Category ►►► Congressional Calamities

December 9, 2010

A Complex and Tricky Scheme Republicans Can Use to Force Lower Spending in 2011

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

It's a bit hard to follow, filled with parlimentarian maneuvers (like votes and such) and much hand waving (by frustrated Democrats); and readers not steeped in congressional jargon may have difficulty understanding the machinations (just as Barack H. Obama believes liberals opposed to his anti-tax-increase deal with the GOP just don't understand his genius); but I'll give my best shot to clarifying and simplifying this labyrinthian, byzantine, Rube Goldberg-ian gimmick:

  1. On January 3rd, the incoming Republicans will have a strong, 242-193 majority in the House of the 112th Congress.
  2. Anticipated Streaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, 96%, and pronounced "BAY-ner," for all you Beavis and Butthead viewers) will have a much greater control over that body than will Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) over his. This is because senators are more egotistical and autocratic than representatives, and because they have the filibuster in the Senate but not in the House.
  3. Here's where the maneuvering gets really, really hard to follow: Since any bill must pass the House in order to pass Congress and land on the president's desk, Streaker Boehner must lead his Republican caucus to vote down any budget bill, appropriations bill, or spending authorization bill that increases overall spending -- or better, that fails to reduce overall spending by, say, 2% over the previous year's spending. (I realize how difficult that is for lay readers to comprehend; if you're confused, consult an expert in congressional rules and traditions.)
  4. Moreover, the Streaker can refuse even to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. Thus Boeher can announce in advance that no spending bill will even get a vote if it raises overall spending; if a bill raises spending on one place, it must reduce it somewhere else by that amount (or more). Thus, even if too many Republicans defect and want to vote for a bill that raises spending, Boehner can refuse to schedule a vote. (The only way around that is via a rare and politically dangerous House discharge petition.)
  5. So if Republicans stand firm on the principle to reduce spending, which was the most basic and obvious message of the "Tea Party" elections of 2010, they can prevent any 2011 spending that exceeds 2010 spending (or better, that fails to reduce it). The Democratic Senate alone cannot pass a bill, and the president cannot spend money without full congressional authorization (except for what is already authorized). So either Democrats and the president accept a spending freeze (or reduction), or they move nothing at all to the president's desk. Period.

If Democrats scream about a "government shut down," Boehner just politely and non-confrontationally -- not like Newt Gingrich! -- explains, "cut the spending, and we'll be happy to vote. If we don't cut spending, we'll drown in a sea of unmanageable debt." I think the American people will get it; they're much smarter than most members of Congress.

Whew! Tough sledding to get through all those intricate manipulations and prestidigitation, I know; but I hope it's at least reasonably clear what control of the House can accomplish.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 9, 2010, at the time of 12:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 9, 2010

The "Screw the Court" Constitutional Amendment

Congressional Calamities , Constitutional Maunderings , Liberal Lunacy , Matrimonial Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

I would love to see the following offered on January 3rd, 2011, in the 112th Congress of the United States, as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Section 1. State definition of 'marriage':

The power to declare the legal definition of marriage within any State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe is reserved to such State, territory, possession, or tribe.

Section 2. Federal definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse':

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.

Section 3. Powers reserved to the states:

No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex, or more than two persons, that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

I'm not a lawyer, though I sometimes play one in my bathroom; so I might not have all the legal higgledy-piggledy exactly correct. But the intent is this: To amend the U.S. Constitution to make it plain that:

  1. Each state will determine its own definition of marriage for state purposes... not the federal courts or the U.S. Congress.
  2. The federal government will stick with the traditional definition of marriage being between one man and one woman.
  3. No state will be required to recognize or respect a same-sex, polygamous, or polyandrous marriage, even if such are recognized in some other state.

As liberals, they can still argue that their own state should define marriage to include same-sex unions... define, that is, by citizens' initiatives, state legislatures, state courts interpreting the state constitution, or however that state accomplishes such determinations; and nothing in this amendment prevents them doing so.

The amendment doesn't compel any state to recognize same-sex marriage, but it allows each state to do so, on its own. It only stops the feds from bullying the states, and stops other states from bullying their neighbors.

To vote against this amendment -- is to vote in favor of one's own state being forced, willy-nilly, to dance to some other government's tune. I reason that after the shellacking the Democrats will take in the 2010 elections, they will be too gunshy to vote to allow the federal courts (or next-door states) to define marriage for their own state, against the wishes of their own constituents.

Astute readers will recognize sections 2 and 3 as the guts of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still currently federal law (1 U.S.C. § 7 and 28 U.S.C. § 1738C); though a number of federal lawsuits seek to overturn it. If this amendment passes, that will moot those cases, as an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is constitutional by definition. (I reversed the order of the two provisions to put the state and federal definitions next to each other.)

So what do our lawyer readers think; would this fly? Would it have a chance to get 67 votes in the Senate, 290 votes in the House, and then be ratified by at least 38 states -- that is, in the world beyond the November elections and the seating of the new Congress and new state legislatures?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 9, 2010, at the time of 10:53 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 16, 2010

Expect or Rate Spector

Congressional Calamities , Election Derelictions , Predictions
Hatched by Dafydd

On Tuesday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D R D-PA, unrated in current incarnation) scuffles to the polls, like an errant schoolboy expecting the master to hand him a right caning. As indeed is pretty likely to happen.

Specter turned his coat back to the Democratic Party a year ago. He was originally a Democrat until 1965, when he flipped to Republican after getting himself elected D.A. as a Democrat, though on the Republican ticket... ya fallah? Then on April 28th, 2009, when it became apparent that he would lose the Republican primary election to Pat Toomey, former House member from Pennsylvania and former president of the Club for Growth, Specter switched back to the Democrats. (He also turned his entire political philosophy on a dime and began voting with Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid on every critical issue.)

But for some odd reason, the Democrats decided the double-traitor was perhaps a skosh untrustworthy; and he drew an opponent in the Democratic primary election, Joe Sestak (actual D-PA, 95%). According to the RealClearPolitics average, (1) Sestak is 2.7% ahead of the incrumbent, (2) Specter cannot even crack 45%, therefore (3) he's going to lose.

Ah, but therein lies the snub: Hell hath no fury like a Specter scorned.

After Tuesday, Specter will know that his career of fakery and unprincipled pandering is ended... but he'll still be sitting in the United States Senate for another seven and a half months. He will be filled to the rim with rhapsodies of revenge -- but revenge against whom?

  • Against the Democratic voters, who will have "betrayed" and consigned him to oblivion?
  • Against the Republicans, who started the death spiral by rejecting him in favor of Toomey?
  • Against President Barack H. Obama? Although the Commisar finally, reluctantly endorsed Specter, he really didn't lift much of a hand to save his sorry glutes.
  • Against the entire Senate? Despite his thirty years of soulless service, they refused to rise up and declare him Senator for Life, so he would never have to undertake the humiliation of bowing and scraping to the "people," just so they would reelect him. The cads!

I cannot possibly say who Specter will consider Public Enema Number One; all I can predict is, he's about to become the most bitter and obstreperous member that the world's most deliberative high-school debate society has ever seen. I suspect he will put random holds on votes, refuse unanimous consent, absent himself to prevent a quorum, hijack committee hearings, ask leering and suggestive questions, mentally abuse the pages, replace the gavel with a rubber chicken, and intentionally tread on Olympia Snowe's toe.

It should be quite a show. Somebody bring the flopcorn.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2010, at the time of 11:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2010

Stupak Caves, Euro-Style Government-Run Health Care Now a Done Deal - UPDATED

Congressional Calamities , Democratic Culture of Corruption , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

The post title says it all... but see previous post for how we may still have a good shot at reversing the vote.

UPDATE: After all the Sturm und Drang, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI, 90%) settled for an executive order (EO) from President Barack H. Obama saying that federal funds would not be used for abortion.

But this is what Mary Poppins calls a "pie-crust promise, easily made and easily broken." This EO will be signed in the spotlight, with a thousand media moguls covering the "breakthrough" with hundreds of thousands of feet of tape.

But the next EO will be signed in the proverbial dead of night, probably when Congress is in recess, buried amongs a flurry of innocuous EOs declaring September "Homer Simpson appreciation month" or "recognizing the tremendous influence of peppermint-flavored dental floss on American culture."

The next EO will "clarify" the first one... it will state that in certain "emergency circumstances," the feds can fund abortion; and then it will give so broad a definition of emergency circumstances that every abortion in America will be eligible.

How do I know this? Very simple: Barack Obama truly wants the federal government to pay for abortions; and since he has the authority to get what he wants, with only a promise to hold him back, why wouldn't he? What is Bart Stupak going to do about it?

The syllogism is quite simple:

  1. Obama ultimately wants a single-payer health-care system in the United States, à la Great Britain or Japan. Nobody denies this, not even the president.
  2. Obama believes that abortion should be safe and legal.
  3. If abortion is legal, it counts as health care, obviously.
  4. Therefore, in the world that the One wants us to have, the federal government -- the "single payer" -- will necessarily pay for all abortions in the U.S.

QED

Whether the Obamacle can bring about the millennium he desires is another question; but it's a dead cert that his desire is for the feds to pay for abortions, among other procedures, using taxpayer dollars. In fact, he also wants partial-birth abortion to be legal; so by the same syllogism, he wants you and me to pay for it with our federal taxes.

Now I'm not completely anti-abortion; but I am utterly anti-federally funding for abortion. (And I'm also utterly against partial-birth abortion -- or to be more accurate, partial-birth infanticide -- federally funded or not.)

Therefore, Stupak traded away his putative principles for a pot of message. He is a traitor to a cause he claims to have supported from long before he has been in federal office, since 1993, going all the way back to when he consciously accepted Catholicism, presumably as a child.

I reckon the aphorism is true: Liberalism, like socialism, truly does corrupt all that it touches.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2010, at the time of 1:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 20, 2010

Does She Do or Does She Don't? A Reptile Says - She Don't

Congressional Calamities , Democratic Culture of Corruption , Health Insurance Insurrections , Predictions
Hatched by Dafydd

Bonus extra fold-out: How the Democrats hoisted themselves by their own petard

Let us once more check the Hill's newest whip count:

  • 178 Republicans are firm Nays; even Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA, not yet rated), personally (and heavily) lobbied by President Barack H. Obama himself, doesn't look to buck the unanimity.
  • 37 Democrats are firm Nays, likely Nays, or leaning Nay.
  • 199 Democrats are firm Yeas, likely Yeas, or leaning Yea.
  • 17 Democrats are toss-ups.

A little back-of-the-thumbnail calculation gives us 215 firm, likely, or leaning Nay -- vs. 199 firm, likely, or leaning Yea; 216 is a majority in a House of Representatives that has but 431 members at the moment. Once again, the ObamaCarebears must run the table, picking up each and every undecided... while we need only a single one to break against the bill.

Of course, some in the Nay column could repent of their sinful ways and join the Democrat scamwagon; but so far, for every Nay lost to a Yea, an undecided has come out as a replacement Nay. The Nay side has stayed at 215 or 214 for several days now, despite all the queen's rubber hoses and all the queen's minions.

You gotta like our chances.

Other prognosticators agree; according to "Pessimism" Paul Mirengoff at Power Line, one of the Stupakians, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL, 90%), says Pelosi is still about seven short. Paul continues, joined by "Jeremiah" John Hinderaker:

UPDATE: Jeffrey Anderson at NRO's Critical Condition blog says Pelosi is still short. He counts 208 leaning in favor, 214 leaning against, and nine undecided. At this point, though, "leaning against" may mean "waiting for an inducement" in some cases.

JOHN adds: This is consistent with what James Hohmann of Politico told us on our radio show this morning, i.e., that as of around 1:00 this afternoon, Pelosi had 206-208 "yes" votes.

So as I've said many times, in politics, the game ain't over till the last fat lady is hung. If Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) postpones tomorrow's vote, that means she knew she didn't have 216; if she holds the vote, that means she thinks she has 216 -- but could be mistaken.

Bonus fold-out! It occurred to me a week or so ago that the Democrats' own corrupt scheme actually makes it much more plausible that, even if ObamaCare passes tomorrow, we can still repeal and abolish it before it destroys American medical care.

How? How?!

The Democrats were so anxious not to reveal how horribly ObamaCare adds to the deficit that they pulled a fast one on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which tracks those sorts of issues: They crafted a bill that "backloads" all the core elements of ObamaCare -- all the liberty-liquidating, choice-curtailing, budget-busting, death-panel debuting provisions, including the mandate -- to 2013; but the bill enacts the tax increases immediately.

What does this mean? For one thing, the bill the CBO was given to score included only seven years of spending, but a full ten years of tax increases. That made it appear actually to decrease the budget deficit -- for the exact ten-year period from fiscal year (FY) 2011 through FY 2020; but if instead one looks at the ten-year period from FY 2014 through FY 2023, ObamaCare adds about two trillion dollars to the budget deficit!

So a profligate's dream of a bill that will bust the budget wide open was artificially made to look like a fiscally responsible bill that will (slightly) reduce the deficit.

But there was a price to pay: By backloading the guts of ObamaCare, Democrats themselves insured that nothing concrete would be done to implement its most horrible parts until after the 2012 presidential election. Thus, if we can take a long stride towards recapturing the House and Senate in this year's election, then complete the job in the 2012 election; and if we can bring a candidate who defeats Barack "Spending Spree" Obama; then Congress can just vote to repeal ObamaCare, and the new (Republican) president will sign it.

And of course, if the Democrats try to filibuster that bill in the Senate, the GOP can just reach into the Democrats' own bag 'o tricks, like Felix the Cat, and pull out any of a number of techniques, fair or foul, that they pioneered to quash filibusters. If worse comes to worst, Congress has simply to fail to enact the necessary appropriations bills and starve ObamaCare to death; while the administration need only fail to enforce the law mandating insurance to strangle ObamaCare while still in the womb.

It must be infinitely easier to kill a new entitlement program that hasn't even started yet than to kill one that has been up and running for two years. The bill (even if passed) is vulnerable entirely because Pelosi couldn't face a vote with the full extent of her perfidity in plain view. Wile E. Democrat, Supergenius, strikes out again.

So let's all keep a stiff upper spine, wait for tomorrow, and see what the old biddy has up her skirts.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 20, 2010, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2010

The Hill's "Whip Count" on ObamaCare - GOP Picking Up Votes

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

In our last installment on Saturday, we were able to report the following:

The Hill newspaper is published daily in the nation's capital while Congress is in session, which is unfortunately true right now. They've been publishing a daily (or so) whip-count; that is, the Democratic and Republican leaders tell the Hill how many votes they think they have, and the paper makes the final judgment (presumably after talking to some of the waverers).

In the count published today, here's how we stand:

  • All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
  • 34 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays; this includes eight Democrats who voted Yea the last time around in November.
  • 147 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas.
  • The remaining 72 Democrats are "undecided."

That puts the current count at 147 Yea, 212 Nay, with 72 toss-ups. Note that a majority is currently 216, since there are only 431 members of the House right now.

In today's whip-count, we see some movement -- and astonishingly, considering all the proclamations of Obamic victory, it's in the right direction!

  • All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
  • 37 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays, three more than last time.
  • 146 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas (one fewer than Saturday).
  • The remaining 70 Democrats are "undecided" (two fewer).

That's 146 Yeas, 215 Nays, with 70 ditherers, and majority is still 216.

In other words, ObamaCare is just one vote shy of defeat in the House... with 70 votes still up for grabs. We must win over one more Democrat -- before they win over 70: If Democrats lose even one more congressman, the bill dies.

I still have full faith and confidence in the American people; we have proven ourselves to be steadfast in our rejection of a radical rewrite of all health-insurance rules. The danger is not the American people but rather the Democratic majority, which might still trample the people down with hobnail boots.

But more and more, it appears that simple self-interest will kill this wretched act; simply put, most United States Representatives like their jobs and want to keep them.

But even if the worst happens, even if the Dems suddenly reverse the momentum and end up eking out a marginal victory, I still believe that we can repeal ObamaCare -- despite the fact that (as I am reliably informed) no major new government social bureaucracy has ever been "uncreated." Think of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

Why am I so positive? First, because the reliable claim is not particularly reliable; for one example, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was an FDR-era welfare entitlement created, as Aid to Dependent Children, as part of the Social Security Act of 1935. Yet it was repealed in 1996, to be replaced with a radically different and far more temporary welfare program titled Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Even the New Republic has recently hailed the repeal of AFDC and enactment of TANF instead [hat tip Wikipedia, of all sites]; TNR editorial of September 4, 2006, p. 7; the piece appears not to be available online:

A broad consensus now holds that welfare reform was certainly not a disaster--and that it may, in fact, have worked much as its designers had hoped.

But the second reason I am convinced that ObamaCare can be repealed is that it differs significantly from all other social-welfare, social-control bureaucracies enacted by Congress -- including AFDC. Unlike all the others, ObamaCare is not supported by voters; it is vehemently opposed by large margins.

If President Barack H. Obama's scheme is finally enacted, it will be over the earsplitting objections of the American people. By contrast, programs such as Social Security and Medicare were wildly popular when they were enacted -- and most retain strong majority support even today.

We have never before enacted such wholesale change in the balance between government and governed -- when the bill itself was so intensely unpopular; I daresay it's the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of. For that reason, I simply do not believe it will be passed; but even if it is, I do not believe it will survive long in the 112th Congress.

So hip hip, chin chin, and keep your welly up. Courage, Camille. This too shall pass away!

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 15, 2010, at the time of 8:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 13, 2010

The Hill's "Whip Count" on ObamaCare - as of Today

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

The Hill newspaper is published daily in the nation's capital while Congress is in session, which is unfortunately true right now. They've been publishing a daily (or so) whip-count; that is, the Democratic and Republican leaders tell the Hill how many votes they think they have, and the paper makes the final judgment (presumably after talking to some of the waverers).

In the count published today, here's how we stand:

  • All 178 Republicans will vote Nay.
  • 34 of the Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Nays; this includes eight Democrats who voted Yea the last time around in November.
  • 147 Democrats are firm, leaning, or likely Yeas.
  • The remaining 72 Democrats are "undecided."

That puts the current count at 147 Yea, 212 Nay, with 72 toss-ups. Note that a majority is currently 216, since there are only 431 members of the House right now.

To put it in a nuthouse, Republicans must get 4 of those toss-up Dems to vote Nay, while the Democrats must get 69 of the toss-up Dems to vote Yea.

It should be obvious now why Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) has not yet called the vote: The risk is too great that the Nay-sayers will get their 4 before the Yes-men get their 69. And she won't call the vote until the whip-count shows better odds for ObamaCare than against it.

Now I expect the great majority of those toss-up Dems will eventually vote for ObamaCare; but if they lose only 4 out of the 72 (6%) it goes down. Bear in mind that when the current Congress ends -- probably sometime in late November or December -- any legislation passed in one or both chambers but not signed into law dies.

The new Congress would have to start all over again with ObamaCare (if it's still controlled by Democrats); the new House cannot simply pass the previous Senate's bill and send it to President Barack H. Obama for signature.

As a more practical matter, the closer we edge to the November 2nd elections, the greater the pressure on the toss-up Dems to vote Nay, since that is the way most of their constituents want them to vote.

Note to Democratic readers: The congressional elections for your party will be held on Wednesday, November 3rd. On that date, please vote early and vote often!

I would guess that the window will firmly shut in late May or early June; after that -- with one dangerous exception -- ObamaCare cannot be enacted, for reasons of politics.

The one dangerous exception is the putative "lame-duck" period of the second session of the 111th Congress... the short interval after the elections but before the 112th Congress is seated on January 3rd (per the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

During those two months, every representative in the House already knows whether he has been reelected, and the Senate bill is still in effect.

A defeated Democrat has nothing to lose by voting for ObamaCare. If enough of those currently leaning towards Nay are defeated, they may, in a fit of vindictive revenge against the constituents who fired them, vote in as perverse a manner as possible. (Though of course, it's unlikely the reconciliation side of the package could also be enacted during that period.)

This is the most likely time for ObamaCare to be enacted, since it would then have virtually no consequences on its supporters: Many of the Democrats voting for it will have already been defeated; and for those from moderate districts who were nevertheless reelected, a December vote gives them the maximal "memory-lapse" time before facing voters again in 2012.

I'm quite concerned about that interval; has the GOP given it much thought?

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 13, 2010, at the time of 11:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 2, 2010

Jim Bunning's Not-So-Lonely Crusade

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

The sneers and smears of Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY, 88%) proceed apace. He stands accused of being "cantankerous," "ornery," mentally unbalanced, "toxic," the "crazy uncle in the Senate attic," cringe-inducing, racist, sexist, "cruel," "heartless," a batter beaner (when he was a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies in the 1960s), and a serial cusser-outer of reporters -- and that's just from one AP piece!

Because of his ornery nature and ungovernable mouth, Bunning has come to be regarded as the crazy uncle in the Senate attic during his 11 years in Washington. And because he is retiring after this session, there isn't much anyone can do to keep him in line.

Why the angst? Here it is in a nuthouse:

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning, a 78-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher, is playing hardball on Capitol Hill, single-handedly holding up a $10 billion spending bill because it would add to the deficit.

The move has forced some 2,000 federal employees into unpaid furloughs [who will that inconvenience? -- DaH], put jobless benefits in jeopardy for millions and halted more than 40 highway projects.

His objection also put the kibosh (until he is eventually overridden by a Senate vote, probably today or tomorrow) on federal flood insurance. Glub glub.

The mighty CBS has also deigned to notice:

Democrats were stunned when Republican Sen. Jim Bunning singlehandedly blocked a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits for thousands, but now they're turning Bunning's move into a political talking point.

Democrats have pinned the blame for the Senate's lack of action in the past year on the GOP's obstructionist agenda. Bunning's move seems to prove their point.

Why is Bunning doing this? It's unfathomable... unless one actually takes the onerous stop of actually asking the man. It appears his objection is based upon one seemingly simple question about the bill he is obstructing: How do we pay for this spending?

NPR sniffs at the preposterousness of such an objection. Whoever heard of holding up a spending bill merely because there is no money to pay for it?

Saying that he has blocked votes on the legislation to underscore his opposition to the ongoing growth in federal debt, Bunning read a letter from "Robert in Louisville," who told the senator that even though he hasn't been working regularly in the past two years he supports what Bunning is doing.

"This country is sooner or later going to implode because of the massive amount of debt run up over the past 40 or 50 years," Robert wrote, according to Bunning.

Well, if the old coot is so concerned about actually "paying" for spending, ha ha, why doesn't he suggest how to do it himself? Oh, wait; according to NPR again:

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET. The Associated Press, in its latest story on what's happening, adds this perspective about Bunning's position:

"Bunning said again Tuesday that he opposed the extension because it would add $10 billion to the budget deficit, and he attacked Democrats for abandoning promises to pay for legislation instead of contributing to a budget deficits projected to hit almost $1.6 trillion this year. Bunning proposes to pay for the extension with unspent money from last year's massive economic recovery package, but (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid, D-Nev., objected." (Correction: We had a typo earlier, identifying Reid as R-Nev.)

So let me understand: It's not that there is no source available to pay for the spending; it's merely that the Democrats don't want to pay for it. They just want to spend it!

There is one thing worse than living off your credit card and not paying the bills: living off your credit card and not paying the bills -- when you have tons of unspent money in the bank.

(I'm also strangely moved that AP thinks Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 70%, is actually a Republican.)

Democrats may be offended by Bunning's question -- who pays? -- but I say it deserves an answer. I further suggest that it's not Jim Bunning bringing disrepute upon the Senate chamber; that distinction rightly belongs to the Democrat spending machine... and also to those cowardly-elephant Republicans pushing Bunning to drop his objection and just shut his pie hole. I'm thinking here of Minority "Leader" Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 80%) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME, 20%).

It's particularly galling when powerful Republicans deliberately and with malice aforethought undercut the Tea Partiers' powerful message of fiscal responsibility and spending restraint, just because an old man on the brink of retirement is foolish enough to take GOP talking points seriously.

To paraphrase the revolting mob of slaves in Sartacus, "I am Jim Bunning." (Well, except younger, darker haired, and better looking. And not quite so cantankerous.)

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 2, 2010, at the time of 2:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 22, 2009

Pinky's Puppies

Congressional Calamities , Elections
Hatched by Dafydd

I take as my thesis that the Senate Democrats, by voting unanimously for cloture on the ObamaCare bill (or PinkyCare, after Sen. Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), have made themselves very vulnerable in 2010 and 2012. I also take it that the more Republican the state, the more trouble that state's incumbent Democratic senator is.

But how to quantify that vulnerability? Here is a first stab.

In the first table, I rank the Democratic Senate seats up for grabs in November 2010 and November 2012 in order of how Republican or Democratic the state is -- based upon its vote in the presidential elections last year; a state that voted for John S. McCain makes a Democratic incumbent more vulnerable than a state that voted for Barack H. Obama; and a state that strongly voted for McCain makes the Democrat more vulnerable than a state that narrowly voted for the Arizonan.

(Note however that these are paper vulnerabilities that do not take into account the candidates' skills at campaigning, debating, or the money he can raise for his run.)

In this first table:

  1. The first column is the state;
  2. The second is which presidential candidate got that state's electoral votes (M for McCain or O for Obama);
  3. The third is the margin of victory of the candidate in the second column;
  4. The third is the name of the incumbent Democratic senator, if any;
  5. The fourth is the Democratic voting percentage, as calculated by the Americans for Democratic Action... a higher number means a more partisan Democrat;
  6. And the sixth column is the class of the senator, whether he is up for reelection in 2010 or in 2012.

The Democratic senators (and those running for an open Democratic seat) are listed from most vulnerable (Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas running next year) to least (Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, not running until 2012):

2010, 2012 Democrat Senate targets by vulnerability
ST Pres Marg Senator's name Dem % Class
AR M 20 Blanche Lincoln 80% 10
NE M 15 Ben Nelson 75% 12
WV M 13 Robert Byrd 79% 12
ND M 9 Byron Dorgan 95% 10
ND M 9 Kent Conrad 90% 12
MT M 2 Jon Tester 85% 12
MO M 0 Claire McCaskill 84% 12
IN O 1 Evan Bayh 70% 10
FL O 3 Bill Nelson 95% 12
NM O 4 Jeff Bingaman 100% 12
VA O 6 Jim Webb 95% 12
CO O 9 Michael Bennet N/A 10
PA O 10 Arlen Specter (as Dem) N/A 10
PA O 10 Bob Casey Jr. 90% 12
MN O 10 Amy Klobuchar 100% 12
NV O 13 Harry Reid 70% 10
WI O 14 Herb Kohl 95% 12
WI O 14 Russ Feingold 100% 10
NJ O 15 Bob Menendez 100% 12
OH O 15 Sherrod Brown 95% 12
OR O 16 Ron Wyden 100% 10
MI O 16 Debbie Stabenow 100% 12
WA O 17 Patty Murray 100% 10
WA O 17 Maria Cantwell 100% 12
CT O 22 Chris Dodd 100% 10
CT O 22 Joe Lieberman (Dem caucus) 85% 12
CA O 24 Barbara Boxer 100% 10
CA O 24 Dianne Feinstein 100% 12
DE O 25 Ted Kaufman (open) N/A 10
DE O 25 Tom Carper 85% 12
MD O 25 Barbara Mikulski 95% 10
MD O 25 Ben Cardin 100% 12
IL O 25 Roland Burris (open) N/A 10
NY O 27 Kirsten Gillibrand N/A 10
NY O 27 Chuck Schumer 100% 10
RI O 28 Sheldon Whitehouse 90% 12
VT O 37 Patrick Leahy 100% 10
VT O 37 Bernie Sanders 100% 12
HI O 45 Daniel Inouye 94% 10
HI O 45 Daniel Akaka 100% 12

2012 is a long way off, but 2010 is just around the bend; correspondingly, this table is restricted to those Democratic seats up for reelection next November.

I added the current Rasmussen polling in the last column in place of the class (which is fixed at 2010 in this table). The polling number shown is the spread of Democrat over Republican; a -7 would mean the Democrat trails by 7%, while +2 would mean the Democrat leads by 2%.

When there are multiple GOP candidates, I picked the one who does best in the polling against the incumbent Democrat; that is the real vulnerability factor in the incumbent's reelection. When there are multiple Democratic candidates, I report the polling of the incumbent. If there is no incumbent and multiple Democrats, I won't post a number at all, because the dynamics are too complex:

2010 Democrat Senate targets by vulnerability
(with Rasmussen polling)
ST Pres Marg Senator's name Vote % Polling
AR M 20 Blanche Lincoln 80% - 7
ND M 9 Byron Dorgan 95% - 4
IN O 1 Evan Bayh 70% - 12
CO O 9 Michael Bennet N/A - 9
PA O 10 Arlen Specter (as Dem) N/A - 4
NV O 13 Harry Reid 70% - 6
WI O 14 Russ Feingold 100% N/A
OR O 16 Ron Wyden 100% N/A
WA O 17 Patty Murray 100% N/A
CT O 22 Chris Dodd 100% - 13
CA O 24 Barbara Boxer 100% + 11
DE O 25 Ted Kaufman (open) N/A N/A
MD O 25 Barbara Mikulski 95% N/A
IL O 25 Roland Burris (open) N/A N/A
NY O 27 Kirsten Gillibrand N/A N/A
NY O 27 Chuck Schumer 100% N/A
VT O 37 Patrick Leahy 100% N/A
HI O 45 Daniel Inouye 94% N/A

Note that only one race, California, shows the Democrat ahead; in all others, he or she trails the GOP.

The final table shows the 2012 Democrats up for reelection; this time, polling was not included because it's meaningless this far out:

2012 Democrat Senate targets by vulnerability
ST Pres Marg Senator's name Vote %
NE M 15 Ben Nelson 75%
WV M 13 Robert Byrd 79%
ND M 9 Kent Conrad 90%
MT M 2 Jon Tester 85%
MO M 0 Claire McCaskill 84%
FL O 3 Bill Nelson 95%
NM O 4 Jeff Bingaman 100%
VA O 6 Jim Webb 95%
PA O 10 Bob Casey Jr. 90%
MN O 10 Amy Klobuchar 100%
WI O 14 Herb Kohl 95%
NJ O 15 Bob Menendez 100%
OH O 15 Sherrod Brown 95%
MI O 16 Debbie Stabenow 100%
WA O 17 Maria Cantwell 100%
CT O 22 Joe Lieberman (Dem caucus) 85%
CA O 24 Dianne Feinstein 100%
DE O 25 Tom Carper 85%
MD O 25 Ben Cardin 100%
RI O 28 Sheldon Whitehouse 90%
VT O 37 Bernie Sanders 100%
HI O 45 Daniel Akaka 100%

I'll be happy if this series of three tables allows readers to follow the vicissitudes of the political contests to come. If it allows the National Republican Senatorial Committee to focus its efforts on those Democratic "moderate" senators most vulnerable within their own states, I will be ecstatic.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 22, 2009, at the time of 9:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 6, 2009

Does ObamaCare Teeter on the Brink of Collapse?

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

There are two possible explanations for President Barack H. Obama's sudden rush to personally lobby and exhort senators to vote for ObamaCare:

  • It's scant days from passage, and Obama wants to be there for the kill;
  • Or just the opposite: The fragile coalition is breaking apart, and this is a last, desperate lunge for the brass ring, as Obama topples off the painted, wooden horse.

I vote for the latter, as the former doesn't match the observed facts:

Democrats met throughout yesterday to seek an alternative to Senate Majority Harry Reid’s plan to create the new national program to cover the uninsured. Opposition within his party leaves Reid at risk of falling four votes short of the 60 he needs to pass the legislation, the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health-care system in more than four decades.

Four is a lot more than opponents need to kill the bill at the next cloture vote. And if there are four, more will probably jump aboard the bandwagon; any senator worried about reelection in 2010 or 2012 because his state is more conservative than he (that's a lot more than the usual formulation) would probably take advantage of a "free roll" to pander to the moderates. If the bill is already going down on a cloture vote anyway, it doesn't matter under the rules whether it falls four votes short -- or nine.

And the fissures are the same as they ever were: abortion, the public option, taxes, the looting of Medicare, and health-care rationing. As an example of the last, here's news about how the bill Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) introduced in the Senate guts home health-care:

Republicans, unified in opposition, forced the Democrats yesterday to reiterate their support for cutting more than $40 billion in home health-care services funding under Medicare. It was the latest Republican effort to highlight the bill’s potential impact on the elderly....

The Senate also turned back a Republican bid to restore the home health services funding. The Republicans are trying to draw attention to the impact on the elderly from some $400 billion in proposed Medicare savings.

To boil it down, if Bloomberg is to be believed, Reid has made no progress whatsoever on persuading opponents, including some Democrats who voted to start debate, to come over to the dark side. Nobody has budged yet.

Therefore, if the Obamacle is personally involved at this late date, the only explanation that jibes with the facts is that his hands-off approach, leaving it to the Senate Democratic leadership, has not worked. But with Obama's own lagging poll numbers, he really hasn't the clout to bully the wavering into voting for ObamaCare: The more he tightens his grip, the more star systems will slip through his fingers.

If the Senate passes anything this year, it will be after an "amendment" jacks up the title and runs a whole new bill underneath... one that does little more than what the conservatives and moderates demand. Such a bill would be supported by Republicans, red-state Democrats, and even some leftist Democrats who cannot face the humiliation of returning to Berkeley or Austin or Manhattan empty handed; it would pass with well over 60 votes.

Barack Obama has managed the nearly impossible: After less than a year in office, he has already transformed himself into a lame duck.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 6, 2009, at the time of 4:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 2, 2009

I Have a Dream...

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

Dear American Left;

Can we all agree on one result of the debate over ObamaCare, the latest attempt to wrench the United States over to the failed national health systems of Europe?

Can't we sign some kind of Medical Contract with America that:

  • After we voters rise up in fear and fury over the attempt to cripple our medical care, push doctors out of the business, and (to further insult us) make us pay more for degraded medical service;
  • After ObamaCare is squelched in the next cloture vote;
  • After many of those who voted for it (or to "move the process forward") find themselves pressing the flesh... not looking for votes but looking for a new job;
  • After Barack H. Obama takes the big political hit, turning him into a lame duck halfway through his first (and only) term...
  • After fear, uncertainty, doubt, and destruction of the very liberals who pushed it -- you guys...

After all those negative consequences for you, personally, not just this time but the last time as well (HillaryCare), can't we simply make a pact that -- we never, ever have to go through this again? Aren't two devastating defeats for medical Socialism in just fifteen years enough to put a stake through the heart of this leftist utopian scheme?

Please?

It can't possibly be good for America's health to raise everybody's blood pressure and anxiety level every few years. Give us a break; just leave it alone.

Thanks,

Dafydd ab Hugh
Consarned citizen

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 2, 2009, at the time of 5:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2009

Don't Have a Seizure Over the ObamaCare Cloture Vote...

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

...You'd only have to rely upon ObamaCare to cure you!

This post by John Hinderaker at Power Line is fairly typical of what I've been reading:

Mary Landrieu announced today that she will vote for cloture on the Democrats' government medicine bill tonight. The Democrats now have 60 votes and will be able to pass their version of government medicine.

By great good forture, this is a cross between a crocodile and an abalone *: All that this means is that the Democrats have sufficient votes to invoke cloture on beginning the debate on ObamaCare; it does not imply they will have the votes to end debate and actually vote:

Senate Democrats said they had clinched the votes needed on Saturday to propel major health care legislation to the floor for weeks of full debate, as the majority party’s two last holdouts said that they would not block consideration of President Obama’s top domestic initiative.

Some Democrats and one of the two Independents (Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, 85% Democrat) have committed only to the former and not the latter; Lieberman has emphatically stated that unless there are very significant changes, he will not vote for cloture to end debate and vote.

UPDATE from Politico:

“I believe it is going to be very clear at some point very soon that there are not 60 votes for the current provision in the bill and that the leader and the leadership will have to make a decision, and I trust they will figure out how to do that,” Landrieu said....

Two of those planning to vote yes today – Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) have already said they’d join a filibuster of the bill, Nelson to strengthen its abortion restrictions and Lieberman to stop the public option. Lieberman has said he believes other Democrats would do the same, though none warned of that in remarks Saturday.

Landrieu announced her vote earlier in the day. "My vote today to move forward on this important debate should in no way to be construed as . . .an indication of how I might vote as this debate comes to an end," she warned. "It is a vote to move forward. … But much more work needs to be done.”

That should make it quite clear what today's vote means -- and what it does not mean.

It was practically a foregone conclusion that the Democrats would get enough votes to start the debate; even if a Democrat or Indie planned all along to vote against cloture at the end, thus not allowing it to come to an up-or-down final vote (that the Democrats would be guaranteed to win), he would almost certainly vote to begin the debate: Not to do so would make him look utterly intransigent. A Republican can get away with that because the bill is so lopsidedly partisan, but a Democrat has to seem more open to its consideration.

Everything now depends upon the debate itself -- in particular, which amendments are passed and which voted down. I'm still confident that if the liberals manage to retain any of the following in the final bill:

  • Abortion funding
  • The new marriage penalty, encouraging Americans to shack up instead
  • The massive, unprecedented tax increases during a recession and with double-digit unemployment
  • The half-trillion dollar raid on Medicare
  • The obvious rationing of medical care (already starting with the heavy hand of the government stopping doctors from advising mammograms for women aged 40-50)
  • The legal mandate to buy expensive health insurance (with those who refuse facing prison time yet!)
  • Or of course the public option that will simply detonate all private health insurance

...Then several so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats (plus Joe Lieberman) will revisit the question of cloture at the end.

Be of good cheer; this isn't the end of the fight but only the beginning. If the Republicans can stay unified, then we will only need one, single senator who supports cloture today to oppose it at the end, and we will have stopped this dreadful monstrosity.

And even if they all hold firm, and PinkyCare passes the Senate -- it still must be reconciled with the House version, and that too will be subject to cloture requiring 60 votes.

Finally, I am nowhere near as pessimistic as others on the inevitability of some version of ObamaCare being implemented, even if it passes both chambers and is signed by the president. If the Republicans can take over even a single chamber -- a possibility made much more likely by the passage of a staggering tax, the looting of Medicare, and looming medical-care rationing -- then the GOP can stop the actual implementation of ObamaCare simply by refusing to fund it... and that cannot even be vetoed by Barack H. Obama, because it would be a negative act: They can fail to vote for funding, and that effectively kills it. (In fact, Republicans can even run on a "reverse the vote!' platform.)

So put on your manly gown, gird your loins, and pull up your socks; we still have many bites left at the apple, quite a few more chances to strangle this serpent in the grass. Stopping debate from beginning was always the least likely of all possible ways to kill ObamaCare.

Man up -- we've still got a fight on our hands!

 

* A "crockabalone," of course!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 21, 2009, at the time of 3:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 20, 2009

Maritalphobic Democrats Strike Again!

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections , Matrimonial Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Generally we use the "Matrimonial Madness" category for discussions of same-sex marriage; but not this time. Today, in a bolt from the blue (staters), the Senate Democrats have snuck a ringer into Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid's (D-NV, 70%) version of ObamaCare... they created a new tax with a nasty "marriage penalty" to punish dopes who actually tie the knot, instead of simply living together (evidently the Democrat preferred option):

Senate Democrats' health care bill would create a new marriage penalty by imposing a tax on individuals who make $200,000 annually but hitting married couples making just $50,000 more....

"Yes, this structure can create a 'marriage penalty' for some couples. It also creates a 'marriage bonus' for others," [Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman] said. "A married couple with one wage earner can earn up to $250,000 without facing this higher tax, whereas a single person in the same job with the same pay would be hit by it."

But a married couple in which each earner makes $150,000 would be hit with the tax, whereas an unmarried couple living together with the same incomes would not.

Ryan Ellis, tax policy director at Americans for Tax Reform, said the new marriage penalty comes on top of an existing one that's always been part of the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare.

Say what they will, it appears that Democrats simply cannot abide the institution of marriage. They seek to destroy it any way they can:

  • "No-fault" divorce;
  • Enacting adoption laws that don't "discriminate" against unmarried adoptive parents;
  • Altering the very definition of marriage willy-nilly;
  • And now by heavily taxing marriage -- but not shacking up.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 80%) is beside himself:

"If you have insurance, you get taxed. If you don't have insurance, you get taxed. If you need a life-saving medical device, you get taxed. If you need prescription medicines, you get taxed," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who is leading the fight against the bill.

And now, if you get married, you get taxed.

But it's not just marriage that Democrats hate and fear; they also despise patients who want to control their own medical care:

Several relatively small tax increases will be aimed at health savings accounts and medical savings accounts. One will change the definitions for medical expenses that qualify as itemized deductions. Another will raise the penalties for withdrawing funds from these vehicles. A third would limit health-related flexible spending arrangements.

"All of these changes are designed to make health savings accounts less attractive and cripple consumer-directed health care plans," said Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Altogether, they would raise about $20 billion through 2019.

Take that, you villains trying to decrease your own health-insurance premiums via MSAs and catastrophic care! We can add a couple more to McConnell's collection: If you have an expensive health-insurance plan, you get taxed. If you have a cheap health-insurance plan... you get taxed.

Liberals and Democrats: They're nothing if not consistent in their hatred of every traditional American virtue, from self-reliance to traditional marriage to fiscal sobriety to self-defense to American exceptionalism.

Say... let's put them in charge of all energy production, all financial transactions, defending the nation against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, and the medical care of every individual American. What could possibly go wrong?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 20, 2009, at the time of 4:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 11, 2009

Zombie Revolution

Congressional Calamities , Constitutional Maunderings
Hatched by Dafydd

I generally take holy days -- sorry, holidays -- as an opportunity for posts of a more philosophical nature, and today is no exception.

Walter Williams, one of my favorite authors (though I haven't read his recent books), has a column in which he notes the contempt that Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) holds for the United States Constitution, insofar as it might limit her power to rule over the rest of us:

At Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Oct. 29th press conference, a CNS News reporter asked, "Madam Speaker, where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?" Speaker Pelosi responded, "Are you serious? Are you serious?" The reporter said, "Yes, yes, I am." Not responding further, Pelosi shook her head and took a question from another reporter. Later on, Pelosi's press spokesman Nadeam Elshami told CNSNews.com about its question regarding constitutional authority mandating that individual Americans buy health insurance. "You can put this on the record. That is not a serious question. That is not a serious question."

He notes that it's not just Democrats but Republicans and Independents in Congress who by and large dismiss constitutional limitations on their power as unserious questions. I made a similar point in a recent e-mail I sent to our e-steamed co-conspirator, Brad Linaweaver; in response to a question he asked -- how in the world a military base like Fort Hood became a "gun-free zone," in which American soldiers were as helpless as high-school children against a lone man with a pair of gats -- I responded with a description but not an explanation:

There is something terribly wrong when a country of free men and women doesn't even trust its own soldiers to carry firearms. As I said in that 37-part phone message I left you, we're going through a period of retrenchment of government a la 1912 or 1932; it began sometime in the term of George H.W. Bush, continued through Clinton and Bush-43, and is now hitting it's apex -- I hope! -- in Barack H. Obama and Obamunism.

But as you can see, I begged Brad's question: Why do we periodically go through such "periods of retrenchment of government?" Why is it, as Williams says in his column, that "mankind's standard fare throughout his history, and in most places today, is arbitrary control and abuse by government?"

I hearken back to my second novel, Warriorwards (Baen Books, 1990), when I first began groping for an explanation. What I came to realize is this: Being a slave is tremendously attractive to most people in the world at most times of history.

The primary advantage of being a slave is complete absolution from any responsibility for one's own life; the slavemaster makes all decisions -- and he alone can be held accountable for one's life, health, and well-being. As absurd as it sounds stated so baldly, most people would rather die than take responsibility for living.

Think how many opportunities "we" -- the universal we; I don't mean every reader of this blogpost or its author) -- how many opportunities "we" seize to divest ourselves of responsibility for thinking for ourselves:

  • Some give their lives to God, allowing the Bible, the Koran, a guru, the tarot, or a funny-colored crystal to think for them.
  • Some rigidly follow an injudiciously chosen creed, doctrine, or ideology wherever it leads.
  • A great many learn what they believe from their parents -- either slavish devotion to their familial beliefs, or childish rebellion against.
  • Others succumb to peer pressure, doing and believing whatever their friends do and believe.
  • Many blindly obey the law without ever thinking, "What if the law is wrong?" They are the "good Germans."
  • Millions emulate celebrities.
  • Tens of millions accept the worldview given us by CBS, Fox News, TV Land, or Lifetime.
  • An unknown but very large number mold their lives to resemble the fictional escapades of movie heroes, sitcom stars, rap lyrics, or videogame characters.
  • And many abdicate even the pitiful responsibilty of playing Follow the Leader by living drunken, drugged, dissolute lives -- "out on a leave of absence from any resemblance to reality," as John Hiatt put it in "the Tiki Bar Is Open."

These "lifestyle choices" all have one thing in common: They remove responsibility for making decisions. Adherents needn't ask what to do; somebody else will tell them. The only duty imposed upon the great majority of hypnotized souls is to sit quietly in the dark and wait for instructions.

This is as true in free nations as much as in obvious totalitarian tyrannies; the only difference is whether the State allows the handful of dissenters, who always exist, to practice their abominations openly; or whether they must practice their self-abuse -- thinking for themselves -- as a solitary vice.

Of course, a nation doesn't need a majority of its citizens accepting responsibility for their own lives in order to create a government tolerant of liberty... else no nation would ever be free. A vocal and powerful minority is generally all that is required.

But even that much is hard to maintain! In how many countries of the world is a powerful minority voice raised against tribalism, theocracy, plutocracy, socialism, racism (for real, I mean, rejecting all racial preference), and every other "ism" which human beings use to dodge the horror of thinking for ourselves? I'll bet you couldn't find more than five such countries today -- and some would argue that the true number is zero. I'm not sure I can refute them.

