that oppose it, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Roundtable.
A third passage asked whether other any trade association to which the fund managers belong has taken a position on the bill.
COMMENT: A message is clearly being sent: Cooperate, or lose huge amounts of business from pension funds.
I think this is unwise, from the unions' standpoint. They begin to look like bosses, and the unpopular EFCA issue is hardly the one on which to make a stand. It would, in the view of its opponents, eliminate free elections in union organizing.
(Full disclosure: I am a member of a union, required in the film and television industries. I have no problem with responsible union activity. I think this questionnaire pushes things into areas that are very murky.)
"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 sent Wednesday night.
Part II was sent Friday night.
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