I personally hated childhood: I hated being told what to do -- not just because I sometimes didn't get to do stupid things, but even when the prohibition was rational; I just didn't like other people doing my thinking for me. But this may well have been influenced by my less-than-secure childhood.

I don't know how I would have turned out had my father been a benevolent despot, a man I could respect. I might have ended up as servile as Nancy Pelosi's constituents.

The reality for me was that the Grand Bargain, in which we trade liberty for security, was no bargain; it was so obviously not a bargain in my childhood that I never developed the knee-jerk acceptance of Authority that is the natural state of Man.

I have never looked into the question, but I wonder what percent of those who actually fight for liberty against their own leaders grew up in similarly unpleasant circumstances. I have great respect for those who fight for their country on behalf of their leaders; but it takes a powerful ideology of liberty -- not to mention huevos gigantescos -- to do as our forebears did in the Revolutionary War: Take up arms against one's own country when it has become a thing of loathsome tyranny.

Look, I have nothing against Tea-Partiers; they're nice, and they might even help Republicans against Democrats (and help fiscal conservatives against socialist Republicans). But let's face facts: The main reason so many people attend Tea Parties is to socialize, the same reason most Marxists, churchgoers, and Freemasons attend their own gatherings. Folks like to hang out with the like-minded, chatter and gossip, sing group-affirming songs, and in general have a holiday (and I don't mean holy day this time) with their friends.

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin did not fight for the first (and only) revolution for liberty in order to picnic and hook up with girls.

So the real answer to Brad's question is a sad answer: Left unchecked, government grows and metastasizes like a cancer because that's what "we the people" want it to do. (Not every individual, but a sizable majority of them.) For most folks, slavery is a very attractive prospect; the real outrage comes only when they trade away their liberty for the promise of security -- and the promise is broken.

I think that is why support for President Barack H. Obama has collapsed so thoroughly. Rhetoric aside, had he actually delivered on his promise to infantalize Americans and then suckle and comfort them like babies, I don't think he would be in as much political hot water. It was only when it became clear that he had no intention of protecting us from the vicissitudes of life that opposition swelled in a tidal wave of anger and political action.

As Benjamin Franklin famously wrote (in his Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759), "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." I believe this to be true, but it's an ineffective way of educating the great majority of people. It's a moral argument, and folks tend to tune those out (they hear so many, each contradicting the other). If they were the type to analyze moral arguments and logically pick one, they wouldn't need this advice in the first place!

I've come to believe that for most, morality flows from habit; and habit is driven by necessity. You get more traction arguing from necessity, practicality, the argument from empiricism, than telling people what they should do or what they deserve to get.

The best argument for liberty, then, is not to try to persuade people that liberty is better, finer, more advanced, or more godly than slavery -- but to convince them that slavery doesn't work. So long as people think they really can trade a great deal of essential liberty for a little temporary safety, most will seize the opportunity and thank the tyrant heartily.

The task for those of us who reject the Grand Bargain even in principle is to make all the zombies realize that such a deal always, always, always falls apart in practice. The ghouls who offer it never intend to fulfill their side of the bargain; their only goal is to lull us into a false sense of security, so they can loot us of everything we think we own.

If you see an ad offering a cherry 2008 Porsche 911 Carrera for $5,000, don't bother answering it; you know going in it's a fraud, because nobody would offer so much car for so little money.

Just so, when the One says to give him complete control over your health care, and he guarantees you'll get all the medical treatment you want for less than you're paying now -- or he says that we'll have more and cheaper energy if we pass his cripple and tax bill -- or he says workers will have more freedom to choose the union they want (or no union at all) if we take away the secret ballot... well, he's offering you a Carrera for five grand.

Once a person accepts the argument from empiricism, he will be forced to begin thinking for himself, because he can't trust others to have his own interests at heart. He rightly recognizes that each throne or power has its own interests at heart. Such thinking will grow into a habit; then and only then will habit give rise to a moral imperative.

Thank reason that the president's governing policy of Obamunism is so ham-fisted and clumsy that even the lowliest zombie is starting to wake from his thanatotic sleep. Let's hope he doesn't roll over and hit the snooze button once more.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 11, 2009, at the time of 5:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 7, 2009

Only One GOPsmacked Fool!

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, the House of Representatives passed the aptly named SqueakerCare bill... "aptly named" for two reasons:

  • It was introduced, and the favorable vote extorted, by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%);
  • It squeaked by with 220 Ayes to 215 Nays... 218 being the bare minimum needed for passage.

The bill stalled out until Pelosi was forced to allow a vote on the Stupak Amendment, which stripped funding for abortions from the bill (possibly); that amendment prevailed by 240-194 -- much stronger support than for SqueakerCare itself. This may not be the last word on the abortion issue, however:

Democrats were forced to make major concessions on insurance coverage for abortions to attract the final votes to secure passage, a wrenching compromise for the numerous abortion-rights advocates in their ranks.

Many of them hope to make changes to the amendment during negotiations with the Senate, which will now become the main battleground in the health care fight as Democrats there ready their own bill for what is likely to be extensive floor debate.

No word in either the New York Times article or the AP article on whether there was any resolution of the controversy over covering illegal aliens.

(The Republican plan was dismissed by Democrats -- even the Blue Dogs -- in a near party-line vote; only Rep. Tim Johnson, RINO-IL, 68% crossed party lines to vote against the GOP substitute health-care reform plan.)

Every dog has his silver lining, and the bright spot of this bill was that out of 177 Republicans voting (I think that's all of them), the total number who voted for SqueakerCare was... one: Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA, not yet rated). By contrast, 39 Democrats voted against the bill, with 219 in favor, of course.

That means Republican defectors did not hand the Democrats the victory, as I had feared they might; it would still have passed without the vote of the sacred Cao. Thank goodness for pitifully small favors!

Amusingly, one Democrat who voted for the bill was newly minted Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY, not yet rated)... despite the fact that the bill contains numerous provisions that Owens swore during his election campaign he would never support. It took Owens all of eleven hours and sixteen minutes to toss those promises into the dustbin of liberalism.

I'm certain that Conservative (and soon to be Republican) candidate Doug Hoffman is cataloging all such InstaLies for his rematch next year.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 7, 2009, at the time of 11:37 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 6, 2009

Squirmer of the House Nancy Pelosi Doesn't Have the Votes... Yet

Congressional Calamities , Democratic Culture of Corruption , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

I picture Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) writhing and twisting in frustration; with all those Democrats, surely she can scrape together 218 to vote for SqueakerCare!

Surely not, at least not yet:

House Democrats acknowledged they don't yet have the votes to pass a sweeping overhaul of the nation's health care system, and signaled they may push back the vote until Sunday or early next week.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters in a conference call Friday that the make-or-break vote on President Barack Obama's push to make health coverage part of the social safety net could face delay. Democrats were originally hoping to pass the bill on Saturday_and officially, that's still the plan....

Hoyer acknowledged that Democrats are still short of the 218 votes they need to pass the bill. "There are many people who are still trying to get a comfort level that this is the right thing to do," he said. "We're very close."

So what's the hold up? Yep, the same old overreaching -- our secret weapon against the Left! Evidently, Democrats still can't agree on coverage for abortions and of illegal immigrants:

But Democrats have yet to resolve a intraparty disputes over abortion funding and illegal immigrants' access to medical coverage. They cleared one hurdle Friday when liberals supporting a government-run Medicare-for-all system withdrew their demand for a floor vote.

Translation: some Democrats demand SqueakerCare pay for abortions -- and demand it cover illegal aliens. If there was no power faction insisting on such coverage, it would be easy to insert language banning it.

Here's a point that hasn't gotten enough coverage, I think: La Casa Blanca has endorsed the House version of the bill; which means that President Barack H. Obama has formally renounced his earlier pledge to keep the cost below $900 billion over ten years. Even by the Congressional Budget Office's reckoning, SqueakerCare would cost $1.2 trillion; and the CBO is obliged to accept all the economic premises of Congress, however ludicrous they may be... for example, that Congress will be able to loot half a trillion dollars from Medicare, that they'll be able to raise vast taxes in an election year, that those taxes won't cause a recession, and so forth.

Evidently, each and every solemn oath that eructates from the Obamacle's mouth is what Mary Poppins would call a "pie-crust promise: easily made and easily broken."

Anent the abortion and illegal immigrant controversies, Democrats have run straight into the fundamental buzzsaw of nationalizing health care: There are many things that a private company can do but the government cannot. So what happens under liberal fascism, where the federal government takes control of the private sector? Here is the dilemma in a nuthouse:

  1. A private insurance company in a Capitalist system can offer coverage for abortions if it chooses; a great many do so.
  2. A private company can choose not to demand proof of legal residency before insuring a subscriber; many insurance companies follow this route.
  3. But when the federal government operates its own insurance plan -- and especially when it rigs the game to force more and more people into that government plan -- then there are only two options for those particularly controversial issues:

    1. The government plan can cover them; in which case you have the federal government funding abortion and paying for coverage of illegal aliens;
    2. Or the government plan can refuse to cover them; in which case, hundreds of thousands of women forced into the government plan can no longer get their insurance to pay for their abortions; and millions of illegal aliens will lose the insurance they currently pay for and rely upon.

Thus in the House and Senate, either you have moderate Democrats up in arms about federally funded abortions and a free health-care ride for illegals -- in which case the bill goes up in smoke, because there are too many Blue Dogs to ignore; or else fewer women get abortions and fewer illegals get medical insurance -- and the ultra-liberal mainstream of the Democratic Party jumps ship, leaving the bill in even worse trouble.

The only solution would be to bribe three or four Blue Dogs to go ahead and vote for the bill, knowing they will likely lose their seats in 2010. For example, the One can offer lucrative positions in the administration to any Democrat who loses reelection next year; or the Democratic leadership can offer specific Blue Dogs powerful committee chairmanships if they betray their constituents -- plus a ton of campaign cash in 2010, in both the primary and the general elections.

I assume that's what is going on; and Squeaker Pelosi's insistance that she will have the votes represents her certainty that at least that many moderate Democrats are eager to be bribed.

But the fact that she does not yet have the votes indicates either that they're holding out for a super-duper bribe... or else that Pelosi's fundamental axiom -- that all Democrats are enthusiastic participants in the Democratic culture of corruption -- is a misapprehension based upon projecting her own ethos onto other people.

The next few days will tell us which. Since we're talking about Democrats, I suspect the Squeaker's scheme will ultimately bear fruit; she'll find three or four Blue Dogs corrupt enough to accept money and power in exchange for selling their constituents down the river. But I'm always open to persuasion by hard data.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 6, 2009, at the time of 3:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2009

"Reconciliation!" Gushes The Hill

Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

It's an article remarkable for its straightforward boosterism of the most extreme congressional tactic Democrats might use to pass ObamaCare.

Today in the Hill -- the largest circulation newspaper written for (and about) Congress -- we read an article (bylined Sam Youngman) that is so enthusiastic about the mounting likelihood that Democrats will try to pass ObamaCare by abusing the reconciliation process, bypassing the Byrd Rule, that -- well, as the title of this post says, the paper positively gushes over the prospect:

By offering Republicans olive branches during his address to Congress on Wednesday, Obama has set up a win-win situation. If GOP lawmakers embrace compromise [by which Youngman means "surrender" -- DaH], a healthcare bill would pass Congress easily. But the more likely scenario is that Republicans will continue to oppose Obama’s plan, and the president later this fall will be able to note he tried to strike a deal with the GOP but could not.

Darn Republicans, refusing to compromise on their "principles" even for the sake of the president! But hey, at least he tried.

Republicans contend that the use of reconciliation would be at odds with Obama’s call for bipartisanship during his 2008 presidential campaign. But Obama has countered that argument in recent days by forcefully resurrecting the anti-Washington rhetoric that got him elected.

He's winning -- he's winning -- he countered their argument!

"The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed," Obama said. "Now is the season for action."

And there's the rallying cry, baldly stated without comment. Why not go whole hog? Liberté, égalité, fraternité!

The Hill notes not a single substantive reason why reconciliation should not be used in this case; but there are several, as everyone at the paper knows well:

  • It's supposed to be used for noncontroversial changes made to programs to keep them within the bounds set by the budget resolution. But ObamaCare is a wildly controversial, radical rewrite of the entire American health-care system
  • On a related argument, it's unprecedented to use the reconciliation process to establish a huge new government agency -- or series of agencies. That's not what it's for at all, at all.
  • It's not to be used for programs that will add more to the deficit that what is already accounted for in the current budget resolution, which calls for deficit neutral health-care reform; but the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and even estimates by the administration of President Barack H. Obama have admitted that it's likely to add hundreds of billions to more than a trillion dollars to the ten-year deficit. (Obama now says it won't, but that doesn't change the fact that the CBO says it will.)

    Unless the budget resolution instructs the committees to bankrupt the nation, that violates at least two tests of the Byrd Rule prohibiting using reconciliation to sneak budget-busting bills through the Senate without allowing a filibuster.

  • Almost certainly, the combination of Republicans and moderate to conservative Democrats will force a promise from the leadership in both chambers not to use reconciliation to radicalize the program beyond what was sent them. Thus the leadership would have to brazenly deceive its own party members, as well as the opposition, and lie like a dead mongoose as it makes promises it has no intention of keeping.
  • Its use would require a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that was utterly mendacious: He would have to rule that none of the above was true, knowing his own ruling was as false as a Bernie Madoff investment. Either that, or the Presiding Officer would have to tell the Parliamentarian to go fly a hike on a short pier; then the P.O. just rules however the Democrats want.

Yet the only argument against the reconciliation jam-down that The Hill prints is the feeble, amorphous claim that it would be "at odds with Obama’s call for bipartisanship during his 2008 presidential campaign," which call everyone and his unkey's moncle knows is "no longer operative," as a previous liberal president's aides were fond of saying. The Hill, in other words, is not-so-subtlely implying that (a) the GOP is the only group on Capitol Hill that opposes the idea of abusing reconciliation, and (b) that they have no substantive argument whatsoever against it.

This is a classic technique of supporting one side while paying lip service to bilateralism: "It's not our fault that Republicans have nothing to say in their own defense (that we see fit to print)."

If anyone still thinks The Hill is just telling it like it is, they tip their hand with this one-sentence graf:

Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) outburst on Wednesday was an unexpected gift to the White House, accentuating Obama’s point that bitter politics is getting in the way of improving the healthcare of Americans.

Let's review the bidding:

  • Obama said that the government plan would not apply to illegal immigrants.
  • But Wilson (R-SC, 92%) remembers well how he and his Republican colleagues in the House tried several times to enact provisions to ensure that only legal residents received the benefits of the government plan.
  • But House Democrats shot down each and every attempt. So now there is no way, in the House plan that Obama supports, to distinguish or discriminate between those here legally and those here illegally: The Democrats closed off all avenues of enforcement.
  • Thus it is a certainty that illegal immigrants will receive health-care benefits from the government plan, and probably (by law) from all approved private plans as well, if those plans are restricted to the same screening process as the government plan
  • .

  • And it's also a certainty that the president himself knows this. He is certainly keeping close tabs on the progress of ObamaCare through Congress.
  • Thus, regardless of whether it was impudent of Rep. Wilson to point it out during the speech, Barack Obama is, in fact, lying when he says the plan won't cover illegal immigrants; Joe Wilson was rude but right.

The Hill could have noted this rather important point, since it saw fit to bring up Wilson's cri de coeur in the first place; the newspaper, too, could not possibly be unaware of the House Democrats' actions. Yet it failed even to mention Wilson's side, as if he had none and was simply an unruly child making a big noise.

More gushing and ardent support:

The president also said that the White House has made every effort to include Republicans and their ideas in the process, but blamed "unyielding partisanship" for the absence of compromise.

“Part of the frustration I have is, is that on the Republican side there are wonderful people who really operated on the basis of pragmatism and common sense and getting things done,” Obama said. “Those voices have been -- been, I think, shouted down on that side.”

The Hill allows Republicans no defense; had they done so, the GOP -- and Democrats who don't call themselves "progressives," the forgotten members of the anti-ObamaCare alliance -- might have invoked principle as a reason to go against the popular will... even if ObamaCare were according to the popular will, which polling indicates is actually just a liberal fantasy and Obamic talking point.

Pragmatically speaking, we could nationalize all the industries in the United States, sell them to foreign investors, and use the proceeds to mail checks to everyone below the poverty line; it's just common sense! But it would still be a monstrous evil, because of the vital principle of property rights.

And that is one of the very same principles opposing ObamaCare: It would force all responsible Americans to pay a great price in order to benefit a bunch of irresponsible dopes who don't want to buy health insurance, even though they can well afford it... yet who expect still to be given medical treatment if they fall ill or injure themselves. (And pragmatically speaking, their expectation is reasonable, because we've always done so and probably always will.)

But besides property rights, there is also the principle of liberty: People should have the greatest freedom possible within the constrains of living in a society. Even when a problem exists that can only be solved with some degree of collectivism -- for example, those born with pre-existing medical infirmities, such as a congenital heart defect, that would prevent them from being able to buy medical insurance -- the collectivist policy we pursue should be the one that least interferes with the market, allowing the greatest number of Americans to keep as much freedom of choice as possible.

In this case, liberty demands that we either subsidize those deserving unfortunates, or else create an "assigned risk" pool, from which every insurer must accept some money-losing bad risks; rather than radically recreate the entire system with the government controlled (and ultimately government run) scheme of ObamaCare.

But again, The Hill is uninterested in any principled arguments that opponents of ObamaCare care to make; the time for bickering and game-playing is over... we need action, action, action! Pragmatic common sense dictates that we need to get things done.

The president went so far as to warn Republicans that he "will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it."

No comment; I mean that The Hill offers "no comment" on the One's angry dismissal of any dissent to his plan as mere dog-in-the-manger partisanship. The article doesn't even mention another article in Wednesday's The Hill, in which House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 92%) says Obama has refused even to meet with Republicans on health-care reform since April:

Boehner told reporters that the president has not invited House GOP leaders to the White House for meetings on healthcare reform since the end of April.

Earlier this year, GOP leaders sent a letter to the president in May stating that they would like to work with the administration to find "common ground" on healthcare reform.

But the administration responded with a tersely worded letter indicating that they had healthcare reform under control.

How might that comport with Obama's accusation that the GOP "have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it?" The article not only doesn't essay an answer, it doesn't even trouble to raise the question.

But to the fair to the article, it does make one weak-tea attempt to allow Republicans to speak for themselves, rather than be interpreted (into nonexistence) by the president. I'm certain it's only the vicissitudes of fate that the GOP side is relegated to the last two paragraphs of the article:

Republicans, predictably wary of Obama's maneuvering, said if Obama is setting up a defense of reconciliation, it will do little to blunt the blowback from both Congress and the American people.

“If Democrats use controversial insider tactics to force a proposal that the majority of Americans disagree with, not only would they guarantee bipartisan opposition, but they would also spark a new level of outrage among a huge majority of people in this country," said a Senate Republican leadership aide.

The same has been said by numerous prominent Republicans who would be only too happy to be named. But I reckon it's easier to dismiss an "anonymous" warning. (Actually, we don't even know whether the aide demanded anonymity; that might have been entirely the decision of the putative journalist, Sam Youngman.)

All in all, this is a disgraceful performance from a newspaper I've always held in high regard. Alas, The Hill is just another casualty in the "progressive" Kulturkampf, where every least element of life must be politicized and partisan-ized. In particular, all sources of information and argument must be squeezed through a totalitarian tunnel, filtering out all opposition thoughts and words, silencing one side and then claiming they have nothing to say.

Or as Robert Anton Wilson wrote once, channeling Lemuel Gulliver:

And so these Learned Men, having Inquir'd into the Case for the Opposition, discover'd that the Opposition had no Case and were Devoid of Merit, which was what they Suspected all along, and they arriv'd at this Happy Conclusion by the most Economical and Nice of all Methods of Enquiry, which was that they did not Invite the Opposition to confuse Matters by Participating in the Discussion.

In other words, "Shut up," he explained.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 11, 2009, at the time of 5:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

As the Byrd Rule Flies: Why Dems Can't Use Reconciliation to Pass Radical ObamaCare

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

...Unless they're willing to immolate themselves in the process -- and probably lose the fight anyway.

Everybody is now slinging around the term "reconciliation process," but I think most of us don't really understand what the heck that means -- other than a sneaky way to pass ObamaCare without having to break a Republican filibuster. So as a public service to all and none, I spent several hours figuring it out. Perhaps you can spend a few minutes reading this post and have at least the gist of it. (Because "the gist" is all that I was able to comprehend in those several hours!)

Note: I am not a lawyer; I may be completely, laughably wrong. If I am, I hope some reader who is a lawyer will comment, and I'll correct any errors. Thanks.

The first question to ask is, what is the budget reconciliation process anyway? It's an optional, speeded-up process to bring spending on federal programs (current or those being created by new legislation) into line -- to reconcile expenditures -- with the current budget resolution (typically one of the first substantive bills passed each year); current and future programs cannot spend more than the budget resolution allows, so they must be changed to conform to it whenever the budget resolution changes or when programs start costing significantly more than anticipated.

The primary purpose of reconciliation is to reduce the budget deficit, though it has sometimes been used to change programs in ways that increased the deficit instead. Still, that is it's supposed purpose.

Congress can skip reconciliation and just pass bills normally; or it can skip passing them normally and use the reocnciliation process instead; they're two different paths to enacting legislation.

When Congress uses reconciliation, rather than the normal process, the final bill is considered on a "expedited" basis: limited debate, restrictions on amendments (they must be "germane"), and in the Senate, no filibusters allowed. But in exchange, there are strict rules on what can and cannot be added into a bill during reconciliation, designed to prevent its abuse in precisely the way the Democratic leadership plans to abuse it.

The budget resolution always includes instructions; the instructions direct various committees in the House and Senate to craft legislation that changes program spending on, or the revenues extracted by, various federal programs. The purpose is to keep the deficit within that allowed by the budget resolution, or better yet to reduce the deficit below that level. The designated committees mark up legislation, which is then submitted to their respective Budget Committees in House and Senate.

The Budget Committees then incorporate all the parts into a single "omnibus budget reconciliation measure." This is sent back to each chamber of Congress, subject to those expedited rules.

So how do Democratic leaders plan to abuse the reconciliation process? Simplified, the Democrats' scheme is to take whatever health-care reform bills they get from House and Senate and send them to reconciliation, to be rewritten by the designated committees.

In those committees, the Democratic leadership plans to reinsert all the socialist elements that the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats forced out (such as the government "option," and federal funding for abortion) and strip out anything the opposition forced in (perhaps tort reform, or some mechanism to prevent illegal immigrants from benefitting). The final bill would then be allowed only limited debate and would not be subject to a filibuster in the Senate, requiring only 51 votes to pass, instead of 60 to invoke cloture.

Can they pull it off? During reconciliation, it's certainly possible for new provisions to be attached to the reconciled bill. What's to stop the majority delegates from adding onerous provisions that have nothing to do with reducing the deficit and may even increase it dramatically?

Enter the Byrd Rule. This legislation -- Section 313 of the Congressional Budget Act (2 U.S.C. 644) -- is named after its sponsor, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV, 79%). The Byrd Rule prevents "extraneous matters" from being added during reconciliation.

If any senator objects to a provision added during reconciliation ( by raising a "point of order"), the Presiding Officer of the Senate must either sustain or overrule the point; he takes his cue from the Senate Parliamentarian, currently Alan Frumin. If the Parliamentarian advises the Presiding Officer that the provision is indeed extraneous, the Presiding Officer will almost always sustain it.

If the point of order is sustained, then the extraneous matter is stricken from the bill... unless 60 senators vote to waive the Byrd Rule in that case, or to sustain an appeal from the ruling of the Presiding Officer (it amounts to the same thing). The upshot is that extraneous matters can only be inserted into the bill if a 60-vote supermajority supports them, the same number required to break a filibuster.

So what are "extraneous matters?" That's the key question. The Byrd Rule defines them, as you can see in the links above. I'll try to interpret them from legalese:

  1. If the provision doesn't change outlays or revenues (the budget), or only in ways incidental to the rest of the bill. (This is actually two tests, so consider this items 1 and 2.)

In other words, you cannot hide behind the budget resolution if the provision has nothing to do with the budget. An example might be a bill authorizing the purchase of a bunch of advanced jet fighters; during reconciliation, delegates reduce the number of fighters purchased to remain under the budget resolution's limit; but they also insert a provision to require all insurance companies to cover abortions. The latter would be considered an extraneous matter; for one reason, it doesn't change either outlays or revenue.

  1. If the provision is outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted it.

In our example above, the abortion clause would violate a second Byrd Rule test, because abortion is outside the juristiction of the legislative committe tasked by the Budget Committee to write and submit the bill, probably the House or Senate Appropriations Committee, or the appropriate Defense subcommittee.)

  1. If the provision increases outlays or decreases revenue (that is, it increases the deficit)... and in addition, the provision as a whole goes against the instructions that the reporting committees sent to the Budget Committees under reconciliation -- generally measures for reducing the deficit.

That is, suppose the Senate reporting committee sends a health-care reform bill to reconciliation to with instructions to reduce federal health-care expenditures; but the legislative committee inserts a provision instead to increase expenditures -- say by implementing a government health-insurance program (or a government-funded co-op) that will operate at a loss, requiring heavy federal subsidies. Then any senator can later rise to a point of order that the added provision is an extraneous matter under test 4 of the Byrd Rule.

  1. If the provision increases outlays or decreases revenue after the fiscal years covered by reconciliation (no more than eleven years, counting the current year), unless the changes as a whole are budget neutral.

If the CBO projects that the added provision would increase the deficit even after ten years forward, then it's considered "extraneous," unless some other added provision balances it out.

  1. If the provision recommends changes to Social Security.

Test 6 has nothing to do with the ObamaCare; it's included only for completeness.

In the present case, if a Budget Committee simply jacks up the original bill's title and runs full-blown ObamaCare underneath it, the Byrd Rule could certainly be invoked for test 5, because adding, e.g., a government option would unquestionably increase federal outlays long after 2019; and it would probably also fail test 4, as I'm sure that Republicans would insist that reporting committee send instructions requiring at least deficit neutrality (since deficit reduction is the purpose of reconciliation)... which means any deficit increase, even within the ten-year window, would violate those instructions.

Note: The 110th Congress, with a Democratic majority following the 2006 elections, enacted a rule in both House and Senate prohibiting budget resolutions that allowed any deficit increase beyond $5 billion in any of four successive decades following 2018; but as this is just a rule, not U.S. Code, I'm assuming that they will just whisk it away if necessary to force ObamaCare on the American people. So let's just pretend their own rules change doesn't exist.

So what are the Democrats threatening? Here is their scheme:

  1. Replace whatever comes out of the House and Senate with full-blown ObamaCare in reconciliation. When some senator raises the obvious point of order, there are two avenues Democrats can take:
  2. They can somehow bribe, bully, or otherwise coerce the Senate Parliamentarian to issue a false ruling that ObamaCare doesn't raise the deficit beyond the ten-year window, and that it doesn't violate the Senate reporting committee's instructions;
  3. Even if the Parliamentarian refuses to go along with the scheme, the Presiding Officer of the Senate can simply reject his decision and overrule the point of order anyway.
  4. At that point, the bill goes back to the Senate requiring only 51 votes for passage -- unless Republicans and Blue Dogs can scrape together 60 Senate votes to sustain an appeal from the Presiding Officer's ruling.

I believe the Democratic attempt will fail.

First, I've never heard anyone suggest that Alan Frumin is so partisan and corrupt tha the would join such a conspiracy; so we're left with tactic 3 above.

Second, the Senate only operates at all because of comity; many ordinary procedures require unanimous consent, which is customarily given. Thus the minority conference and even individual senators have tremendous power to gum up the works and bring the entire body to a standstill, if they choose. But they would only do so under the most dire provocation. But tactic 3, telling the Parliamentarian to go jump in the Potomac and overruling an obviously proper point of order, would certainly qualify.

In fact, third, it might even be a sufficiently egregious violation of Senate protocol that enough Blue Dog or moderate Democrats join Republicans -- and it would be all Republicans at that point, even the liberals -- to prevent the omnibus bill from getting even a bare 51 votes.

There's a very good chance that the Democrats would, in effect, declare all-out war against the Republicans, with all the dreadful consequences that would entail in the Senate... and then lose the critical battle anyway. Since they're not political dunces, they won't even try it if their own headcount, and their own conversations with Frumin, raise even the strong possibility that they will lose.

Which I believe is exactly what they'll find. The Democrats are talking big, hoping to frighten the timid Republicans (or the Blue Dogs) into caving; but when it comes to the wall, I don't think they have the guts to roll the bones for their entire political future.

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 11, 2009, at the time of 1:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 5, 2009

Raucous Baucus Caucus

Confusticated Conservatives , Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections , Liberal Lunacy
Hatched by Dafydd

In a sure sign of a looming crackup in the health-care reform debacle, Sen Max Baucus (D-MT, 80%) says that he is sick of the deadlock among the putative "Bipartisan Six" senators, and that he is going to circulate a more or less final compromise position; if it fails to get four of the six votes -- as I suspect it will -- it will prove that "further bipartisan negotiations would be futile."

If that happens, I believe it will be the end of any significant health-insurance overhaul, as the Senate does not have sixty Democratic senators willing to vote for a Democrats-only ObamaCare bill; and all the Republicans will vote against cloture (including the Maine twins).

Finally, I do not believe, in the end, that the Democratic leadership will be able to pull off the "reconciliation" trick, where they enact a bill in the Senate that doesn't have, say, the government "option," but then add it in during reconciliation -- and claim that they only need 51 votes to pass the reconciled bill. The Byrd Rule would preclude that; and I believe Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV, 79%) himself would rail against it. A bunch of Blue Dogs would be outraged... particularly since they would be tarred by the bill even if they voted against it. The damage such a maneuver would do to the Democratic caucus itself would shred the party. Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) won't fire that Rubicon.

I think that liberal Democrats and Baucus himself have concluded that there will be no bipartisan compromise: Republicans have no incentive to take the electoral heat off Democrats pushing a wildly unpopular bill that will bankrupt Medicare and put an onerous health-care mandate on all Americans without any significant reforms to lower the costs, such as tort reform, removing barriers on cross-state competition for insurance companies, expanded medical savings accounts (MSAs), health-insurance portability (attaching insurance to the person, not the job), and so forth.

On the other hand, liberal Democrats in safe seats have no incentive to take the heat off their more moderate colleagues to pass a radical government takeover of health care. Instead, both the GOP and the Progressive Caucus see more gain to themselves in blowing up the negotiations than finding a "compromise" that everybody hates: Republicans expect the collapse to hurt Democrats in 2010, while liberals believe that if they agree to a compromise, their radical constituents will abandon them in the election -- whereas their own personal reelection is guaranteed if they hold firm to "progressive" principles, even if that means ObamaCare dies an ugly death.

Baucus sounds desperate:

The chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, signaled his intentions in a telephone conference call with five other committee members who have been struggling for months to forge a bipartisan bill and break a partisan stalemate in Congress, an official familiar with the call said.

The official said Mr. Baucus had told the group that he would circulate a detailed proposal as early as Saturday. In doing so, he would be taking a big step toward forcing a final decision by the group as to whether it sees any realistic prospect of a deal.

Many of the ideas expected to be included in the Baucus plan have been aired for weeks among the negotiators and by other lawmakers. But if Mr. Baucus follows through, it would be the first time he had assembled a complete package, an indication of the pressure he is under to produce an agreement.

It was ever thus: Republicans see American health insurance as mostly in good shape with a few problems that can be handled with minor tweaks; liberal Democrats see a "crisis," whether real or fabricated, that can be whipped into an opportunity to do what they have dreamt of for decades: nationalize American health care, à la the British National Health Service... and they are pushing the Democratic moderates to hold firm, even if it costs them their jobs, to principles they don't even fully support. The negotiators are thus speaking at cross purposes; there is no "meeting of the minds," hence no "contract" is likely.

The Baucus compromise in the Senate Banking Committee gives neither side any of its bottom-line essentials:

  • There is nothing to strengthen or expand the invisible hand of the free market in health insurance, so Republicans will reject it;
  • There is nothing to stick the invisible foot of government into the Capitalist system, so the "progressives" have nothing to gain and everything to lose by supporting it.
  • Thus, only a small handful of actual moderates would support the bowdlerized "compromise."

As I wrote last Tuesday:

Compromise is a great strategy when negotiating the price of a new car, but it makes lousy politics; usually nobody likes the result, and all the collaborators end up running for cover. Far better to compete instead of collaborate... to put our own vision of health reform out there, then let the people decide.

Note that this syllogism applies equally well to the GOP and the Progressive Caucus: Each side is better off rejecting an unworkable sausage of a compromise and instead pushing its own alternative plan, heading into next year's campaign.

La Casa Blanca agrees with this assessment -- gloomy to them, bright and sunny to me and anyone else who supports liberty, Americanism, Capitalism, and the market:

For all the interest on all sides of the debate about what occurred in Friday’s conference call, the White House and Congressional Democrats have already concluded that a bipartisan alternative is probably doomed after recent public attacks from Mr. Grassley and Mr. Enzi.

That leaves the administration with a new and highly charged political dynamic -- balancing the conflicting desires of liberals and moderates in the president’s own party -- as he tries to pass a bill with Democrats’ votes alone, perhaps, and at best one Senate Republican, Ms. Snowe.

But Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 12%) supports only a potential government option that would be triggered by absolute private-insurance company intransigence, which is unlikely in the extreme; much more probable is that under such a plan, insurance companies would make some appearance of cooperation, thus avoiding triggering the entrance of government health insurance.

All sides understand that a government option hinging on a trigger is either (a) the same as no government option at all, or (b) equivalent to a full-time public option from Day-0. There will be no "in between" state in which we're already not certain whether the trigger will or will not be squeezed. But the lefties in the Democratic Party won't accept (a), while Snowe and the other moderate Republicans will not accept the latter.

Further, the progressives demand an actual government "option" for health insurance from the git-go; anything less will not allow the destruction of private insurance... thus allowing a good crisis to go to waste. The Left has too much power within the Democratic Party now to be rolled into a compromise that even Snowe could live with.

Similarly, moderate Democrats are balking at the Left's demands:

The president must reach out to moderate-to-conservative Democrats like Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who will continue to push for a measure that spends less and does not include a public insurance option as liberal Democrats demand. The same is true for the Blue Dog Democrats in the House.

But liberal Democrats, who dominate in the House and include Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have become emboldened by the prospect of passing a bill solely with Democratic support.

Bottom line:

  • Moderates may want a compromise, but there aren't enough of them to pass it;
  • Conservatives and liberals alike would much rather have a head to head competition than "compromise" their principles by agreeing to a compromise;
  • Thus never the twain shall meet.

I predict there will be no compromise; rather, one side will win, and the other will lose. And given the mounting skepticism and even downright fear among the electorate about the specifics of radical health-care "reform," there's no doubt in my mind that the winner will be the GOP, the minor loser will be the Progressive Caucus -- and the big, fat, hairy loser will be Barack Obama himself, whose presidency will be gutted in his very first year in office.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 5, 2009, at the time of 9:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2009

Senate Democrats: Caving - or Bushwhacking?

Confusticated Conservatives , Congressional Calamities , Health Insurance Insurrections
Hatched by Dafydd

AP breathlessly reports that the Democratic leadership has "reached a shaky peace" with the somewhat moderate Blue-Dog Democrats (which AP calls "the party's rebellious rank-and-file conservatives"):

The House changes, which drew immediate opposition from liberals in the chamber, would reduce the federal subsidies designed to help lower-income families afford insurance, exempt additional businesses from a requirement to offer insurance to their workers and change the terms of a government insurance option.

What does "change the terms" mean? A New York Times story clarifies that the shaky peace retains the most odious element of ObamaCare, the government so-called "option" -- which won't be optional at all, if your employer dumps his plan in favor of heavily taxpayer-subsidized government-controlled health care:

While the federal government would still establish and run a new public health insurance program, to compete with insurers, the new entity would not use Medicare rates to pay doctors and hospitals. Instead, the government plan would negotiate rates with health care providers, just as private insurers often do.

On the Senate side of the Capitol rotunda, however, the deal being cut in the Senate Finance Committee omits the government option in favor of "non-profit cooperatives" -- which the shaky House peace also includes... another provision that might undercut private health insurance and employer-offered health insurance, if those co-ops are allowed to operate at a loss, then receive regular bail-outs by the feds (as happens with Amtrack, for example). From AP:

More problematic from the Democrats' point of view is a tentative agreement [in the Senate Finance Committee] to omit a provision in which the government would sell insurance in competition with private industry. In its place, the group is expected to recommend non-profit cooperatives that could operate at the state, regional or even national level.

Let's suppose, for sake of argument, that this is how it's ultimately passed in each chamber and sent to the Joint Committee for reconciliation: The House enacts government-controlled health care plus non-profit co-ops, the Senate only enacts the co-ops. Suppose further, as would almost certainly be the case, that Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%) appoints to the joint committee a strong majority of senators who support the government "option." This would of course result in that provision being reinserted into the joint version of the bill, which is then sent to both chambers of Congress.

Can the resulting bill be filibustered? If not, then of course it will pass; there is no way that Republican senators plus Blue-Dog democrats equals 51 votes against it. But if it can be filibustered, then there is a very good opportunity to kill the bill: If, say, 37 of the 40 Republicans vote against cloture, then it would only take four Blue Dogs to get to 41, which means the best the rest of the Democrats (and the defecting Republicans) can get for cloture is 59 -- which is not enough. I suspect that at least four moderate Democrats in normally Republican states will be afraid to thwart their constituents, so will vote against cloture... knowing that the other Democrats will eventually have to compromise, so there will be a bill -- just not the current bill.

So it's an important question to analyze: Can the bill be filibustered?

Note: We're dealing with the arcana of Senate rules, and I'm out of my depth... as is anybody who hasn't spent his life studying those rules! So I may very well be utterly wrong in my interpretation. Anyone who has actual working knowledge of the Byrd Rule in action, please post in the comments; if necessary, I will change this post -- even if that means the post becomes completely wrong and must be publicly retracted.

In theory, if a bill enacts a provision that was already included in the budget resolution, and if the budget resolution includes "reconciliation instructions" prohibiting amendments and limiting debate, then the bill cannot be filibustered; it only takes a simple majority to enact it. But there is an exception, which I'll get to in a moment.

On April 29th, the Democrats (with no Republican votes) enacted the budget resolution for fiscal year 2010, which begins on October 1st; and they did indeed include health-care reform and "reconciliation instructions":

The budget resolution also includes reconciliation instructions for healthcare and education overhaul proposals, which Republicans lambasted. Under reconciliation, healthcare and education legislation would only need 51 votes, thwarting any Senate filibuster.

At a meeting of conferees Monday, Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg, R-N.H., characterized the move as a power grab and likened Democrats to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for including reconciliation in the budget resolution. Obama was criticized by some lawmakers recently for shaking Chavez's hand in a visit earlier this month to Latin America.

"I can understand shaking Chavez's hand, but I can't understand accepting his politics, and basically shutting down the minority," Gregg said. "It will harm the final product."

So facially, it would appear the Senate Democrats can "bushwhack" their own Blue Dogs by tricking them into voting for a health-care "reform" bill that does not include government insurance, then sneak it back in during the joint conference and pass it over the objections of Republicans and even the Blue Dogs themselves.

But in that same passage quoted above, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND, 95%) opines that he does not believe the nervy tactic will work:

Conrad, who opposed the use of reconciliation to pass major legislation, said he did not believe that healthcare legislation would be written with its use.

"I believe, as people get into it, they will find that it just doesn't work well for that purpose," Conrad said. "I believe health care will be done under the regular order."

What did Sen. Conrad, a Democrat, mean by that? Why wouldn't it work?

There's one potential fly in the Democratic ointment: There is a provision of law called the Byrd Rule which allows, under certain circumstances, any senator to raise a "point of order" and object to any provision of any bill that falls under the reconciliation rule of no filibustering... so long as the Senate parliamentarian determines that the provision violates any one of the six "tests" the Byrd Rule sets up. In such a case, the provision is called "extraneous," and it is stripped from the bill -- unless it's waived by the full Senate. And the Byrd Rule can only be waived by (you guessed it) a cloture-like vote of 60 senators.

In other words, a filibuster is ordinarily not allowed for a bill that is covered by reconciliation; but if a provision of that bill violates the Byrd Rule (any one of the six tests), and if any senator objects to it on those grounds -- and if the parliamentarian agrees that the provision breaks the rules -- then that provision will be stripped from the bill unless 60 senators vote to let it stay.

(The only other person who could stop that process would be the Presiding Officer of the Senate, I believe, who could in theory overrule the Senate Parliamentarian's decision about whether the provision violates one of the Byrd Rule tests.)

The purpose of the Byrd Rule (named after Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, 79%) is to prevent the budget resolution being used to shield non-budgetary bills or provisions of bills from filibuster. For example, you couldn't push handgun prohibition or a repeal of the ban on partial-birth abortion through the Senate without being subject to filibuster merely by first including it in the budget resolution, because neither of those has anything to do with the federal budget, except incidentally. (Unless you had a pliant parliamentarian or a tyrannical Presiding Officer of the Senate.)

Here are the six tests:

Byrd rule tests - Section 313(b)(1) of the Congressional Budget Act sets forth six tests for matters to be considered extraneous under the Byrd rule. The criteria apply to provisions that:

  • do not produce a change in outlays or revenues;
  • produce changes in outlays or revenue which are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
  • are outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;
  • increase outlays or decrease revenue if the provision's title, as a whole, fails to achieve the Senate reporting committee's reconciliation instructions;
  • increase net outlays or decrease revenue during a fiscal year after the years covered by the reconciliation bill unless the provision's title, as a whole, remains budget neutral;
  • contain recommendations regarding the OASDI (social security) trust funds.

In the case of ObamaCare, the two important tests are numbers four and five, highlighted above in blue: If the government-option provision increases spending (which of course it does) and the ObamaCare bill as a whole fails to conform to the instructions in the budget resolution; or if the government-option provision continues to increase spending even after the period covered by the budget resolution (ten years) -- unless the entire ObamaCare bill can be shown to be "budget neutral" -- that is, it doesn't increase the deficit any more than the budget resolution allows it to do.

But here is the problem for Democrats: In order to shoehorn the government takeover of health-care into the budget resolution last April, they had to declare that it would pay for itself... that ObamaCare would be deficit neutral. From the House Committee on the Budget "fact sheet:

Assumes Health Reform Will Be Paid for so that it Does Not Add to the Deficit -- Our budget leaves it to the authorizing committees to determine both the policy and how to pay for health care reform.

So any provision of ObamaCare that spends money is subject to the Byrd Rule, unless (a) the Democrats can get the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to declare that, contrary to their earlier claim that the bill would add an extra several hundred billion dollars to the deficit, it's really going to add nothing at all to the deficit; and (b) that the provision in question won't cost a dime beyond the year 2020.

Each of these assertions would be risible, of course; the bill grossly expands the deficit, and the provision in question will require spending for as long as it exists. Since the Democrats certainly don't want to enact ObamaCare with a "sunset" clause, so that it automatically ends after ten years, they're going to have to live with the Byrd Rule.

I do not believe that the CBO will go along with either of these preposterous fantasies... in which case, as soon as the bill comes back from the joint committee, and the Democrats try to claim that under reconciliation, it cannot be filibustered, any single Republican -- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 80%), for example -- can rise to a point of order, object to the goverment "option" and any other odious measure under the Byrd Rule, and force a vote where the Dems need to get 60 votes to prevent those provisions being stripped out.

That is what Michael Barone meant yesterday when he said, on Hugh Hewitt's show, that under the Byrd Rule, Democrats will be unable to prevent filibusters of the health-care reform act. That's what Sen. McConnell meant when he said today on the same show that the bill "would be subject to filibuster."

But wait! What if the Senate Parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, simply ignores reality and declares that the Byrd Rule doesn't apply? Sure, in theory he could do that; and in fact, he has been heavily lobbied by both sides of the aisle since it became clear that the Democrats were going to taint the budget bill with reconciliation instructions for ObamaCare, to try to prevent a GOP filibuster.

But according to the Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper that is considered quite authoritative, if the Democrats expect the parliamentarian to back their partisan power grab, they picked a horse that is backing up the wrong tree:

“I talk to him regularly. He is not looking forward to this,” [former parliamentarian Robert] Dove told The Hill. “All I can tell you is he’s a very good man. He will call it straight. He will make all kind of enemies....”

Both parties are already lobbying Frumin. Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee and Senate aides from both parties have met with him to discuss the Byrd rule, named after initial sponsor Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). Frumin told Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) a few weeks ago that legislation passed through the reconciliation process may end up looking like “Swiss cheese,” because certain provisions of a bill may survive while others are stricken, Conrad said....

“He’s known for being substantively rigorous and he understands the value of precedent,” said Stan Collender, a partner at Qorvis Communications and a former Democratic budget aide. “He’s not likely to just come up with a ruling that’s completely off the wall. He’s known to do his job really well and tries to call it pretty straight.”

The upshot of bottom line of this analysis is that I do not believe the Democrats will be permitted by the parliamentarian to abuse the reconciliation process to jam ObamaCare through the Senate; nor do I believe the Presiding Officer of the Senate would be so reckless as to overrule the parliamentarian... as that might cause Republican and Blue Dog senators to bring the entire body to a screeching halt, thus imperiling not only certain provisions of ObamaCare, but the entire bill, plus every other element of the radical agenda of President Barack H. Obama.

It would also hand a powerfully effective issue to GOP senatorial challengers next year: "Democrats stifle the Senate's own parliamentarian in order to take away your health insurance!"

One way or another, they are going to have to get 60 senators to agree specifically on the government "option," on taxing your health benefits, on employer mandates, and on every other controversial element of the Obamacle's attempted government hijacking of Americans' health care. Further, I do not believe that those 60 votes currently exist, and support will only weaken as we pass into September and October. So I don't believe the Democrats will be able to pull this off.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 29, 2009, at the time of 9:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 21, 2009

The Biannual Full Moon

CIA CYA , Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Brave Sir Ron Leaps to the Lady's Defense

Today, in a vote so shocking my jaw dropped at least an angstrom, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX, 90%) -- the J. Neil Schulman of the House of Representatives -- thrust out a beligerant lower lip and cast his lot... not to create a "bipartisan congressional panel" to investigate Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) bearing of false witness against the CIA:

House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects.

Republicans Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina joined Democrats in voting 252-172 to block the measure, which would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.

Paul doesn't want to investigate whether the ultraliberal Democratic Speaker is a liar; he doesn't even want to know. Evidently, he has bigger birds to fry.

So what was the reason enunciated by Democrats for not probing the Squeaker, the argument that persuaded Ron Paul (and "Walter Jones," if that is his real name)? Oh, it was quite compelling:

"This is partisan politics and an attempt by the Republicans to distract from the real issue of creating jobs and making progress on health care, energy and education," said Pelosi spokesman Nadeam Elshami....

[T]he Republican-drafted proposal was a partisan jab meant to distract from the question of whether the Bush administration tortured war prisoners, [House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, 95%] said. Hoyer called the resolution another example of Republicans engaging in "politics of personal destruction."

Wow, that comes perilously close to persuading me to Pelosi's and Paul's side. Who can argue with that?

So the charge that Pelosi lied about what the CIA told her simply hangs out there, uninvestigated, hence unprovable. And the libertarian representative is just fine with that; doesn't want to contribute to any "partisan jab" that might "distract" from the urgent business of transforming America into a Eurosocialist welfare state. But wait, there is going to be an investigation after all:

[Hoyer] told reporters in a separate Capitol Hill news conference that he supports creation of a panel to investigate the nation's interrogation policy. What the CIA told Congress and when could be part of that, he said.

Say... what do you want to bet that the agenda of that investigation will be carefully controlled by the majority, so that the only party "in the dock" will be the CIA during George W. Bush's administration? (And how much should we wager that Ron Paul votes in favor of that one?)

I have long believed that "libertarians" -- especially Libertarians, members of the Libertarian Party -- are like werewolves: Every even-numbered November, they turn into hairy, howling, snarling Democrats, demonstrating their commitment to the values of Ludwig von Mises, Friederich Hayek, and Robert A. Heinlein by supporting the major American political party that is closest to Socialism.

The support isn't always blatant; some vote for cranks like Ron Paul, others for nonentities like Babar. But at least some self-described libertarians, such as Christopher Buckley, actually go the whole Chaney (Lon) and vote for leftist Democratic candidates such as Barack H. Obama himself. (Colin Powell is a whole 'nother case; I'm convinced that he was voting more for BO's skin color than his politics... though I'm sure some personal animosity against President Bush enters into the equation as well.)

But at least, thank God, the libertarians have enough principle not to vote for America's greatest enemy: the neocons!

A libertarian may talk a good liberty argument; but every election day, he becomes a wereliberal, spreading the leftist contagion by his own rabid saliva. All the while insisting that he's not really a liberal; he just plays one in the voting booth.

Now you know why, despite my libertarian sympathies, I'm very, very reluctant to call myself one of them. I have a lot of disagreements with the GOP, some of them quite significant; but at least I know the difference between a conservative and a liberal fascist: The one can sometimes irritate me; the other would gag me, loot me, and lock me away in Gitmo, if he only could.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 21, 2009, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 14, 2009

The Raucous Baucus Max-Tax Flim-Flam Plan

Congressional Calamities , Health Care Horrors , Liberal Lunacy , Tax Attax
Hatched by Dafydd

Always, those in the public sector have eyed the private sector as Martians observing the Earth: "vast and cool and unsympathetic." They envy the money; gross domesic product is many times larger than the measley $3 to $4 trillion available to the feds even in the age of Obama. They envy the productivity, which puts government programs and R&D to shame. They envy the freedom of CEOs simply to make decisions -- while government bureaucrats can only write memos of recommendation and shunt them one notch up the chain of infinite regress that is the government heirarchy.

They cannot duplicate the success of Capitalism and entrepeneurship, quite naturally; those qualities are characteristic of liberty, while government is its antithesis. So as with everyone consumed by envy -- even H.G. Wells' Martians -- what they cannot duplicate they can at least destroy.

Which brings us around, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, to the Democrats and their government takeover of health care:

Senators are considering limiting -- but not eliminating -- the tax-free status of employer-provided health benefits to help pay for President Barack Obama's plan to provide coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans.

Mighty considerate of them not to offhandly eliminate it; having us that momentus favor, surely we cannot carp about a little, itty-bitty tax, can we? By the way, anent those "50 million uninsured"... the only way to reach that number is to include the huge number of young, healthy, and well-paid young workers, who voluntarily choose not to carry insurance because they think themselves indestructable.

(Thank goodness I'm finally going to subsidize them! I couldn't stand the guilt, knowing I have condemned by inaction those young adults to having to pay for what they use, just as if they were ordinary people.)

On the controversial question of taxing health benefits, [Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max] Baucus is staking out a position that could put him at odds with Obama.

The president adamantly opposed such taxes during the campaign, arguing they would undermine job-based coverage. Obama's aides now say he's open to suggestions from Congress, even if he criticized Republican presidential rival John McCain for proposing a sweeping version of the same basic idea.

Baucus said he wants to modify the tax break, not abolish it.

"We are not going to repeal it," he said.

Baucus suggested that the benefit could be limited by taxing health insurance provided to high-income individuals, although he did not specify at what income levels. He also said that plans offering rich benefits -- for example, no co-payments or deductibles -- might be taxed once their value exceeded a yet-to-be-determined threshold....

In government jargon, the tax-free status of health insurance is called the "tax exclusion."

Let's set aside the weasle words for a moment and just look at the extreme case; we can reason backwards from there. Suppose that, contrary to Baucus' (D-MT, 80%) hand-on-heart claim, he really does intend to "repeal" the "tax exclusion"... what would that mean to taxpayers?

How does it work? Your employer pays you a salary (taxed), and he also pays for your medical insurance; yes, the latter is technically "income;" but it's not really, because you have no choice in how it's spent, other than small variations that the insurance plan my allow you -- picking an HMO or a Preferred Payer Plan, for example. (The purpose of the putative tax exclusion was, of course, to encourage employers to offer such plans -- which is why nearly everybody who wants medical insurance has it today.)

Employer-provided health insurance is considered part of workers' compensation, but unlike wages, it is not taxed. The forgone revenue to the federal government amounts to about $250 billion a year.

You rich villains are stealing the government's money!

In a typical case, your employer may pay you $50,000 salary and may pay about $450 per month in health-insurance premiums; you yourself may have to pick up a smaller portion of the premium, perhaps $150 per month. That means the total payment is, let us say, $600 per month or $7,200 per year.

The employer-paid part of that ($5,400 per annum) is not taxed: The employer deducts it as a business expense and the employee doesn't have to declare it as income. If the employee itemizes his income tax (for example, if he's buying a house and wants to deduct the mortgage interest), he may be able to deduct all or part of his own share of the premiums ($1,800 per year). Thus, he doesn't have to pay tax on anywhere from $5,400 of his "income" to $7,200, depending on how much of his own payments are deductable.

Splitting the difference, he gets to "deduct" (deduct or not have to report) $6,300 from his income. Since this will clearly be a marginal deduction, it all comes out of the highest income tax he's paying (unless that drops him below the level for that tax rate). This rate is currently 35%, I believe, but the specifics are less important than the principle.

So the final tally is: The taxpayer pays $2,205 less to the government than he would were the "tax exclusion" repealed; that of course means that if it were repealed, he would have to cough up an additional $2,205 to the feds -- so that other people would get to use government-controlled health insurance for free.

Sweet, isn't it? You pay a couple grand extra per year for the privilege of having private health insurance; but if you drop it and take the government-run health care instead, you pay no extra tax. As the Romans say, "Cui bono?" Who benefits? The public sector does... at the expense of the private sector, of course: This is yet another way that ObamaCare will drive people out of private health-insurance plans and into the loving arms of Uncle Sugar.

Of course, Baucus says (yesterday) that the Democrat-controlled Congress doesn't want to completely eliminate the "tax exclusion"; they just want to levy an extra tax on some of your health-insurance premium, not all of it. So they're not actually stealing the full $2,200... just a portion.

Of course, it still means that you must pay an extra penalty for using private health insurance but not for using ObamaCare. Thus the perverse incentive for everybody to dump private insurance in favor of government-run health care remains; it's just not quite as strong as if they went the full Monte. (And who knows what they will say tomorrow? Especially as the bill-writing continues, and it becomes obvious that the numbers just won't add up.)

Democrats are trying to sell the bill as purely utilitarian:

Many experts say that Congress won't be able to come up with the kind of money needed to provide coverage for all unless limitations on the health care tax break are part of the mix.

"I don't see how you're going to put a package together ... unless you touch the exclusion," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income people [that is, welfare recipients].

(Note that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is heavily underwritten by the Democracy Alliance -- which itself is funded by George Soros and many other prominent radical lefties. Just thought you'd like to know.)

I am less and less willing to give any benefit of the doubt to this administration on any point touching politics, progressivism, liberal fascism, or attacks upon the "Right." If -- in addition to raising revenue -- a bill also tends to drive people away from a market-driven, capitalist solution and towards government nationalization of health care, I will naturally conclude that this, not revenue, is the real goal.

Some of the arguments by proponents of HillaryCare ObamaCare seem to be brazen attempts at misdirection:

Proponents of repealing the benefit say it encourages lavish health insurance plans that only add to waste in the health care system. And they argue that the benefit is unfair, since self-employed people don't get as big a tax break for health care.

First, who cares if some rich people are willing to pay through the nose for a plan that includes rhinoplasty? Evidently the Left does: They care so much, they want to repeal all differences in the level of medical care between rich and poor. Equality is so important to the bad stepchildren of George Soros that, instead of some having more than others, they would rather everybody be equally poor and equally miserable.

If carried to its logical conclusion, this "reasoning" leads to the destruction of all private property... the rich will have the money but be disallowed from spending any of it! The response by the rich would be to flee the country, quite obviously... taking all of their talent, drive, and money with them. This disincentivizes intelligence, courage, and entrepeneurship: Why bother starting up a company if you won't even be able to enjoy the increased money you might make?

And the second argument for government-controlled health care is even more specious: If it's true that "self-employed people don't get as big a tax break for health care," then for God's sake, give them a larger tax break! Don't take away the break enjoyed by ordinary, company-employed workers.

With every new day, everything about this administration and this Congress makes it more and more clear that they aim to fundamentally transform America away from what we have been for 220 years -- and turn us into something alien. This is not patriotic; this is unAmerican. This is French.

We must kill this bill before it kills us.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 14, 2009, at the time of 7:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 2, 2009

The Great Dictator, part (C)

Beggar's Banking Banquet , Congressional Calamities , Democratic Culture of Corruption , Liberal Lunacy , Tax Attax
Hatched by Dafydd

If you want a picture of the future, imagine an iron fist clutching a smiley face -- forever.

The first two posts of this miniseries were:

We ended the last segment with a tease:

The final step of a liberal fascist takeover of the industry would be to control the wages of all employees, to be able to set them however they want.

So let's leap straight into the maw of that final eldritch horror of state capitalism, corporate socialism, or as I prefer, the Jonah Goldberg formulation: liberal fascism:

But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees -- not just top executives -- of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

The author of the article, Byron York, is the former White House correspondent for the National Review; he now writes for the Washington D.C. Examiner. York describes the legislation that Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA, 100%) has approved:

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.

In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is "unreasonable" or "excessive." And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate "the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates."

There really is no other way to describe this than a fascistic economic policy, where by "fascistic" I mean corporate socialism, similar to that developed most extensively by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. (Adolf Hitler did not invent it; he admired the economics of "Il Duce" so much, he copied them in his "Third Reich".)

Before moving further, it's important to note that fascism, while it has the stench of racism, antisemitism, and warmongering for conquest, is not strictly defined that way. An administration can be fascistic even if it has not the slightest whiff of any of those qualities. That said, however, the current administration is an open and unapologetic fan of race-based preferences; is packed to the gills with ardent foes of Israel who too often slop over into naked Jew hatred (using the code phrase "the Israel lobby"); and fecklessly threatened to invade Pakistan even before Barack H. Obama was elected; it can hardly be said to be anti-racist, philosemitic, or pacific.

The bill was actually authored by freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL, not yet rated), most famous until now for filing lawsuits against Halliburton; the fair-minded and non-prejudicial Grayson offered this unique reason for House members to vote for the bill:

"This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they're willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable," Grayson said. "We'll find out who are the people who understand that the public's money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street."

These are not the words of a man who has any love of the free market, individualism, limited government, or Capitalism whatsoever. I venture to say that Mr. Grayson veers perilously close to totalitarianism... and he might not even mind the label.

In a recent post, Patterico quoted Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics; Sowell hit it right on the money, as usual:

Too often a false contrast is made between the impersonal marketplace and the compassionate policies of various government programs. But both systems face the same scarcity of resources and both systems make choices within the constraints of that scarcity. The difference is that one system involves each individual making choices for himself or herself, while the other system involves a smaller number of people making choices for others.

It may be fashionable for journalists to refer to “the whim of the marketplace,” as if that were something different from the desires of people, just as it was once fashionable to refer to “production for use, rather than for profit” -- as if profits could be made by producing things that people cannot use or do not want to use. The real contrast is between choices made by individuals for themselves and choices made for them by others who presume to define what these individuals “really” need.

We must contrast the clarity, logical development, and true love of freedom found in Sowell's argument with the crabbed, self-serving, power-mad, authoritarian, arrogant, condescending, ill-informed, adolescent wish-fulfillment of Barack Obama, Timothy Geithner, Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 70%), and every other member of the liberal cabal that wants to hijack our country and turn it into Sweden. Or into fascist Italy of the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s.

Thomas Sowell is above all an American man who loves the American experiment... while the Obamunists are from Venus, I think. Barack Obama despises everything that the United States is right now; he will only love his country when it's no longer our country, but just an extension of the EU and the UN.

But always with a smiley face. Never forget the smiley face... that's the distinction that makes one a compassionate liberal fascist, which makes all the difference.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 2, 2009, at the time of 5:07 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 25, 2009

More Obamunism: Who Controls the Newspapers Controls the Present

Congressional Calamities , Democratic Culture of Corruption , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd
"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
-- "George Orwell" (Eric Blair), Nineteen Eighty-Four

Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD, 100%) has ridden in on his white horse with a wonderful suggestion for newspapers that are in financial trouble (which is pretty much all of them): Reincorporate as 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit educational institutions, which would exempt them from most income tax (except for "unrelated business income").

Of course, the move would also absolutely prohibit political advocacy, lobbying, or electioneering... which as I read it would even preclude publishing editorials critical of, e.g., the administration of Barack H. Obama. Or of individual Democratic senators, such as Benjamin Cardin. But that ought to be a good thing, no? Surely we all want newspapers to be politically neutral gatherers of fact and disseminators of the truth!

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin....

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

The comparison to PBS is apt; as we have all seen, PBS is forbidden from any political editorializing, politicking, electioneering, or advocacy. But of course, if they're merely reporting on issues -- straight "reporting," such as:

  • That the Iraq war was a disastrous defeat for America;
  • That rampant, unregulated, laissez-faire Capitalism is what got us into the financial crisis;
  • That the only thing that will save us now is complete nationalization of the economy;
  • That Israel is the cause of all problems in the Middle East;
  • That without government-run health care, we'll all die of cancer by age 60;
  • That anthropogenic global climate change is universally accepted by "science;" thus the time for denial by denying deniers (i.e., "high crimes against humanity and nature" or "intergenerational crime in the face of all the knowledge and science from over 20 years") has ended once and for all;

...That sort of straight, unbiased, apolitical news reporting will naturally still be allowed. You can't prohibit educational institutions such as the New York Times and the Washington Post from educating, can you?

But biased, divisive, obstructionist, obsolete, disloyal, and partisan politicking will no longer be legally allowed in newspapers. After all, they have a duty (as tax-exempt organizations) to educate, which means to tell the truth... "the truth" to be determined by the unbiased, professional, expert auditors at the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Who else?

Ergo, newspapers would have to cease publishing any future columns or opinion pieces by such talking-point, robot-army soldiers as Douglas Feith, David Freddoso, Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn, or John Hinderaker. But the papers wouldn't suffer from a lack of content, as they would be perfectly free to publish nonpartisan disseminators of pure truthful information, free from slant and politics, including Molly Ivins, Markos Moulitsas, Keith Olbermann, Jim Lehrer, and Bill Moyers.

What I cannot fathom, however, is why a Democrat, a member of the ADA's "100%-er" club, would push for the elite newspaper medium to switch from publishing such ardently tilted and mendacious flummery (such as opinion pieces by atmospheric physicists or meteorologists disputing Algore's 95 theses on globaloney) to the calm, measured, unemotional, multilateral, fact-based pronouncements of Nobel Prize winners such as, well, such as Algore. And Paul Krugman.

All this time, I've wrongly accused Democrats like Cardin of being mindless, vermin-infested, screeching blue monkeys, swooping overhead and hurling their feces down on the rest of us, then hauling us off to the Wicked Rodham of the West. And the little dog we rode in on, too.

I'm stunned that such a senator would abandon faction and ideology for the cold, unadorned, reality-based solution of turning profitless newspapers into non-profit ones, in effect, nationalizing the entire news-gathering industry. (To promote greater freedom of speech, of course.)

Go figure!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 25, 2009, at the time of 9:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 2, 2009

A Specter Is Haunting America

Confusticated Conservatives , Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Kudos to W. James Antle, III, online editor of the American Spectator, for the absolute best Sen. Arlen Specter (RINO-PA, 40%) title of the week-end: "the Specter That Haunts Conservatives."

Alas, Antle got it slightly wrong; I have corrected it in the title to this post. Antle blew the obvious because he was unable (or afraid) to draw the obvious conclusion: When a Republican ceases to vote with the party even on the most critical, bedrock, GOP issues -- such as the porkapalooza "stimulus" package and TARP II (pure, unadulterated socialism possibly leading to Venezuela-style nationalization of the banking system) and potentially even the "card check" legislation (forced unionization of workplaces, whether the workers want it or not) -- then it's time to dump that Republican in a primary, even if that means a more liberal Democrat is elected.

Why swap King Log for King Stork? Four reasons:

  1. Even if Specter votes with us on a small handful of less important issues, his presence so muddies the GOP message that it will sap the strength of the party for many election cycles, resulting in a much more catastrophic ultimate collapse than if we simply amputated the gangrenous limb right now.

You can't beat something with nothing. Socialism has a well-defined philosophy of governance -- "Everything inside the State, nothing outside the State," as Mussolini put it -- and their agenda flows directly from that. They have their economic theorists (from Keynes all the way to Marx), their military theorists (from Pelosi all the way to Murtha), and their political theorists (from Ayers and Alinsky to Hillary to Samantha Power to Rahm Emanuel).

If Republicans present muddled messages; if they talk about fiscal responsibility but vote for wildly irresponsible budgets; if they say they support freedom of choice but vote to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections; if they say the most urgent foreign-policy task is to defeat terrorists and Communist extremists, but then they vote to confirm cabinet officials who attack Israel, who apologize for America acting in America's interest, and who kow-tow to Iran, North Korea, and Russia... then how can we possibly ask voters to throw out the Democrats and vote for us? Voters don't even know what Republicans stand for, other than saying No to all the "free money" that Democrats want to give everyone (well, everyone who is a reliable Democratic voter-donor, anyway).

Republicans like today's Arlen Specter make it virtually impossible for the GOP to get its message out -- because nobody within the GOP can reconcile the dichotomous messages of the different Republican factions. Some "diversity" of opinion is fine -- but not on bedrock Republican issues, such as a strong national defense, individual freedom, limited government, traditional moral values, and Capitalism. One by one, we must send the thunderous herd of RINOs packing.

  1. If Specter moves hard left yet still retains support from the Republican establishment, then won't he do it again and again, with every vote? If he's Arlen Specter today, he'll be Lincoln Chafee next year -- and Jumpin' Jim Jeffords the year after that.

Like in Texas Hold 'Em: If you've got nothing, but you call a raise anyway -- hoping to improve with the next card -- then what are you going to do the next round of betting, when your opponent raises again? You have fewer chances to win, but you're much more deeply invested than the last round, and you may feel even more desperate to defend your rotten hand.

At this point, the entire Republican establishment is lining up behind Specter; they have an awful lot invested in that one senator, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee and number-two Republican on Appropriations. So if next month, he is the swing vote that takes away free and fair union elections or opens the door to a return of the inaptly dubbed Fairness Doctrine, the GOP establishment will probably remain behind him.

And if later in the year, Specter provides the critical vote that brings about socialized health care, overturns the ban on partial-birth abortion, overturns the Defense of Marriage Act, or enacts a full-blown amnesty for illegal immigrants (not merely the plea-bargain authored by McCain), well, the committee heads, the minority leader, and Party Chairman Michael Steele will probably be "pot committed" to back him even then. They'll tell Pat Toomey, Specter's likely rival in the GOP primary in Pennsylvania, to go boil his head... despite the fact (or because of it) that Toomey nearly bumped off Specter in the 2004 GOP primary.

And then what do they do when, immediately after winning reelection in 2010, Specter turns his coat and becomes a Democrat -- but doesn't change any of his positions? How can the Republican establishment justify dropping their support for old Arlen?

Specter must be sent packing now, in the 2010 primary... even if the Republican candidate loses. We won't be any worse off on the most critical issues than we are right now.

  1. The establishment likes Specter because they believe he will be more electable than any conservative replacement on the ticket; but it's actually an open question whether Specter is electable at all today.

For one thing, he has so alienated Pennsylvania Republicans that he will almost certainly get a much smaller percentage of the GOP vote this time than back in 2004. At the same time, the Democratic registration edge over Republicans in that state has doubled. Even if Specter goes heavily liberal, he won't be as acceptable to the Left as whoever is the Democratic nominee: In a race between a Democrat and a "Democrat," the Democrat usually wins.

I think it boils down to this. I believe 2010 will be an expectedly unexpectedly Republican year: Expectedly because it's an off-year election, and those usually result in election losses for the incumbent party; unexpectedly because everyone and his monkey's uncle seems to believe that Democrats are now and will remain invincible for the next thirty years.

I don't accept the latter meme. I believe that public reaction will be very strongly negative to the socialist agenda of President Barack H. Obama and the corrupt and incompetent congressional Democrats. I believe we will end up winning a number of races that are written off as hopeless now... but only if we have a candidate who is not compromised by his own complicity.

If, on the other hand, I'm wrong, and it's not a Republican year -- then Specter is toast as well. So what difference does it make? We need to give Specter the boot in the primary, and the Republican leadership should lead the way; thus we'll be ready if 2010 is a better year than expected -- and poised if the turnaround year is 2012 or 2014, instead.

  1. "Pour l'encouragement des autres," as I believe Voltaire said.

This one is really simple: If we can knock off an old warhorse like Arlen Specter for deviating too far from mainstream Republicanism -- even if his conservative replacement on the ticket loses the general election -- that will put the fear of God (or at least the fear of GOP) in other putative "moderate" Republicans. If Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, 67%), or Dick Lugar (R-IN, 60%), or Susan Collins (R-ME, 30% !), or Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 28% !!!) is defeated in a primary election, it doesn't help the dumpee if the Democrat subsequently wins the general election; dumpee is still out pounding the pavement, perhaps holding a sign reading "will compromise ethics for praise in the Times."

To quote Bill Clinton (talking to some other jackanapes), It's time for Arlen Specter to go. It's time for the Republican conference to grow a spine and back strong challengers, whenever the incrumbent Republican does nothing but give ammunition to the Democrats. It's time for Republicans to pay as much attention to party loyalty as the Democrats do: We should not allow officeholders to call themselves Republicans when they disagree with American GOP voters on the most fundamental aspects of Republicanism.

It's time, in short, for Republicans to stop being the "party of orderly succession" and become "the party of consistency, clarity, and honesty."

It's only then, I believe, that we can become "the party of winning elections" once more.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 2, 2009, at the time of 5:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 13, 2009

George Voinovich Retiring. Can We Get a Republican Instead?

Congressional Calamities , Elections
Hatched by Dafydd

George Voinovich (RINO-OH, 48%) has announced that he won't run for reelection. He joins Mel Martinez (R-FL, 80%), Sam Brownback (R-KS, 95%), Kit Bond (R-MO, 83%), and possibly Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX, 88%) in the list of Republican senators who have either announced they won't run for reelection in 2010 or, in Hutchison's case, appears ready to resign to run for governor of Texas.

Voinovich has been a thorn in the eyes of the GOP for his entire tenure as U.S. senator. Probably for that very reason, his prospects for reelection in 2010 were already dicey.

While Voinovich gives the usual phoney-baloney reasons for not running for reelection -- wants to do the work of the people instead of campaigning, wants to spend more time with his family, yak blah -- the real reason for his departure may be somewhat more prosaic:

In announcing that he would not seek another term, Mr. Voinovich avoids what could have been a difficult re-election fight. As recently as December a Quinnipiac University poll found that fewer than half of all voters in the state -- 44 percent -- said he deserved to be elected to a third term. And voters were nearly evenly split on the question of whether they would vote for him or an unnamed Democrat.

Voinovich won handily the last time he ran, winning by 64 to 36 against Mike Fingerhut; but this was in 2004, during Bush's successful reelection. He also won fairly easily the first time he essayed the Senate in 1998, 56 to 44; in that election, he "ignored" (Michael Barone's word) the attacks of his opponent, County Commissioner Mary Boyle, and ran on his record as Governor of Ohio, winning the seat vacated by American hero turned Clinton lickspittle John Glenn.

But in the new, more Democratic Ohio of 2006 (Sherrod Brown beats Mike DeWine at the peak of the Ohio GOP scandal) and 2008 (Ohio narrowly goes for Barack H. Obama as the financial "cratering" -- George W. Bush's word -- looms); with tepid polling; and with Voinovich being already 72 years old (74 when the next election is held), he evidently sees the "mene mene" on the wall.

But I'm not convinced that the public is rejecting Voinovich because, with his 2007 48% rating from the American Conservative Union, is too conservative. It's much more plausible that his low ratings derive from Republican reluctance to reelect yet another tax-hiking, gun-grabbing, war-defeatist surrender monkey RINO back to the Senate.

I'd love to see an actual Republican run to replace him in what used to be the Republican state of Ohio. The question is, can an actual Republican be elected? I say Yes, Rob Portman can -- for reasons detailed below.

The $1.2 trillion question is this: Has Ohio fallen fully under the sway of the Dark Side, or was 2008 just a "Democratic year," with the normal pattern of favoring the "out" party returning in 2010? Is a GOP election victory in Ohio even possible?

First, note that Obama beat John S. McCain there by only half the margin (4%) last year that Sherrod Brown beat Mike DeWine by (8%) in 2006. While there certainly are confounding factors, I would imagine that Obama nevertheless was at least as appealing a candidate to Ohioans as Brown... implying that the taint of the Gov. Robert Taft corruption scandal and the Jack Abramoff-related scandals in that state may not be long lasting.

Whether or not a real Republican can win, I still want to see a more conservative -- or libertarian-conservative -- nominee for the Voinovich seat than the departing man himself. At the very least, I want to see what happens, how well an actual Republican like Portman does in that state. I suspect that he will begin with an approval rating north of Voinovich's current 44%.

Rob Portman is, in fact, the supposed favorite to replace Voinovich on the GOP ticket; Portman is the former director of OMB under President Bush and a former Ohio congressman:

Among those who are reportedly angling to replace Mr. Voinovich is a former Ohio congressman, Rob Portman, a Republican who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget and United States Trade Representative during the Bush administration.

Mr. Portman has not yet announced his candidacy, but Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, sought to pre-empt him on Monday.

“It’s jaw-dropping,” Mr. Miller said, “that Republicans would seem to turn to a Washington insider like Rob Portman who was one of the architects of the Bush economic policies that have run up trillions in deficits and shipped jobs overseas.”

That "trillions in deficits" argument may not fly as well as a pig in 2010, after two years of Barack Obama's "stimulus" package.

Portman's last ACU rating (2004) was 88%, nearly twice that of Voinovich. Everyone seems to "expect" him to declare his candidacy today. He won all of his elections (general and primary) easily; but the second district of Ohio is staunchly Republican: Portman's successor, Jean Schmidt, even won in the debacle year of 2006 (albeit narrowly), then won reelection more substantially last year.

Even so, my intuition tells me that we're considerably better off in 2010 running Portman than Voinovich in the senatorial election, for all that we're swapping an incrumbent for an open seat.

The other states mentioned where Republican senators have decided not to run in 2010 (or in Hutchison's case, might decide to resign) seem reasonably safe to me: Only Florida went to Obama last November, and that extremely narrowly; Kansas and Texas were solidly for McCain, while Missouri remained red in the election's closest squeaker, 0.13%. But no congressional seats changed parties in MO in the 2008 election. (Several did in Florida, but they were nearly all attributable to the individual Republicans being personally enmeshed in either the Mark Foley or the Jack Abramoff scandals.) I don't see any projectable trend in those states from red to blue.

So far, at least, the retiring GOP senators have probably done us more good than bad by getting out now. I think that's certainly the case for Sen. Voinovich.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 13, 2009, at the time of 1:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 1, 2008

While Washington Wilts, Soros Schemes

Congressional Calamities , Econ. 101
Hatched by Dafydd

With the failure of the intricately worked-out compromise bill to rescue the frozen credit market, torpedoed on Monday by House Republicans and many House Democrats -- the former on ideological grounds, the latter because they didn't want to be left holding the baggage -- the hard Left is vulturing down from the trees to muscle into the hand.

George Soros, who I believe needs no introduction, now proposes his own version of a bailout -- a real bailout, not a "buy out" or rescue -- according to an article by Alexander Bolton in the Hill:

Soros has outlined his plan in an opinion editorial in the Financial Times and circulated a concept paper among decision-makers.

Specifically, the liberal philanthropist has proposed that government funds should be used to recapitalize the American banking system by purchasing equity in banks and investment firms.

Let's be clear: What Soros proposes is for Treasury to "recapitalize" the banks by buying about $500 billion of equity in them. From George Soros' opinion piece in the Financial Times:

This is how it would work. The Treasury secretary would rely on bank examiners rather than delegate implementation of Tarp to Wall Street firms. The bank examiners would establish how much additional equity capital each bank needs in order to be properly capitalised according to existing capital requirements. If managements could not raise equity from the private sector they could turn to Tarp.

Tarp would invest in preference shares with warrants attached. The preference shares would carry a low coupon (say 5 per cent) so that banks would find it profitable to continue lending, but shareholders would pay a heavy price because they would be diluted by the warrants; they would be given the right, however, to subscribe on Tarp’s terms. The rights would be tradeable and the secretary of the Treasury would be instructed to set the terms so that the rights would have a positive value.

Private investors, including me, are likely to jump at the opportunity. The recapitalised banks would be allowed to increase their leverage, so they would resume lending. Limits on bank leverage could be imposed later, after the economy has recovered. If the funds were used in this way, the recapitalisation of the banking system could be achieved with less than $500bn of public funds.

This is precisely the breach in the wall of separation between bank and State I most fear -- on steroids. With half a trillion dollars of money to swing, we could probably buy a controlling interest in the top dozen or score financial institutions.

Soros does not say whether this equity interest would include voting rights; but in practice, the 800-pound gorilla doesn't need voting shares to bully the institution. For example, imagine the next Democrat in the White House (Barack H. Obama or someone later) issuing an executive order to divest all equities from banks that do business with Israel, as a way to pressure Israel to sign a suicidal agreement with Hezbollah.

No matter how much of the actual vote the private investors retain, the threat to dump 30% or 40% of the company's stock at fire-sale prices, thus tanking the rest of it, would likely be enough to "encourage" the BoD to obey orders.

I'm not entirely clear what Soros means by "warrants." Does he mean what amount to stock options, so that the Treasury can buy even more stock in the future at the same price, even if by then, the share price has risen? (That's at least one common financial use of the term "warrant.")

If so, this is a license to loot the financial institutions exactly the way that so many top executives do: By bargaining for a huge stock-op package, running the share price up by flakey (but temporary) accounting, and then quickly exercising the options and selling them in the same transaction -- before the funny CPA tricks become known and the stock plummets. After selling the stock ops high, the exec could even turn around and short a bunch more stock, knowing that the financial shenanigans are bound to come to light soon.

Soros made many of his billions in currency exchanges, which are highly manipulable by political lobbying; he is very experienced with pushing prices up when selling long and down when selling short; he is known as "the man who broke the Bank of England." Thus it's hardly surprising that he wants Treasury to implement the equity scheme he advocates; if it's implemented, he himself admits (in this very opinion piece) that he intends to profit massively.

As he put it, "Private investors, including me, are likely to jump at the opportunity." The opportunity to do what? To pull billions of dollars out of the banking industry... which appears to be just what he wants the feds to do, but on a much grander scale.

According to the Hill, he has already presented this scheme to Barack Obama, the man he has long supported for president, and to Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA, 95%), the earmark-loving, Murtha-supporting Democrat who famously blamed the "Jewish community" and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for our invasion of Iraq:

Democratic Rep. Jim Moran (Va.) scheduled a meeting Tuesday afternoon with Robert Johnson, a former manager of the Soros Fund Management, to discuss the proposal.

Moran compared the proposal to Warren Buffet’s $5 billion investment in the investment firm Goldman Sachs Group in return for preferred stock and warrants to buy common stock at a discount. [There you go; evidently, my guess above is exactly what Soros means by "warrants."]

Soros has also contacted Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential campaign to share his views on the financial crisis and the best way to solve it.

Bolton in the Hill notes that Soros is determined to shift the House debate from the Paulson-Bernanke plan to the Soros scheme:

Soros, who is widely regarded as a financial wizard, could jumpstart congressional negotiations in a new direction, especially now that some strategists believe the Paulson-based plan that failed Monday will be difficult to revive.

One banking industry lobbyist said it would be very difficult politically for Republicans who voted against the package Monday to change their minds and vote for it a few days later. More than two thirds of the House Republican conference voted against the plan, which failed by a vote of 228-205.

Soros is also "widely regarded" as a leftist crank who has consistently predicted the collapse of Capitalism (even while he reaps billions from legal but morally questionable currency and stock manipulation). Besides his overt political support for the left, Soros created and heavily funds the Open Society Institute, a screamingly leftist grant-dispurser with more than $850 million; it funnels millions of dollars each year to such "nonpartisan" groups as NARAL, ACORN, La Raza, MoveOn.org, the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, the Death Penalty Mobilization Fund, and the Death with Dignity National Center. (Evidently, Soros supports the death of the innocent, but never the guilty.) You can read a somewhat more complete list of groups funded by the OSI, thus by Soros, here.

Anything he proposes is going to be designed not only to push more socialism and Statism -- both of which directly benefit his personal financial portfolio -- but also designed to improve his future business prospects by electing a much more left-liberal Congress in November.

So now we have a race: The Senate may be about to vote for the Paulson-Bernanke bill with a couple of sweeteners -- some minor and temporary tax relief to pique the interest of a handful of Republicans, and even more low-cost housing mortgages for the poor, to drag in those liberal House Democrats who rejected the bill because it retains our generally capitalist economy.

But at the same time, the Soros scheme for the federal government to buy the banks (unadulterated liberal fascism, in case you missed the point) is making the rounds of influential Democrats, such as Jim Moran -- who has the ear, and perhaps the earmarks, of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%).

Which side wins? I suppose it must depend upon whether Democrats want to run on fiscal responsibility -- say, by nominating Hillary Clinton -- or on a platform of massive but unspecified and decidedly liberal "change;" to more and more Statism; to curtailing freedom of speech; to criminally prosecuting political differences; to enact huge tax increases and even more gargantuan spending hikes; and to deprivatize and nationalize as much of the economy as possible. The party might signal the latter by nominating an anti-Hillary... say, somebody who has argued in favor of all these OSI-type ideas; somebody who has a background in street-level leftist organizing, deep friendships with anti-American revolutionaries and radicals, and a voting record to match.

The Democratic House has the power to pass whatever it wants, if Pelosi makes the vote a "party discipline vote" this time. It's entirely in her hands, though anything really bad probably wouldn't get through the Senate. Again, everything hinges on whether House Dems are more interested in solving the problem or exploiting it in the election.

Neither of these indicators comforts me.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 1, 2008, at the time of 5:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 29, 2008

For Those Who Still Think Republicans Can Win the Blame War...

Congressional Calamities , Econ. 101
Hatched by Dafydd

You think so? You really think that the American people will somehow realize that it's all the fault of the Democrats -- which it is -- in time to vote for John S. McCain and Republicans in Congress?

Watch this... but watch it from the perspective of someone who doesn't already know the history behind the collapse of the mortgage market. This is the infamous pre-vote speech by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%). But don't watch it saying, "Oh, such lies! We all know what really happened," because we don't "all know" what really happened; most people have not heard anything but the liberal, anti-free-market narrative.

I am particularly thinking of Hugh Hewitt.

If speeches like this one from the Squeaker is all that voters hear, imagine what they will think. And believe me, for at least the next few weeks, this is all they will hear: The vast majority of undecided voters still get their news from elite-media sources... not from blogs (which reach a tiny number of people), nor from talk radio (whose listeners are already for the most part in the Republican camp).

Make your mind a complete blank on things you have learned from Rush or Hugh or Michael Medved, everything you've read on Power Line or Instapundit or Patterico's or Wolf Howling -- or even here. Just watch and tell me: Does Pelosi come across on this video as a raving left-winger, a bomb-throwing radical, a poison-spewing harpy? Because honestly, I think she comes across as very reasonable and even-handed -- even as she fires lie after lie after vile, despicable lie into the heartland:

 

 

Democrats are 8-dan blackbelts at twisting the blame away from themselves and onto us; while we only visit the swamp occasionally, liberals live there 24-7. They're so good at flinging poo, they even do it among themselves, just for fun and practice.

The most likely response, of course, is that the House Democrats will put all the horrible socialist provisions, stripped out by the HRs, right back into the bill... and then they'll pass it in the House by attracting back the most radical of the 95 Democratic Dr. Nos.

And the American people will decide that they were right after all: The Democrats (and Barack H. Obama) are the party to trust on economics! And then, years and years down the line, Republicans may have the enormous satisfaction of saying "I told you so."

But nobody will be listening... because once again, Democrats will blame their own failures in this very bill on us.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 29, 2008, at the time of 4:31 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Did House Conservatives Just Hand the Election to Obama?

Congressional Calamities , Econ. 101
Hatched by Dafydd

They invite John S. McCain to Washington D.C. to get them a better deal on the bailout. They accept his help in negotiating with the Senate. They strongly praise him when the deal is improved, and their own negotiator strongly implies that they will accept it -- or at least oppose it only narrowly, so that it will still pass with substantial Republican support.

Then on the vote, perhaps miffed at Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%), they betray McCain and instead vote against the rescue measure en masse, triggering a cascade failure that causes the bill to collapse, the stock market to record its biggest one-day drop in decades, and to plunge the entire country -- and world -- into financial chaos.

...And this leaves the American voter with the sour impression that:

  1. John McCain is completely ineffectual even at managing his own party;
  2. He is not the person to turn to on economic matters;
  3. He is not ready to be president.

Hey, nice strategy, Mr. Conservative! Perhaps next, they can openly question whether McCain should be the nominee and call for him to be replaced by Mike Huckabee. Or Bob Barr. That would make everything much, much better.

The American people are now terrified that they'll lose everything... and when terrified to this extent, we have a disturbing tendency to turn to the man on the socialist horse, who promises (like Woodrow Wilson, like Benito Mussolini) that a massive government takeover will fix everything and comfort the masses -- by relieving them of all future responsibility.

There is now only one chance for McCain to turn this around: He must return to D.C. and somehow, someway, get enough of those ideology-plated "conservative" morons to change their votes -- it only takes a few, but they all should do it -- that a (slightly) modified version of the bill actually passes.

And this time, when Pelosi, who senses that she can goad and manipulate House Republicans as easily as the hysterical, chained-up dog in the yard next door, gives another insulting, gloating, triumphalist speech, the HRs have to swallow hard and just vote for the damned rescue anyway, even if it wounds their pride.

If they want to introduce more market-based incentives and regulations into the process later, they will have the best opportunity since the era of Newt Gingrich (during which they never bothered to do much about the issue). But for right now, not passing a rescue bill is not only a political catastrophe (for John McCain and even for congressional Republicans) but an economic disaster as well.

Whose fault is it? Certainly it's as much or more the fault of the Democrats as Republicans. But anybody who thinks the GOP is going to be able to convince the American voter that it's really Pelosi's fault (and by extension, Barack H. Obama's fault), that Republicans can persuade voters to punish Democrats, not Republicans, in November, is living in sin with Prince Nemo in Slumberland.

Logic and rationality fly out the window when voters panic, hysteria and demagogy rule the day. And Democrats are, if nothing else, masters of demagogy in a way that Republicans have never been able to match. If this election becomes a contest to see which party is the better at flinging poo, Republicans will be buried.

To put it in a nuthouse, if the HRs fold their arms and simply say "Nyet" over and over, then we will wake up on Guy Fawkes Day to President Barack Obama -- and a 60-vote, fillibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate.

I know there are some putative "conservatives" who call for exactly that; they believe that the Democrats will overreach, and in two years, they will recapture the House and Senate... "just like in 1994!"

But I have another date for them to bear in mind: I say the current political mood -- if they don't change their minds on this bailout -- is more akin to 1932 than 1994... and there certainly is no Gingrich waiting in the wings, as there was (and already very well known and trusted) in 1994.

The 1932 election was falsely sold as a choice between the "progressivism" of FDR and the "failed laissez-faire capitalism" of Herbert Hoover; in fact, Hoover had enacted virtually every "progressive" policy that Franklin Roosevelt later tried in response to the Great Depression, and neither version worked. Yet not only was the Democrat elected president for the first time in 16 years, but both houses of Congress went overwhelmingly Democratic... and they both stayed Democratic for fourteen long years, through seven congressional elections.

The Democrats continued to hold the White House for twenty years, until 1952; and the only reason Republicans won that year was that Eisenhower, who had never said what party he belonged to while on active duty, declared himself a Republican. Had he declared himself a Democrat, he still would have won; and the Democrats would have continued to hold the White House until 1968, which would have given them a 36-year run.

As of 1946, after fourteen years of a Democratic president and a thoroughly Democratic Senate, seven justices on the Supreme Court had been appointed by Franklin Roosevelt... and the other two (Justice H.H. Burton and Chief Justice Frederick Vinson) were appointed by Harry Truman. All nine justices were Democratic appointees.

Democrats controlled the Court until 1958, when Dwight David Eisenhower nominated his fifth justice, Potter Stewart, ending a twenty-year run of Democratic control of the Court, starting when the Warren Harding appointee George Sutherland retired, and Roosevelt nominated Stanley Reed to replace him.

This period includes one of the worst runs of judicial activism in our history. Yeah, that 1932 election sure worked out well for the Republicans... and so too would the election of Barack Obama, if it comes to that.

And it will come to that, if House Republicans don't get their minds out of the ideological clouds. Please, for the love of God, stop lecturing us on how the free market would have built a better boat, and start bailing out the water that's pouring through the hole in the hull. The time to rethink boat-building, which we desperately need to do, is when you're home safe in drydock... not when you're rounding the tip of Africa.

But here is a contrary scenario: Obama dithers, blaming Republicans; but McCain immediately flies back to D.C., and by mid-week, he is able to get HRs to agree to a modified version of the bill. The vote is held on, say, Thursday or Friday... and this time, it actually passes.

In which case, John McCain becomes the man on the white (and capitalist) horse who has saved everything... and he might -- might -- make this rescue work politically as well as economically.

So the ball is now in the court of the House Republicans. They have two choices:

  • Continue to be obstructionists -- and prepare for a rerun of the horrific 1932 election;
  • Become problem-solvers -- and help elect John McCain president... and hold their own or even pick up seats in the congressional races, if they can successfully don McCain's mantle as a principled but practical reformer.

Pick a hand, Mr. Conservative. Which shall it be?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 29, 2008, at the time of 2:53 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

Mississippi: All Politics Is Loco

Congressional Calamities , Elections
Hatched by Dafydd

Democrat Wins by Running for Protectionism

In Mississippi's First congressional district, a special election was just held to replace Rep. Roger Wicker (R-MS, 96%), who was tapped to fill the rest of term of former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS, 86%). Wicker was a strong conservative who typically won his district with 70% of the vote; in 2004, President Bush won the district by 62-37, and by 59-40 in 2000. Nevertheless, the Democratic candidate, Travis Childers, won yesterday by a relatively narrow 54-46, beating Southaven mayor Greg Davis.

The first question is, Why? Is Mississippi turning liberal? Does this indicate Republicans are going to be slaughtered in 2008?

Not necessarily. First, the Democratic Party was again quite clever in selecting a socially conservative populist for its candidate; Childers is just as anti-abortion and pro-gun as the Republican nominee.

Where they differed was mostly in economic policy: Judging by the campaign "news" that Childers chose to put on his website, his main line of attack against Davis was on the issue of free trade vs. "fair" trade -- that is, protectionism. Childers pummeled Davis over the Colombian Free Trade Agreement... and he demagogued it to death, saying that if it passed, Mississippi jobs would be "exported" to South America:

Travis Childers, the Democratic candidate for Congress in Mississippi's 1st Congressional District, today signed a “No New Trade Deals” pledge outside a closed plant in West Point and stressed the need to stand up for Mississippi's working families by fighting for fair wages and bringing good jobs back to the district.

Childers called on his Republican opponent, Greg Davis, to also pledge not to support new trade deals that unfairly send Mississippi jobs overseas. So far in his campaign, Davis has stayed silent, not denying that he would be a rubberstamp for trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA that are bad for the region.

“Sadly, my opponent, Greg Davis, continues to stay silent on the most important issues we face -- keeping our jobs,” Childers said. “Greg Davis has been silent on trade in the campaign, and so I'm sure he won't stand up for our jobs in Congress.”

“As an economic leader and small businessman who created more than 1,000 new jobs in my community, I will always stand up for the needs of working Mississippi families,” Childers continued. “I have pledged to fight against unfair trade deals that send our jobs overseas and fight for fair wages so the working people of Mississippi can make ends meet.

So why did this work? Why was Childers able to ride opposition to Capitalism into the Capitol? I think we get a clue from the next paragraph in that "news" item:

Davis recently received the support of a business group known for opposing minimum wage increases and has not said how he stands when it comes to trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA. And on Davis 's Web site, he does not focus on trade, jobs or economic development.

In fact, Davis doesn't even mention them! Looking at Greg Davis' own website, under "Issues" -- which you cannot reach directly from the front page; think about that -- here is the totality of what issues Greg Davis stood for in yesterday's runoff election:

Taxes and Spending
Make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Bury the death tax. Restrain spending.

[Probably not the best idea to lead off by mentioning President Bush, but at least this is a specific policy that Davis can defend; the rest of his issues are like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.]

National Security

Support our armed forces by insuring they have the manpower and equipment to fight and win.

[This is so vague that even Democrats could say it; remember when they complained about body armor and jerry-rigged up-armoring of Humvees?]

Illegal Immigration

Protect the border. Enforce our immigration laws. Require proof of U.S. citizenship to obtain taxpayer-funded benefits.

[Democrat Childers also campaigned on taking a "tough stand to stop illegal immigration into our country."]

Mississippi Values

Defend our values. Support the Second Amendment. Stand up for the unborn.

[Childers is right with Davis on both of these vague issues, along with opposing same-sex marriage.]

Business

Advocating policies that strengthen our economy by focusing on lower taxes, a simpler tax code, fewer regulations, and less government red tape.

[Childers: "Even John McCain said that Congress has been spending like 'drunken sailors.' As someone who has been balancing a family checkbook for years and has run two businesses, this defies all common sense. As Chancery Clerk, I balanced 16 consecutive budgets. As Congressman, I'll fight for balanced budgets and fiscal responsibility."]

So what, exactly, did Republican Greg Davis do to differentiate himself from Democrat Travis Childers? In particular, what was Davis' response on the free-trade/protectionism debate?

With Childers hammering Davis on the issue, Davis desperately needed to campaign up and down the state, correcting Childers' misstatements and fabrications about free-trade agreements and defending in particular the Colombia FTA, which is before Congress at this very moment. But trade doesn't even appear as an "issue" or campaign news item on his website.

In fact, Googling for about a half hour, I couldn't find a single statement by Davis on free trade. This is the central policy attack launched against him by the Democrat, and he's evidently barely responding. This is surreal.

So what "issue" did Greg Davis run on? Oh, a huge one for Mississippi (dripping irony alert):

Davis, the mayor of Southaven, launched a new TV ad this week linking Childers with Obama and Wright.

The ad blasts the Prentiss County chancery clerk for his silence when Wright "cursed America, blaming us for 9/11...

"Travis Childers - he took Obama's endorsement over our conservative values," the ad concludes. "Conservatives can't trust Travis Childers."

(Alas, as it turns out, Davis was likewise silent about Jeremiah Wright, a fact which Childers gleefully pointed out, of course. Home run for the Democrats.)

Longtime Democratic Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill was fond of saying "All politics is local;" he meant that in the end, at least in House elections, people tend to vote not on grand national issue but on local issues: city streets and county roads, public transportation, local businesses, sales and property taxes, and so forth.

There are seeming exceptions, such as the 1994 Contract With America; but even then, the contract had to be sold locally in each district. (It was, which is why Republicans swept into power then.) National goals, like requiring a 60% majority in the House to pass a tax increase, had to be brought down to the local level: Each Republican had to show voters how tax increases hurt them more than they helped.

In this case, from what I can tell from 2,000 miles away, Childers was running an entirely local campaign based on bread-and-butter district issues:

  • He attacked free trade by claiming Mississippi-1 would lose jobs;
  • He claimed that Davis was in the pocket of Big Oil and other special interests and argued that this meant higher gas taxes, which he claimed Davis had supported;
  • He claimed that Davis had opposed funding education in the district.

In response, Davis seemed to hang his campaign on linking Childers to ultraliberal Obama and Wright. When has this ever worked? Certainly never when the local pol has never campaigned alongside the national figure and disagrees with him on numerous issues important to the region.

Didn't anybody tell Davis that neither Obama nor Wright was on the ballot in his district? If his entire campaign was to tie Childers to Obama, then he had to do something to prove that Childers was somehow like Obama... he had to find a local issue on which Childers was unacceptably liberal, then pound on it like a beatnik on a bongo.

So what is being done by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the arm of the Republican National Committee that is supposed to recruit and help elect Republican candidates for the House? Evidently nothing: Candidate recruitment is clearly lagging (especially in MS-1!) -- how many Iraq or Afghanistan war vets are running? how many popular political figures? how many experienced administrators? -- and messaging is frankly pathetic.

Here's Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK, 100%), Chairman of the NRCC, from the NYT article linked above:

Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said the party was disappointed and needed to be better prepared to deal with conservative Democratic candidates, but he warned that time is short.

“Voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general,” Mr. Cole said. “Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward-looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for.”

Yeah; that would be nice.

The NRCC should set up a local task force for every, single endangered GOP congressional district, plus another for each district where the Democratic incumbent is at all shaky. Each task force must determine the major problems in its district, what the voters are most worried about. Then they must craft both policy and messaging that (a) would resolve or at least mitigate the problem, while (b) fitting within the overarching Republican philosophy of trusting individual people, families, and business owners rather than the government.

This is nothing new; in the past, the NRCC has done this very well. But I've seen little to nothing of this sort done for 2008... has anyone seen anything?

Then the NRCC should hook up with (or recruit) GOP candidates in each of these districts and work with them to merge Republican policies and messages with that of the candidate. For example, such a task force in MS-1 would have identified voter fears about free-trade agreements, and it would have developed messages pounding home the fact that Colombia can already sell all its goods here without any tariff... but American companies -- including those in Mississippi -- have tariffs slapped on them when they try to sell American goods in Colombia. And that is what the Colombian FTA would overturn, allowing Americans, even those in Mississippi, to export more products to South America.

They could have worked with Greg Davis to promote job training programs. A campaign could have pointed out that less than 10% of Mississippi jobs are export related, about half the national average. Why should this be?

Together, national and local GOP could have created a hopeful, forward-looking vision: If the state of Mississippi and the counties inside the district were to promote and invest in export industries (chemicals, paper products, and such) by lowering corporate taxes and relaxing some regulations, then with the free-trade agreements already in place, upper Mississippi would start attracting jobs and luring companies to MS-1, not "exporting" jobs and hemorrhaging businesses. They could attract both American-owned companies and also at foreign-owned companies operating in Mississippi.

That is what a local-issues campaign looks like. That is how Davis could have clearly differentiated himself from Childers. He could have presented his bold vision of a reviving and thriving local economy, versus Childers' defeatist holding action, clinging to the old economy because he's so terrified of change. Davis could have brought in more Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal and less Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, and Jeremiah Wright. And I think he would have won; if not, at least he would set himself up for a rematch in November, if Childers turns out to be more liberal than advertised -- which is probable, as Childers "grows in office." (Like Sen. James Webb, D-VA, who now has an 85% "liberal quotient" from the Americans for Democratic Action for 2007.)

Instead, Davis went for a silly scare campaign that nobody believed (Childers is just Obama in drag!) and squandered a conservative district; and the national Republicans were no real help at all -- not in pushing Davis to enunciate policy differences, and certainly not in messaging. Wonderful job there by the NRCC.

Tom Cole had the last year and a half to "define a forward-looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for.” Now he has less than six months. I think it's time for Rip Van Cole to roll out of his hammock and get on the hump... we've got some heavy-duty campaigning to do.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 14, 2008, at the time of 6:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 12, 2008

When Harry Met Nancy

Congressional Calamities , Energy Woes and Wows , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

A funny thing happened on the way to the fact checker...

AP distributed a very illuminating article today. They compared the major energy proposals of both Democrats and Republicans, in each case reciting the "spin" from proponents -- then following with the "facts," as defined by said checker of said facts.

Here is where illumination sets in: For every single proposal in the Democrats' plan, the "facts" discovered by AP completely contradicts the "spin" from the Democrats. Viz.:

THE DEMOCRATIC PROPOSALS.

_Enact a windfall profits tax on oil companies.

SPIN: Oil companies are making too much money, earning $123 billion last year while motorists faced soaring gasoline costs. Imposing a 25 percent windfall profits tax on the five largest oil companies and repealing $17 billion in tax breaks could help the shift away from fossil fuels toward alternatives. Taxes could be avoided if profits are used for refinery expansion or development of wind, solar or biomass projects.

FACT: Profits are large because the companies are huge, and oil now sells for well over $120 a barrel. The taxes could spur some new alternative energy projects, but economists say they also could reduce investments in oil and gas exploration, and are unlikely to affect prices. They could do more harm than good, says Robert Hansen, senior associate dean at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "Anytime you put in a tax you create an incentive to avoid it," says Hansen.

And so forth. All in all, here are the proposed Democratic policies and AP's reaction to them:

  • "Windfall profits" tax: AP finds that the oil company profits are entirely legitimate and that such a tax would probably backfire;
  • Make energy "price gouging" illegal: Nobody can define "gouging," which means the law will end up being de facto "price controls;"
  • "Stand up" to OPEC: With the world oil market (and especially with both India and Red China ramping up industrial production), we can't force OPEC to pump more oil or lower the price... but we can prompt them to retaliate against us even trying.

But then the elite media turns its gimlet eye to the (cue scary music) Republican policies. Here, the "fact checker" seems to have found a very different pattern: For every single proposal in the Republicans' plan, AP finds that Democrats in Congress plan to block it from floor action.

In other words, All the Democrats' proposals are stupid and unworkable; and the GOP proposals cannot pass a Democratic Congress!

Case in point:

THE REPUBLICAN PROPOSALS....

_Develop vast amounts of oil and natural gas in offshore waters now off limits.

SPIN: For a quarter century, energy development has been blocked in more than 80 percent of U.S. coastal waters, depriving the country of vast oil and gas resources. States should be allowed waivers to the moratoria and get some of the revenues from development.

FACT: Most areas of federal offshore waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico and off much of Alaska have been placed off limits to drilling by a succession of presidential orders and congressional action to protect tourist industries and avoid the risk of spills and environmental damage. The House has twice approved giving states the right to opt out of the federal ban.

Let's run through the Republican proposals and AP's "fact checking" anent them...

  • Pump oil from ANWR: Democrats in the House and Senate and President Clinton have always opposed this, and there's no indication they'll accept it now. Besides, while it's undisputed that we can get billions of barrels of oil from ANWR, it's still a small amount compared to the total world supply (but a large percent of the American supply);
  • Drill in the Gulf and other offshore locations: Stubborn Democrats refuse to allow this, too;
  • Build new refineries: Because of the ethanol mandate, oil executives don't expect much growth in oil demand; so they prefer to expand existing refineries rather than build new ones;
  • Coal-based diesel: Runs afoul of liberal global-warming policy to reduce greenhouse gases. (While John McCain supports doing something about "Anthropogenic global climate change," his plan is nowhere near as draconian as either Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's.)

So the problem with the Democratic proposals is that they simply won't work as advertised... and the real problem with the Republican proposals is the absurd politicization of the House and Senate Energy Committees by vindictive and "world-saving" Democrats, as personified by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 65%).

This analysis sounds so even-handed and mature, I'm shocked, shocked to see it come from the drive-by media.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 12, 2008, at the time of 5:14 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 12, 2008

Barack Obama - "Liberal Fascist" on Parade

Congressional Calamities , Constitutional Maunderings , Econ. 101 , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Here's Sen. O:

Obama, in remarks he planned to make to reporters Friday morning, wants Congress to pass legislation he has sponsored that would require corporations to have a nonbinding vote by shareholders on executive compensation packages.

Under Obama's legislation, shareholders could not veto a compensation package offered to an executive and would not place limits on pay. Rather, they would have a means to publicly express their position.

A similar bill passed the House last year.

Oh. Well... I turn to my well-thumbed pocket-sized edition of the United States Constitution (I filched it from Sen. Robert Byrd's jacket while he was gibbering on about his little dog Billy). There's this section in there, see, that lists what powers Congress has... the only powers. You'll find it in Article 1, Section 8; but to save you the trouble of looking it up, I'll quote it here. It's pretty long, but you can just skim, if you're in a hurry:

Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

To establish post offices and post roads;

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;--And

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

And that's pretty much all the powers that Congress has. You may notice that nowhere in there does it say that Congress has any authority to order corporations to hold a vote among all their shareholders -- non-binding or not -- on the compensation packages they offer the CEO or any other corporate officer or employee. If the Senate follows suit on what the House already did, then both chambers will be in egregious breach of the Constitution.

Of course, that possibility holds no terror for members of Congress: They've been passing laws that bore no relation to any enumerated power for many decades now, and usually they're upheld by liberal judges. But that's not the issue here.

Rather, this proposal of Barack Obama's is a wonderfully illustrative window into his totalitarian heart. Like all good "liberal fascists," Obama is not concerned with ancient words written on dead trees. So what if Congress has no authority to do what is necessary... it's necessary! Enough talk; Obama wants action, action, action!

John McCain at least understands constitutionality: He promises only to use the presidency as a "bully pulpit" to try to shame corporate boards of directors into reining in some of the more outrageous salaries, bonuses, and stock options; and fulminating from the presidential pulpit is certainly within the scope of powers of the president. (Now, if he were to issue an executive order forcing corporations to comply, that would be just as unconstitutional as Barack Obama's law.)

Nor do I think the Securities and Exchange Commission has any such authority, nor the Federal Trade Commission, nor OSHA, nor any other regulatory regime. I'm pretty sure executive pay is solely at the discretion of the corporation itself, through its officers and its directors. If they choose to put the CEO's compensation up for a non-binding referendum among the shareholders, that's their own business (literally).

Neither Congress, nor the president, nor the Court has the right to issue such an order, in my non-lawyerly opinion. There is still such a thing as freedom and Capitalism in this country; and we have a Constitution that restrains government from just steamrolling over private parties or publicly held corporations.

But to Obama, the Constitution is just an obstacle that must be got around or simply ignored. What's more important, all those "procedures" that limit what government can do to help people's lives? Or enacting what the masses really want -- making CEOs work for no more than the company would pay a journeyman machinist? Action, action!

"President Obama" will try to force his laws through; and if blocked, he'll issue a whirlwind of royal proclamations (executive orders)... all to "solve problems" using the "third way"... not Communism nor democracy and Capitalism, but just the efficiency of a maximum leader who has his finger on the pulse of America, giving the people what they want without the foot-dragging of democracy or the destructive competition of Capitalism.

Just letting you know what we're in for, if -- out of mistaken support for Mr. Audacity or equally foolish McCain Derangement Syndrome -- we allow Senator B.O. to be elected president.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2008, at the time of 6:24 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 9, 2008

Between the Lines

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Liberal Lunacy , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Sachi

It's never safe to take at face value anything written by the mainstream media about Iraq. You must always tease the real story from the misleading and sometimes completely fabricated "first draft of history" they publish. But even propaganda can reveal the deeper truth.

It's now clear that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Iraqi army and Iraqi National Police showed decisive leadership and initiative -- perhaps a bit too decisive! -- during the recent Operation Knights' Charge in Basra. Even AP is reluctantly reporting the latest achievement of Nouri al-Maliki... though of course they couch it in dismissive terms:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's faltering crackdown [!] on Shiite militants has won the backing of Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that fear both the powerful sectarian militias and the effects of failure on Iraq's fragile government.

The emergence of a common cause could help bridge Iraq's political rifts.

The head of the Kurdish self-ruled region, Massoud Barzani, has offered Kurdish troops to help fight anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia.

More significantly, Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi signed off on a statement by President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and the Shiite vice president, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, expressing support for the crackdown in the oil-rich southern city of Basra.

The elite media used to criticize Maliki for not being able to bring other parties together and for not going after Shiite militias (that is, the Mahdi Militia, a.k.a. Jaish al Mahdi, or JAM). It's true that Vice President Hashemi and Prime Minister Maliki have been bitter rivals; but then, now that Hashemi has decided to support Maliki’s effort, how can the "crackdown" be “faltering?” Rather, shouldn't it now be called "strengthening" -- or even that other favorite media word, "mounting?" (I forgot for a moment: Only problems for Republicans are allowed to "mount.")

Political players in the Middle East are not known for backing the underdog; the best conclusion is that Hashemi has correctly assessed that the Basra crackdown is working, so now he wants to join the "strong horse." Of course, the Associated Press has its own defeatist tale of how the Battle of Basra ended:

The Basra crackdown, ostensibly waged against "outlaws" and "criminal gangs," bogged down in the face of fierce resistance and discontent in the ranks of government forces. Major combat eased after al-Sadr asked his militia to stop fighting last Sunday.

But al-Maliki continued his tough rhetoric, threatening to take his crackdown to the Mahdi Army's strongholds in Baghdad. Al-Sadr hinted at retaliation, and the prime minister backed down, freezing raids and arrests targeting the young cleric's supporters.

How can a campaign that ends with the enemy’s surrender be described as “bogged down?” (Thank goodness they didn't say "quagmired.") It's true that Maliki stated that he would halt offensive action for ten days, but not because he was afraid of Sadr’s revenge; if he feared Sadr, he would never have attacked in the first place -- or at least he would have stopped the moment he saw that the JAM was stronger than he expected.

But instead, Maliki responded to the fierce fighting by sending reinforcements into the battle and driving the JAM out of their entrenched positions. Now it's the Iraqi army that patrols the streets of Basra, not the Mahdi Militia.

There's more, much more that we now learn...

Here is what Bill Roggio (you knew he had to come into this debate somewhere!) has to say about the Battle of Basra:

Subsequent to the ceasefire, the Iraqi military announced it was moving reinforcements to Basra, and the next day pushed forces into the ports of Khour al Zubair and Umm Qasr. Iraqi special operations forces and special police units have conducted several raids inside Basra since then, while an Iraqi brigade marched into the heart of a Mahdi-controlled Basra neighborhood on April 2. And two days after Sadr called for a ceasefire, the government maintained a curfew in Sadr City and other Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. None of this would be happening had Maliki simply caved to Sadr. [So much for the image of the PM cowering in fear of the sidelined Muqtada Sadr... who is himself still hiding in Qom, Iran, and afraid to show his face even in the Shiite areas of Iraq.]

Maliki's governing coalition did not revolt over this operation. When the Iraqi opposition held an emergency session of parliament to oppose the Basra operations, only 54 of the 275 lawmakers attended. AFP reported, "The two main parliamentary blocs--Shiite United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish Alliance--were not present for the session which was attended by lawmakers from radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc, the small Shiite Fadhila Party, the secular Iraqi National List and the Sunni National Dialogue Council." The fact that the major political blocs in Iraq's parliament ignored the emergency session is politically significant, and no evidence suggests that Maliki's governing coalition has been jeopardized since then.

(Roggio is now posting at a new website you should all bookmark, Iraq Status Report)

The ten days suspension of offensive operations in the south was meant to give militia members time to lay down their weapons and surrender. Operation Knights' Charge continues against those Iran-trained, Iran-led elements of the JAM that have not stopped their own attacks, according to Roggio, this time writing in the Long War Journal, which he edits.

One of the reasons cited by the elite media to prove that Muqtada Sadr won the Battle of Basra is that Sadr's followers listened to him and stopped fighting when he told them. But it has become increasingly clear that Sadr himself no longer has operational control over the JAM; those element who were actually fighting against the Iraqi army were under the direct leadership of Iranian Qods Force commanders (the so-called "Special Groups")... as is Sadr himself, as Bill Roggio notes in the Long War Journal:

Just as the new Iraqi forces began to arrive in Basrah and US and British forces were gearing up to augment the Iraqi military, Muqtada al Sadr, under orders from Iran’s Qods Force, called for his fighters to withdraw from the streets. Sadr issued a nine-point list of demands, which included that operations cease. Maliki refused and Iraqi and US forces continued to move into Basrah and conduct pinpoint raids against Shia terror groups. More than 200 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 700 were wounded, and 300 captured during the six days of fighting in Basrah alone.

Despite Sadr’s so-called "order" for them to stand down, some of these Special Groups continue to fight... and continue to be driven out. Eventually, they will have nowhere left to flee to except back into Iran, where they came from.

The media have also criticized Maliki for "not making political progress." Several senators said as much to Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker during the hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But now, as Maliki successfully reaches out to Kurds and Sunni and gains their support, do the MSM praise his effort? (Is that a rhetorical question?)

Of course they don't. They accuse him of seeking short term political gain for his own interests:

But other motives may have played a role in the crackdown.

Provincial elections are scheduled to be held before Oct. 1 and Shiite parties are gearing up for a tough contest in the Shiite heartland of southern Iraq, where oil-rich Basra and the wealthy religious centers of Najaf and Karbala are prizes.

A successful crackdown in Basra would have boosted the election chances of al-Maliki's Dawa party and his Shiite allies in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, whose Badr Brigade militia is the Mahdi Army's sworn enemy.

Let's pause a moment to ponder that last sentence. Nouri al-Maliki was originally a client of Muqtada Sadr. The Dawa Party has historically been associated with the JAM; opposing them on the Shiite side, as AP admits, has been the Badr Brigades (now Badr Organization and no longer functioning as a private militia), controlled by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (formerly the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq).

So AP says that Maliki attacked the militia associated with his own Dawa Party, rather than the one associated with the SIIC, in order to get more Shia to vote for both Dawa and the SIIC.

This is as creative an interpretation as their line that the Iraqi forces were utterly crushed, and Muqtada Sadr was on the brink of wiping them out and making himself Caliph of Mesopotamia... when he suddenly had a change of heart and surrendered instead.

If that makes perfect sense to you, you're probably a liberal.

And now, Maliki and the leaders of the other parties in the Iraqi parliament are taking a bold step to isolate the JAM even further -- by barring any party that maintains a militia from even contesting seats in the Iraqi provincial elections this coming October. From the same Long War Journal piece linked above:

Less than two weeks after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched Operation Knights' Assault to clear the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backer militias in Basrah, the Iraqi government is moving to ban Muqtada al Sadr's political movement from participating in the election if it fails to disband the militia. Facing near-unanimous opposition, Sadr said he would seek guidance from senior Shia clerics in Najaf and Qom and disband the Mahdi Army if told to do so, according to one aide. But another Sadr aide denied this.

The pressure on Sadr and his Mahdi Army started on Sunday after Maliki announced the plans to pass legislation to prevent political parties with militias from participating in the political process. "The first step will be adding language to a draft election bill banning parties that operate militias from fielding candidates in provincial balloting this fall," Reuters reported on Sunday. "The government intends to send the draft to parliament within days and hopes to win approval within weeks...."

The legislation is said to have broad support from the major Sunni, Kurdish, and Shia political parties, and is expected to quickly pass through parliament.

This leaves the Sadrists in a pickle: If they disband the JAM, then they're just another (minor) political party in the Shiite alliance. But if they don't, they will be nothing but a militia. At that point, Maliki would have even more support for annihilating all trace of the mighty Mahdi Militia from Iraq: They would be the Iranian version of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

But of course, the elite media assure us that Muqtada Sadr won the Battle of Basra, while Prime Minister Maliki was politically ruined.

Yesterday and today, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker testified on Capitol Hill to various congressional committees. As a glimpse into our political leaders' understanding of such a crucial issue of the Iraq war and how it relates to the larger war against global caliphism, the transcripts of those hearings are illuminating, frightening, and frustrating.

(The transcript for the House Armed Services Committee hearing can be found here; the transcript for Senate Armed Services Committee hearing here; and the transcript for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing here.)

Judging from the Democratic senators’ questions during General David Petraeus’s testimony before Congress this morning, their understanding of the Basra situation is little better than that of the MSM. For that matter, Democratic senators' understanding of Iraq itself, let alone the war, is completely outdated: They imagine it's still 2006, the "civil war" still rages, and a hundred civilians are being slaughtered each day.

But according to Iraq Coalition Casualities, during last month, civilian deaths averaged 27 per day, not 100; but that included the Battle of Basra. February saw only 19 killings per day across the whole country, a drop of more than 80% from the highs of late 2006, before we changed to the counterinsurgency strategy. This stunning turnaround has mostly flown below the Democrats' Iraq-success radar -- which, to be perfectly blunt, is rarely even turned on.

Some of the exchanges are laugh-out-loud funny, such as this between Gen. Petraeus and a certain senator with a "chest full of medals," during the former's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The good senator was trying to get Petraeus to admit that our continued presence in Iraq was the only reason that Iraqis have not stepped up to the plate; if we simply walked away, that would make everything much better:

SEN. KERRY: But isn't there a contradiction, in a sense, in your overall statement of the strategic imperative? Because you've kept mentioning al Qaeda here today. Al Qaeda -- AQI, as we know it today -- first of all didn't exist in Iraq till we got there. The Shi'a have not been deeply interrupted by AQI. The Kurds --

GEN. PETRAEUS: Oh, sir, they were. They were blown up right and left by AQI. That was the height of the sectarian violence.

SEN. KERRY: I understand that. I absolutely understand that. But it is not a fundamental, pervasive -- I mean, most people that I've talked to, Shi'a, and most of the evidence of what's happened in the Anbar province with the Sunni is that once they decided to turn on al Qaeda and not give them a welcome, they have been able to turn around their own security --

GEN. PETRAEUS: And we helped them, sir.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.)

GEN. PETRAEUS: And we cleared Ramadi, we cleared Fallujah, we cleared the belts of Baghdad --

SEN. KERRY: And every plan I've seen --

GEN. PETRAEUS: -- (inaudible) -- Baqubah and everything else.

SEN. KERRY: Every plan I've seen here in Congress that contemplates a drawdown contemplates leaving enough American forces there to aid in the prosecution of al Qaeda and to continue that kind of effort.

GEN. PETRAEUS: That's exactly right, yes, sir.

SEN. KERRY: But then why doesn't that change the political dynamics that demand more reconciliation, more compromise, accommodation, so we resolve the political stalemate which is at the core of the dilemma?

GEN. PETRAEUS: Sure. No, that's -- sir, that's a great question. One of the key aspects is that they are not represented right now. And that's why provincial elections scheduled for no later than October are so important. The Anbar sheikhs, for example, will tell you "We want these elections," Senator, as they, I'm sure, did, because they didn't vote in January 2005. Huge mistake.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.) [By this point, Kerry appears to be just making small squeaking noises.]

GEN. PETRAEUS: And they know it. They'll do much better this time than they did before. More important, even in Nineveh province, where because they didn't vote you have a different ethnic group, actually, that largely is the head of the provincial council. So again, all of those.

SEN. KERRY: (Inaudible.)

GEN. PETRAEUS: Yes, sir. Thank you.

Here is another exchange, this time with Sen. Barbara "Mrs. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" Boxer (D-CA, 80%): She seizes an extremely important, even urgent issue in her teeth; and like a deranged Pekingese, she won't let it go:

SEN. BOXER: If I could say, I agree with you that there are certain factions there that certainly support Iran. That's part of the problem. But my question is this. Ahmadinejad was the first national leader --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off mike.)

SEN. BOXER: Can you please cool it back there? Ahmadinejad was the first national leader to be given a state reception by Iraq's government. Iraq President Talabani and Ahmadinejad held hands as they inspected a guard of honor while a brass band played brisk British marching tunes. Children presented the Iranian with flowers. Members of Iraq's Cabinet lined up to greet him, some kissing him on both cheeks. So it's not a question about the militias out there. I'm saying, after all we have done, the Iraqi government kisses the Iranian leader! And our president has to sneak into the country. I don't understand it Isn't it true that after all we've done, Iran has gained ground?

AMB. CROCKER: Senator, Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq is obviously an extremely important issue for us, but it's very much, I think, a mixed bag. And what we saw over these last couple of weeks in Baghdad and in Basra, as the prime minister engaged extremist militias that were supported by Iran. is that it revealed not only what Iran is doing in Iraq, but it produced a backlash against them and a rallying of support for the prime minister in being ready to take them on. Iran by no means has it all its own way in Iraq. Iraqis remember with clarity and bitterness the 1980 to '88 Iran-Iraq war.

SEN. BOXER: Yes. Well, that's my point.

AMB. CROCKER: In which --

SEN. BOXER: And now he's getting kissed on the cheek. That's my point.

AMB. CROCKER: And there was a lot of commentary around among Iraqis, including among Shi'a Iraqis, about just that point; what's he doing here after what they did to us during that war? But Iraqi Shi'a died by the tens, by the hundreds of thousands defending their Arab and Iraqi identity and state against a Persian enemy, and that's, again, deeply felt. It means when Iran's hand is exposed in backing these extremist militias that there is backlash, broadly speaking, in the country, including from Iraq's Shi'a. And I think that's important, and I think it's important that the Iraqi government build on it.

SEN. BOXER: I give up. It is what it is. They kissed him on the cheek. I mean, what they say over the dinner table is one thing, but actually kissed him on the cheek. He got a red carpet treatment and we are losing our sons and daughters every single day for the Iraqis to be free. It is irritating is my point.

AMB. CROCKER: Senator, the vice president was in Iraq just a couple of weeks after that, and he also had a very warm reception.

SEN. BIDEN: Did he get kissed?

AMB. CROCKER: I believe -- (laughter) -- he did get kissed.

SEN. BIDEN: I want to know whether he got kissed. That's all. (Laughter.)

Perhaps the general and the ambassador can educate this sad crew of media manipulators in motley; but somehow I doubt it.

Dafydd adds: "The Lord helps those who help themselves." We should begin an urgent project of homeschooling Senate Democrats.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 9, 2008, at the time of 7:08 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 7, 2008

Colombian Red

Congressional Calamities , Liberal Lunacy , Southern Exposure
Hatched by Dafydd

President Bush is formally submitting the U.S. -- Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (a free-trade agreement, FTA) to Congress today for ratification or rejection; once he does, senators and representatives have 90 days to act. But many congressional Democrats -- and a few RINOs, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) -- have already signalled that they will fight to defeat it:

The agreement with Colombia, negotiated in 2006, has become a subject of fierce controversy, dividing Republicans from Democrats and Democrats from one another. Supporters of the agreement argue that, by opening new markets in Colombia for American farm goods, machinery, chemicals and plastics, the pact would stimulate the United States economy at a moment in history when the economy sorely needs it.

Opponents say the agreement would accelerate a depressing trend, encouraging American companies to transfer their manufacturing operations to Colombia and adding to the woes of sagging Rust Belt areas in the United States.

This FTA, signed in December, 2005, by President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, mirrors the one also signed by Peru, which the Democratic Congress was eager to accept after some minor amendments on labor and environmental issues (mainly accepting a general right to collective bargaining and agreement that Peru would enforce its environmental laws). The House and Senate both approved the Pervian FTA at the end of December, 2007. A similar FTA with Ecuador is on hold while negotiations are frozen.

The case for the agreement is primarily economic, with no serious dissent that the Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement would dramatically increase the ability of American companies to compete in Colombia on a "level playing field" with local companies; this would certainly boost the American economy at a time when that issue is very much on the minds of voters. Opponents assert that it would lead to the "export" of U.S. jobs to South America, though I haven't seen much of an argument to that effect:

President Bush, who has been speaking in favor of the trade agreement for weeks, conceded on Monday that there could be some harmful effects at home, but he said the benefits would far outweigh them. The United States imports grains, cotton and soybeans from Colombia, much of it duty-free under temporary accords already in place. But American exports to Colombia — agricultural products, automobile parts, medical and scientific equipment -- remain subject to tariffs.

“I think it makes sense to remedy this situation,” the president said. “It’s time to level the playing field.” Trade between the United States and Colombia amounted to about $18 billion in 2007.

(As expected, John McCain very much supports the FTA, because it strengthens Capitalism; Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama oppose it for the same reason.)

The Left is very unhappy with the agreement with Colombia, however, because of the ongoing war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a communist naroc-terrorist "people's army," and so-called "right wing" paramilitaries -- which arose in the 1990s to combat the rising power of the FARC, then consolodated in 1997 as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC); this war has led to many murders of trade-union activists... some of whom may well have been (as the paramilitaries claim) fronts for the FARC, but most of whom were only attempting to "organize" peasants and workers -- albeit using the traditional strongarm tactics of labor movements everywhere.

But leftist and unionist organizations in the United States and other countries have made these deaths into a human-rights crisis; and while they admit that the killings are very much diminished and the paramilitaries mostly disbanded, they still demand -- and the Democrats jump to obey -- that Colombia do "much more" to bring the killers to justice before the Left will support an FTA:

President Bush asserted on Monday that approval of the agreement “will advance American national security interests in a critical region,” in large part because Colombia’s president, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, has done much to eliminate internal violence, including attacks on labor activists, and root out the drug-traffickers who for years linked Colombia and cocaine in the public’s mind.

Moreover, Mr. Bush said, Colombia is a vital counterweight to neighboring Venezuela, where the socialist president, Hugo Chavez, is openly anti-American. Many Democrats have said it is important, in view of the attitude of Venezuela, to bolster relations with Latin American allies of the United States.

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said on Monday that President Bush’s perspective was skewed....

“Many Democrats continue to have serious concerns about an agreement that creates the highest level of economic integration with a country where workers and their families are routinely murdered and subjected to violence and intimidation for seeking to exercise their most basic economic rights. And the perpetrators of the violence have near total impunity.”

Where this argument utterly fails, however, is in the fact that of all recent Colombian presidents, the current one -- Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who won by more than twenty points over his nearest rival -- has done the most to curb and even dismantle the AUC paramilitaries, and to give unprecedented government protection (bodyguards, security perimiters around their houses and offices, intel from government police) to the very trade-unionist leaders that the Left supports... more than 1500 of them.

Because of these and similar policy changes, deaths of trade unionists and other civilians in Colombia has plummeted almost as much as it has in Iraq. A spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch, testifying before Congress, admitted that killings of trade-unionist leaders has dropped by nearly two-thirds (197 down to 72) from 2001 to 2006; and the first five months of 2007 saw only 13 deaths, for an annual rate of 31... which would be a drop during Uribe's administration of 84%.

(It's of more than passing interest that the enemy driving the bloodiest violence in Iraq is Iran... and Iran is fast becoming the closest collaborator with Colombia's most dangerous enemy -- Venezuela and Oogo Chavez. Meet the new thug, same as the old thug.)

Uribe also fought a brutal and very successful war against the FARC and has stood up to Oogo Chavez and his rampaging Stalinism; and I believe this is the real reason the Latin American Left (hence their me-too parrots in the United States) hates Uribe. That, and the fact that Uribe is a great friend of America -- the man doesn't even hate George W. Bush! What kind of Latin American is he anyway? Uribe has embraced Capitalism, and because of that, has led Colombia to an extraordinary GDP growth rate of 7.5% per year.

Worse, he is an apostate from the Colombian Liberal Party. He replaced the largely ineffective Conservative Party president, Andrés Pastrana Arango, who negotiated a calamitous "safe haven" for the FARC, inside of which they were allowed to operate freely (also for another Communist insurgency, the Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Colombia, ELN). Pastrana was rejected after only a single term, and the safe haven for terrorists dissolved.

But an 84% drop in murders and a dynamic growth rate that is lifting all Colombians out of poverty is evidently not good enough.

Despite Uribe's extraordinary record (or, as I believe, because of it), the Democrats in Congress are trying desperately to stop the Colombian TPA from being enacted... until a Democrat is in the White House, of course. I think it would pass in the Senate, but it's going to be very dicey in the House: Today on Hugh Hewitt's show, he asked Rep. David Dreier (R-CA, 72%) about its prospects, and Dreier refused to predict victory.

But if the Democrats do kill the agreement, it will be a potent economic argument for Republicans to use against them in November: On the one hand, they Democrats gleefully proclaim that we're "already in a recession" (or, per George Soros, de facto kingmaker of the Democratic Party, a "depression"); but on the other hand, they want to raise taxes and prevent American goods from being sold in South America.

The claim that they're only trying to prevent job losses makes no sense, because Colombia can already sell freely in the United States with no tariff; so if an American company wanted to relocate its plant to Bogota for the cheap labor, they can already do so and still sell to the American market. All that this FTA will do is open up Colombia's markets to American companies... which would unquestionably be good for the American economy.

Thus, the only logical conclusion to draw is that the Democrats are not only "talking down" the economy, they're directly trying to drive it down... all just to hurt Republicans in the upcoming elections, without regard to how many American workers and consumers get hurt.

Democratic leaders may find themselves scrambling to defend such anti-Capitalist, anti-American economic policies, given how many Americans are more economically sophisticated than they were just a couple of decades ago. (I blame new media.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2008, at the time of 6:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 10, 2008

The Power of the Big Idea: O'Billery Reduced to "Me Too!"

Congressional Calamities , Congressional Corruption , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Previous posts in our series about Congress, the Democrats, the Republicans, and earmarks:

  1. The Missing Earpiece
  2. Has Nancy Pelosi Changed Her Mind About Ears?
  3. The Democrats Are All Ears
  4. Earmarks? No No... Phonemarks!
  5. They're All Ears... Again

If Barack Obama represents the New Left and "youth" vote, while Hillary Clinton represents the Paleo-Left and gender-feminist vote, how can John McCain possibly compete? Simple, though not easy: He must lock up the "big idea" vote.

Between now and the election, I want to see two big ideas per month come bubbling up out of the McCain campaign -- both foreign policy and domestic. Let the Democrats hog the headlines with an increasingly nasty and personal slugfest; McCain will slide into public consciousness with a high-minded campaign of real ideas to solve real, everyday problems bedeviling ordinary people... such as congressional corruption.

And McCain's off to a grand start. Today, both Obama and Hillary were forced to chime in with a hearty "what he said" on the issue of congressional earmarks, those nasty bits of business where members of Congress steer federal money to specific home-district companies -- usually after said companies donate mucho dinero to the senator or congressman. (No, that certainly doesn't create any suspicion of bribery!)

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday joined Republican presidential candidate John McCain and a small band of GOP senators in making a run this week against the billions of dollars in home-state pet projects Congress funds each year.

Obama, locked in a head-to-head battle with Clinton for the Democratic nomination, was the first to declare through a spokesman Monday that he would support a one-year moratorium on so-called earmarks when it comes up for a vote later this week. Clinton followed shortly afterward through a spokesman....

South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, a first-term McCain ally in the fight against pork, is the main sponsor of a one-year ban on earmarks, the term lawmakers use for the pet projects they slip into must-pass legislation.

A vote is coming this week as the Senate debates its annual budget plan. McCain is expected to give a floor speech to rally Republicans behind the idea and to make time in his busy campaign schedule to cast a rare vote.

But the power of the big idea goes even further, for McCain not only supports the one-year moratorium -- which many legislators might climb aboard, assuming that after the year is up, it will be business as usual again; John McCain is also campaigning on a stern and readily testable anti-pork policy: He vows as president not to sign any bill that contains earmarks.

This goes far beyond what either Obama or Hillary would ever agree to do... which puts them into the self-defeating position of agreeing with McCain that earmarks are a corrupt scourge -- but being unwilling actually to eliminate them entirely. Why? As Jimmy used to say on the Mickey Mouse Club, "because we like you!" Viz.:

McCain is among only six members of the Senate who don't ask for pet projects. Obama does, though his requests are generally modest when compared to more senior senators like Illinois colleague Dick Durbin, a fellow Democrat.

As for Hillary, the magazine The Hill provides a clue:

Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has secured more earmarks in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill than any other Democrat except for panel Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.)....

Clinton received 26 earmarks worth about $148.4 million total, most of which were also sought by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Clinton and Schumer agreed several years ago to go after projects together, according to several sources....

According to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, Clinton has secured 360 earmarks worth a combined $2.2 billion from 2002 to 2006 in all spending and authorization bills.

Back to the Assocated Press article:

Old-school senior Republicans such as former Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran of Mississippi have long teamed with Democrats to block moves by McCain to cut earmarks, typically by margins of 2-to-1 or so....

"[The moratorium] sounds like a bad idea to me," said Cochran. "I don't think that's very wise, to give up a constitutional responsibility that is given to Congress."

Congress has a constitutional responsibility to appropriate money for necessary spending... but it most certainly does not have a mandate to funnel billions of dollars to favorite-son companies as a form of corporate welfare, gleefully picking the winners and losers of what should be a market-based process; while Democrats whine about "no-bid contracts" going to Halliburton (Halliburton! Don't you understand? It's -- it's Halliburton!), they're beavering away at directing megabucks to specific companies -- no other bids accepted -- that just happen to have plants or headquarters located in the legislator's home district... and just happen to send some of that same money right back to the member as campaign cash.

Ah, but at least Obama and Hillary are willing to go as far as a one-year moratorium; so they have innoculated themselves against charges of being willing accomplices to corruption and the selling of the Congress -- right? Well, not quite; they may have a bit of an ulterior motive:

Pelosi also has many stalwart defenders of earmarks in her party, particularly among freshmen who this year received a disproportionate share of them to tout to voters in what, for many will be tough re-election campaigns.

But she's helped by the fact that no one expects many spending bills to pass before Election Day anyway, so accepting a temporary ban isn't much of a sacrifice.

When penance is barely felt, grace barely shines. They can pretend to support an end to ears without actually inconveniencing themselves one bit. And I expect John McCain to be positively scathing in his remarks about Democratic candidates who do not join him in the larger pledge, not to sign any bill that contains earmarks.

The GOP's failure in the 109th Congress to rein in excess spending, and especially the corruption of earmarks, was probably the single greatest cause of their loss in the 2006 elections. There is no indication that voters will give Democrats a pass on the same issue; if they did, I suspect Congress' approval rating would be significantly higher than 25%.

It's high time we had a candidate who would stick the eventual Democrat nominee between the Devil and Charybdis, leaving him in a quandry where he has to cut off his ears to fight his race.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 10, 2008, at the time of 7:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 7, 2008

Follow-Up On the Non-Wimpy GOP

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

We mentioned earlier today, in McCain Wimps Out - Except That He Really Didn't, that the Democrats had recklessly linked two completely different and diametrically opposed approaches in their putative "compromise" Senate economic-stimulus bill:

  • Extending the tax rebates to disabled veterans and Social-Security recipients who don't pay taxes;
  • Subsidizing home heating bills, extending unemployment compensation, and adding tax cuts for coal producers.

Now, some folks may agree with the second approach -- I don't -- but nobody can argue that the government paying for heating oil or making it easier for people to go longer without having to get a job is stimulatory; the first is neutral on the issue, and the latter is actually depressionary. (The coal subsidies were obviously just added to try to lure some Republicans from coal-producing states, such as Wyoming, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania -- or maybe because of extortion by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, 80%, who has a history of making such petulant demands.)

But the GOP held firm, refusing to go along, despite -- or perhaps because of -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) personally armtwisting Republican senators to vote for the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ, 65%) waited at the airport, ready to cast a vote on the Republican side if it looked as if the Democrats would prevail, but otherwise unwilling to fall into the Democrats' badger trap.

There was never any danger; Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), who probably needed to vote for the bill because of the coal provision, was allowed to do so; six other RINOs (blue means up for reelection this year) -- Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA, 88%), Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%), Susan Collins (ME, 48%), Norm Coleman (MN, 68%), Pete Domenici (NM, 75%), Gordon Smith (OR, 72%) -- did so as well, probably because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) knew the GOP had enough votes. And Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC, 96%) voted with the Democrats, as well. I'm sure several of these dissenters would have been willing (if reluctant) to vote with the party, had the Democrats turned some other Republicans.

The Democrats' bill failed, as we told you earlier; and now comes word that the Democrats have thrown in the towel... they passed the extension to seniors and disabled veterans -- favored by Republicans -- as a stand-alone amendment to the bill. The bill itself will now pass in that form, be sent to the House, and quickly pass tonight:

Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed Thursday to add rebates for 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans to a House-passed economic aid package, ending a partisan stalemate over the plan.

The key breakthrough came when Democrats, under pressure from party colleagues in the House, agreed to drop their insistence on adding jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and business subsidies, and said they would allow a vote on a plan that merely extends the tax rebates to Social Security retirees and disabled veterans.

I have a dream... actually, it's more of a prediction. Harry "Pinky" Reid has been the worst Senate majority leader of my lifetime (in the sense of "most incompetent"). He has led the Democrats into multiple failed attempts to surrender in the Iraq war, and continues to insist to this day -- despite the stunning turn-around last year -- that we have "already lost." His compulsive intransigence to President Bush's policies might be defensible if it were sustainable... that is, if Reid could actually stop those policies. But he has failed there as well. He even lost numerous votes on conservative judges that the Democrats despised, including two stellar Supreme Court justices.

On vote after vote, as today, he can't even find a legitimate compromise to advance Democratic policy by luring enough Republicans to break the filibuster. His whiny, reedy voice and limp-wristed fist-pumping serves only to make him the poster boy for Democratic fecklessness and weakess on the war, the economy, taxes, judges, and on core Democratic issues, such as socialized medicine and open borders.

I predict that if the Democrats do not make substantial electoral gains in the Senate in November, Harry Reid will be out as majority leader by January. This can be either bad or good for us: Bad if they elevate some doctrinaire liberal who is simply a better speaker and more inspiring to the Democratic troops; but good if they decide that enacting policy is more important than fighting repeated last stands to the bitter dead end, on issue after issue.

If they replace Reid with a majority leader who can actually compromise with the Republicans, instead of taking the attitude, "What's mine is mine, what's yours is negotiable"... then perhaps we can finally begin moving beyond this political civil war -- and move America forward instead.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 7, 2008, at the time of 2:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

McCain Wimps Out - Except That He Really Didn't

Congressional Calamities , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

I suspect the newsmeisters will have you believe that John McCain made a terrible miscalculation by not showing up to vote one way or the other on the Senate Democrats' "compromise" stimulus package; after all, that's the Hillary Clinton spin, and by now, we all know the provenance of the benightly news:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain skipped a difficult Senate vote Wednesday on whether to make 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans eligible for rebate checks as part of a proposed economic stimulus package.

The Arizona senator's decision to miss the vote appeared to come at the last minute, after his plane had landed at Dulles International Airport outside Washington just before the proceedings opened on the Senate floor.

But let me say this about that: I applaud McCain's absence; it makes me more, not less, confident that he can whup the Democrats.

The whole charade had one purpose in mind: To trap McCain and other Republicans into supporting the Democrats' budget-busting, non-stimulatory add-ons to the stimulus package. Their position is as it has always been... What's that? a crisis? Say, let's take advantage to cram our unpopular hidden agenda down everybody's throat! The Democrats are indeed the political profiteering party.

Reread the above description of the vote -- "whether to make 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans eligible for rebate checks" -- and compare it to the more, er, honest description a few grafs later in the same story:

Whichever way McCain may have voted, it would have been a difficult choice given his status as the Republican presidential front-runner.

Senate Democrats cleverly bundled the rebates for seniors and veterans, key voting blocs, with expanded unemployment benefits and home heating subsidies for the jobless and poor.

President Bush and Republican leaders, as well as conservatives McCain was scheduled to woo on Thursday, vehemently oppose the expanded benefits and subsidies.

That put McCain in a bad political spot.

Note that home heating subsidies have nothing whatsoever to do with stimulating the economy. And even more risibly, expanding unemployment benefits actually cuts against an economic resurgence, because it allows layabouts to loaf another six months before actually having to go out and get a job.

But when the Republicans defeated this poison-pill proposal (denying the Democrats the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster -- the de facto requirement set by the Democrats in the 108th Congress for moving any legislation -- look how the usual suspects portrayed them:

"By failing to stand up as the deciding vote, John McCain let our families down," said Clinton aide Phil Singer. "Tonight's events prove once again that we need a president who will be ready from Day One to act in the interests of middle-class families and turn our ailing economy around."

(Despite the fact that, as any economist will admit, the Democrats' proposal was not in the interests of "middle-class families," and would not have helped in any conceivable way to "turn our ailing economy around." But, you know, image is everything.)

So why do I cheer McCain for missing this "critical" vote? Because he quickly saw the trap -- and neatly sidestepped it. This declaws the Democratic pit-yorkies: "You cast an indefensible and heartless vote against the poorest Americans!" is a much more powerful attack than "You missed a vote." ("Sorry, dude, I was stuck at the airport.") Thus, McCain walks the line between conservative and moderate and avoids being drawn into a no-win mud-wrestling contest with a herd of -- Democrats.

That's actually pretty diplomatic, if you ask me. (And actually, by reading this site, you did indeed "ask me," didn't you? Let that be a lesson to you.)

If a president in waiting can't even sidestep an obvious badger trap set by that master of subtlety, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), how could anyone imagine he would be able to avoid the various pitfalls (and pratfalls) set for him by Vladimir Putin, Oogo Chavez, and José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero? Let alone Fouad Siniora, King Abdullah, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

And in any event, I just love the image of the reedy majority leader crying "Curses, foiled again!" Then perhaps, like Rumplestiltskin (to whom he bears uncanny resemblance), Reid will stamp his foot so hard, it will open a crack in the Earth that will swallow him whole.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 7, 2008, at the time of 3:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 19, 2007

And One More for the Road

Congressional Calamities , Tax Attax
Hatched by Dafydd

On the final day of the first session of the 110th Congress, before the Democrats got out of town, they managed to squeeze in one more humiliation at the brawny hands of George W. Bush:

Congress on Wednesday gave final approval to a plan that will spare millions of middle-class taxpayers higher tax bills for 2007. The White House welcomed the development and said President Bush would sign the bill.

The tax reprieve postpones for one year only an expansion of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to prevent very wealthy investors from using deductions and tax shelters to avoid paying income tax altogether. The alternative tax has ensnared a growing number of middle-class Americans in recent years because the 1969 law was not indexed to inflation....

House Democrats angrily approved the bill after giving in to demands by Congressional Republicans and Mr. Bush that the tax cut not be offset by raising other taxes. Democrats started the year by pledging to make up for the $50 billion tax fix with cuts in spending or increases in taxes elsewhere.

Cave City, here they come...

But listen to this amazingly maudlin whine and cheese party from the Reality-Based Community:

The Democrats repeatedly tried to get Senate Republicans to back a plan that would have imposed new taxes, particularly on wealthy hedge fund managers, but the Republicans refused. Because the lawmakers did not offset relief from the alternative tax, the national debt will increase by $50 billion.

“The only reason this bill is not paid for is because Republicans almost in lock step in both bodies have prevented us,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, in one of several furious speeches by Democrats on the House floor.

“We are forced today to recognize that we don’t have the votes to pursue the pay-as-you-go principle that we adopted in a bipartisan fashion,” Mr. Hoyer said. “I regret this day and this bill.”

I reckon this never occurred to any of those lapsed members of Taxaholics Anonymous. They should be reading Big Lizards.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 19, 2007, at the time of 9:35 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 18, 2007

Lame Duck Crushes Christmas Turkeys

Congressional Calamities , Energy Woes and Wows , Liberal Lunacy , Tax Attax
Hatched by Dafydd

I started this post last Thursday; but then I decided to hold it until I saw whether the predictions by the Washington Post and the New York Times would hold. They came through today... so here's the hodgepodge result combining the ancient past (Thursday the 13th of December) and the distant present (Tuesday the 18th). You'll take it, and you'll like it, by God and my right arm!

President George W. Bush -- dubbed irrelevant by congressional Democrats after they won a massive 15-seat majority in the House and an even more massive 2-seat majority in the Senate in 2006 -- has just won his 2,337th confrontation with the hapless Democrats this year. This time, it was on the Democrats' tax and spend and tax bill:

House Democratic leaders yesterday [that is, last Wednesday the 12th] agreed to meet President Bush's bottom-line spending limit on a sprawling, half-trillion-dollar domestic spending bill, dropping their demands for as much as $22 billion in additional spending but vowing to shift funds from the president's priorities to theirs.

The final legislation, still under negotiation, will be shorn of funding for the war in Iraq when it reaches the House floor, possibly on Friday. But Democratic leadership aides concede that the Senate will probably add those funds. A proposal to strip the bill of spending provisions for lawmakers' home districts was shelved after a bipartisan revolt, but Democrats say the number and size of those earmarks will be scaled back....

The agreement signaled that congressional Democrats are ready to give in to many of the White House's demands as they try to finish the session before they break for Christmas -- a political victory for the president, who has refused to compromise on the spending measures.

That bill was passed, but not last Friday as expected; the Democrats had to put out some intramural brush fires first. They passed the same legislation today... minus the Iraq-war funding, as the Post predicted:

Lawmakers then voted 206-201 to add $31 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, but the bill includes no money for the war in Iraq. The Senate, as early as today, is expected to add $40 billion for Iraq. The bill would then return a final time to the House.

But here is my favorite part of the Los Angeles Times story... where Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 90%) complains about being whipsawed by the president:

"In the face of an intransigent president and his allies in Congress, this legislation is the best we can do for the American people," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Thank God for intransigence!

Strangely, President Bush has more clout today, with a Democratic congress, than he did in 2004-2006 with a Republican one. But there is actually a very good explanation for that oddity.

When the Republicans were running Congress, Bush was constrained against using his most potent weapon, the veto: Bush, far more than congressional Republicans, follows Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment -- "Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans" -- and it would be a terrible insult for a Republican president to veto legislation approved by a GOP Congress.

This was unfortunate and politically catastrophic, because spending under the 109th Congress, and the 108th before them, rose out of control -- though not as fast as if the Democratic proposals had been adopted instead. I believe this was even more the cause of the 2006 defeat than the Iraq war, probably second only to the hot e-mails to pages by former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.

A threat by a Republican president to veto Republican legislation would have produced a miracle of financial rectitude: As much as Bush did not want to humiliate them, they were even more anxious not to be humiliated. Thus, the mere threat could possibly have reined in the spending... and possibly even saved the GOP majority.

In another example of how the power of the veto can win friends and influence members of Congress, Senate Democrats -- desperate to get out of town before Christmas to do some campaigning, fundraising, and heavy partying -- gave away the store on the energy bill:

The legislation still includes a landmark increase in fuel-economy standards for vehicles and a huge boost for alternative fuels. But a $13 billion tax increase on oil companies and a requirement that utilities nationwide produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources were left on the floor to secure Republican votes for the package.

The tax measure and the renewable electricity mandate were included in an energy bill that easily passed the House of Representatives last week. But industry lobbyists focused their attention on Republican members of the Senate and on the White House, which repeatedly threatened to veto the bill if the offending sections were not removed. Earlier in the week, Senate leaders agreed to drop the renewable electricity section.

And on Thursday, after a failed effort to cut off debate on the bill, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, announced that he would reluctantly remove the tax provisions as well, clearing the way for passage by a vote of 86 to 8.

That same bill was also passed by a wide margin (314-100) in the House today, having already been passed by the Senate; and it goes now to the president's desk. (The reason that both majorities are veto proof, of course, is that Bush himself approved the compromise.)

The only disappointment was that the Democrats managed to strip all support for new nuclear power plants from the energy bill:

Nearly half of House Republicans, meanwhile, condemned the legislation as a " No Energy Bill," because it lacked expanded access to new oil and gas exploration and failed to include incentives for development of coal or nuclear energy.

"For all the conventional energy sources that fuel this great nation, this is basically a no-energy bill," said ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

But even there, Bush beat them like naughty children... because support for the nuclear industry has instead been inserted into the House omnibus spending bill just passed:

But they were not the only ones unhappy with the final product. In their struggle to meet White House demands while preserving some of their priorities, Democratic leaders made changes to their initial spending bills that seemed to anger everyone. Environmentalists were annoyed by a provision allowing the Energy Department to guarantee loans to energy companies for the development of liquid coal and nuclear projects that otherwise could not receive bank financing.

"This is the mother of all gift cards to the nuclear and coal industry," said Anna Aurilio, Washington director of Environment America.

Last, but not least in the least, the Democrats have finally caved on the awful expansion of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. SCHIP was originally intended, when enacted in 1997, to offer health insurance to impoverished children; and it was sunsetted to expire in ten years... which means in less than two weeks.

But rather than simply reauthorize it, the Democrats boldly chose to vastly expand it (from $25 billion to $60 billion over the next five years) -- and also to extend the program to middle middle- and upper middle-income kids who already have private insurance, but would likely switch to the cheaper government-subsidized plan; and even to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Plan to upper middle-income adults. This would have been a "great leap forward" to government-run health care, and it will certainly be the cornerstone of a Hillary Clinton campaign, should she win the nomination.

Bush vetoed the legislation; the veto was overridden in the Senate, but the House failed by 13 votes, even though 44 Republicans joined with the Democrats. In response, the Democrats made some cosmetic changes and repassed essentially the same bill (only Yog Sothoth, the Lurker at the Threshold, knows what they were thinking).

But when Bush vetoed the bill for a second time (couldn't see that coming!), House and Senate Democratic leaders chose not to try to override: They knew it would fail by an identical margin, since it was essentially the same bill. Instead, they have dropped their planned expansion and accepted a 15-month extension of the current program:

But Democrats fell just short of a veto override [the first time], and as the end of the session [and Christmas] approaches, they have agreed to an 15 month extension of the existing program, with extra money added only to cover state budget shortfalls, according to House and Senate aides. If the deal holds, the Senate would vote first on the program's extension, followed by the House.

Even with this long-term extension, Democrats aren't letting go of SCHIP as a political issue. They are planning a Jan. 23 veto override vote -- just days before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address.

The Democrats may get a shock on January 23rd. The two primary purposes for Democrats to vote for the SCHIP expansion were first, to push us towards government-run health care, and second, to embarass the president and conservative Republicans by making them appear to vote against healthy kids. Thus, it makes perfect sense to them to try to override the second veto in January ("just days before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address"!)

Contrariwise, the primary reason that many Republicans voted with the Democrats to override the veto was the fear of being painted as anti-child if they allowed SCHIP to die. I doubt that most thought the expansion was a good idea, even while they voted for it.

But in January, when the Democrats try to override again, GOP members of Congress will have no incentive to join them... because a deal will already have been struck to ensure that poor kids continue to get health insurance past the next election.

Contrariwise, Republicans will have every reason to oppose a purely symbolic vote whose only purpose is to embarass their fellow Republicans, whose support will be needed in November. I suspect this veto-override attempt will attract a lot fewer Republicans than the last one did, when the future of the SCHIP program itself was on the line; and it will be the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are humbled: The vote in January will be purely a vote to expand SCHIP, not to continue it; the veto override may well get no Republican votes at all.

So first the Democrats caved two or three hundred times on Iraq; then they caved on the huge spending increases they wanted; now they cave on the draconian tax increases they wanted to slap onto the "excess profits" of the oil industry; and they're just about to fully cave on their latest foray into government-run health care. Bush just ran the table.

As the title says, the "lame duck" president crushed the Democratic Congress so anxious to get the hell out of Dodge in time to raise money, run for reelection, and party like it's (still) 1999 (generally, Democrats manage to combine all three into a single event). The power of the presidency -- and the genius of the Founding Fathers' demand for a strong executive -- is thus reaffirmed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 18, 2007, at the time of 7:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 7, 2007

The Impasse in Congress: May We Make a Suggestion?

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

The august New York Times has a snarky article about the inability of Congress to enact, well, almost any legislation at all under the Democratic leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%). It seems it's all the Republicans' fault -- mostly in the Senate -- for "blocking" the "Democrats’ legislative agenda":

As if there was [sic; subjunctive case] any doubt that Congress was on the verge of devolving into a carnival atmosphere, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, on Thursday proposed doing cartwheels down the center aisle of the Senate chamber to draw attention to Republican efforts to block legislation.

Here, in the Cirque du Senate, there is trash-talking, whining and finger-pointing, bickering and, occasionally, brief flashes of serious disagreement on policy. [I confess I rather like the epithet "Cirque du Senate."]

But with the clock ticking swiftly toward the end of the year and a stack of stalled legislation piling up, little is getting done in the Senate these days. And tempers are starting to boil over.

The Times lists several major pieces of legislation that Reid and Pelosi just cannot seem to shepherd through the Congress:

  • A bill to ease the "mortgage crisis" (if there really is one) caused by defaults on subprime housing loans;
  • Reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax, so it doesn't "drill a hole in the wallets of 23 million Americans next year;"
  • The energy bill;
  • The corporate farm welfare bill.
  • The federal budget, "which is needed to prevent a shutdown of the government;"

In addition, unpassed bills unmentioned by the Times include:

  • The supplemental funding bill for our troops currently on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • Extension of the USA PATRIOT Act;
  • Extension of the soon-to-expire FISA reform act;
  • The immigration and border-security bill;
  • Some acceptable health-insurance bill;
  • All of the mandatory appropriations bills, which are not the same thing as the budget bill (and Congress hasn't passed any of them);
  • Earmark reform -- though to be fair, I don't believe this was ever really planned for passage by the Democrats;
  • Not to mention fixes to such long-festering problems as the rapidly collapsing Social Security System, Medicare, and Medicaid, none of which has even been addressed by the 110th Congress.

Aside from that, however, the current Congress has been a bundle of legislative energy: They passed an increase in the minimum wage.

Democrats believe they have an explanation:

(Senate Democrats blame Republicans for blocking such bills.)

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL, not yet rated), former Clinton apparatchik, goes even farther, suggesting the Democrats' real beef is with the Founding Fathers themselves:

The stalemate is creating sharp tension not only between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, but also between the Senate and the House, where Democrats have a larger majority and have been more successful in passing legislation only to see it blocked by Republican filibusters in the Senate.

“As an amateur student of constitutional history and as a member of Congress, I have come to the conclusion that the Senate was a historic mistake,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the No. 4 Democrat.

I'm sure James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington are deeply chagrined at not having performed up to Emanuel's high standards at that old constitutional convention in Philadelphia. But setting the incompetence of the Founders aside, Big Lizards has our own diagnosis, highlighted by this graf from the Times...

Mr. Reid, who turned 68 on Sunday and power-walks four miles a day, ultimately did not perform any gymnastics. But his fury over the inability to move the Democrats’ legislative agenda seemed to have deepened since Tuesday, when he accused President Bush of “pulling the strings on the 49 puppets he has here in the Senate.”

Well, there's yer problem right there!

The key difficulty lies in four little words above. The United States Senate currently comprises 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats, and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats, giving the Left a 51-49 majority -- the smallest possible. Yet what is Reid frustrated at being unable to enact? "The Democrats' legislative agenda."

The Times was truer than they thought when they used the phrase: Although the Democrats have only a small majority in the House and the slimmest possible in the Senate, they consistently act as if they have a supermajority: trying to cram odious, humiliating defeats down the GOP's throat, insulting and belittling them, trying to steamroll them into the ground, and in general, acting as if the minority is of no account whatsoever... as if Republicans didn't even exist.

You can't boot the minority in the rear, then expect them to help enact your "agenda." They're not dogs who can be cowed and buffaloed by bull-headed, mulish jackassery.

Over and over, the Democrat-controlled House passes "veto-bait" legislation that they know in advance will be utterly unacceptable to the Republicans in the Senate... who, unlike their House compadres, can do something about it; or failing that, utterly unacceptable to the president, who can also do something about it. (Clearly the former is what Emanuel was referring to by saying the Senate was "a historic mistake.")

But if Pelosi and her posse bulldoze their agenda through the House, knowing that it cannot possibly become law -- then it is the Democrats who are "obstructing" legislation, not the Republicans. The Democrats are just wasting their own time... and what is infinitely more insulting, wasting the time of the American people, as President Bush said in his recent press conference.

They're throwing away the opportunity to accomplish anything, to pass anything, to get anything at all done, just for the chance to grandstand, preen, and say "Oh what a good boy am I."

Shockingly enough, the current congressional approval rating on Real Clear Politics is 22.5%. Yet even as they set new lows in approval, Democratic egos soar, and they see themselves on a mission:

“What’s frustrating to me and, I think, most of the freshman members, if not all of them, is that partisan strategy seems to be more important than the policy considerations at stake,” said Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky. “We all came here with mandates to change the country.”

Mr. Yarmuth said that he and many other House Democrats wanted their Senate colleagues to force Republicans to spend hours filibustering various bills, to illustrate for constituents why legislation is stalling.

Democrats blame Republican obstruction. “They are filibustering as if they are on steroids,” Mr. Reid said.

"Mandates to change the country." Into what -- France? Do Americans all agree on how to change the country? I certainly haven't seen any such consensus... but if there is a consensus on change in various areas, it sure doesn't favor the particular changes the Democrats want to enact: more spending, higher taxes, more illegal immigration, appeasement of Iran, and an American surrender in Iraq.

Not helping matters is the boorish way that Harry Reid belittles the Republicans. The line above about the GOP conference being "49 puppets" of the president is a perfect example: Not only is it something one would expect to flow from a Daily Kos "diary," not the mouth of the Majority Leader of the Senate -- it's absurd on its face. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%) is just a Bush puppet? John McCain (R-AZ, 65%)? Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%) and Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%)? Dick Lugar (R-IA, 64%)? John Warner (R-VA, 64%)?

Worse, Reid managed to enrage a senator who is actually his ideological soulmate on a number of issues. For some odd reason, Arlen Specter didn't seem to appreciate being called a Bush sock-puppet:

That reference to the Republicans, in a speech on the Senate floor, prompted Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, to accuse Mr. Reid of violating a rule prohibiting senators from imputing “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”

“It is my view that being called a puppet is in direct violation of that rule,” Mr. Specter said. He added: “I wonder if he is up to the job when he resorts to that kind of a statement, which only furthers the level of rancor.”

Specter, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and perhaps the third most powerful Republican in the Senate -- behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY, 84%) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ, 92%) but ahead of Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (TE, 72%) -- almost nakedly says that Harry Reid is unfit to be Majority Leader of the United States Senate. I don't think I've ever seen the like.

But the more important conclusion is the obvious hatred for Republicans, and especially President George W. Bush, that almost visibly dribbles from Harry Reid's lips. His hatred and intolerance of the Other gives permission to the rest of the leadership and the back-benchers to voice the same bile... and it makes almost impossible the task of working together with Republicans to actually enact legislation.

Simply put, Democrats in Congress believe their life's mission is to save the world -- from Republicans. Not every Democrat, but most of them; and in at least one case, when Joe Lieberman refused to fake Bush Derangement Syndrome... Connecticut Democrats refused even to nominate him for reelection, forcing him to leave the party (and get elected anyway). And yes, I really did hear leftists refer to him as "Jew Lieberman" during the 2006 campaign; and I saw it printed on signs, as well. Along with Republican hatred, Jew hatred has become respectable, or at least fashionable, in many Democratic corners.

And they wonder why they have trouble passing "the Democrats' legislative agenda" through Congress. Well-a-day.

I suspect the obstructionism will continue -- the Democratic obstructionism. I don't see anything on the horizon that will change things... except, perhaps, the 2008 election.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2007, at the time of 7:21 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 6, 2007

Alternative Minimum Tax: May We Make a Suggestion?

Congressional Calamities , Tax Attax
Hatched by Dafydd

The United States Senate appears to have hit an impasse on fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which lunges up out of its grave every year, skeletal hands clutching and grabbing, threatening to snatch thousands of extra dollars from average Americans' pockets:

A bill that would protect millions of middle-class taxpayers from being hit with a surprise tax increase over the next several months stalled in the Senate today, creating more confusion as filing season approaches.

The bill, intended to stop the alternative minimum tax from ensnaring more and more Americans, was supported by only 46 senators — 14 short of the 60 needed to shut off debate and move to a vote on the bill itself.

Anybody who has ever been gobsmacked by the AMT knows exactly what it is: It's an IRS punishment for falling into any one of number of obscure (but widespread) categories of taxpayer, including having too many children, living in a state with high state income taxes, or owning in whole or part an incorporated business, large or small -- such as a family farm or convenience store.

The AMT was first enacted in the Tax Reform Act of 1969, in a mean-spirited attempt to prevent rich people from taking advantage of the tax breaks that Congress itself had enacted or would enact in the future. "How dare you Bertie Woosters use completely legal means of sheltering your money from taxes!" exclaimed the 91st Congress, with its 57 to 43 Democratic majority in the Senate and its 243 to 192 (56% - 44%) Democratic majority in the House; "We'll just rescind your rights by setting an absolute minimum you must pay."

Under the AMT, if you fall into one of the dreaded categories, and if your income tax would otherwise be less than 26% of your adjusted gross income, then your tax is simply jacked up to 26% of the gross... and to hell with your legal right to declare expenses, exemptions, or deductions. (For some taxpayers, the magic number is an even bigger 28%.)

The AMT was originally touted as a way to sock it to millionaire "coupon-clippers," the "idle rich" who simply lived off of the interest from their investments (like Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA, 100%). But in a sneaky bit of legislative legerdemain, the Democratic 91st Congress accidentally forgot to index the AMT to inflation... so every year, more and more middle-income taxpayers find themselves subject to its significantly higher income-tax requirements:

For the 2006 tax year, nearly four million people were subject to the alternative minimum tax, including half of all taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 to $1 million, and 5 percent of taxpayers with incomes of $100,000 to $200,000. Without any change, the tax is expected to hit as many as 23 million taxpayers at an average cost of $2,000, reaching people with incomes as low as $30,000 to $50,000, depending on circumstances.

So what's gumming up the works? Easy to explain: The Democrats have made a solemn "pledge" of sorts, which they tout as demonstrating their fiscal restraint, not to cut taxes for one bloke unless they simultaneously raise taxes on some other bloke, by at least as much as the tax cut (a net raise is all right).

In other words, Democrats have pledged never to cut our taxes overall; every tax cut must be "paid for" by a corresponding tax increase. Democrats stand foursquare against greedy taxpayers stealing the government's money via tax cuts.

By contrast, Republicans have pledged not to raise taxes on anyone. Ergo, any plan acceptable to the Democrats is rejected by the GOP, and vice versa.

The current scheme -- which would "pay for" the AMT tax cut by raising taxes on private equity funds, hedge funds, and partnerships, which are generally used by evil rich white people -- was supported by 44 Democratic senators, plus Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman (CT, 75%) and Independent-Socialist Bernie Sanders (VT, not yet rated). 48 Republican senators voted against it (everyone but John McCain, AZ, 65%). All five of the presidential candidates who are senators of either party found occasion to be absent for the vote; and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) voted against it, just to be able to bring it up again under the arcane and occult Senate rules.

But Big Lizards has a suggestion that will resolve this entire mess. No, really. It's a solution so simple and obvious, we're convinced it won't cross the mind of a single representative or senator...

Indexing the AMT is expected to drop federal revenues by $50 billion for FY 2008; the Democrats say they don't want to raise the budget deficit by that much (though they don't seem to mind raising it for other reasons, such as socialized medicine), but the GOP says those taxes were never meant to be collected in the first place and mustn''t simply be shifted onto someone else's shoulders.

So fine. Why not just cut $50 billion in spending from the anticipated $2.9 trillion federal budget? That's a trim of just 1.7%... which doesn't seem so terribly out of reach. Even if we exempt the $717.6 billion in spending related to the military, the war on global hirabah, veterans' affairs, and NASA, that still leaves cutting the remaining $2.18 trillion by only 2.3%. We can achieve that goal by cutting all other budgets by 2.3% across the board, or by mandating the cut by department and allowing each department head to pick his own victims.

Republicans should be happy, because we're not simply robbing small investors to pay people with a lot of kids who live in California. And I'm sure Democrats will be ecstatic over the spending cut, because, as they say, they're only thinking of is fiscal responsibility!

All right, problem solved. See how easy that is -- assuming one isn't a member of Congress?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 6, 2007, at the time of 2:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

Ever Get That Weird Feeling...

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Have you ever been talking to some stranger -- at a party, at a convention, at work -- and everything seems to be going fine... when all of a sudden, you realize the conversation has lurched southwards? You may not even know when it happened; but of a sudden, you feel the same frisson that infused Shelley Duvall in the Shining when she discovered that the entire novel that her husband Jack Nicholson had written consisted of nothing but endless pages of "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." That moment when you realize you've been talking to a crazy uncle who escaped from his nephew's attic. Well...

"Every place you go you hear about no progress being made in Iraq," said Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid.

"The government is stalemated today, as it was six months ago, as it was two years ago," Reid told reporters, warning US soldiers were caught in the middle of a civil war.

"It is not getting better, it is getting worse," he said.

It's almost as if Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) suddenly started telling us about "tse-tse flies the size of eagles" carrying off young children, which Reid observed during his "nine months in the bush." [Ten points to the first commenter who knows where the tse-tse fly thing came from.] It begins to dawn on the listener that this isn't just Reid playing "Democrats' advocate;" the man truly believes the insanities that he utters.

And that imbues me with an existential terror: If a man with such a tenuous grasp of reality can make his way to the second-most powerful position in the Congress, what does that say about the natural insanity-filters that previously protected us from the worst excesses of parliamentary style democracies? Those filters that are supposed to keep nutbags like David Duke and Ross Perot out of national office -- what happened to them?

Every major newspaper and TV news broadcaster in America has been forced by circumstances to admit that, heck, who'd a thunk it, we appear to have turned the corner and be winning in Iraq now. But Harry Reid can't see it, can't see any of it: "It is not getting better, it is getting worse." (Considering that back in April, Sen. Reid announced that "this war is lost," one wonders how much worse it could be? Is al-Qaeda in Iraq poised to seize control of Kansas?)

  • So Reid thinks it's "worse" now that Gen. David Petraeus, and especially his top counterinsurgency (COIN) aide, Australian Lt.Col. David Kilcullen, have succeeded in turning Iraqi Sunni decisively against al-Qaeda -- even to the point of taking up arms against the terrorists?
  • It's "worse" with the ruling Shia now at least trying to prosecute top Shiite political leaders for crimes against humanity? (We're still waiting to see if this first essay succeeds.)
  • It's "worse" because Iraq's economy is "surging", by many measures already significantly greater than it was under Saddam Hussein?
  • It's "worse" even though thousands of displaced Iraqi families are returning to Iraq, especially Baghdad?
  • It's "worse" despite the huge burst of reconstruction projects, which are no longer being bombed by bin-Ladenites who no longer infest Iraq?

This is quite simply a bizarre and worrisome delusion on a level with "Truther" ravings. But Reid is mostly harmless, because his insanity battles against his raging ineptitude: His inability to get even liberal Republicans to sign onto most of his schemes to declare defeat in Iraq and just "move on" is legendary (and a godsend). But if the filters are unable to weed out the broken Reid and the loopy Ron Paul (and his, ah, interesting supporters) -- would they also fail to weed out the next David Duke?

Without functioning "sanity shields," how do we stop an American Ahmadinejad from being elected president, governor, or senator? I don't fret about a simplistic, unsubtle troll like Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) or Britain's George Galloway; they have no sway over the Congress anent their madness. The Democratic opposition to the war is not primarily driven by Murtha, who is out of step with his Democratic colleagues on many other issues; it's driven by lunatics like George Soros, a multibillionaire money-changer who has both the intelligence and the resources to turn his fantasy into our nightmarish reality.

I worry about the person who is both insane and intelligent, psychotic but smooth talking. We appear no longer to have a press, punditry, or people who first ask "does this guy connect with the real world as we know it," before asking whether he sounds "sincere." Sincerity is overrated as a lodestone; people can be sincerely demented.

We could survive a hypocritical, lying, vengeance-driven harpy like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); we've had them before (Nixon, Clinton 1.0). But I don't know that in this age, we could survive a president like Robert A. Heinlein's "Nehemiah Scudder" or the Dead Zone's "Greg Stillson" -- or alternatively, one of the real-life radical-secularist terrorists of ELF and ALF and infesting International ANSWER.

We desperately need to reinstitute the sanity filter in American politics, asking first whether candidates for public office have all their marbles before we even get to the question of whether we agree with some of their tenets: Republicans are no more helped by Ron Paul than Democrats are by Harry Reid -- or than Independents were by H. Ross Perot.

The best weapon against the reality-challenged is of course mockery: Make fun of them. This is not only effective but highly enjoyable. If you're humorless and dour, a "grim and grisly gruesome Griswold," then at least you can point out the insanities of the insane.

I know if feels like fighting a cripple; but unlike some guy in a wheelchair, who might make an excellent president (though our only experiment was hardly a raging success), some guy or gal who literally mistakes fantasy for reality is neither cute nor lovable (nor even livable) when he's sitting in the big chair with his finger on the button. Time to stuff your pity in a sack and loudly beholdest the beam in your mad-uncle presidential candidate's brain.

On all sides the aisle. Reality is too important to be left to the surreal.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 15, 2007, at the time of 7:35 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

November 9, 2007

Fake Post on Attorney General Michael Mukasey

Congressional Calamities , Humerus Kneecappers , Injudicious Judiciary
Hatched by Dafydd

This is a "fake post" because all I plan to do is quote liberally from a New York Times story... then make a stupid, "shaggy dog" joke at the end. So stop reading! Don't proceed any further, I beg of you... it's all just a colossal waste of your valuable time.

From today's Times:

The attorney general’s post became vacant in late August when Mr. Gonzales stepped down. For months, he had faced severe criticism over accusations that political calculations played a part in the department’s dismissal of some United States attorneys last year and over his role in shaping the administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance.

Mr. Mukasey was initially hailed by Democrats as a leader who would bring welcome change to the Justice Department. His nomination had been recommended by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, a member of the party leadership familiar with Mr. Mukasey from his service on the bench in New York.

On the first day of his confirmation hearings, Mr. Mukasey said he would resign if directed by the White House to take any action he believed was illegal or violated the Constitution, winning Democratic praise [..."And there was great rejoicing"]. On the second day of his testimony, Mr. Mukasey sidestepped the question of whether waterboarding was torture and also suggested that the president’s Constitutional powers could supersede federal law in some cases [..."there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth"].

Those responses stirred strong Democratic opposition, throwing his confirmation into question.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) appears to have known Michael Mukasey from long back; and Schumer, relying upon his own fond memories instead of the intensive vetting and interviewing they usually use, believed that Mukasey was the ideal man to turn the Department of Justice into the Department of Bush Bashery.

Based on past experience, Schumer clearly expected Mukasey to become a thorn in the president's eyes, eventually forcing President Bush to reject all of the various "tortures" that he currently allows CIA interrogators to employ:

  • Shouting at top al-Qaeda prisoners
  • Making them stand at attention
  • Waterboarding them
  • Even giving them the horrific and internationally condemned "belly slap"

Perhaps, Schumer fantasized, Mukasey's relentless opposition would force Bush to release all of the terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay into ordinary civilian court, where liberal judges could swiftly dismiss the cases -- when the government proved unwilling to yank military leaders from the field to the courtroom and hand over critical, classified national-security documents as the defense demanded.

Surely Schumer daydreamed that he would be able to parlay these dismissals into a campaign theme that Republicans enjoyed torturing innocent people... just for kicks. But suddenly, Mukasey threw a monkey wrench into the ointment. He became a Bushenstein's monster, making it clear whose side he was really on.

Schumer and the Democrats found themselves trapped in a world they had made: Having brought his name up in the first place and pushed him so hard, they could not turn on Mukasey when they realized how different he was than Chuck Schumer remembered. The senior senator from New York would lose so much face, he'd look like Red Skull. Or maybe Alan Cranston.

Clearly, the Democrats were stunned and hurt by this about-face on Mukasey's part; and I'm sure they've spent many a sleepless night wondering what bribes, threats, or other inducements the president must have offered the Attorney General to get him to switch like that.

But I think they've missed an obvious answer: Has anyone ever considered the possibility that... Judge Mukasey simply grew in office?

~

Well, see, I warned you about this "post" -- charlatanism, through and through. But you just wouldn't listen. And as Larry Niven is wont to say, "not responsible for advice not taken."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 9, 2007, at the time of 5:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 26, 2007

Mucking About With Mukasey

Congressional Calamities , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In our last whack at the contentious issue of the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his replacement (maybe) with "someone better," I warned that this might not be as easy or successful as 158% of all conservatives swore it would be. "Why, anybody we get would better than Gonzales!" was the usual refrain, as I recall; also, "We just fire Gonzales, then go out and get someone much, much better!"

I played Cassandra then, pointing out that, while I shared many of the conservative objections to Gonzales, replacement proponents were skipping over a critically important step: They had no plan for how to get this "someone better" confirmed by a Democratic Senate... or even supported by a Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Pat "Leaky" Leahy (D-VT, 95%), with ranking Republican Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%).

Why would Democrats support an attorney general who is "better" than Gonzales -- from a conservative perspective? The Democrats are enemies of conservativism... they want to hurt or destroy it, not promote it.

In that previous post linked above, "Is AG Designate Mukasey Already Kowtowing to Pat Leahy?", I worried that Mukasey was already, on the first day of his hearing, giving a number of answers and reassurances to Democrats that I found disturbing (the reassurances, I mean... though I must admit I actually do find some of the Democrats themselves "disturbing" as well):

  • He reassured Democrats that he believes that the president "doesn't have the authority to use torture techniques against terrorism suspects;"
  • That he would bar United States Attorneys and other lower-ranking Justice-Department officials from making or receiving calls to "political figures to talk about cases;" thus, local elected officials would not be allowed even to talk to the USA for their district to answer their constituent's questions about cases of local interest. (This also appears to imply that local Republicans were tainting or biasing cases somehow -- an allegation which the Democrats could never support, but to which Mukasey now lends credibility by his ham-fisted answer.)
  • That his primary role as attorney general will be to say "No" to the president; "that's what I'm there for," he assured Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%). [And here I thought the primary purpose of the AG was to execute the laws of the United States of America... not to stop the president from doing anything that offends Chuck Schumer];
  • That, in the Department of Justice, “Hiring is going to be based solely on competence and ability and dedication and not based on whether somebody’s got an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to their name.”

    Which sounds good, until one recalls that Janet Reno, Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 95%), James Carville, Sandy Berger, and Noam Chomsky all have "competence and ability and dedication;" but are they really good rôle models for top picks in the Mukasey Justice Department? I noted that Mukasey had left off the quality of "willingness... to follow the president's legal priorities and agendas, rather than ride off on their own quests."

Mukasey as a "political peace offering" to Democrats, as AP called him on October 17th, was worrisome enough; but his refusal to take a stand on some very important controversies over the next few days was worse. Repeatedly, for example, the Democrats drilled down on what, exactly, constituted forbidden "torture" -- in particular, did that prohibition apply to waterboarding, the most successful method of interrogating terrorists we have ever developed?

To which questions, Mukasey answered a resounding and calming "I don't know." He claimed not to know what waterboarding was, thus couldn't make a decision.

Well... the "peace offering to Democrats" appears to be in peril due to that very waffling, for today we have this:

The nomination of Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general encountered resistance today, with some Democratic senators suggesting for the first time that they might oppose Mr. Mukasey if he does not make clear that he opposes waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques that have been used against terror suspects.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, joined in the expressions of concern about Mr. Mukasey. The senator said in an interview today the nomination could hinge on Mr. Mukasey’s written response to a series of questions posed to him this week about the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies, including its use of interrogation techniques like waterboarding, which simulates drowning.

But what does the Times mean by saying "some Democratic senators?" As it turns out, what they're obliquely trying to say is that all Democrats on the J-Com -- a majority, of course, since the Democrats run the Senate -- plus Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) demand that he specifically ban waterboarding, or they won't vote for his confirmation:

On Tuesday, all 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Mr. Mukasey asking him to make a clear-cut statement of opposition to waterboarding and to describe it as illegal.

On Thursday, the Senator Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, was asked by a reporter if Mr. Mukasey should be confirmed in light of his failure to make a statement of opposition to waterboarding.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Senator Reid said, adding that he had been “troubled” by Mr. Mukasey’s testimony last week. “I think if he doesn’t change his direction in that regard, he could have at least one concern. And that’s me.”

The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, said that his vote on the nomination might depend on Mr. Mukasey’s written response to questions about waterboarding. “It’s fair to say that my vote would depend on him answering the question,” he told reporters. [I suspect that Leahy would not be satisfied by Mukasey "answering the question" by rejecting a ban on waterboarding. But I'm probably doing the senator an injustice; I'm sure he is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men.]

Alex Swartsel, spokeswoman for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, another Democrat on the committee, said Friday that Mr. Mukasey’s views on waterboarding were “the issue could cause the senator to vote against Mukasey.” She said Mr. Whitehouse “wants to see the judge’s answer before he makes that determination.”

So there you have it. The Democrats are making it blindingly clear: The cost for confirming Michael Mukasey is that he promise to make waterboarding illegal in all cases.

Will the president accept this ultimatum? Will he throw away the only means we have of extracting intelligence vital to our nation's security from the hardest terrorist prisoners... just to make a "political peace offering" to the Democrats? And if he refuses -- if Mukasey sticks to his ambivalent, waffling, Kerryesque, "on the one hand/on the other hand" guns -- will the Democrats on the J-Com, joined by Arlen Specter, shoot down Mukasey's nomination, setting us right back to square one again?

Is this what the collapse of GOP support for Gonzales has bought us?

We closed our piece last time with a plea for conservatives to explain to us, in comments here or blogposts or articles elsewhere, why it was, in the end, a good thing that we forced Gonzales from office. So far as I know, none has taken up the angry man's burden; having accomplished the purpose of getting rid of the hated Gonzales -- who stood in the way of mass deportations of all illegals, either directly or by "attrition" (which means starving them out) -- conservatives seemed to do naught but congratulate themselves on a job well done... and then just, like the moving finger, move on.

I'll close this one the same way: Will some conservative who called for the ouster of Alberto Gonzales please step up to the plate and make a reasoned argument why we're better off now -- even if Mukasey agrees to make waterboarding illegal in all circumstances and for any reason -- than we were with the admittedly flawed Gonzales?

I'm tired of hearing crickets. Time's a flying.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 26, 2007, at the time of 5:34 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

October 24, 2007

Code Red on Code Pink - UPDATE: Link to Hot Air Video

Congressional Calamities , Hippy Dippy Peacenik Groove
Hatched by Dafydd

I first heard about a Code Pink member "confronting" (that is, unsuccessfully trying to intimidate) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as the latter entered a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Israel-Palestinian Authority "road map." Something seemed wrong about the confrontation, where the aptly named Pinko waved her red-painted hands in Rice's face while Rice entered the hearing room.

After poking around, I found this image in an AP story about the hearing:



Code Pink protester with 'bloody' hands

Code Pink protester with 'bloody' hands

(The photo seems an eerie echo of the famous Norman Rockwell painting, The Problem We All Live With, of brave, six year old Ruby Bridges being escorted by federal marshals into the whites-only William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana in 1960. Anyone who knows Rice's background might find this particularly poignant.)

Rice, of course, simply walked right on past without cringing or even reacting. (Had the Pinko actually tried to grab Condi, I think even Condi-haters suspect the protester would have gotten a Secretarial fist in the face.) But the picture crystalized what disturbed me when I first heard about this: This clearly is not out on the street, it's inside the Capitol building.

UPDATE: Here's video of a little bit of the confrontation: The room -- which I could not identify from the picture -- is the actual hearing room itself, where it's unlikely anyone could enter without a ticket from some authority... for example, from a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I wonder if Code Pink was allowed in by a Democrat or a Republican? (No I don't; I'm pretty sure I know which. Hat tip to Hot Air, of course. Oh... and please follow the link to Extreme Mortman in the Hot Air piece -- or directly from here, of course; same place.)

Nobody is standing in between the protester and Secretary Rice... despite the fact that the woman is wearing a Code Pink t-shirt and has her hands painted bloody red. What, nobody suspected a thing? There were numerous other Code Pinks in the area, all wearing trademarked Code Pink type clothing; in the audio, they join in the assault on Rice almost at the same moment, screaming "war criminal" as they lunge at her... and it's some time before the police can be heard trying to haul them away.

Look in the lower-left corner of the image: A Capitol policewoman stands watching the confrontation but making no move to intervene. Even if we assume she's just slow on the uptake -- why wasn't she already keeping an eye on a group of people known throughout the town for their disruptive, confrontational, and at times violent protests against Bush administration officials?

And where is security from the House Sergeant at Arms? This is what Wikipedia says about the duties of that officer, currently Bill Livingood:

As the chief law enforcement officer of the House, the Sergeant at Arms is responsible for security in the House wing of the United States Capitol, the House office buildings, and on adjacent grounds. Under the direction of the Speaker of the House or other presiding officer, the Sergeant at Arms plays an integral role in maintaining order and decorum in the House chamber.

The Sergeant at Arms is also responsible for ensuring the safety and security of Members of Congress, congressional staff, visiting national and foreign dignitaries, and tourists. Toward this mission, the Sergeant at Arms works in concert with the Senate Sergeant at Arms, and the Architect of the Capitol. These three officials, along with the Chief of the Capitol Police in an ex officio status, comprise the Capitol Police Board.

From the AP article above, here is the description of the confrontation:

Rice's testimony was punctuated by Iraq war protesters. As Rice entered the hearing room, one woman rushed toward her and waved her hands - painted blood red - in front of the secretary's face. The protester shouted that Rice was a "war criminal" and should be taken to The Hague, home of an international war crimes tribunal.

Rice was stoic and continued with her business as the protester was removed. Others were likewise escorted away at the behest of Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

If you'll recall, a similar event occurred a couple of weeks ago, when a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing (I believe), chaired by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV, 80%), was disrupted by Code Pink; the disruption was allowed to continue for some time before Byrd attempted to restore order. In that case, the protesters actually unfurled a huge banner; it's hard to imagine how such an item could have been concealed... was it hidden in a protester's purse?

And it keeps happening over and over again, with MoveOn, Code Pink, NARAL, anti-"globalists," ELFs and ALFs, International ANSWER, and the entire panoply of whacko environmentalists, peaceniks, Stalinists, and the rest of the army of the perpetually aggrieved. They yell and chant, weep and wail, threaten and frighten, pitch tantrums, and often assault their opponents with various food items, like a bad Monty Python impersonation.

Are we supposed to believe that each and every time, the Capitol policing authorities are caught totally wrong footed? That they never see it coming? It never occurs to them that obvious members of an organization known for violent, disruptive protest -- might perhaps be present in force to hold a violent, disruptive protest?

Perhaps I'm imagining conspiracies everywhere, but it honestly seems to me as if the Democrats are deliberately allowing obvious Code Pink protesters into the gallery -- and now even into the areas through which administration officials must pass in order to testify -- and encouraging Code Pink's thuggish harassment of Republicans and even moderate Democrats. Democrats evidently think they can win debates by using pet goons to frighten their opponents.

I believe they have instructed the House Sergeant at Arms to allow such protesters into the galleries and hallways, and to let them go on a while before making an attempt to shut them up. I believe the Capitol Police have been told in no uncertain terms not to interfere.

I don't want to make the obvious historical comparison.

To me, this is an unambiguous attempt at politics by physical intimidation, a tactic Democrats may well have learned at the knees (or kneecaps) of their mentors in the labor movement; in that realm, such intimidation, brutal violence, and even assassination are well-worn tactics, due to mob influence and the criminal mentality of many union leaders. It doesn't appear to work on administration officials, but it may explain some defections by Republican legislators, some of whom (let's face it) are creampuffs.

But even if this could be proven, would the reaction by left-liberal Democratic voters be revulsion and condemnation -- or cheers and applause?

Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people right on!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 24, 2007, at the time of 2:44 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 17, 2007

Nancy "Deer in Headlights" Pelosi

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

"Zoom. What was that? That was your speakership, mate. Oh! Do I get another one? No, afraid not."

(Not John Cleese's exact words, but close enough.)

Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) has got to be wondering, Where are the show-trials of yesteryear? It was supposed to be such a bodacious debut:

  • The war would be aborted, the troops withdrawn;
  • Bush aides and cabinet members would be investigated, disgraced, and indicted, one by one;
  • The failed "surge," health care, and tax cuts for the ultra rich would have the entire country cursing the very name of the President.

But somehow -- as in a spirit act -- the tables turned without a human touch. The war not only battles on, but now, good God, we're clearly winning! President Bush vetoed SCHIP... and rather than being overridden and humiliated, the head count looks so bad, the Democrats may not even hold the override vote. They're already spinning like mad about what they'll do when -- oops, I mean if -- they lose.

And today, the final indignity: The House once again finds itself probably unable to enact even a simple, non-binding, "sense of the Congress" resolution that condemns the killings of Armenians by the Turks and labels the massacre "genocide." Republican and Democratic erstwhile supporters are backpedaling from the resolution so fast, they're creating a backwash that's squwamping the Squeaker hersquelf:

Worried about antagonizing Turkish leaders, House members from both parties have begun to withdraw their support from a resolution supported by the Democratic leadership that would condemn as genocide the mass killings of Armenians nearly a century ago.

Almost a dozen lawmakers had shifted against the measure over the last 24 hours, accelerating a sudden exodus that has cast deep doubt over the measure’s prospects. Some representatives made clear that they were heeding warnings from the White House, which has called the measure dangerously provocative, and from the Turkish government, which has said House passage would prompt Turkey to reconsider its ties to the United States, including logistical support for the Iraq war.

Until today, the resolution appeared to be on a path to House passage, with strong support from the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California. It was approved last week by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But this evening, a group of group of senior House Democrats had made it known they were planning to ask the leadership to drop plans for a vote on the measure.

Those Democrats pulling away from the resolution include uber-liberal Jane Harman (D-CA, 90%) and (drumroll, please) Mad Jack Murtha (D-PA, 65%).

Look, I'm delighted that so many representatives are suddenly heeding the call of President Bush to act like adults, not petulant teenagers: Turkey is very, very touchy about the genocide charge, which can carry a heavy burden, including reparations and worse -- repatriation of bitter, vengeful descendants. They have overtly threatened to forbid United States forces from staging in Turkey preparatory to deploying to Iraq, and covertly threatened to invade Kurdistan Iraq to get at the separatist Kurds there. Both are awful possibilities that would gravely threaten our progress in the war.

But still, I'm driven up the wall and across the ceiling by the same, dumb mistake made by all four sides in this issue: The mostly Democratic supporters of this resolution; the mostly Republican opponents; the Turks; and the Armenians. Simply put, the Turkey that butchered a million Armenians from 1915 to 1918 is not the same Turkey that exists today.

That Turkey was the Ottoman Empire, which began about A.D. 1300, hit its zenith in the 17th century -- when, similar to the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean became a Turkish lake -- and was abruptly crushed in 1918 when the Ottomans joined the Axis in World War I. The British and Arabs annihilated the Ottoman Empire as the war ended.



Ottoman Empire to 1683

Ottoman Empire at its peak

Turkey limped along for a couple of years, then was partitioned into various Allied mandates (Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Armenia). Finally, in 1922, Mustafa Kemal Pasha -- whom you might better recognize as Atatürk -- rallied nationalist forces and drove out the occupying powers, scattered the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, and established a brand, spanking new country: the Republic of Turkey.

The current Republic of Turkey is no more the same country that massacred Armenians in World War I than is today's Japan the same Imperial Japan that massacred Chinese and Koreans before and during World War II, or than today's German Republic the same country as Nazi Germany; Angela Merkel is not responsible for the Holocaust; Yasuo Fukuda bears no responsibility for the rape of Nanking; and Abdullah Gül had nothing whatsoever to do with the bloody slaughter of Armenians 90 years ago.

The proper arguments to make are thus...

  • Turkey: "We feel absolutely terrible that Turkish-speaking people committed such atrocities several generations ago. Thank Allah that we overthrew that awful, evil government and instituted a modern republic in its place; for now such a thing cannot occur."
  • Armenia: "So long as the whole world remembers this first genocide of the twentieth century, we shall always remember the danger posed by cruel and heartless empires. Three cheers for the spread of Democracy!"
  • Democrats in Congress: "We have rewritten our nonbinding, bipartisan, 'sense of the House' resolution to attack, not the modern-day Republic of Turkey, but the old Ottoman Empire, the symbol of the terrors of religious tyranny and theocracy... the looming 'socialism' of the twenty-first century."
  • Republicans in Congress: "Can we please knock it off with these idiotic, non-binding, feel-good resolutions and actually pass a few appropriations bills? The Senate, the president, and the American people are waiting with bated breath."

If we could spy into the Speaker's private office, would we find her cowering under her desk, waiting for the next giant, Monty-Python sized shoe to drop?

I wonder how long until her Democratic troops realize what a dreadful mistake they made electing the Distinguished Lady from Deadhead-land as Speaker of the House. Surely one must imagine that at some point, the Democratic conference will summarily oust Ms. Pelosi and install a grownup, someone who actually has a sense of the priorities of the American people -- somebody like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 90%).

Until then, buy some peanuts and enjoy the carnival of the jackasses.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 17, 2007, at the time of 4:42 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 5, 2007

The "Hush Rush" Crusade

Congressional Calamities , Liberal Lunacy , Logical Lacunae , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

I've stayed away from this story for days now, on the grounds that everybody else is already covering it. I didn't think there was much to analyze. It's completely clear what Rush Limbaugh meant by the phrase "phony soldiers," which he muttered on September 26th: He was referring to the hit parade of actual, literal phony soldiers -- as in fake, fraudulent, ersatz -- using phony atrocities to denounce the Iraq (or Vietnam, or Korean) war.

But at least I can post a compilation of everything I've read about this flap, so it will be here in one place for easy reference... tell your friends! Link and trackback! Drive up our Sitemeter stats!

Democrats and their willing accomplices in the elite media have been belching forth such slanders of our military for, quite literally, decades now. Here are just a few of the lowlights in the Liberal Hall of Shame:

  • Jesse Macbeth, who billed himself as a "Special Forces Ranger" (don't ask!) and claimed that he and his SFR pals had butchered "thousands" of innocent Moslems, mostly while they prayed peacefully in mosques. In reality, he served for 44 days, then was discharged without finishing basic training. Needless to say, he not only had not witnessed any war crimes in Iraq, he hadn't even been there.
  • Jeff Engelhardt, who claimed to have been an eye- and earwitness to American forces deliberately massacring thousands of civilians in Fallujah, under orders from Command, by burning them to death with white phosphorus. But his own contemporaneous account of his brief time at Fallujah never mentions any atrocity, and it makes clear he was never close enough to be able to observe the "burned bodies" of "children" and "women" that he claimed, in an Italian TV documentary, to have examined.
  • Josh Lansdale. Alas, we never reported on Lansdale; but Michelle Malkin did. Lansdale, a medic in the Army Reserve who was in Iraq for a year, claimed to have spent much time in Baghdad, where he said he pulled people out of burning buildings and was wounded in heavy combat. Back home, he cut ads with retired Gen. Wesley Clark, claiming that he (Lansdale) was treated horribly by the VA, whose negligence turned his ankle wound into a permanent disability.

    Alas for Lansdale, subsequent investigation showed that he had never sought treatment through the VA; that he was not wounded; that his unit was never in Baghdad; that they rarely came under any sort of fire; that they were never in combat; and that neither Joshua Lansdale nor anybody else in the unit had ever even seen a burning building in Iraq, let alone pulled anyone out of such a fire.

  • Scott Thomas Beauchamp, the New Republic's dastardly diarist, about whom the less said, the better. (Say -- whatever happened to that in-depth investigation TNR was conducting on Beauchamp's now thoroughly discredited claims?)
  • Edward Daily -- who claimed to have been a machine-gunner who witnessed an alleged American massacre of Korean civilians in July 1950 at the Bridge of No Gun Ri. Daily was the cornerstone of a 1999 AP series of articles "documenting" this "war crime." But subsequent investigation showed that he was not a machine-gunner but a mechanic; he was never at No Gun Ri and witnessed no massacres, war crimes, or atrocities; and in fact, he was not even deployed to Korea until 1951, long after the supposed incident.
  • John Kerry, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the "Winter Soldier" project; again, the basics of this story should be well known to all of our readers.

I've noticed there is a taxonomy of phony soldiers:

  • Some are literally lifelong civilians who have never been in the service (as some in the "Winter Soldier" project), but pretend to have been -- either to tell fake war-hero stories about themselves... or else fake atrocity stories to attack the service.
  • Another group were technically in the military, but they exaggerate their careers to make themselves appear far more important and credible than they actually were. Examples include Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA, 100%; for years, he claimed to have been a combat pilot in Vietnam... until he was forced to admit he was a ferry pilot who never saw a day of combat), Jeff Engelhardt, Josh Lansdale, and Jesse MacBeth.
  • A third group comprises real servicemen who really held the ranks they claimed, were members of the units they claimed, and performed the duties they claimed... but who nevertheless tell fabricated tales of nonexistent war crimes: John Kerry and others of his VVAW co-conspirators are good examples.

I would call each of these groups "phony" because each tries to use a real or fabricated military background to lend an air of credibility to fake accounts of heroism or war crimes. They are all charlatans, bearing false witness against their "band of brothers."

Finally, I want to post the timeline of events in what Hugh Hewitt calls the "the Left's Great Snarl" at Rush Limbaugh. The actual sequence is important to understand the context in which Limbaugh made his remark. I take this timeline from Byron York's account in National Review Online:

Friday, September 21st: Limbaugh and his staff pore through news stories about the now-convicted and imprisoned Jesse MacBeth and other phony soldiers (see above).

Monday afternoon, September 24th: Limbaugh records a lengthy piece on phony soldiers, spending most of the time on the most recent outbreak, MacBeth.

Monday evening: ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson broadcasts a long piece on phony soldiers and fake heroes, including MacBeth.

Tuesday, September 25th: Limbaugh's "morning update" piece on MacBeth and other phony soldiers airs. Throughout the day, listeners call in and discuss MacBeth, et al, with Rush Limbaugh.

Wednesday, September 26th: During an on-air conversation with "Mike in Olympia, Washington," the caller complains about how news agencies "[N]ever talk to real soldiers. They pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue..."

At which point, Limbaugh interjects: "phony soldiers." (Byron York says Limbaugh said "the phony soldiers;" but listening to the clip, I didn't hear any article.)

Then, after a couple of minutes, Limbaugh re-reads the piece from the previous day about phony soldiers, especially Jesse MacBeth.

Why "after a couple of minutes?" Because Limbaugh had to "vamp" a bit while one of his staff printed out the transcript that Limbaugh would then read from. Yeesh, what an amazing load of conspiratorial claptrap burbles forth from such a trivial lapse of time.

Thursday, September 27th to today: Media Matters for America (a Hillary Clinton front group), ThinkProgress (a "progresssive" -- that is radical Left -- organization), 40 Democratic senators, many Democratic congressmen, and an uncountable number of lefty bloggers engage in a collective howl about how Limbaugh supposedly said that any soldier who disagreed in any way with President Bush's strategy was "a phony soldier."

Whew! Having finally finished the odious chore of playing journalist -- "just the facts, ma'am," like the elite journalists from Columbia and other J-schools invariably give us -- I will now turn to what I find much more comfortable (and less reputable): a sentence or two of actual analysis.

There simply is no legitimate doubt that Limbaugh's "phony soldiers" comment referred to -- wait for it -- the phony soldiers he had just been talking about during the previous day's show, and who were the subject of an ABC news segment Monday night.

How tough can this be for people to understand? He does a Tuesday show on "phony soldiers;" and then the next day, he makes the comment "phony soldiers". Reasonable minds would conclude the two are related.

But not Democrats. No, nearly the entirety of the Democratic conference in Congress insist that the Limbaugh comment be considered utterly tabula rasa, as if it arose instantaneously and unbidden from the vasty deep and can be assigned any surreal value that will (in Democratic minds) hurt the evil Rush Limbaugh.

This is such an unwinnable argument for Democrats that I'm astonished their saner political heads -- Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL, 90%), James Carville, and Bill Clinton -- are allowing them to rush in where angels fear to tread:

First, Rush Limbaugh is a professional debater; he is not some Junior Assistant Undersecretary twice-removed, who can be bullied into silence.

Second, Limbaugh has a daily radio show that is heard by millions of people; he has a core audience predisposed to believe him, especially in preference to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-Carpetbag, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), or Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%).

Limbaugh has as much time to speak as he chooses to take, and the audience will stay with him the whole way. Contrariwise, Democrats in the House and Senate have only a minute or two to speak... and only their own colleagues will ever hear their complete remarks. The rest of America will hear only a snippet or two, perhaps a single line -- and then only if they trouble to tune into the national news each night.

And there's something else I was thinking of; what was that? Oh yes, here it is in my notes. In addition to these other advantages, Limbaugh has one more up his sleeve: He is actually factually correct about what he said and what he meant. The Democratic interpretation is so preposterous and risible that nobody but the mentally challenged could possibly believe it.

Since none of the above Democrats are mentally challenged -- I deliberately didn't mention Sen Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) -- I can only conclude that they know very well that they're lying and falsely smearing a private American citizen; but that they have concluded (wrongly, in my political opinion) that this assault on Limbaugh will destroy his credibility in the future, or even out and out silence him. Hence, my title for this piece.

For all the reasons above, I think this is a catastrophic error in judgment by the Democrats. The American people are never as stupid as liberals and Democrats imagine them to be... and they're about to find that out the hard way.

In the meanwhile, I will sit back and enjoy this national Democratic embarassment until it finally peters out. I don't intend to comment further unless there is some sort of "bombshell," which I sincerely doubt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 5, 2007, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

October 2, 2007

Murtha: Underhanded and Overlawyered

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Via the center-left Politico, federal Judge Rosemary M. Collyer (appointed by George W. Bush in 2002) has ordered Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%) to appear in court and be cross examined, in response to a subpoena by Marine Sgt. Frank Wuterich; Wuterich has sued Mad Jack for defamation for Murtha's accusation that the Marines in Haditha, al Anbar province, Iraq, committed "cold-blooded murder and war crimes."

The Politico writer, John Bresnahan, carps about the judge's order and predicts it will be quashed. He argues that Murtha will be allowed to hide behind the "Speech or Debate" clause of the Constitution, forcing a dismissal of the lawsuit when the appellate court hears the case. Legally, he is probably right; but if this happens, the political fallout could be far worse than if Murtha just testified, apologized, and -- as if were -- moved on.

Here is Bresnahan:

Frankly, I don't understand this ruling [forcing Murtha to take the stand and be cross-examined] at all, and I wouldn't be surprised if it is appealed by the Justice Dept. and/or House general counsel's office on behalf of Murtha. Murtha, who can say some inappropriate things once in a while, was clearly acting in his capacity as a lawmaker when he made the comments and is thus protected by the Speech or Debate Clause from any type of prosecution for official acts.

Therefore, this case should have been dismissed, and I hope it will be. It's not that I agree with what Murtha said. I don't know enough about the incident to have an opinion whether Wuterich or the other Marines did anything improper or illegal. But Murtha has a right to say what he did under the Speech or Debate Clause, even if he was wrong about what happened. When we start restricting what members and senators can say in the performance of their jobs, then we are really in trouble as a country.

I would argue that Murtha was not engaged in speech or debate related to passage of a law so much as he was poisoning Americans against our own military in order to further the political (not legislative) fortunes of the Democratic Party. Article I, section 6 of the Constitution includes the following privileges of members of Congress:

They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

Of course, Murtha was not speaking in "either House;" he made his accusations during a press conference and a subsequent TV interview. Bresnahan argues that this still qualifies:

But what Murtha did was comment on an incident involving Wuterich and other Marines at a press conference and in a follow-up TV interview. These interviews were related to his opposition to the Iraq war. The courts have found that such press-related activities are a normal part of the duties of a member of Congress, and are therefore covered by the Speech or Debate Clause. Murtha did not have to be on the floor of the House making a speech in order to enjoy the protection of the Speech or Debate Clause.

Yet he, himself admits that not every statement during a press conference or on TV would be covered; it depends on what was said and what was the purpose... which is why we have judges. Were I the judge, I would least consider the argument that Murtha's purpose in falsely accusing the Marines anent Haditha was not to debate a bill in Congress, but rather to smear a bunch of people he just doesn't like.

Suppose Murtha went on 60 Minutes and falsely claimed that the chief legislative aide to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 88%) -- who, along with Boehner himself, opposes Murtha's position on earmarks -- was about to be indicted by the FBI for hundreds of acts of bribery... would Murtha be privileged from any legal action brought by Boehner's aide? After all, Murtha could legitimately claim that assassinating the character of Boehner's chief legislative aide would make it easier for Murtha to get his own earmarks passed, since Boehner and his aide would be too busy responding to the false charges to vigorously fight the earmarks.

But let's suppose Bresnahan is right, and the law allows Rep. Murtha to smear the United States military and then hide behind the constitutional clause to avoid paying damages to those he so casually yet severely damaged. How do you think that will play on the hustings?

What will the Republican presidential candidates make of that vile Democratic opportunism? Remember, Murtha is the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chairman, and he would have been House Majority Leader, if Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) had gotten her way. He's not some scurrilous back-bencher; he's "hidalgo," high up the Democratic leadership.

We have a terrible national problem today: One of the two major parties hates President Bush so rabidly, its members are willing to say or do anything to hurt him... even if it means harming individual soldiers and Marines guilty of nothing but performing the very dangerous duty they're assigned, harming the American military, or harming the United States itself.

Democrats have been credibly accused of relying upon votes by aliens, felons, and the dead to win reelection, as with the Sanchez sisters, Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA, 100%) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA, 100%); they have consistently taken this route for many decades... even before the 1960 presidential election.

Likewise, Democrats and their trial-lawyer allies will cheerfully destroy the Boy Sprouts of America, shut off funding to missions and charities because they won't denounce their religious beliefs, and try to subvert and even smash the Catholic Church, if that's what it takes to maintain the Democratic majority in Congress.

The Democratic Party maintains a set of useful idiots and willing accomplices in the elite media (as Rush Limbaugh -- now embattled over yet more false accusations from Democrats -- is wont to say); these dupes and accomplices stoop to astonishing lows:

  • They deliberately expose highly classified anti-terrorist surveillance programs, even those they agree are completely legal, such as the SWIFT surveillance program;
  • They routinely engage in libel and slander of decent, law-abiding Republicans, from Limbaugh to the president and vice president, to Gen. David Petraeus;
  • They poison the reservoir of American polity with vile and false accusations of racism, sexism, and "homophobia" hurled against anyone who disputes any part of "the Vision of the Anointed;"
  • They report fake news -- even news they know is fake, because their own experts told them so: Hundreds of examples of "fauxtography," the deliberate fraud of "Police Captain Jamil Hussein," and Rathergate are just three examples;
  • "Independent, unbiased" news anchors, editors, and writers attend fundraisers for the Democratic Party and its candidates -- then glide into government as Democratic apparachiks (Sidney "Sid Vicious" Blumenthal, George Snuffleupagus, Chris Matthews, Bill Moyers, and on and on), then drift back to being "independent, unbiased" journalists again;
  • The elite media pull shenanigans like falsely reporting that Sen. Al Gore had won Florida, hence the presidency, in the 2000 election -- while the polls in Florida and elsewhere were still open. (That they "made up for it" by later falsely reporting that Bush had won -- after all polls had closed -- is not a defense... it's a secondary indictment. The only correct projection was that the race there was too close to call; there is no excuse for making any projection, nor do they get to shift all responsibility onto Voter News Service.)

The pattern is consistent: Democrats simply don't care what American institutions are ruined and shattered, so long as the Democrat gets reelected -- the loss of American confidence in our own electoral system, once the envy of the world; the loss of the faith-based charitable and service institutions we have relied upon for many, many decades to fill the gap between the public and private sectors; and the subversion of our fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech... this is all considered acceptable "collateral damage" by the modern Democratic Party.

Given the above, what Democrats need more than anything else is to stop digging the hole deeper, stop attacking the mainstream of this country, and return to the roll of loyal opposition to the president.

So what does their spokesman Mad Jack Murtha do? (Hah, thought I'd forgotten about him, didn't you?) He launches a bizarre, needless, heedless, vicious smear of the very branch of the service he loves to tout for his own credentials... a smear that was always questionable and is now shown to be largely fabricated.

And when one of the victims of the smear sues him, and a judge orders Murtha to testify in the trial -- Murtha's unofficial lawyer over at the Politico advises him to stand on his congressional privilege and laugh in the face of the man he slandered. "Can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!"

Oh Lordy, do I hope that Murtha takes Bresnahan's advice. I can think of nothing that would more enrage military families, traditional Americans, and even a great many moderates. And depending on the reaction of his Democratic colleagues, enrage them not only at Murtha but the entire party, too. Imagine, for example, if other Democrats lock arms around him, defending his right to slander, libel, and smear the United States Marine Corps and then "lawyer" his way out of the consequences that would befall us mere humans who did the same.

So as a member and supporter of the Republican Party, I would like to urge Rep. Mad Jack Murtha to just keep on stonewalling, refuse to testify, and continue smearing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, the state National Guards, and the reserves of all of the above.

Alas, as an American, I cannot. I must instead urge him, for the sake of the nation, to just "man-up" and apologize for bearing false witness against Marines fighting in Iraq. It would help bring us all together and present a united front to our enemies. This tack would be best for the United States of America -- the country Murtha supposedly serves in the United States Congress.

Sadly, I have the peculiar feeling that my secret wish will be fulfilled instead.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 2, 2007, at the time of 4:39 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

September 20, 2007

Democrats -- or Dhimmicrats?

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

And while we're on the subject of roll-call votes, how about this one?

For several days now, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%) has been pushing an amendment to condemn the MoveOn.org ad that asked "General Petraeus -- or General Betray Us?" He also demanded the Senate support our troops and the man the Senate unanimously confirmed as their leader. The text was as follows:

To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

But the Democrats were reluctant to vote for such an amendment; in fact, they ducked it the first time, a couple of days ago. Then today, in an effort to undercut support for the Cornyn amendment, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) introduced her own version of the amendment:

To reaffirm strong support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and to strongly condemn attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization.

Note the changes: "Full support" has shrunk to "strong support;" the condemnation of "personal attacks" has become a condemnation merely of "attacks" (I suppose calling someone a liar, a stooge, and someone for whom one must suspend disbelief isn't necessarily personal).

But the most important change: Gen. Petraeus -- the actual victim of Democratic hate speech -- has been erased from our memory. He has become an "un-person." Under the Boxer version, all one need do is assert that Petraeus is not honorably serving (all that lying and stooging), and the hate speech can spew forth without condemnation.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) insisted that, notwithstanding the timeline, the Boxer amendment would be voted on first. But Republicans refused to go along with the trick; they refused to agree to the vote and filibustered... and the Democrats were unable to overcome it, losing the vote by 51 to 46 in favor (60 needed)... and that's including Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D), who voted in favor of the Boxer amendment.

We fast forward 38 minutes. At long last, the Cornyn amendment came up for a vote. Mind, by this time, there was no alternative to the Cornyn amendment; if it went down, then the Senate would have chosen not to condemn the MoveOn ad and not to support Petraeus and the troops.

Fortunately, it passed... but by only 72 to 25, with 3 not voting. Shockingly enough, not a single vote against the amendment came from a Republican. Nor did any Republican fail to vote. Rather, all 49 Senate Republicans voted "To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces."

24 out of 49 Democrats -- 50% of the caucus -- voted against condemning the ad calling Petraeus a traitor, against supporting the troops, and against supporting the man every, last one of them voted to confirm less than eight months ago... during which time, he turned around the war effort, which now is headed towards victory. Among those voting against condemning the "General Betray Us" ad are presidential candidates Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%) and Chris Dodd (D-CT, 95%).

The other two senators running for the Democratic nomination for president -- Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) -- were too cowardly to cast a vote. Biden also ducked the vote on Barbara "the Underminer" Boxer's amendment, but Obama managed to crawl out of his hole long enough to vote for the weak-tea Boxer version.

Independent Socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT, not yet rated) voted for the Boxer version but against the Cornyn version; Independent Joe Lieberman voted for both versions.

So there you have it: One party wholeheartedly supports the troops, supports Gen. Petraeus, and condemns the vicious, personal attack by MoveOn.org which questions Petraeus' patriotism.

In the other party, half of the members do not support the troops, do not support their commander, and applaud and join in the attacks on Petraeus' character and patriotism.

Be sure to let your friends know... especially those on the center-left. Perhaps they should consider the depth of hatred this betokens when they step into the little booth in November 2008.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 20, 2007, at the time of 12:37 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

A New Definition of Lockstep of Which We Were Previously Unaware

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

On the amendment by Sen. James Webb (D-VA, not yet rated) to require troops to spend as much time in the United States, in between deployments, as they spend abroad during deployments -- an amendment which Webb himself cheerfully admitted was in fact intended to make our current, successful counterinsurgency strategy impossible -- I was struck by the angry, petulant complaint by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) when the Senate failed to invoke cloture:

“The Republican leadership and the White House is [sic] getting them all to march in line,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who ranks third in the party leadership. “But it [sic] is marching further and further away from where America is. We just keep at it. It’s all we can do.”

That is, Schumer is bitter that the Republicans are marching in lockstep with the White House.

Hm. I toddled over and took a look at the roll-call vote on the Webb amendment, which failed to break the filibuster by 56 to 44 (60 were needed). As the Times notes:

There were 56 votes in favor, including 6 Republicans -- one fewer than the 7 Republicans who joined the Democrats in July, when the measure, by Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, also fell 4 votes short.

Six Republicans voted in favor of the amendment -- therefore against the White House:

  • Norm Coleman (MN, 68%);
  • Susan Collins (ME, 48%);
  • Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%);
  • Gordon Smith (OR, 72%);
  • Olympia Snowe (ME, 36%);
  • John Sununu (NH, 88%).

So 43 out of 49 Republicans voting with the president (a rate of 87.8%) constitutes "march[ing] in line" with the White House.

And now, for comparison, here are all the Democrats who voted against the Webb amendment:

 

 

 

 

[Insert sound-effect of chirping crickets.]

 

 

The Democrats voted 49 out of 49 against the White House, for a rate of -- furiously tapping on my calculator -- approximately 100% lockstep with Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%), Chuck Schumer, Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%).

Whew, thank goodness for the open-minded, independent, free-thinking Democratic Party!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 20, 2007, at the time of 11:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 15, 2007

The Times, They Are a-Shamin'

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times has become the leading voice for surrender in Iraq. More even than most of the Democrats (or any of the Democratic presidential candidates except, perhaps, Bill Richardson), the Times editors' demand for defeat has become almost hysterical, as if someone had taken their families hostage: "If dat President, whatsisname, Bush don't get outa Iraq, you'll never see yer kids again!"

Unlike most of the Democrats, the Times follows the complete Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 95%) line:

  1. Bush lied us into the war in the first place;
  2. Al-Qaeda was never in Iraq before 2003, and probably isn't there today;
  3. Victory is unachievable;
  4. The "surge" is a miserable failure that has actually made things worse militarily;
  5. Notwithstanding (4), the amazing success in Anbar, Diyala, Salahuddin, and Baghdad provinces -- where Sunni tribes have risen up in angry defiance of al-Qaeda, have fought alongside American forces against al-Qaeda, and have more or less driven al-Qaeda out of those provinces -- were not caused by anything America did, and particularly anything President Bush did: They happened "in spite of" the counterinsurgency strategy, not because of it;
  6. All troops should be withdrawn immediately and precipitously, in as ragged a mob and as humiliating a retreat as possible, in order to punish America and teach us a good, hard lesson about electing Republicans;
  7. Any and all resultant damage to the American military, American prestige, American hegemony in the region, stability in the region, the containment of Iran and Syria, and to any American ally in the region (cough-cough the Jews cough-cough) is entirely and exclusively the fault of George W. Bush and the Republicans... even though the GOP has argued consistently against the policy advocated by the Times.

At the moment, they're beavering away at convincing everyone of (4), and they have focused upon two -- only two -- specific complaints they have: that the Iraqi national parliament has been unable so far to pass a bill establishing the rules by which foreign oil leases can be signed by provinces, and that a particular tribal sheikh who was friendly to us, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, was slain, presumably by al-Qaeda.

This seems a remarkably thin reed on which to base a conclusion of utter despair, hopelessness, and belly-crawling to our enemies. Let's take the last first...

Although it's a tragedy that Abu Risha was assassinated, it's sheer lunacy to imagine that the Sunni response to such an affront will be to meekly return to life under the leash. For heaven's sake, it was precisely this sort of high-handed butchery and depostism that drove the Sunni tribes away from al-Qaeda and into alliance with the Coalition to fight them, as Lt.Col. Dave Kilcullen so ably recounts in an article he wrote for Small Wars Journal, "Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt." The more likely result will be a redoubling of the anti-terrorist combat effort by Sunni Iraqis... which is already an oversimplification, as is virtually everything in the Times' argumentum, as the tribes in question include both Sunni and Shiite members.

That is, if slaughtering tribal sheikhs led to the tribes turning against al-Qaeda in the first place, how can the chowderheaded editors at the New York Times argue that a couple more assassinations will put the djinn back in the bottle?

And as for their triumphant crowing that the oil-revenue-sharing law "seems to be collapsing," the editors should stop sucking up to MoveOn.org and start reading Big Lizards. As I noted some time ago, all of these issues in Iraq will be settled, not by a top-down, authoritarian, nationalist parliament... but by the opposite process: Individuals will settle with individuals, tribe with tribe, province with province, region with region. Once all that is accomplished, then parliament may step in and ratify the "facts on the ground."

As far as the instant case, provinces will simply start negotiating oil leases with various companies... as Kurdistan is now doing:

The legislation has already been presented to the Iraqi Parliament, which has been unable to take virtually any action on it for months. Contributing to the dispute is the decision by the Kurds to begin signing contracts with international oil companies before the federal law is passed. The most recent instance, announced last week on a Kurdish government Web site, was an oil exploration contract with the Hunt Oil Company of Dallas.

The Sunni Arabs who removed their support for the deal did so, in part, because of a contract the Kurdish government signed earlier with a company based in the United Arab Emirates, Dana Gas, to develop gas reserves.

Leave aside the obvious double standard... the Democrat-controlled American Congress has yet to ratify a single one of the major budget bills for next fiscal year, which starts October 1st, I believe; they have languished in joint reconciliation committees for months now. Instead, let's cut to the heart of the Chuck Schumer-New York Times position: What the Times sees as "contributing to the dispute" is actually the beginning of the solution. The next step is for the Sunnis to start negotiating their own blasted agreements with Hunt and Dana Gas and Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon, agreements not only to develop the small amount of proven reserves in areas held by mostly Sunni tribes, but also to explore in the untapped and potentially vast reserves of oil and especially natural gas that are just now being reported in those same "Sunni" areas.

Once Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish provinces are signing oil leases like mad, then and only then will the Iraqi parliament move to ratify the system that will, by then, have evolved. Unlike (alas) the court system, the legislature is typically a lagging indicator -- not a leading indicator; they await strident demands from their constituents before they will act... as I would put it, they only work when threatened.

It's the same here as in Iraq... easily shown by the recently enacted (hah) comprehensive immigration reform bill, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare bill, the litigation-reform bill, and the defense-of-marriage constitutional amendment. Or for that matter, those budget bills, which are far less controversial but appear every bit as contentious.

The only available metric right now for how the counterinsurgency strategy is working -- is that contained within the strategy itself: It can only be evaluated by how well it protects the Iraqi population and reduces the violence from al-Qaeda and from Shiite militias, not by proxy measurements: whether the Iraqi parliament has passed a particular bill, how many American troops have been killed recently, or how well it satisfies the deep, defeatist desires of the elite media. And on the only valid metrics, the so-called "surge" has succeeded much better than expected.

All else is dicta.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2007, at the time of 12:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007

"Surge a Failure, Democrats Tell General"

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

The title -- the headline of a Breitbart story on Gen. David Petraeus' and Ambassador Ryan Crocker's testimony before Congress -- says it all, doesn't it? "Surge a failure, Democrats tell General." I'm sure Petraeus was properly grateful for being instructed.

This is our first post from the Noordam, a Holland-America cruise ship. It turns out to be a bigger pain than expected to post from here: The connection fee is horrendous -- we just dropped $100 for 250 minutes (of which 180 remain); so we must go online, save a bunch of web pages we intend to use, then logout. Then we read the material we downloaded offline and write the post (I'm writing in Netscape Mail). At the end, when the post is finished, I will log on again, paste this text into Movable Type, edit it and check the links, and then post. Yeesh!

Here's the fuller quotation from the story:

Anti-war Senate Democrats bluntly told Iraq commander General David Petraeus Tuesday his troop surge strategy was an abject failure in its prime objective -- forging an Iraqi political settlement. [Or rather, giving Congress a playable reason to surrender.]

Several Senate Republicans [read: RINOs] also expressed unease with US war policy, as the general and US ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker endured a roasting on a second day of high-stakes testimony to Congress.

Resorting to the last refuge of a cowardly scoundrel, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, 100%) asked Petraeus two direct questions about the efficacy of the "surge"... then he proceeded to answer them himself, without inviting the commanding general to confuse matters by participating in the interrogation.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 95%) went Biden one better, furiously asking a rhetorical question that tortured the English language until it begged for mercy: "What makes you possibly think that anything further like this is going to produce the results that anybody else has failed to do?" (Senate aides are still trying to pick up the broken pieces of syntax and semantic content Dodd left strewn on the Rotunda floor.) Sen. Lieberman (I-CT, 75%D) must have slid further down in his seat, hoping folks wouldn't think he was with the other fellow at his table.

But that's not what I came to write about (now he tells us!) I actually derived more amusement from the New York Times editorial... which was spoonfed to us on the ship as part of a little digest of the thoughts of the Times, "all the news we see fit to print." In typically condescending fashion, it begins thus:

For months, President Bush has been promising an honest accounting of the situation in Iraq, a fresh look at the war strategy and a new plan for how to extricate the United States from the death spiral of the Iraqi civil war. [Excuse me; perhaps it's my trick memory again, but I sure don't remember that last "promise" from President Bush.] The nation got none of that yesterday from the Congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. It got more excuses for delaying serious decisions for many more months, keeping the war going into 2008 and probably well beyond.

It was just another of the broken promises and false claims of success that we’ve heard from Mr. Bush for years, from shock and awe, to bouquets of roses, to mission accomplished and, most recently, to a major escalation that was supposed to buy Iraqi leaders time to unify their nation. We hope Congress is not fooled by the silver stars, charts and rhetoric of yesterday’s hearing. Even if the so-called surge has created breathing room, Iraq’s sectarian leaders show neither the ability nor the intent to take advantage of it.

Wait... wasn't "shock and awe," which referred to the initial combat phase of Iraq, fulfilled when American forces routed the strongest Arab army in the Middle East in just three weeks? That's less than time than it took the Nazi blitzkrieg ("lightning war") to overrun France.

And there were roses, though I suppose the Democrats have a point that the ousted Baathists, the Democrats' natural constituency, were unhappy. And of course, I'm sure the Times editorialists are at least intelligent enough to understand that the "mission accomplished" banner referred to the mission of that particular carrier, and perhaps secondarily to the successful conclusion of the first phase of major combat operations... not to the entire Iraq war (especially as Bush explained as much in his speech).

Finally, it's astonishing how a prediction of failure by the editors can morph into another example of failure, without ever having to pass through the tedious process of actually coming to pass. "I say it'll never get off the ground... and my prognostication proves the Wright Brothers are a couple of lunatics!"

It's full of boners such as this: "The military does not have the troops to sustain these high levels without further weakening the overstretched Army and denying soldiers their 15 months of home leave before going back to war." Fifteen months of home leave? My, the military certainly has changed; perhaps the soldiers can just spend a year and a quarter lying on the beach and soaking up some rays! This must be similar to the assertion that every moment the president spends away from the White House, no matter what he is doing or how much he works, is to be considered "going on vacation."

The end was so predictable, they probably wrote it in advance of the testimony:

General Petraeus admitted success in Iraq would be neither quick nor easy. Mr. Crocker claimed that success is attainable, but made no guarantee. With that much wiggle room in the prognosis, one would think American leaders would start looking at serious alternative strategies -- like the early, prudent withdrawal of troops that we favor. [And God help the troops that they don't favor!] The American people deserve more than what the general and the diplomat offered them yesterday. [They also deserve more than a "prudent" surrender in the midst of an impressive victory.

For that matter, they deserve more than what was offered by Representative Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. When protesters interrupted the hearing, Mr. Skelton ordered them removed from the room, which is understandable. But then he said that they would be prosecuted. That seemed like an unnecessarily authoritarian response to people who just wanted to be heard.

"[P]eople who just wanted to be heard..." but who did not wish to extend that courtesy to the commanding general, the ambassador, or any Republicans over whose questioning they chose to chant. I definitely want to see prosecution of such serial abusers of other people's First Amendment rights (I refer to my right to hear what Petraeus, Crocker, and everyone else has to say).

Well! Two once-great American institutions have certainly distinguished themselves this week. (Three, if you count the American protester; though I'd only go so far as to say that they need to be institutionalized.)

We had an inkling that this would be the Democrats' "response" to the testimony (where "response" here means "scripted verbal sneering that resembles the choreographed strutting of a professional wrestler"). It's nice to see that they continue to live down to our low expectations of them.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 12, 2007, at the time of 10:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Unprecedented Assault on Executive Privilege Underway

Congressional Calamities , Politics 101 , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

In an astonishing power-grab that has received little notice and virtually no condemnation from constitutionalists, the United States Congress is attempting to seize information from the Bush White House that no Congress has ever before demanded from any president... and a number of Republican congressmen are eagerly joining the wild hunt.

The demands are truly breathtaking:

  • First, Congress -- in the person of Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT, 95%) and his Senate Judiciary Committee -- demands essentially every document, no matter how heavily classified, relating to what is now called the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP), the program of intercepting telephone communications between known or suspected al-Qaeda agents and others, where at least one node of the conversation is outside the United States.

    It is not clear how many members of the Senate J-Com actually have sufficient clearance to view the top-secret/codeword documents they demand (certainly Patrick "Leaky" Leahy does not), nor who else might view them, were they handed over: other senators, members of the House, congressional aides, or even members of the elite media and Democratic activists -- which means "the world."

  • Second, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%) of the House Oversight Committee -- in concert with Leahy at the Senate J-Com -- is demanding hundreds of thousands of e-mails exchanged between White House staffers because they didn't use the normal White House e-mail system but e-mail addresses supplied by the Republican National Committee instead.

    In some cases, the law required that they not use the official addresses, since the communications were non-official business; in other cases, they simply didn't have access to White House e-mail addresses, due to miserly administrators who did not hand out enough official Blackberrys. In no case, however, have Democrats raised a substantial charge of skulduggery... they're just fishing, hoping to catch someone doing something disreputable.

  • Both Judiciary committees have subpoenaed top aides to President George W. Bush, including White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and a raft of lower-tier advisors to other advisors -- little fish whom the committees may think easier to "turn," because they might be less certain of protection from spurious contempt citations -- regarding the president's decision not to renew the appointment of eight U.S. Attorneys (or nine or seven, nobody seems to agree). The committees demand to know exactly why each and every USA was not reappointed, who complained, and what the connection was between the complainant and the president -- did he get along with Bush? Was he a Republican?

It is important to note that in neither case has Congress formally alleged any violation of law; no criminal indictments have forthcome; and nothing else has been presented to override the normal presumption of Executive privilege for the work product of the president and other administration officers not subject to Senate confirmation, as heads of agencies are. The Democrats demand the materials solely because they want to better be able to politically oppose Republicans and Republican policies.

The bombast is also unprecedented: As various aides leave for other employment -- which is standard operating procedure in the waning years of a two-term presidency -- Leahy announces that each is trying to flee justice, to cut and run, to avoid scrutiny of his wicked deeds... thus slandering each honest public servant as a criminal, tried and convicted in the Court of Leahy Opinion:

Rove’s departure at the end of August "does not legally change one thing" in the pursuit of Rove and the information he might hold, said a Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee aide. And in a statement Monday, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) vowed to press on.

“The list of senior White House and Justice Department officials who have resigned during the course of these congressional investigations continues to grow, and today, Mr. Rove added his name to that list,’’ Mr. Leahy said. “There is a cloud over this White House, and a gathering storm. A similar cloud envelopes Mr. Rove, even as he leaves the White House.”

What a surprise -- public officials who have spent six years in the administration decide they want to leave to make some money for a change. White House Spokesman Tony Snow is another who plans to leave soon; will Leahy quickly gin up a subpoena, so he can accuse Snow, too, of leaving under a "gathering storm?"

It is, of course, obvious why it's important for the White House to restrict access to highly classified documents discussing intelligence-gathering methods, personnel, and results... even from Congress. But it's equally important that the president, no matter who, be able to receive confidential political and public-policy advice from his aides and advisors without either side worrying that it will all appear in an open Senate subcommittee hearing tomorrow, and in the Washington Post that night.

The president needs:

  • To hold frank and unfettered discussions, to kick around ideas and scenarios that may be quite extreme, frightening, or unpalatable, such as discussions about possible war;
  • To have personnel discussions in which private information about administration employees comes up and must be considered;
  • To receive honest assessments of the chances of certain policies being enacted by Congress -- which may include specific discussions of pressure that can be brought to bear on specific members;
  • And yes, the president, his cabinet, and his advisors need to be able to discuss election matters: whether the president will get a second term -- and whether he'll have a friendly or unfriendly Congress -- certainly affects what initiatives he will undertake and what reforms various agencies might have time to implement.

The strangest theme of this drama is the utter futility of the Democrats' actions, at least in actual policy terms: Nearly all these questions were already answered by the Supreme Court in June 2004, in the case Cheney v. U.S. District Court, 03-475, about the vice president's energy task force. The Court held -- by a very strong 7-2 -- that meetings and communications conducted entirely among members of the administration could be kept secret under the separation of powers doctrine, whether or not the administration formally invoked Executive privilege.

The particular case was remanded back to the D.C. Circus for consideration of whether private CEOs of energy companies who offered advice and opinions thereby became members of the task force themselves; had the task force thus included both public and private members, it could not be shielded.

But the circuit court unanimously concluded that they were not members. Therefore, they held that Cheney did not have to reveal any of his papers or testify about the task force membership or work product. They sent the case, which had been jointly filed by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club, back to district court for dismissal. (I believe the Supreme Court recently denied certiorari, but I'm not 100% certain.)

In other words, this question has already been answered, emphatically so, by the Supreme Court; bear in mind, that 7-2 ruling occurred before either Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Alito joined the Court. Presidential administrations can keep their confidential advice confidential.

The case usually cited that limits this secrecy is United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), where the Court forced President Richard Nixon to hand over the surreptitiously recorded White House tapes; but that case hinged on an actual criminal trial underway: then-Attorney General John Mitchell and six other administration officials were indicted and put on criminal trial (and most were subsequently convicted); Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski subpoenaed the tapes as evidence in that criminal trial.

Needless to say, there is no criminal trial in any of the current cases... no indictments, no court case, no criminal evidence, not even a formal accusation of criminal activity. The Democrats demand the information for entirely political purposes: They believe they can use it to embarass Republicans and help them in the 2008 election.

I wonder what Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY, 95%) and Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) -- each of whom plans to be president starting in 2009 -- think about this congressional power snatching?

I can understand Democrats putting party and electoral politics ahead of country and principle; but more disturbing is that several Republicans in the Senate are jumping aboard the bandwagon, presumably because multi-term members of Congress prefer to see their own branch of government supreme over the other two -- but particularly over the Executive. When Sen. Leahy's Committee on the Judiciary issued subpoenas for classified information on the TSP, the ten Democrats on the committee were joined by three Republicans, half the Republican contingent who actually voted (three did not): Orrin Hatch (UT, 84%), Chuck Grassley (IA, 88%), and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (PA, 43%). Other Republican senators, including Chuck Hagel (NE, 75%), Lindsay Graham (SC, 83%), and the two Mainers, Olympia Snowe (36%) and Susan Collins (48%) -- plus a few who now must find honest work -- have called for investigations, subpoenas, or contempt citations.

Republicans in the House have been more disciplined; when the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law was considering a contempt citation for Bolten, they voted to declare his Executive privilege claim "invalid;" no Republicans joined the seven Democrats voting against the claim. Likewise, when the full committee actually voted to issue contempt citations to Bolten and Miers, again, no Republican voted for it. The vote was 22 to 17 in favor; the seventeen Nay votes were the seventeen GOP members of the committee.

But too many Republican senators appear unconcerned about the attempt by Democrats to diminish the office of the presidency and make it merely an adjunct to Congress -- the president as simple custodian who rubber-stamps whatever policy Congress decides.

A strong, independent Executive is, in fact, the most significant difference between the United States and the lion's share of other democracies, all of which are parliamentary in nature: In most cases, the head of government, the prime minister, is the boss of the ruling party, as in England, Spain, Canada, Germany, Japan, and so forth. (Some parliamentary democracies do have a reasonably strong and separate Executive, such as France and the Republic of Korea; others have a president who is largely ceremonial or non-policy-making, as in Israel and Italy.)

To shrink the presidency to a subordinate position is to Europeanize the United States of America. Since when has a significant number of Republican senators had an agenda to make America more like Europe?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2007, at the time of 5:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 17, 2007

Best Evidence

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

I must hat-tip Power Line, because it was while reading Paul Mirengoff's post today that I realized the oddest angle of all in the 2004 brouhaha, the contretemps, the donnybrook between then White House Counsel (now Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales, former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, former Principal Deputy Attorney General James Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller (now and then) -- and a "John Doe" to be named later on the one hand... and the Democrats in Congress on the other hand.

Our previous spelunking into this cavern of treachery can be unearthed here:

First, let's set the background:

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush adopted a program to surveille terrorists that included a number of elements: One element -- intercepting telephone calls between known or suspected terrorists and other people, where one node of each call is outside the United States -- has been confirmed by the president, and is called the Terrorist Surveillance Program, TSP.

Another element of the program comprises "data-mining" of millions of phone calls -- that is, not intercepting the call's content but instead other circumstances, including location, time placed, duration, number of people involved, and so forth. This element has never been confirmed or its existence declassified, so no government official can lawfully mention it.

The first group -- the principals -- all agree on the following facts; there is no dispute:

  1. At some point, the Justice Department objected to some element of this program; officials have now stepped forward anonymously (and illegally) to leak that the particular element DoJ had problems with was the data-mining. None of the principals disputes this.
  2. James Comey, then acting Attorney General while the actual Attorney General was recuperating in hospital, refused to sign off on the program at one of the annual required reviews.
  3. Gonzales and Card were concerned and puzzled: The Attorney General goes into hospital for gall-bladder surgery; and while he's there, the acting Attorney General, who has opposed the data-mining element all along, refuses to approve it. On March 10th, 2004, Gonzales and Card go to the hospital, either to find out whether Comey was acting on his own wishes and not the Attorney General's, or possibly to try to get the Attorney General to override Comey, his deputy.
  4. Gonzales and the Attorney General have a conversation, during which the latter makes clear that he agrees with Comey and refuses to sign off on the data-mining element without changes.
  5. Comey, worried that Gonzales might apply "undue pressure" on Attorney General John Doe to get him to sign, calls Mueller in to back Comey up.
  6. Gonzales and Card leave about 8:00 pm.
  7. Mueller arrives at 8:10 pm.
  8. Mueller talks to Comey, who tells him that John Doe had told Gonzales that Doe "was in no condition to decide issues."
  9. Mueller leaves.

Thus endeth the chronology of March 10th, 2004, which is undisputed by any of the principals involved. Later, the administration made some changes which brought the Department of Justice back on board. So whence the beef?

Enter the other group, not the principals but the hindsighters...

The hindsighters primarily comprise a concatenation of five Democrats on Sen. Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Judiciary Committee -- the chairman, plus Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and the absurdly named Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has no rating as yet, as he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee in 2007; Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%); various Democratic congressional rounders and bounders, seducers and traducers; and most of the elite media. (That is, the usual suspects.)

The hindsighters were not present during the altercation, the kafuffle, the spat. They have, however, shown up nearly three and a half years later to accuse now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales of perjury, obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress, suborning perjury, threatening a subordinate, treason, attempting a coup d'état, misleading Congress, having an unspellable last name, aggravated mopery with intent to gawk, and groping a female fundraiser who came to him with a personal problem. Oh, wait, that last was just a flashback; my bad.

The hindsighters originally claimed that Gonzales lied when he denied that the Justice Department objected to the TSP -- the element of the surveillance program where the National Security Agency intercepted phone calls from a known or suspected terrorist to someone else, where one node of the call was outside the United States. He said it was to a different element, which he did not name (as it was still classified).

That prompted (drove, compelled) those four members of Leahy's Senate Judiciary Committee (minus Leahy himself) to forward a "referral" to the Justice Department, demanding the appointment of a special counsel to indict Gonzales for perjury, obstruction, and contempt. The media mavens leapt aboard the slanderwagon, convicting Gonzales in absentia (though some in the drive-by media instead convicted an unknown assailant and cabinet-member impersonator named "Alberto Gonzalez").

Then word leaked out that this was not, in fact, the disputed element -- the dispute was over data mining instead; thus, Gonzales, if not Gonzalez, had told the truth. In response, the Flab Four and their puppet friends quietly dropped the demand... without ever actually withdrawing the referral.

They have since rummaged around and found a new charge, which they can piggyback onto the old referral, if they've a mind: Gonzales (or Gonzalez, whoever he is) committed perjury, obstruction, and contempt by saying that the Attorney General, John Doe, was "lucid" during the March 10th conversation, even that Doe "did most of the talking."

This claim is belied, say the hindsighters, by FBI Director Mueller's notes... which say that after Gonzales left, John Doe was tired out, exhausted, tuckered:

Then-Attorney General [John Doe] was "feeble," "barely articulate" and "stressed" moments after [where "moments after" is here defined as "ten minutes after"] a hospital room confrontation in March 2004 with Alberto R. Gonzales, who wanted [Doe] to approve a warrantless wiretapping program over Justice Department objections, according to notes from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III that were released yesterday.

By now, I assume everyone is wondering whether I've slipped a cog. I said something upfront about "the oddest angle of all" in this entire ballyhoo, this hubub, this riot. So far, all I have done is recap the facts (the gouge, the poop, the undisputed truth). Ah, but you must have noticed the Strange Case of the Missing Man, Attorney General John Doe?

Your honors, I now intend to name our John Doe: His name is, in truth, John... he is former senator, former Attorney General John Ashcroft -- the only other participant in the actual conversation (conclave, jaw-jaw, gabfest) with Gonzales.

And the most absurd part of all this is that so far, nobody has troubled to get John Ashcroft's take on the whole convulsion. He's the missing man in this entire storm, squall, willywaw.

Now, the Washington Post says that Ashcroft has no comment:

The White House and Justice officials declined to comment. Neither Ashcroft nor his former staffers have commented publicly on the episode.

But the media, even the elite media, are only the sock puppets in this affair; the real buggy drivers are the Democrats in the Senate J-Com. And unlike even the Washington Post, the committee has subpoena power: Ashcroft is a lobbyist now (in perfectly good health and only 65 years old), and he is a former cabinet member who needed Senate approval. Thus in either case, he can be subpoenaed to testify under oath to that Senate committee.

Why has Leahy not moved to do so? I'm sure the White House would have no objection to Ashcroft testifying to the following questions:

  • General Ashcroft, General Gonzales has testified that the particular element that the Department of Justice objected to and refused, for a time, to recertify was not the element now called the Terrorist Surveillance Program and confirmed by the president, but rather another program which the president has never confirmed. Was Mr. Gonzales correct, to the best of your knowledge and recollection?
  • Mr. Gonzales also testified that, during a conversation in hospital on March 10th, 2004, about the Justice Department's objections to terrorist surveillance operations, you, General Ashcroft, were lucid. He also testified that you did most of the talking. He testified that you lucidly explained the legal reasoning behind your objection. Is this true and accurate, to the best of your recollection?
  • Finally, General Ashcroft, I would like to ask you a question in your capacity as an expert witness on constitutional law. Is it your legal understanding that government officials with specific knowledge of classified programs and operations must not reveal classified information about those programs or operations in open testimony before Congress, unless such disclosure has been specificaly authorized by the Executive? And is it your legal understanding that Congress may not demand testimony in open session that amounts to Congress unilaterally declassifying information that was classified by the Executive?

I suspect John "Doe" Ashcroft would have no difficulty answering any of these three questions, and that his answers would completely detumesce, deflate, and contract this current... uh, flap. So why hasn't the committee subpoenaed the man?

Ah, I see I have committed a rhetorical question again. Never mind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 17, 2007, at the time of 5:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 3, 2007

Time to Sack the Robes

Congressional Calamities , Injudicious Judiciary , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, the Washington Post revealed the stunner that back in March of this year, a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) ruled that the president had no legal authority to order the NSA to intercept phone calls originating abroad... and where the terminating point was also abroad.

Mind, this is not the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," TSP, that Democrats have been so agitated about; this case was not about calls where one end was in the United States, but rather about those where both ends -- or all ends, in the case of conference calls -- are in foreign nations... but the call happens to be routed through an American node, typically in New York or California. No information is known about the reason for the ruling or even which judge issued it (or, of course, who appointed that judge); those data are all still secret.

(It may even be a legally correct ruling; but I cannot imagine that the congressional authors intended the FISA Court to stand in between the NSA or CIA and urgent overseas terrorism intelligence. Isn't there some Supreme Court precedent that, no matter what the law says, a court can't issue an order that's just plain dumbass?)

In fact, we weren't even supposed to know this much; but House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH, 88%) let the beans out of the cat to anchor Neil Cavuto on Fox News:

"There's been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people from listening in to two terrorists in other parts of the world where the communication could come through the United States," Boehner told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto in a Tuesday interview.

Thus, for the last few months, the NSA has been barred by law from the most fruitful source of terrorism intelligence: phone calls from, say, Pakistan to Paris. And while we don't know the exact reason behind the limitation, we certainly know the impact... and it has been so devastating to American national security, and so preposterous that the president's power as Commander in Chief would not extend even that far -- constitutional protections now extend to all foreigners living abroad? -- that even Democrats are frantic to pass legislation undoing that disaster of a decision:

The practical effect has been to block the NSA's efforts to collect information from a large volume of foreign calls and e-mails that passes through U.S. communications nodes clustered around New York and California. Both Democrats and Republicans have signaled they are eager to fix that problem through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)....

"This means that our intelligence agencies are missing a wide swath of potential information that could help protect the American people," [Boehner] said. Boehner added that some Democrats are aware of the problems caused by the judge's restrictive ruling and the problems it has caused for the administration's surveillance of terrorism suspects.

"The Democrats have known about this for months," Boehner said. "We have had private conversations, we have had public conversations that this needs to be fixed. And Republicans are not going to leave this week until this problem is addressed."

This ruling hands us another demonstration, as if more were needed, that the federal judiciary is simply too slow, too rigid, and too deferential to precedent to be trusted with control over the gathering of intelligence in wartime. In past eras, nobody could have imagined so absurd a situation; judges did not tell the OSS what they could or could not do to intercept information about Nazi Germany, nor did the federal judiciary get to opine on whether it was legal for the United States to decode intercepted Japanese naval communications.

In particular, the current law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, was enacted 29 years ago... not only a year before the current age of terror began but also the year before the first commercial cell phone network came into existence (in Japan). The FISA took neither modern communications nor the contemporary threat into account -- since neither yet existed.

Judges on the FISC continue to decide cases about terrorism intelligence under rules meant to govern spying on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The USSR was not going to attack us in a matter of hours; intelligence was generally long-term, required no immediate action, and could wait days (or weeks) upon the whim of a FISC judge, while he slowly pondered and mulled his way through years of caselaw and congressional legislation (typically arising from anti-intelligence agency bias in the post-Watergate political world).

The Judicial branch is inherently too slow-reacting to be the "gatekeeper" for terrorism intelligence: They are simply incapable of making decisions on the minute-by-minute schedule required to protect the United States from future terrorist attack. It's like putting Ents in charge of national security.

The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, has been testifying on the Hill recently about a desperately needed change of mindset; he wants the gatekeeper to be, not a court -- not even the special court set up to handle "foreign intelligence surveillance" (read "spying on the Soviets") -- but the Attorney General of the United States. If necessary, I presume a judge could intervene afterwards, if any of the intelligence was introduced as evidence in a criminal or civil court case. Again, even Democrats should understand the importance of this; after all, there is at least a 50-50 chance that the next president will be, in fact, a Democrat:

The effect of the judge's decision to curtail some of that surveillance was to limit the flow of information about possible terrorism suspects, according to congressional staffers briefed on the ruling. Last week, McConnell told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the government faces "this huge backlog trying to get warrants for things that are totally foreign that are threatening to this country...."

In April, McConnell proposed a much broader revision of FISA than what the administration is pressing Congress to approve this week. Under the new plan, the attorney general would have sole authority to authorize the warrantless surveillance of people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States" and to compel telecommunications carriers to turn over the information in real time or after it has been stored.

Democrats, still feeling heat from the MoveOn.org/Daily Kos wing of the party, have countered with a proposal that would expand the administration's surveillance authority but still leave control in the hands of the FISA Court... and which would sunset in six months, presumably forcing the president to come back to Congress again and again, hat in hand, to beg for continued authority to safeguard the nation. This completely ignores the urgent question of timeliness.

For example, civil libertarians typically argue that warrantless surveillance was unnecessary because the current law allows the CIA or NSA to get a "retroactive" FISA warrant; but that only lasts for a limited period of time -- after which, unless such a warrant is issued, the surveillance must stop and wait until the judge finally gets around to deciding. And as McConnell noted, there is a "huge backlog" for FISA warrants, a logjam that is impacting our ability to collect actionable intelligence in real-time, giving us the best chance of thwarting an attack.

Not only that, but in order to undertake surveillance under FISA and ask for a retroactive warrant later, the agency must still fill out all the paperwork first, before starting the surveillance; and the forms must include "probable cause" to tap that particular phone call, probable cause at the same level as it would take to get a warrant. Thus, no matter how suspicious a series of calls between Teheran and Mosul look, before we could listen to them under FISA, we would first have to have as much probable cause as we would need here at home to search the house of a suspected drug dealer!

This is an outrage. I strongly urge the president to get behind the McConnell proposal and really go to work twisting congressional arms behind backs to get this enacted. When talking to Democrats, stress the fact that if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is elected next year, then they'll have the power... so it's not a tribal-partisan issue!

Immediate update: As I write this, Hugh Hewitt reported that President Bush has just demanded that Congress enact the new legislation before they leave for their August recess... and he has announced that, if the DNI says the legislation sent by Congress to the White House does not give McConnell what he needs to protect America, then Bush will veto it and insist that Congress remain in session until they get it right.

They could ignore the president, of course, but that would be politically disasterous for the Democrats. We'll see whether the majority can get its act together in time, or whether -- just like the Iraqi parliament -- they decide their August vacation is more important.

We already have quite adequate protections against a president using the excuse of "foreign intelligence surveillance" to scoop up loads of information about American political activists; none of it could be introduced in court without a judge's approval. But as far as actual, real-time intel about pending attacks on the United States or our allies, there is no reason for federal judges even to be involved... not until months or years later, when the scene shifts to a legal case. Just as it would be absurd for battlefield commanders to have to get judicial approval before ordering an attack on a terrorist safehouse.

Only the Executive has sufficient "energy" to be trusted with collecting military intelligence.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 3, 2007, at the time of 3:52 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 1, 2007

Gonzales, Intelligence, and Perjury: the Penultimate Word

Congressional Calamities , Laughable Lawyers , Logical Lacunae , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales received his best testimonial yet from the pen (all right, word processor program) of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell (all right, from some flunky who actually does the typing).

Our previous reporting on this issue can be spelunked here:

As the post is fairly long -- but absolutely fascinating, riveting! -- I'm tucking the rest into the "slither on;" I urge you to read it; I can personally vouch that the author is brilliant when sober.

McConnell sent a letter to Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), ranking Republican on Chairman Pat Leahy's (D-VT, 95%) Senate Committee on the Judiciary, trying to explain to Specter -- as if to a retarded seventh grader -- why Gonzales, in telling the truth, therefore did not lie:

In a letter to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), McConnell wrote that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more."

"This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged," McConnell said....

McConnell's letter was aimed at defending Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales from allegations by Democrats that he may have committed perjury by telling Congress that no legal objections were raised about the TSP. Gonzales said a legal fight in early 2004 was focused on "other intelligence activities" than those confirmed by Bush, but he never connected those to Bush's executive order.

Gonzales had been asked point blank, during Senate J-Com testimony, whether the argument in the hospital was over the TSP; he therefore, honestly and accurately, said no, it was about a different program... and he then offered to go into secret session to describe exactly what program he and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft discussed.

Chairman Leahy, however, had zero interest in finding out; he was only interested in screaming "perjury!" and demanding a special counsel (all right, manipulating four other Democrats on the committee, plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 90%, into screaming perjury and demanding a special counsel; see links above.)

This seems pretty conclusive. So why "penultimate?" Because I cannot imagine that the Democrats -- and their RINO acolytes, such as Arlen Specter -- will discard the perjury card merely because Gonzales told the truth. I sense another shoe about to drop.

As it happens, I'm not just whistling past the gravy train; revisionism has already started. Now it turns out that even if Gonzales fully and truthfully answered the question, he still "misled Congress" because he did not immediately disclose every classified intelligence program in our arsenal... on national TV:

Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who was among a group of four Democratic senators who called last week for a perjury investigation of Gonzales, said: "The question of whether Attorney General Gonzales perjured himself looms as large now as it did before this letter.

"This letter is no vindication of the attorney general," he said.

Is it just me? Shouldn't the revelation that a statement thought perhaps to be perjury was in fact completely truthful at least make it implausible that it was also perjury?

And what about our esteemed RINO from Pennsylvania? Arlen Specter is witholding comment, as the Democrats have yet to give him a lead:

Specter was noncommittal yesterday on whether McConnell's explanation resolved his questions about the accuracy of Gonzales's previous testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Specter is the ranking Republican. Specter said he was waiting for a separate letter from the attorney general to provide additional clarification.

"If he doesn't have a plausible explanation, then he hasn't leveled with the committee," Specter said on CNN. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said that "the department will continue to work with Senator Specter to address his concerns" but declined to comment further.

Pssst... Sen. Specter: Perhaps Gonzales' "plausible explanation" for why he said that there was no dissent on the TSP, that it was on a different intelligence program instead, is that there was no dissent on the TSP... it was on a different intelligence program instead. You think?

Finally, the Washington Post indulges in one of liberalism's favorite ploys; they quote an allegedly unbiased expert to "analyze" the situation -- which analysis, oddly enough, always seems to point exclusively in one direction:

Kate Martin, executive director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that Gonzales and other administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts.

[Sidebar: Am I the only person who has no recollection of Gonzales or President Bush ever claiming that the TSP was the only surveillance program we had? I would certainly hope we have many more than one -- and in fact, many more than are known by the editors at the elite media.]

"They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"

The "Center for National Security Studies" is a bitter, relentless partisan in the conflict between Congress and the White House over who should run this war (and previous wars, even back to the Clinton administration): From their website, it appears they invariably take the side of Congress in trying to extract information, no matter how heavily classified, from the Executive. Too, Kate Martin is a professor at ultra-liberal Georgetown University.

So we are shocked, shocked to discover that she is 100% on the side of Pat Leahy and Chuck Schumer (D-NY, 100%) in demanding that Albert Gonzales brief all members of both houses of Congress on every last intelligence surveillance program under the NSA, CIA, or any other intelligence agency.

Martin and her fellow Democrats demand that Leahy, et al, of the Senate Judiciary Committee be briefed -- including the fifteen J-Com members who are not members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... and there is a reason it's called "select;" J-Com Chairman Leahy in particular was expelled from the Intelligence Committee... for leaking classified information (hence his nickname).

I guess Kate Martin has never heard the words "need to know."

And the Democratic House is now competing with the Democratic Senate to see who can make the most outrageous demand. On Monday, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI, 100%) -- who had evidently read the New York Times and Washington Post articles revealing that the Gonzales-Ashcroft main event really was about a different program than the TSP -- fired off an angry letter to Attorney General Gonzales insisting that Gonzales spill the beans about every intelligence program we have... to John Conyers, who is not a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and never has been:

We have two potential concerns with the disclosure. First, at a time when the Administration is seeking to make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, it is imperative that all members of the House Judiciary Committee be fully apprised of these controversial, and possibly unlawful, programs, and any related programs....

We now request copies of all opinions, memoranda, and background materials, as well as any dissenting views, materials, and opinions regarding the same, concerning the database program disclosed by the media yesterday.

Yow. Why doesn't the White House just burn a few hundred CDs containing the complete NSA and CIA databases and pass them out to all 535 members of Congress?

(All right, 540 -- counting D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegates to the territories of American Samoa, Eni F. H. Faleomavaega, Guam, Madeleine Bordallo, and the United States Virgin Islands, Donna M. Christian-Christensen, and Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño.)

And all their aides, of course; mustn't forget the congressional aides, including those who are still teenagers. After all, if you can't trust a teenaged girl with a deep and vital intelligence secret, well who can you trust?

The ultimate word of the Penultimate Word is this: Democrats in Congress will not rest until we have no secrets, none whatsoever; everything we know, every program we undertake to develop actionable intelligence against past, current, and future terrorist threats, should be instantly and unreservedly shared with thousands of senators, representatives, delegates, aides -- and anyone else that anyone else might choose to enlighten.

The insanity (and inanity) of this position is manifest and requires no explanation. But the implication is chilling. This demand isn't just surrendering in Iraq; the Democratic Party's overt position has now become one of utter American defeat in the broader war against global hirabah ("unholy war"). Because if we were to reveal all that we were doing to collect intelligence... well, then we might as well not bother doing it, because none of it would work anymore.

Leahy is not an idiot, and neither is Schumer nor Conyers. They know the logical consequences of what they demand. So why do they demand it?

Straightforward question, simple answer: They believe "Nixoning" Bush, accusing him of a coverup, will help their political fortunes in 2008.

What I cannot answer is whether the motivation is core hatred of America as it currently exists... or depraved indifference to what, if we lost this war, America might become.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 1, 2007, at the time of 5:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 29, 2007

Gonzales Gotcha

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

We rarely do this on Big Lizards, but never say never: In a previous post, with the improbably long title of FBI DIRECTOR SAYS GONZALES LIED! Oh, wait, no he didn't... but we wish he had, we questioned the claim that FBI Director Robert Mueller had "contradicted" Attorney General Gonzales on the issue of which NSA program exactly had sparked a conflict between then-White House Counsel Gonzales and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft (rather, his assistant, James Comey).

Gonzales claimed that the contretemps was not, in fact, over the NSA al-Qaeda international phone call intercept program -- which Congress today refers to as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, TSP -- but rather a different NSA program entirely.

Democrats, with their usual delicacy and gravitas regarding classified information, demanded that Gonzales reveal the secret, classified NSA surveillance he claims was the actual subject of discussion, if not the TSP; and when the AG rejected the invitation to blow yet another vital national-security program, five Democrats demanded the White House appoint a special counsel to prosecute Gonzales for perjury.

The denouncers were...

...Four very liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI -- no rating as yet; he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee) -- plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%).

Another Democrat -- whoops, my mistake -- a lone Republican on the J-Com, Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), rallied support for Gonzales and the president, railing, "Do you expect us to believe that?"

(I'm certain I would have responded, "No; I expect you, per usual, to strut like a delusional rooster who thinks he's a peacock because he shoved a feather duster up his arse," and would promptly have gotten myself jugged.)

But every so often, the universe gives evidence that it is not cold and unfeeling... that it has, in fact, a jolly good sense of humor. Because the very next day (that would be today), Power Line reported the following:

Today the [New York] Times confirms that Gonzales told the truth. The legal dispute that broke out in 2004 was about the NSA's "data mining" project, in which databases of telephone records were reviewed for patterns suggestive of terrorist cells:

A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.

It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.

What's comical about the Times' reporting is that the paper can't bring itself to acknowledge that this means Gonzales has been vindicated...

So it wasn't the TSP after all (whether Arlen Specter believes it or no), it was the phone-record data-mining program... which is, in point of fact, "a different NSA program entirely."

This simply annihilates the Democratic case for frog marching Gonzales out of office to be indicted for perjury; he wriggles off the perjury hook by the unconvincing technicality that he was actually telling, you know, the truth. Or as Hindrocket puts it, "what's generally referred to as 'truth'." Ergo, consider this post nothing more than a gigantic moving finger pointing at John Hinderaker.

But of course, the Democrats have a ready-made response, for which they needn't even look very hard. They will surely argue some variation on the following:

All right, maybe Gonzales was telling the truth this time. But we still need that special prosecutor and grand jury. See, we know he perjured himself somewhere... and with just a few subpoenas and some coerced testimony, we'll find out where!

One certainly cannot accuse the Left of half measures. I can't wait until the obsessed baby boomer Democrats are supplanted by the "yeah, right, whatever" generation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 29, 2007, at the time of 10:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

FBI DIRECTOR SAYS GONZALES LIED! Oh, wait, no he didn't... but we wish he had

Congressional Calamities , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Here is the shock headline from AP: "FBI Director Contradicts Gonzales"... the perfect "gotcha" by the elite media against the Bush administration, the smoking gun that could bring down the president -- just the way the Washington Post brought down Richard Nixon.

And this is the entirety of AP's explanation of the staggering charge... which, if true, could lead to Gonzales' indictment, firing, disgrace, and possibly prison time for perjury and contempt of Congress -- all of which four Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee plus the Democratic Majority Leader devoutly believe Gonzales (and Bush, Cheney, and Karl Rove) deserves:

The head of the FBI contradicted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sworn testimony and Senate Democrats requested a perjury investigation Thursday in a fresh barrage against the truthfulness of President Bush's embattled longtime friend and aide.

Wow, now there's specificity! Upon close examination, however, it appears that this is not a report... it's their own conclusion; AP concludes that Mueller's testimony and Gonzales' testimony are in conflict... and rather than report that "Gonzales Contradicts FBI Director," they decide to report it the way they did.

The New York Times is more forthcoming:

The dispute over the truthfulness of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales reached a new intensity today as the F.B.I. Director, Robert S. Mueller 3d, contradicted Mr. Gonzales’s sworn testimony before a Senate committee.

Mr. Mueller told the House Judiciary Committee that the Bush administration’s secret eavesdropping program was the main topic at an encounter in the hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 10, 2004, contrary to what Mr. Gonzales told a Senate panel on Tuesday....

In his testimony before the Senate panel on Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales said the subject in the hospital room was “intelligence activities” under debate in the administration, but not the secret eavesdropping program.

But Mr. Mueller contradicted that version of events today, several hours after four Senate Democrats called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate whether Mr. Gonzales perjured himself before Congress.

Even the Times dances around the real question; the reader really has to dig to find out the trivial nature of the supposed contradiction: The real question is -- exactly which "secret eavesdropping program" was the "main topic" of a four year old conversation?

The particular program that the Times means, and what they think Mueller meant, is the NSA-al Qaeda international telephone intercept... the one which the Times itself deliberately blew in December 2005. For future reference, we shall refer to this particular program, per la Casa Blanca, as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP.

After two years of the Justice Department's routinely certifying the legality of the TSP -- and, according to Gonzales, other intelligence programs that have not yet been leaked -- then-Attorney General John Ashcroft suddenly fell ill. While he was in the hospital undergoing gall-bladder surgery, his assistant, James Comey, was in charge.

At that moment, the annual request for continued Justice Department legal certification came from the White House... and Comey, without waiting for Ashcroft himself to come back to work (there was no particular urgency about the request), took it upon himself to refuse, on behalf of the Department of Justice, to certify that some NSA covert-surveillance program was legal. Comey did not supply any reason for the abrupt denial.

Then White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales worried that this may have reflected Comey's own discomfort with the program or programs, rather than the attorney general's. So Gonzales, who understood that Ashcroft was out of surgery and recovering, hied himself off to the hospital to ask him whether Comey spoke for the AG or just for himself.

Here is where it gets murky: current Attorney General Gonzales explicitly said that the main topic of his conversation with Ashcroft was not the TSP but a different, similar NSA program. He says there was no "internal dissent" about the TSP.

But along comes FBI Director Robert Mueller:

Mr. Mueller was testifying at an F.B.I. oversight hearing when he was questioned by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.

“Did you have an understanding that the conversation was on T.S.P.?” the Congresswoman asked, using the shorthand for terrorist surveillance program.

“I had an understanding the discussion was on an N.S.A. program, yes,” Mr. Mueller replied, using the abbreviation for the National Security Agency. A moment later, he added that the discussion was on the warrantless eavesdropping program “that has been much discussed, yes.”

The conflict in accounts could be significant, because Mr. Gonzales’s critics have accused him of trying to convey the false impression that the N.S.A. program had spawned no serious dissension within the Bush administration.

Let's drill down a bit here...

  • Did Mueller testify that the discussion was about TSP? No, he never said TSP; he said "an N.S.A. program" which had been "much discussed."
  • So Mueller testified that the conversation was about a much-discussed NSA program? Actually, not even that much; he testified that that was his "understanding."
  • What is the difference? Very simple -- yet evidently too tricky for either AP or the Times to get into explicitly: Robert Mueller was not present during that hospital discussion. His "understanding" was formed ex-post facto by subsequent conversations with other people.

Mueller arrived later, after the discussion was over and Gonzales was gone; he talked to Attorney General Ashcroft. Somehow, he gained the impression that the main topic of conversation was about the TSP. But he did not gain that impression from hearing the conversation himself but from talking to Ashcroft.

  • Oh, now I get it... so Mueller testified that Ashcroft told him that was the subject of the conversation? No; nobody has reported that Mueller so testified... not even the Times. Only that his conversation with Ashcroft left him with the impression that the "main topic" was the TSP.
  • Well what exactly does the Times say about what Mueller said was the source of his understanding? They don't say.

You don't say! So on the basis of the gut feeling about the topic of a conversation that the feeler did not in fact witness, four very liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Charles Schumer (D-NY, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, 90%), Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI -- no rating as yet; he replaced "Republican" Lincoln Chafee) -- plus Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), have demanded a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate Alberto Gonzales for -- perjury!

There are many possible ways to square the two testimonies (before two different committees) without resorting to the absurd claim of perjury:

  • Mueller may have been told by Ashcroft a different program; but since it didn't mean anything to Mueller, and since more than four years have passed -- during which the TSP received extraordinary attention in the elite media -- Mueller's memory may have been contaminated without him even knowing it.

This is actually a very common phenomenon that we have all experienced: As I believe Isaac Asimov said once, We all tend to remember things, not the way they happened, but the way they should have happened. It's precisely the reason we sequester juries and certain witnesses in court trials: To avoid their memories being tainted by exposure to news and discussion.

But there are other possibilities as well:

  • Ashcroft -- knowing he was in an unsecured location where the walls could have ears, likely did not actually name the still secret program. He could have said merely "a secret NSA surveillance program"... and Mueller may have leapt to a conclusion.
  • There could have been multiple topics covered in the conversation; Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft may honestly differ about which of several topics was "the main topic" of the discussion.
  • There may still be confusion, even now, over what, exactly, Mueller meant by his testimony.

On that last point, consider this earlier AP version which (sourcing trouble alert!) NewsMax.com reprints:

"Did you have an understanding that that the conversation was on TSP?" asked Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. TSP stands for terrorist surveillance program.

"I had an understanding the discussion was on a NSA program, yes," Mueller answered.

Jackson asked again: "We use 'TSP,' we use 'warrantless wiretapping,' so would I be comfortable in saying that those were the items that were part of the discussion?"

"The discussion was on a national NSA program that has been much discussed, yes," Mueller responded.

So if we assume (a) that NewsMax did not literally fabricate this quotation, and (b) that AP actually knew what it was talking about, and (c) that AP was not subtlely trying to undermine the Democratic attack on Gonzales, then we must conclude that Mueller did not, in fact, "[add] that the discussion was on the warrantless eavesdropping program 'that has been much discussed, yes.'"

All that the earlier AP piece claims is that Mueller testified that the discussion was on "A national NSA program that has been much discussed." The indefinite article, not the definite... or as Richard Dreyfus says in the movie Jaws, "you caught a shark, not the shark."

In any case, "discussed" by whom? Nobody asked Mueller, he did not volunteer what he meant, and AP is silent; we don't know whether he meant "much discussed" by the elite media -- or (for example) "much discussed" in various congressional committees. In other words, even the phrase "much discussed" is ambigous.

If the Senate Judiciary Committee were really interested in finding out whether there is even a contradiction between Mueller and Gonzales, then before screaming for a special prosecutor, they could subpoena Mueller and point-blank ask him -- in secret testimony, away from cameras -- whether he means that his "understanding" was that the main topic was the TSP; and also exactly what gave him that impression. Then subpoena private citizen John Ashcroft and ask him what he remembers it being about.

Finally, according to earlier accounts (I would love a link to this), Gonzales actually offered to tell the Senate J-Com exactly what program he remembers the discussion being about... but Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT, 95%) actually turned Gonzales down. He demanded that the attorney general reveal the program to the committee in open session with TV cameras rolling.

That is, "Leaky" Leahy demanded that Gonzales "blow" a hitherto undisclosed classified anti-terrorist program.

If Democrats really wanted to get to the bottom of this, they could subpoena Mueller, Ashcroft, and accept Gonzales' offer to reveal exactly what program he thought the discussion was about. Then they could ask Ashcroft whether, with prompting, Gonzales might be right... and ask Mueller whether, after having his memory jogged, Gonzales may be accurate and truthful.

Then, if everyone but Gonzales says it was about the TSP, you might have a basis for a referral; but even then, I would be skeptical, since perjury requires the intent to deceive... and this could be an honest misremembering by Gonzales, Mueller, or Ashcroft.

But the J-Com Dems chose not to take this route; they didn't want clarity, they wanted a headline. Thus, on the basis of impressions and feelings, four ultra-liberal Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee plus the Majority Leader -- each of whom is on record as hating Bush and all that Bush has done in response to 9/11 -- demand that a new "Patrick Fitzgerald" be appointed to prosecute Gonzales and attempt to put him in prison and ruin his life.

This is the politics of personal destruction... Democrat style.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 26, 2007, at the time of 4:40 PM | Comments (23) | TrackBack

July 25, 2007

A Constitutional Crisis - Which We'll Get to Sometime Next Fall...

Congressional Calamities , Injudicious Judiciary
Hatched by Dafydd

The House Judiciary Committee hath spake: The refusal by the White House to allow aides and former aides (current Chief of Staff Joshua Bolton and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers) to testify under oath before the committee about every piece of confidential advice, legal opinion, and memo ever given the president -- so that the committee can go fishing and try to find something legally or politically damaging that they can use in 2008 -- is a constitutional crisis of such monumental proportions that the only recourse Congress has is to try to put Bolton and Miers in prison.

It's a crushing blow to constitutional government, government of the people, by the people, and for the people. There is no other remedy available; the national conscience requires a showdown, the destruction of the careers of two former high officials, and the loss of their liberty.

The nation is in urgent peril... Congress must have that information. And they'll get around to doing something about it just as soon as they get back from their August recess, or maybe a month or so later:

The House Judiciary Committee, in a straight party-line vote, approved a contempt resolution against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, setting up a constitutional battle between the Bush administration and Congress over executive privilege.

After several hours of skirmishing over whether to send a contempt resolution to the House floor, the committee voted by a 22-17 margin to approve the measure.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders will now have to decide if and when to hold a vote by the full House on the resolution.

Update - Pelosi's office just released a statement on the issue. Pelosi signaled that the House will not take up the resolution until September.

After all, going home and campaigning is an important constitutional duty, too, you know....

I think the White House has properly characterized this effort:

"This is something that the drafters of this particular referral know has very little chance of going anywhere," White House spokesman Tony Snow said just after Wednesday's vote.

He likened the Democrat-driven investigation into the firings to "throwing mud against the wall and hoping something's going to stick."

But hey: Democrats... throwing mud... some marriages are simply made in hog heaven.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 25, 2007, at the time of 3:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 23, 2007

Democrats Snub Vets for Freedom: Look What You Made Me Do!

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Sachi

During Democrats' slumber party last week, thirty some young veterans gathered on the Hill. They were members of a group called Vets for Freedom, which comprises Afghanistan- and Iraq-war veterans. The vets' aim was to appeal to senators to support the war: They hoped to let them know that a majority of servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan want to finish the job and give Petraeus' strategy a chance to work.

Alas, Democratic leaders were so busy chanting "Bring the troops home" that they couldn't be bothered with actual vets, the very people about whom they so passionately claim to care. The MSM tried to ignore the Vets too; but it became impossible to completely freeze them out when the President of the United States spent a long hour talking with them. (Hat tip Power Line)

Thus it became necessary to crush VFF. When a pro-war group like them becomes visible, the anti-war crowd must pull out all the stops to discredit them. Besides, there was also the fine motive of retaliation driving the Left onward: When anti-war "veterans" groups, such as An Appeal to Redress, started demanding American defeat, they were ripped to shreds by milbloggers. So it's "only fair" that left wing bloggers take a club to the VFF like a fur hunter to a baby seal.

The anti-GOP-war crowd seems to be especialy ticked off by VFF's claim to non-partisanship. This criticism by the Center for Media Democracy, a leading anti-VFF group, is typical:

Who and what is behind the organization Vets for Freedom, a lobby group for staying the Administration's course in the war in Iraq? Contributors to our investigative website SourceWatch are wondering exactly that.... Its supposedly non-partisan patriotic agenda is looking rather suspect. Will it become to the 2006 Congressional elections what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were in 2004? A Republican front for waging ad hominem attacks, this time on politicians like John Murtha who are calling for an end to the US occupation?

In fact the CMD has dedicated an entire section of its webzine SourceWatch to discrediting the VFF, alleging they were a "front organization" for the Republican Party. But in the process of trying to prove rampant partisanship, the CMD accidentally makes the case instead that Democrats simply don't support our troops.

Let us take a little journey into the strange world of left-liberal conspiracy mongering...

(Please follow the "slither on" for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey says.)

The SourceWatch article on VFF begins by referring to them as "a Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants."

Let us first clarify what being a "Republican front group" means: It means that your primary goal is to advance a the GOP's political agenda. Merely receiving most of your support from Republicans is not proof of GOP partisanship; nor does it make you a front group if more Republicans happen to agree with your agenda than do Democrats. Political-party partisanship means that your agenda is the advancement of one party, rather than an independent goal, such as ending legal abortion or rolling back gun prohibition.

Why is this important? Because the CMD calls Vets for Freedom a front group; but the only evidence they produce is that more Republicans than Democrats are aligned with these soldiers and Marines... which the CMD wants you to believe is the same thing.

It's not. For one example, the National Rifle Association usually supports Republicans; but that's just because more Republicans than Democrats support gun rights. But they will support a pro-gun Democrat over anti-gun Republican... so they're not just a Republican front group.

VFF's sole agenda is the full-hearted completion of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; for that reason, they strongly support Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%-D, 17%-R), even though he is not a Republican. Bearing that definition in mind, let us examine some of the criticism the Center for Media Democracy hurls against VFF.

Claim: members of VFF are "neocon lobbyists"

The CMD's SourceWatch article on Vets for Freedom states that some members of VFF are "affiliated" with neocon Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol; by this, they mean that some VFF members sold pro-war articles to Kristol's Weekly Standard, rather than to Time, Vanity Fair, or the Nation:

Non-partisan, bi-partisan or neocon lobbyists?

VFF member Alex Gallo, a West Point graduate who served in 2004 as an infantry officer in Samarrah, Iraq, wrote a pro-war in Iraq article[6] that was published July 18, 2007, by the National Review Online owned by neoconservative Bill Kristol, "the No. 1 cheerleader for the Iraq war." [What the heck? Bill Kristol "owns" NRO? I've never heard that before; NRO is edited by Kathryn Jean "K-Lo" Lopez and supported by donations. Kristol doesn't even write for them, having his own competing conservative magazine.]

Gallo is currently a "masters in public-policy candidate" at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government[8], where he is "course assistant" for Kristol's "Can America be Governed?"[9] In 2006, Kristol assisted VFF-AF in its pro-war in Iraq campaign support of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)....

In 2006, former White House spokesman Taylor Gross's public relations firm the Herald Group helped VFF co-founder Wade Zirkle and "fellow Iraq veteran David Bellavia approach mainstream newspapers to offer dispatches from the two as war correspondents embedded with the military. The two eventually got press credentials through the neoconservative Weekly Standard, whose editor, Bill Kristol, became an informal adviser to the group and helped put it in touch with" Republican strategist Dan Senor, who was "on retainer to help with fundraising.

The truth: What do we learn from this? That Kristol -- who supports the war -- publishes writers who support the war. Shocking! It does not make VFF "lobbyists" (who are they supposed to have lobbied -- private citizen Dan Senor, private citizen Taylor Gross, or private citizen Bill Kristol?)

Typically, the word "lobbyist" means a paid advocate for somebody else's position; VFF members talked to congressmen on behalf of their own beliefs, not anybody else's. And of course, nobody paid them to do so. We already have a phrase for such nefarious activity, and it's not "lobbying": It's "petitioning Congress."

Claim: VFF is a "right-wing" organization

By similar reasoning, the CMD leaps upon the fact that right-wing bloggers, magazines, and one supposedly conservative newspaper (the Wall Street Journal), but no left wingers, reported VFF's call for a rally on the Hill on July 17th:

On July 13, 2007, Hegseth issued a second urgent call to action, which was reposted on a number of right-wing-leaning blogs, as well as by the conservative [promoted from "neoconservative?"] online publication The Weekly Standard, in which he asked "every Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who believes in supporting the mission -- and defeating America's enemies -- to converge on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, July 17. It's time the fighters in this war tell their representatives -- face to face -- that now is no time to betray the mission."

The truth: Anti-war left-wing bloggers and editors evidence no interest in promoting VFF's pro-war effort; surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight. I'm certain that if Kos or Juan Cole or the New York Times had offered to help spread the word, VFF would not have refused.

Instead of rooting around for some hidden conspiracy behind the VFF swarm on Capitol Hill, the Center for Media Democracy should ask one simple question: Why did only one mainstream news organization -- the Wall Street Journal -- cover the events in Washington D.C.? If it's newsworthy when An Appeal for Redress talks to members of Congress on behalf of retreat, defeat, and surrender, why isn't it equally important when a pro-war group of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan talk to Congress on behalf of victory?

What is the CMD proving? Only that when it comes to actually supporting our troops -- which includes supporting the mission that they believe is so urgent -- Democrats, RINOs, and other liberals are deserters under fire.

Claim: VFF was only interested in meeting Republican lawmakers

SourceWatch describes Vets for Freedom's meetings with various senators in the Capitol in a way that makes it sound as if VFF were only interested in meeting with Republicans -- with the Left's favorite whipping boy, Joe Lieberman, being the only exception:

Hegseth wrote in his July 16, 2007, update that VFF "will also have a group meeting with Senate leaders to discuss Iraq war policy. In addition, be on the lookout for our afternoon press conference, which will take place just off the Senate floor."

On July 16, 2007, VFF issued a press release stating that it would hold its press conference at 3:00pm on July 17, 2007, in the Mansfield Room (S-207) at The Capitol with "Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), other senators."

This was confirmed in part by a local South Carolina TV news report that stated Senator Lindsey Graham "will join Vets for Freedom and a bipartisian group of senators who support the new strategy in Iraq." It should be noted that the only non-Republican named is Sen. Lieberman.

The truth: So why weren't there any Democrats present at the press conference? SourceWatch leaves us with the impression that VFF only invited "Republicans."

But this is complete nonsense, and the authors of the SouceWatch article clearly know that. The CMD knows very well that VFF did not go to the Hill just to talk to Republicans; rather, their request to meet with Speaker of the House Nancy Perosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) for five minutes each was summarily rejected. Neither would any other Democratic or even squishy Republican lawmaker agree to meet with them.

But wait... how do we know that SourceWatch was aware of this? Couldn't it have been an honest mistake? Hardly: SourceWatch itself confirms this fact, without evidently noticing that it completely undermines their narrative:

VFF's "mission", Aoife McCarthy reported in The Politico, was "to reassure the GOP lawmakers supporting President Bush's war strategy as they endure a pummeling at home in TV ads and automated telephone calls from anti-war groups. And maybe, the veterans hoped, they could change the minds of other lawmakers...

"The only senators who would meet with the pro-surge veterans were those who already shared their view. The real targets -- war opponents or wobbly supporters -- sent a first wave of senior aides to shield themselves from the pitch," McCarthy wrote.

Neither Democratic leaders nor RINOs have the least interested in what actual veterans of the very wars in question have to say. This is what makes VFF a "Republican front group managed by Republican-affiliated public relations, media, legal, and political consultants"... at least according to SourceWatch.

Claim: VFF has questionable funding sources

From the begining, the Center for Media Democracy has claimed that VFF's funding comes from questionable sources. As of June, 2006, CMD had found nothing more than the following (from the CMD link above):

  1. The VFF has a "rather fancy website."
  2. At one time, but no longer, the VFF's privacy notice on its website stated "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations."
  3. "The organization contests and condemns the views of Democratic Congressman John Murtha, the Democrat calling for the United States to pull troops from Iraq."
  4. "Virtually no information is available about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom"

One year later, their investigation has not progressed much (from the SourceWatch link):

A disclaimer on the bottom of each VFF web page states "Vets for Freedom is a nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization. Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes."

Originally, the organization's precise tax status (501c3, 501c4, 527 committee) was not stated and virtually no information was available on the Vets for Freedom website about the funders and organizations behind Vets for Freedom, making it difficult to evaluate the degree to which the organization might have been part of a war propaganda campaign interacting with the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, the American Legion and/or other ideologically-driven public relations and lobbying efforts that have exploited for political purposes the issues of US war veterans and their families, such as Move America Forward and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. [Not that SourceWatch, or their parent organization the Center for Media Democracy, would ever engage in propaganda by inuendo...!]

The truth: In other words, CMD has no information whatsoever indicating that VFF is funded by the Republican Party, or is a front for Richard Melon Scaife, or is even owned by that well-known proprietor of National Review Online, Bill Kristol.

But perhaps the very absence of evidence is sinister evidence of presence: After all, if VFF didn't have something to hide, why would they go to such extraordinary lengths to cover up all that evidence?

Ergo...

So what do we have here? CMD cannot prove that VFF is a "front group" of the GOP. They cannot demonstrate that VFF is partisan. They cannot even find anything funny about the funding.

CMD set out to discredit these war veterans, presumably on the grounds that nobody who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan could possibly support those wars (they're all loser high-school dropouts stuk in Irak anyway). Instead, they proved the very point which we pro-war, right-leaning bloggers have been making for years: That Republicans care about the troops... and Democrats don't.

Bravo, CMD; kudos, SourceWatch... keep up the good work!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, July 23, 2007, at the time of 4:29 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 19, 2007

The Johnson Juncture

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 85%) remains medically unable to participate in congressional floor action, unable to vote, unable to represent the voters in South Dakota. He is up for reelection in 2008.

What are the Democrats to do?

Although we hear now and again that the senator is "improving" or "getting better," that he was discharged from the hospital, that he's doing some work, and even that he "co-sponsored" a bill... I don't believe anyone outside his staff, other Democratic politicians, and his immediate family has seen him... at least not so far as I have heard. And while I don't want to sound like a vulture, the simple fact is that we're not just talking about "Tim Johnson" the man; we're also talking about Sen. Tim Johnson, one of only two representatives that South Dakota has in the United States Senate.

It's been more than seven months since his cerebral incident; his recovery was supposed to take "several months," but it's been that much and more... and he still cannot even vote. There have been 253 roll-call votes in the Senate this session; I clicked randomly on about fifteen of them, spread throughout the session, and Johnson was listed as "not voting" in every one. I believe he has not voted even a single time since his illness.

Events may force themselves upon state Democratic Party leaders. At some point -- certainly as campaign season opens in earnest in a few months -- I would expect he would have to be actually seen campaigning. Not to put too fine a point on it, I doubt the voters of South Dakota will reelect a senator who is still too ill to campaign.

Which means Johnson and his campaign staff have a decision to make: They must decide a cut-off date by which he is either well enough to proceed with reelection... or else he should announce he is not running. If they wait another seven months to next February to decide, the eventual Democratic candidate (presumably Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, 65%, South Dakota's only House representative) could be royally hosed, having no time to raise money, campaign, or introduce herself and her campaign themes to the state. (Yes, I know it's a statewide office; but voters know her as a sophomore congresswoman, not a senator. It's different.)

This is also important to the Republicans. If Sen. Johnson will not be running, then regardless of who the GOP nominates -- Gov. Mike Rounds, if they can get him; or Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Senate Majority Leader David Knudson, or State Rep. Joel Dykstra, if Rounds chooses not to run -- South Dakota will become a very vulnerable Democratic seat. If it's going to be vulnerable, then the National Republican Senatorial Committee had better prepare to recruit hard and spend a lot of money there.

But if Johnson is going to be well enough to run, his 70% popularity (especially with the sympathy vote) might make him invulnerable... and that would definitely change the NRSC's roadmap.

Here is what Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball says about this race:

South Dakota is also something of a wild card, with Senator Tim Johnson not expected back on the Hill until September following his well-publicized health problems. There has been no announcement about whether Johnson will run again, and such an announcement is unlikely to come before he resumes his regular duties in the fall. On the Democratic side, the state's at-large Representative, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, appears to have the primary field to herself if Johnson retires, since former Senator Tom Daschle has shown no signs of making another bid. For Republicans, things are much more uncertain, with the current Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and state senate Majority Leader all considering running, but waiting for more information about Johnson's condition and whether he will seek reelection.

Johnson is "expected" to be back in the Senate in the fall; but he was originally expected to be back much sooner. So if December rolls around and he's still not ready... what then?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 19, 2007, at the time of 4:31 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

NIE Assessment of Threats Inexplicably Fails to Include Democrats - Updated

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Source update: See below.

Warning: The just-released NIE from the Directorate of National Intelligence, coupled with the Democratic response to it, may lead to a serious and traumatic case of mental whiplash (quick, somebody call John Edwards!)

Here is one of the central findings of the NIE:

We assess that al-Qa’ida will continue to enhance its capabilities to attack the Homeland through greater cooperation with regional terrorist groups. Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

Translation: Since AQI is the only element associated with the broader al-Qaeda that is actually fighting hirabah against the West on a daily basis, broader al-Qaeda will try to team up with AQI (now contained with the "Islamic State of Iraq" group) to carry attacks to the American homeland. Success by AQI feeds success by the umbrella organization; defeat of AQI is defeat of al-Qaeda.

But here is the Democratic response to this section of the report:

Mr. Reid said the report underlines the urgent need to change course in Iraq, an argument also made by Representative Ike Skelton, the Missouri Democrat who heads the House Armed Services Committee. “We must responsibly redeploy our troops out of Iraq,” Mr. Skelton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “This will allow us to concentrate our efforts on Afghanistan and the Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11.”

Equally important to the threat is the effectiveness of our response to the threat. How are we doing? Here is what the NIE says:

We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.

The Democrats interpret this passage thus:

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said the report shows that the Bush administration’s national security strategy “has failed in its most basic responsibility,” to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and his confederates and to eliminate the threat posed by their terrorist network.

Yeah, I remember that codicil to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force: that the only real goal of the War Against Global Hirabah is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, personally. Not even Ayman Zawahiri -- al-Qaeda's actual operational leader -- counts as anything other than one of "his [OBL's] confederates"... or in Gilligan's Island terms, one of "and the rest."

Bin Laden is the top man, and we should focus all of our resources, manpower, and effort on coming up with a plan to, as military strategist Phil Donahue put it, "just go right in there and get him."

Then we can all just go home and back to sleep.

Republicans appear to have a different interpretation of the NIE:

Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican minority leader, said that the new intelligence estimate confirms that the administration’s policies have weakened terrorist capabilities. “Retreat is not a new way forward when the safety and security of future generations of Americans are at stake,” he said in a statement.

What is most remarkable about the part of the NIE made public is the studied indifference to figuring out who is really behind the world's Islamic terrorism; while most serious analysts have had the revelation that all roads lead to Teheran (passing through Damascus), the unclassified portion of the NIE only mentions Iran in a single sentence -- and only as it relates to Hezbollah, which is openly the terrorist arm of the ayatollah:

We assess Lebanese Hizballah, which has conducted anti-US attacks outside the United States in the past, may be more likely to consider attacking the Homeland over the next three years if it perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group or Iran.

I hope the classified section is less circumspect.

I read not a single word about Iran's support for ostensibly Sunni Hamas, or their support for both Iraqi Sunni terrorists (foreign and domestic) and also Shiite death squads, such as the Mahdi Militia that used to be controlled by Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr.

And not even a nod towards the new evidence of a strong connection between Iran and al-Qaeda terrorists, as elucidated by Michael Ledeen at NRO (hat tip to Scott Johnson at Power Line). Ledeen quotes the president, who stands virtually alone among Republican or Democratic politicians in perceiving the true global nature of this struggle:

At his press conference last week, President Bush -- echoing the public assessments from his military underlings in Iraq -- gave a clear picture of the war. Remarkably, not a single political leader or pundit saw fit to notice the dimensions of the war he described:

The fight in Iraq is part of a broader struggle that’s unfolding across the region...The same regime in Iran that is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map is also providing sophisticated IEDs to extremists in Iraq who are using them to kill American soldiers.

The same Hezbollah terrorists who are waging war against the forces of democracy in Lebanon are training extremists to do the same against coalition forces in Iraq.

The same Syrian regime that provides support and sanctuary for Islamic jihad and Hamas has refused to close its airport in Damascus to suicide bombers headed to Iraq.

...the war against extremists and radicals is not only evident in Iraq, but it’s evident in Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Afghanistan.

(I heard on Brit Hume yesterday that the president intends to use executive orders to put heavy sanctions on companies and organizations controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard; and that Bush plans to declare Iran's Qods Force a "terrorist organization," which will trigger a whole raft of new sanctions and prohibitions... which I hope will make it even easier to seize and hold (or kill outright) any Qods Force member caught outside Iran -- say in Waziristan, the Horn of Africa, or even the United States. But I cannot find written verification of this story; can any commenter help me out here? Thanks.)

UPDATE July 18th, 2007: Commenter Terrye suggested an article might be accessed through Brietbart. With some creative searching, I was finally directed to this July 13th article in the New York Sun which gives a source for the first part (sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards and Qods Force) but doesn't mention the second (declaring Qods Force a "terrorist organization"). I reckon we'll just have to wait and see when Bush signs the EO.

If I must sum up the NIE in a single sentence, it would be this: The situation is improving, we're making much headway, but al-Qaeda, its affilliates, and other terrorist groups are still dangerous, toxic, and relentless... so keep fighting the good fight.

How the Democrats can translate this to "Nothing to see here, let's all just declare defeat and go home," is beyond my comprehension or forgiveness. 20 years from now, if we're still here -- and I firmly expect us to be -- there will be a lot of once-powerful Democratic "leaders" hiding in the dark and silent places, desperately hoping to be forgotten... because the alternative -- to be remembered -- is too painful.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 17, 2007, at the time of 5:48 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

July 13, 2007

Warner, Lugar Draft Bill to Oust President, Declare Congress Commander in Chief

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

[Correction added; see below.]

Republican Senators John Warner (VA, 64%) and Richard Lugar (IN, 64%) have introduced a bill into the Senate that would remove the president as Commander in Chief of the military, requiring him to report to Congress instead and implement battle plans at their direction:

Two prominent Senate Republicans have drafted legislation that would require President Bush to come up with a plan by mid-October to dramatically narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The legislation, which represents a sharp challenge to Bush, was put forward Friday by Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar, and it came as the Pentagon acknowledged that a decreasing number of Iraqi army battalions are able to operate independently of U.S. troops [because they have been decimated in both men and materials by valiant combat with al-Qaeda and Shiite militias -- as explained deep in the story]....

The legislation would direct Bush to present the new strategy to Congress by Oct. 16 and suggests it be ready for implementation by Dec. 31. [Regardless of what Gen. David Petraeus reports in September, one presumes.]

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Fortunately, Warner and Lugar explained in great detail why legislation requiring the president to draft a battle plan at the pleasure of Congress -- a plan that would mandate a return to the strategy of 2005-2006 (which was working so well) -- would actually lead to victory in Iraq:

"Given continuing high levels of violence in Iraq and few manifestations of political compromise among Iraq's factions, the optimal outcome in Iraq of a unified, pluralist, democratic government that is able to police itself, protect its borders, and achieve economic development is not likely to be achieved in the near future," the Warner-Lugar proposal said....

The Warner-Lugar proposal states that "American military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not likely to abate anytime soon and probably cannot be controlled from the top."

Accordingly, Warner and Lugar say Bush must draft a plan for U.S. troops that would keep them from "policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in Iraq" and focus them instead on protecting Iraq's borders, targeting terrorists and defending U.S. assets.

In short, the "surge," not quite a month old, has failed miserably, so we must retreat, surrender, and declare defeat. Well a day! That's certainly compelling... who could argue with that?

But let no one accuse either gentleman of being an "armchair general." Sen. Warner served in the United States Navy during World War II for a solid year, rising to the rank of PO3. He joined the Marines later during the Korean War, then stuck it out for ten years in the reserves, eventually skyrocketing to the rank of captain. Sen. Lugar's career was even more illustrious: After graduating college, he served for three years in the peacetime Navy. Lugar was also an Eagle Scout. He has 34 honorary doctorate degrees.

[Corrected previous paragraph to add Warner's Marine Corps experience. - The Mgt.]

Legal experts, speaking on condition of anonymity because they have not been consulted, do not appear in the article, and in fact know absolutely nothing about the Warner-Lugar proposal, expressed skepticism that it was even constitutional for the United States Congress to order the President of the United States to craft and implement a specific battle plan.

But what do they know? To paraphrase Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and, well, nearly every other Democrat and RINO Republican... all three branches of government are coequal; but some are more coequal than others.

We shall watch Congress's future antics with great interest.

(One more point needs elucidation, giving me the opportunity to play "sea lawyer" again -- a chance I rarely pass up! But I'll save it for the "slither on.")

Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I never graduated law school; I never attended law school; I never applied to law school; I know absolutely nothing about the law, probably less than the butcher at the Armenian meat market down the street opposite Ralphs Fresh Fare. But I enjoy playing lawyer on this blog. Try and stop me!

The AP article also contains this:

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Curiously, however, the actual operational language in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq Resolution of 2002 mentions neither Saddam Hussein nor weapons of mass destruction. It says:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) Authorization.--The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to --

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

A dizzying array of "whereases" lurk at the beginning, some of which do discuss WMDs; but there are also numerous whereases that talk about the danger of terrorists from al-Qaeda and other groups operating in Iraq; for example:

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

This seems, at least prima facie, to justify continued combat in Iraq even after Saddam Hussein is deposed in order to prevent al-Qaeda and "other international terrorist organizations" from remaining in Iraq. And then there is also this:

Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),'' that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,'' and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688'';

UNSC Resolution 688 "condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population" and "demands that Iraq... immediately end this repression" and "ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected"-- which seems a pretty open-ended call to create a democratic state in Iraq and not allow any group -- including the majority Shia -- to impose theocratic, dictatorial rule.

While I don't want to get too far out on a limb or express an opinion before the many lawyers (and sea lawyers!) in Congress have spoken, it sure seems as if the 2002 AUMF authorizes rather more than simply removing Saddam Hussein and bringing in international inspectors to look for WMD.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 13, 2007, at the time of 3:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 11, 2007

"Victory Is Silence"

Afghan Astonishments , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Driving home from my épée lesson today, I was listening to the second hour of Hugh Hewitt's show. He was only taking callers who were current active-duty military who had either been in Afghanistan or Iraq; but he made one exception. That exception was such an exceptional call, I simply must share (before Dean Barnett does, I hope!)

The caller's name was Bruce, and he was a civilian. His son is active duty in Iraq right this minute, and Hugh let him on to speak on behalf of the son. What follows is not verbatim quotation; I don't have a transcript, of course, because it was just broadcast less than an hour ago. But the substance is pretty accurate, as any subsequent transcript will prove.

"Your son is currently in Iraq, right?" asks Hugh; "how's he doing?"

"He's going out of his mind with boredom... because he's stationed in Ramadi, and he hasn't heard a shot fired in combat for the last six weeks."

Bruce went on to explain that Ramadi is so peaceful, the residents and Coalition members are rebuilding all the damage caused by years of al-Qaeda infestation. Then he returned to the lack of gunfire in what used to be al-Qaeda central... and Bruce said the following:

"This is what I want to tell all those people in Washington. This is what Victory is; Victory is silence."

He said he had just heard CNN journalist Michael Ware on some news show say that Ramadi was the home base of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Bruce wished Ware would just go there and see for himself what it was really like. But that's unlikely, even though Ware is based in Baghdad. And it wouldn't have much effect on the debate in D.C. anyway: There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

The Democrats (and some renegade Republicans) hear nothing; nothing penetrates, nothing rattles round their skulls like dried-out knucklebones. But in Ramadi, there is Nothing to hear; and that is exactly what we're looking for: Not a signing ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri, but just simple peace, quiet, and Nothing.

Victory is silence.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 11, 2007, at the time of 5:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

Is "Treasonous" Really Milder Than "Nativist?"

Congressional Calamities , Immigration Immolations , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted
Hatched by Dafydd

A quick drive-by...

Hugh Hewitt never tires of telling us that it was the supporters of the immigration bill who tore the GOP apart by their inflammatory rhetoric. But how is one supposed to respond to anti-bill rhetoric like this? Here is Arizona State Representative Russell Pearce, speaking on last Saturday's Beltway Boys:

KONDRACKE: OK, did you -- I saw you quoted somewhere as saying that Jon Kyl and John McCain, the former prisoner of war and war hero, were traitors. Did you mean that to the country or how did you mean that?

PEARCE: Well, that was taken out of context. What I talked about and have no regrets for is the bill that was run through Congress was treasonous. Actually, it was the sellout of America. It was amnesty to law breakers. It ignored the damages of the crime. It allowed gang bangers to stay here. It allowed convicted felons to stay here. It allowed terrorists to stay here.

In fact, the bill explicitly excluded all three of those categories from consideration for provisional Z-visas. Someone could argue that the prohibition wasn't strong enough; but to say the bill "allowed" them to stay is a flat, vicious lie.

However, I'm more interested in the fact that, according to Rep. Pearce, I am a traitor to my country, because I supported treason against the United States of America. I see no other way to read that, and the distinction he purports to draw is nonsense on stilts: By definition, anyone who supports treason is a traitor.

I agree that many of the bill's supporters had ham-fisted tongues. But it's time that the bill's opponents acknowledge that the rhetoric of many on their own side was at least as vile, as vicious, as truth-impaired, and as divisive within the party as anything said by supporters.

For heaven's sake, crying "treason!" is at least as egregious as calling someone a "nativist;" and there were plenty others, including other public office-holders, who did exactly that.

Neither side had a monopoly on speaking the inexcusable, and neither side was an innocent victim. Until bill opponents admit that, we cannot "move on" and try to heal the wounds.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 10, 2007, at the time of 2:56 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

300 (and Counting...)

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

(No, nothing to do with Spartans. Far from.)

I can't stand being shown up by anyone. But by Michael Medved, of all people... oy!

I started writing this post Friday, but the press of other business (specifically, loafing) caused me to leave it to languish in the "unpublished" bit bucket. But then today, in the first moments of his show, Medved brings the story up and undercuts all my thunder.

Well, if he surpasses us in celerity, perhaps we can at least outclass in wit.

With Congress's approval rating sinking even faster than that of President Bush (Mr. 30% being overseen by Messrs. 25%), it's amusing to note that the only major piece of legislation they have managed to pass is an increase in the minimum wage... and that came as a rider to a bill that caved to Bush on Iraq war funding.

But of course, it's not that the Democrats have been slacking off; they've been beavering away at vital business of the people:

"They've launched over 300 investigations, had over 350 requests for documents and interviews and they have had over 600 oversight hearings in just about 100 days," [Administration spokesman Scott] Stanzel said.

Democrats were dubious of the figures but did not offer their own.

"His numbers are as faulty as the intelligence they used to make their case for war," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. [Jim Manley is the spokesman for the forceful and muscular Reid; don't giggle.]

Ooh, snap! Of course, it's undercut a bit by the fact that the Democrats don't even know how many investigations they have initiated.

Let's have some fun with numbers. In their first 100 days of operation, the Democrats have averaged:

  • Launching three new investigations a day, every day;
  • Making 3.5 requests for documents and interviews per day, every day;
  • Holding six "oversight hearings" per day. Every day.

Assuming Congress works a generous 8 hours a day (heh), that's one new investigation initiated every two hours 40 minutes, another subpoena filed every two hours 17 minutes, and an "oversight hearing" exploding every hour-twenty... all day, every day.

Thank God Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) and Squeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) are fulfilling the traditional Democratic role of looking out for the little guy!

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.
-- "Lewis Carroll," the Hunting of the Snark: an Agony in Eight Fits, fit the second.

But even more amusing than the rash of rash investigations is how the 110th Congress characterizes the 107th - 109th Congresses:

"In the last six years, all they've had is a rubber-stamp Congress. Since January, Democrats have demanded accountability, a change of course and transparency," Manley said.

Let's see; as we recall, the last three "rubber-stamp Congresses" enacted the top Bush priorities of:

  • Partial privatization of Social Security;
  • MediCare reform;
  • The Dubai Ports World deal;
  • The confirmation of Justice Harriet Miers;
  • Passing the "Byrd rule" to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees;
  • Immigration reform;
  • Tort reform;
  • Spending restraint;
  • Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coasts, and in ANWR;
  • Cutting the red tape that prevents the building of new, modern nuclear power plants;
  • And making permanent the Bush tax cuts.

A stunning record of achievement! (For the irony impaired... this is irony.)

They also sent to the president the McCain Detainee Amendment, which ties the hands of CIA and military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. The president loved that so much, he issued one of his infamous signing statements.

It appears that if Congress gives Bush even a few of his priorities -- then rejects the rest -- that constitutes a rubber stamp for the president. Does that mean that the post Gingrich revolution 104th Congress was a rubber stamp for President Clinton because it gave him the Telecommunications Act of 1996, welfare reform, and a line-item veto (struck down by the courts), each of which Clinton eagerly signed?

Personally, I'm pleased with the 110th Congress: I would much rather they twitted their time away "investigating" the Bush administration than spend it more destructively, such as raising taxes or trying to surrender. In fact, if Bush could persuade them to extend their annual summer recess and clambake through November 2008, I would be as happy as a doornail!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 10, 2007, at the time of 2:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 27, 2007

Avoid Labor-Day Rush; Panic Today

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

A number of Republican senators and representatives seem to be in a powerful hurry to declare the "surge" a failure -- nearly three months before the military assessment of its success. It truly makes one wonder what they fear most: defeat or victory?

The newest to join the parade of victory deniers (who predict doom and defeat but refuse to vote for timetables for withdrawal) are Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN, 64%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 56%). Previous timorous lawmakers include Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%), Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 75%), Gordon Smith (R-OR, 72%), Norm Coleman (R-MN, 68%), and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner (R-VA, 64%).

Hm... odd: Something seems to stand out about that group of Republicans, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Something about those little numbers after their party and state identification -- the number that measures Republican partisanship.

Oh, wait, maybe this is it: The mean average "Republicanness" of the group of knee-knockers appears to be 60%; the mean average of the rest of the Republican conference is 87%.

Think maybe that could explain it?

Oh, and here's another amusing example of the "multiple layers of editing" that is the hallmark of the elite media. According to the New York Times:

For months, Mr. Lugar has kept his skepticism about the president’s Iraq policy largely to himself, seldom offering anything beyond a hopeful wait-and-see statement. A soft-spoken cardinal of foreign policy, Mr. Lugar is known to his colleagues as anything but a bitter partisan, which made his remarks all the more stinging. [Defeatism is "more stinging" because Lugar is a wishy-washy RINO?]

And according to AP:

Earlier this year, Voinovich and Lugar said they doubted the troop buildup in Iraq would work. But they declined to back a resolution expressing opposition to the troop increase because they said it would have no practical effect. The two senators also refused Democratic proposals to set a timetable for troop withdrawals.

I suppose the only way to reconcile the two is to assume that when Lugar expressed his doubts, he must have been talking to himself. I picture an argument between the two halves of Dick Lugar -- somewhat like the one between Smeagol and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie... alas, Gollum appears to have won.

Lugar and Voinovich insist they will still vote against timetables, withdrawals, and defeat; but they simply cannot resist kicking the American military at the least opportunity.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 27, 2007, at the time of 5:32 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

It's Like Déjà-Vu All Over Again...

Congressional Calamities , Dhimmi of the Month , Iraq Matters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

...Why do I have the feeling I used that line before?

I'm actually starting to lose track of how many times we've lost the Iraq war; at least, according to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%). But he's at it again. I don't think I've ever before seen a feller so anxious to see his own side lose:

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the president over Iraq by sending him a letter, ahead of a White House meeting later on Wednesday.

"As many had forseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results," the two leaders wrote. [The troops are just now in place, and the new counterinsurgency strategy is just about to begin.]

"The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation. [Even before the new strategy begins, violence in Baghdad is down significantly; some has moved outside the capital, but that was the plan: Secure Baghdad, then expand the security outward.]

"It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased. [By "attacks on US forces," you of course mean "casualties suffered as US forces take the fight to the terrorists and insurgents, increase the tempo of engagement, and obliterate al-Qaeda in Anbar, Salahadin, Diyala, and Baghdad.]

"In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops." [So let's make all those deaths meaningless by retreating just as we're about to launch the full-scale attack!]

Of course, t'other way of looking at it is -- the side he's anxious to see lose isn't his own side at all. Has anybody seen any photos of Harry Reid sitting astride an al-Qaeda anti-aircraft gun? And does anybody know if a Special Forces guy ever gave Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) a "magic hat?"

Is this really the image the Democrats want to project? When the going gets tough, the Democrats have another panic attack. How many more of these spasmodic breakdowns will we have to suffer through before the 2008 elections?

They have become the George Constanza party:

  • They lurch from one crisis to the next;
  • They're crude;
  • They're cowardly;
  • Their normal emotinal state is hysterical overreaction;
  • And they're "unusually good liars."

I grow weary of pointing out every time Reid or Pelosi or some other dysfunctional Defeatocrat (not to mention any names, such as John Murtha, D-PA, 65%) informs us that we've lost, there's no point in continuing, we've learned a difficult lesson, and it's time to crawl away, lick our wounds, and negotiate surrender with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Grand Kleagle of al-Qaeda in Iraq Ayyub al-Masri, and Iranian Puppet Muqtada Sadr.

You know who "Pinky" Reid has always reminded me of? In Aliens (a.k.a., Alien II) -- anybody remember that great movie? -- one of the Colonial Marines, Hudson, spends the entire movie whining, "That's it man, game over man, game over! What the [expletive deleted] are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do? We're toast, man, we're history!"

But that's really unfair, and I'm sorry I made the comparison. After all, in the end, Hudson actually did his duty and mowed down a bunch of alien monsters.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2007, at the time of 11:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Tomorrow's Democratic Panic Attack

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Continuing our public service of bringing you tomorrow's news today, here is what we expect will be the next Democratic hysteria point: The NID is revising the EO:

The national intelligence director [Mike McConnell] has won White House approval to begin revising an executive order that lays out each spy agency's responsibilities and the government's protections against spying on Americans.

The Reagan-era 1981 presidential order is woven into the culture at the 16 spy agencies and spells out their powers. It also provides fundamental guidance to protect against spying on Americans, prohibitions against human experimentation and the long-standing ban on assassination.

From the Democratic perspective, this is mischief in the making! They already believe that the intelligence services want, more than anything else, to spy on ordinary American liberals going about their urgent, everyday goals: destroying the Bush administration, America's ability to fight the war against global jihad, and America itself.

This is actually a historical oddity; in a irony of cognitive dissonance, liberal hatred of intelligence services and operatives has not caught up with the reality that most of the latter support the same "urgent goals" above... as proven by the fact that nearly every leak that has blown a heavily classified operation to gather intelligence on jihadists has come from within the various intelligence services themselves -- from the CIA, the FBI counterterrorism division, the NSA.

It was crypto-Realist elements within the clandestine services who blew the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT surveillance, the Total Information Awareness database, and many others. It's not libel to say that the CIA especially, that creature of the State Department, has been at war with the war since the Clinton administration.

Thus, anti-defense liberals find themselves arrayed against their own "special ops" forces -- due entirely to the lag between reality and the liberal Democratic perception of reality. Thus:

Some officials familiar with Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's plans, speaking only on condition of anonymity because the deliberations remain internal, said his intent is solely to update the policy to reflect changes in the intelligence community since Sept. 11, 2001, including the creation of his own office.

But other officials, who also spoke on condition they not be identified, said opening the order to changes could lead well beyond that. They said the exercise could threaten civil liberties protections approved by President Reagan following intelligence abuses in the 1970s, and that intelligence agencies will be tempted to expand their powers....

[C]ivil liberties advocates say the executive order isn't strong enough now because it didn't prevent the Bush administration from running controversial operations including the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic eavesdropping program [the obligatory labeling of the NSA program to intercept international phone calls from or to al-Qaeda as "domestic eavesdropping;" I believe journalists who ignore this rule stand in danger of being disbarred or defrocked or having their J-school epaulets painfully snipped off. -- the Mgt.]

Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, said the administration has pointed to the executive order as evidence that Americans are protected from government spying. But the order "doesn't provide adequate protection now for civil liberties. Any watering down would be problematic," she said.

There is little that the Democrat Congress can do to stop McConnell from rewriting the executive order, nor to stop Bush from signing it. But the president also wants Congress to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to bring it up to date... and in particular, though you won't get this from this AP article, to make it easier and quicker for intelligence agencies to launch surveillance of fast-moving terrorist targets without having to lurch through the cumbersome process of seeking a warrant, as laid out in the current FISA legislation.

(It was that need that drove the NSA, immediately after 9/11, to start tracking phone calls between known al-Qaeda terrorists abroad and suspected sleeper agents here in the United States -- thereby causing Democratic heads to explode.)

I suspect that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV, 60%) and Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX, 80%) -- chairmen of the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence, respectively -- will be heavily lobbied by the Democrat leadership and committee chairs to hijack this agenda and hold it hostage; the ransom demanded would be direct Democratic involvement in rewriting the EO, so they can muck things up even further, perhaps even reinserting Gorelick's Wall.

But if Bush holds firm, refusing to compromise, and if Tony Snow and GOP friendlies in Congress fire continuous salvos against the Democrats for holding up vital intelligence legislation (during a war!), violating the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and putting all Americans in danger -- just because they want to pick a fight with the president instead of with our nation's enemies -- then I suspect that the Democrats will cave, just as they did with supplementary troop funding.

So let's see how this plays out -- and whether Big Lizards is prescient or paranoid!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 12, 2007, at the time of 4:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 7, 2007

Republican Party Gets an Unexpected Mulligan - at Reid's Expense

Congressional Calamities , Immigration Immolations
Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, we reported that there was a strong possibility that the immigration bill would go down... not because it was rejected by the Senate in an up-or-down vote, but because of the impatience of Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%).

Tonight it became official: The bill failed a second cloture vote -- with all but a handful of Republicans opposing the end of debate -- for the simple reason that bill opponents had been promised the right to offer amendments they thought would better the bill, and even GOP bill supporters intended to keep their word.

The Democrats, however, demanded premature cloture... so even the main Republican defenders of the bill -- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY, 84%), and Sens. John Kyl (AZ, 92%) and Trent Lott (MS, 88%) -- all voted to sustain the filibuster:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a last-ditch offer to try to persuade GOP conservatives to whittle down their expansive list of amendments if Reid put off the procedure vote, but Reid declined. McConnell, Lott, and even Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the bill's chief GOP architect, voted to sustain the filibuster -- a measure of Republican frustration with what they saw as heavy-handed Democratic efforts to deprive Republicans of a chance for votes on the floor.

Regardless, when the vast majority of Republicans (38 out of 45 voting) and a handful of Democrats insisted that the Senate continue considering amendments for a while longer, before silencing bill opponents (and proponents) with a cloture vote... Harry Reid shut down the process, pulling the bill from the agenda, most likely for the rest of the year.

The bill had successfully fended off a bunch of poison pills, but one slipped through: an amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND, 95%) to sunset the entire guest worker program after 5 years. The amendment initially failed two weeks ago; but just after midnight Wednesday night, four Republican senators, including Jim DeMint (SC, %) and Jim Bunning (KY, %), changed their votes, leading to the amendment passing by a single vote, 49 to 48; DeMint and Bunning both admitted they changed their votes deliberately to kill the entire bill -- a "poison pill" indeed.

The net effect, however, is to give the Senate a "mulligan," a do-over... which in practice will help the GOP far more than the Democrats. And it benefits Republican opponents and supporters alike of comprehensive immigration reform:

  • For those who oppose the bill, the benefit is obvious: The bill does not pass. It has been laid upon the table, and Harry "Pinky" Reid seems determined not to pick it up again for a long, long time... probably not until sometime in 2008, when the bill can be turned into a Democratic amnesty wish-fulfillment bill instead for campaign purposes.
  • But we supporters also benefit. The bill had generated such a toxic environment, with Republicans drawn into a circle to stab each other in the back viciously and repeatedly, that it threatened to split the party. Some seemed almost giddy at the thought of "bringing down" the GOP.

    Reid's impatience and arrogance gives us all a many-month-long "time out," during which more fence will be built and other subjects will come to the fore... subjects that bring Republicans together, such as support for our troops and extending the Bush tax cuts.

So let us take great advantage of the breathing space that the (even more tone deaf than George Bush and Hugh Hewitt) majority leader gave us. Let's all just take a deep breath, calm down, forget about the immigration bill for a while... and can't we all just get along?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 7, 2007, at the time of 8:22 PM | Comments (80) | TrackBack

June 6, 2007

Immigration Bill Fends Off Poison Pills Left and Right

Congressional Calamities , Immigration Immolations
Hatched by Dafydd

We've now entered the phase of immigration legislation where opponents offer "poison pill" amendments whose primary purpose is not to tweak the bill to make it better -- but to change it enough that it can no longer get majority support.

Every controversial bill goes through this phase; it's traditional. And it's usually clear when a bill does, in fact, have majority support... those amendment votes fail.

That is just what's happening now to the immigration-compromise bill; the coalition in the Senate is holding the line. In the last 24 hours, the Senate has rejected:

  • An amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX, 96%) that would have prevented legalization for illegal immigrants who had ever defied a deportation order or had committed any act of document fraud of identity theft... which of course would mean virtually all of them! This amendment was, essentially, to eliminate the Z visa for all but a small fraction of the 12 million; it was rejected 51 to 46.
  • An amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC, 100%) that would have required illegals to get health insurance (high-deductable) before allowing them to get Z visas; it was defeated 55 to 43. This wasn't exactly a poison pill, and arguably it has merit; but it would definitely have hit the poorest illegals very hard: Since they cannot get reasonably good jobs until after they get a Z visa, but they must buy health insurance before they get the visa and the job, it's rather a Catch-22. But perhaps an amendment requiring them to get health insurance within one year of getting the Z visa, on pain of having it revoked, might do better.
  • On the other side, an amendment by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM, 100%) that would have removed the requirement that guest workers return to their home countries for a year in between each two-year stint of working here; that one went down by 57 to 41. This would have turned the guest workers into a permanent camp of foreign nationals parked here, defeating the purpose of requiring them to come, work, and leave again.

Poison pills still in the batting cage:

  • A Democratic amendment to reinstate "family reunification" as the primary reason to allow immigrants to legally enter the country, rather than the point system (one amendment from, I think, Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, 95%, would actually sunset the point system after five years; but I don't know if that has already been voted on);
  • Another flurry of Republican amendments to deny legalization to those who have been officially deported but haven't left.

One amendment that passed was by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA, 100%); it adds several crimes to the list of those that would permanently bar legalization. Z visas were already made unavailable to illegal immigrants who had committed serious felonies, including violent felonies; the Kennedy amendment, designed to give political cover to Republicans to vote against the Cornyn poison pill, would add domestic violence (presumably even if it was only a misdemeanor), non-felon sex offenders (felonious sex offenders were already barred), and gang members, even those not convicted of any crime -- at least, that is how it reads in the Times article (I haven't read the text of the amendment). This amendment passed by 66 to 32, so it clearly had bipartisan support.

I am quite convinced that unless Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) pulls the plug on the whole shebang -- which he has threatened to do -- it will pass the Senate. The House is much dicier, of course; we won't have a good idea there until after the first blizzard of amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Reid has threatened to lay the entire bill on the table (that is, kill it) if it doesn't pass a cloture vote immediately -- which it likely would not; the bill's supporters (on both sides) have promised opponents more time to offer amendments... presumably in exchange for subsequent support, whether their pet amendments pass or are rejected (that's usually the way it works):

Mr. Reid’s assessment that the Senate was making progress was important, because he said on Tuesday that the chamber would vote Thursday on whether to limit debate on the bill, a process called cloture that requires 60 votes to succeed. If the cloture vote fails, the bill could be blocked indefinitely by a filibuster. Mr. Reid said he would pull the bill from consideration if he fails to get the necessary votes.

The majority leader said he wanted to complete work on the legislation this week, and he suggested that Republicans were trying to stall the bill with amendments.

“When is enough enough?” he asked, asserting that Republicans were looking for excuses to kill the bill. His announcement provoked an outcry both from Republican supporters and Republican opponents of the compromise bill, who said the Senate needed more time.

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chief Republican architect of the bill, said “it would be a big mistake” to try to invoke cloture this week.

“A motion to cut off debate would be an extreme act of bad faith,” Mr. Kyl said, and he asserted on Tuesday afternoon that “we are not anywhere near finishing this bill.”

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said, “The overwhelming majority of our conference would insist on having additional days to make sure that all of our important amendments have been given an opportunity to be considered.”

Even Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, a strong supporter of the bill, said, “I would not support cloture at this point because I don’t think that enough of our members have had an opportunity to have their amendments heard.”

If, in fact, Reid pulls the bill while proponents and opponents on both sides of the aisle are clamoring for debate to continue, amendments to be voted on, and the ultimate bill to get a final up or down vote... then the onus of failure will be on the Democrats, not on the Republicans. GOP senators, whether they support or oppose the bill, can campaign against the Democrats for having pulled the bill just when it looked like things were coming to a head.

In fact, Republicans might even make headway with Hispanics, who very much want this bill, by saying the GOP was unified in wanting the measure to go all the way to a floor vote, win or lose. I believe that would be a position nearly all Hispanics would accept -- and respect. Their anger at the failure to pass will rightly shift from Republican opponents to the impatient Democratic majority leader. But that is only if Republicans, even bill opponents, uniformly and loudly object to Reid pulling the bill.

The Democrats, for their part, would have no effective counter argument: "We had to table the bill, even though it was making progress, because we were afraid that Republicans would delay it." The voters, who are always more perceptive than Democrats give them credit for, would realize the obvious: Tabling a bill delays it forever!

I hope the bill passes; but for those who oppose it, you should be hoping that it's Harry "Pull My Pinky" who pulls it... because then Republicans would escape all the negative fallout from failure.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 6, 2007, at the time of 2:56 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

May 30, 2007

Say, Joe, What Do You Know?

Congressional Calamities , Future of Energy Production , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Real Clear Politics links to a YouTube offering by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%). Slow Joe looks directly into the camera and demands that we all answer the following question:

What is it you're willing to do to free us from the Axis of Oil and these outrageous oil companies who are sucking us dry?

Well, Joe, I'm willing to drill for oil and natural gas in ANWR, the Gulf of Mexico, and off the Santa Barbara coastline. I'm willing to build many more modern Pebble Bed Modular Technology and Integral Fast nuclear power plants across the country. I'm willing to fund research into solar-power satellites, high-temperature ceramic automobile engines and flywheel technology.

How about you -- Joe? Are you willing to do anything other than ban SUVs... except for members of Congress, of course?

(Jeeze, talk about your low-hanging fruit!)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 30, 2007, at the time of 2:45 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 24, 2007

Bowing to the Inevitable

Afghan Astonishments , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Big Lizards -- and a whole lot of other folks -- has said repeatedly that, in the end, the Democrats would have to give President Bush the money he needs to keep fighting the war against global jihad... and give it to him without timetables for surrender, without absurd and bogus "readiness rules" that would prevent fresh units from replacing combat-weary veterans, and without 535 "little generals" issuing tactical commands to the troops in the field.

(We tried that last during the Civil War, but it was fewer than 535 back then. Still didn't work.)

The Democrats, for their part, swore that they would never, ever pass such funding without a timeline for withdrawal -- a date certain for American defeat.

Well...

Bowing to President Bush, the Democratic-controlled Congress lined up reluctantly Thursday to provide fresh billions for the Iraq war without the troop withdrawal timeline that drew his earlier veto....

Five months in power on Capitol Hill, Democrats in both houses coupled their concession to the president with pledges to challenge his war policies anew. "Those of us who oppose this war will be back again and again and again and again until this war has ended," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

"I hate this agreement," added Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who played a key role in talks with the White House that yielded the measure....

Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, alone among the Senate's Democratic White House hopefuls, pledged in advance to oppose the bill. Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware said he supported it.

That left Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois publicly uncommitted in the hours leading to the vote, two leading White House rivals tugged in one direction by the needs of 165,000 U.S. troops - and in another by party activists demanding rejection of the legislation.

After the previous bruising veto battle, Democratic leaders said they hoped to clear the bill for Bush's signature by this Memorial Day weekend.

I know I already talked about this; but it's one of the most important inflection points in prosecuting the overall war, as well as the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan within it: For the first time since last November, we now know for certain that today's Congress hasn't the will to cram defeat down our throats, the way yesterday's did in 1974.

That is a monumental revelation. As much as I have always believed it to be true, it's a tremendous relief to see it verified by actions under the dome.

This also points up the huge distinction between domestic policies, like immigration -- where Congress is typically willing to compromise -- and foreign policy, especially war, where one side must win and the other must lose. As a political (not military) battle, war is a zero sum game: Either you support it, or you don't; you cannot "split the difference" and half-support it.

The congressional kabuki dance also demonstrates the immense superiority of our system of government, a constitutional republic with a strong chief executive, over that of any parliamentary democracy... a more primitive and generally failed form of government that is basically institutionalized tribalism.

To the extent parlimentarianism works at all, it only does when one party seizes so much power that the prime minister more or less apes an American president... as with Tony Blair recently or Winston Churchill during World War II.

But a president has inherent power and the "energy" (as the Federalist Papers put it) to act decisively, while Congress dithers. Even when President Bush's own party wavered, frightened and sweating, Bush stood firm; and by his own force of personality (or mulishness, as you prefer), the plenary powers of the presidency, and the "bully pulpit," he forced Congress to bow to his will.

If this were a parliamentary democracy, he would have been removed as head of the party or his government would have suffered a vote of no-confidence. Bush would have been replaced by an isolationist from the House, who would have pulled out of the war in disgrace and defeat; and if the Democrats won the subsequent election, Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) would now be that "First Speaker."

(Say, maybe that's why lefties so very much prefer parliamentary democracies to our federal republic: Mob rule is much easier in the former.)

Fortunately, we had Founding Fathers who were geniuses, and we shall continue fighting this existential war:

Bush ordered the deployment of an additional five brigades to Iraq in January to try and quell sectarian violence, and he said summer would be critical to the fate of the new strategy.

Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, has pledged to report to the administration and Congress in September on the progress made in the war, and Bush conceded that al-Qaida terrorists and illegal militias will make sure there is heavy fighting in the interim to try and sap the will of the United States.

"And so, yes, it could be a bloody - it could be a very difficult August," he said.

He said he wants to see American troops "in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq." He said that meant moving from mostly combat to training, border security and special forces anti-terror operations.

"However," Bush said, "it's going to require taking control" of Baghdad.

I wonder how many Democrats (or even Republicans) will remember in August that back in May, Bush warned it would be bloody, violent, and would probably kill a lot of American heroes. Not many, I would guess; they'll claim that Bush said it would be a "cakewalk" (which he never said, nor did anyone in command authority in the administration), and they'll call it another "Bush lie."

But take Baghdad we must, by any means necessary. That's the game on a nutshell; and now that the Democrats caved, we have a real chance of achieving exactly that.

I wonder how the nutroots are taking the collapse of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party?" Even less certain, I wonder how the nutroots will react if we actually manage to secure victory in Iraq? Will they demand we return the "stolen property" -- the Iraqi population -- to the Baathists?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 24, 2007, at the time of 4:06 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 22, 2007

Dems Agree to Allow Possibility of Victory In Iraq

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Staving off the feverish Democratic attempt to force defeat on America, President George W. Bush held firm, threatened vetos, and backed up the threats by actually vetoing a troop-funding bill that included a timetable for surrender.

And today, the Democrats finally blinked, as we knew they eventually must:

Flinching in the face of a veto threat, Democratic congressional leaders neared agreement with the Bush administration Tuesday on legislation to pay for the Iraq war without setting a timeline for troop withdrawal.

Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities - originally resisted by the White House - such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought.

I cannot see how this can be spun, without inducing laughter, as anything but victory for Bush and the mainstream of the GOP and defeat for the defeatists in Congress. But that doesn't stop Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) from trying:

Despite the concession, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that the legislation would be the first war-funding bill sent to Bush since the U.S. invasion of Iraq "where he won't get a blank check."

Reid and other Democrats pointed to a provision that would set standards for the Iraqi government in developing a more democratic society. U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward meeting the goals, but Bush would have authority to order the money to be spent regardless of how the government in Baghdad performed.

If Democrats want to claim "victory" for forcing the president to decide whether to condition reconstruction funds on political progress -- which he already has authority to do -- let them, so long as they cease trying to force a U.S. surrender in Iraq. But look at it this way: Sen. Reid has now agreed to continue funding, and sending men and women to die in, a war that Reid said we have already "lost."

This should tell us just how much Reid actually believed what he said when he said it.

And for what have the Democrats sold out the nutroots, thrown in the towel, and agreed to allow the war to continue? Why, for a great and noble purpose that certainly transcends the trivial matters of war and peace:

Several officials said the emerging compromise bill would cost about $120 billion, including as much as $8 billion for Democratic domestic priorities - originally resisted by the White House - such as disaster relief for Hurricane Katrina victims and farmers hurt by drought....

[So] Republicans paid a price, too, in terms of billions of dollars in domestic spending that Democrats wrung from them and the administration....

The bill would also include the first increase in the federal minimum wage in more than a decade.

Well! I can see how such a momentous victory as increasing the minimum wage and adding $8 billion to the previous many billions of dollars for the whiny Hurricane Katrina victims would certainly justify the dreadful step of allowing American victory in Iraq -- as horrible a prospect as that might be.

However, in the House (but not the Senate), Democrats even have a solution for that angst-ridden requirement, for those Democrat representatives whose souls would be pained by having to break faith with their constituents... to whom the Democrats promised a horrific American defeat. Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) appears to have decided to split the authorizing legislation in the House (not Senate) into two pieces: one funding bill for all the urgent domestic spending and the minimum-wage increase, the other for the troops.

The House (not Senate) Democrats would enthusiastically vote for the first. But for the second bill, all but the most conservative Blue-Dog Democrats (in the H., not S.) would vote against funding the troops... which would still allow it to pass, albeit by a narrow margin, with the expected, near-unanimous Republican support. Thus in the House of Representatives at least -- if not in the Senate -- "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as the late Sen. Paul Wellstone used to say, needn't taint its dainty fingers by being on the same side as America.

Then both bills would be merged when they arrive at the Senate, leaving Harry Reid without succor for his bruised conscience; but by great good fortune, his scruples have harder calluses than hers.

The really interesting question is whether the Republicans who have been pushing defeat for so many months will vote for this bill... or whether they will turn out to be more liberal (and un-American) than even the Democratic Party leadership. Only time...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2007, at the time of 4:13 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 16, 2007

Pressure Mounts for Clinton, Obama, Feingold, Biden, Reid to Resign From Senate

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Today's humiliating vote on the bill by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) to set a hard date for American withdrawal from Iraq -- the bill needed 60 votes to break the Republican filibuster; it got 29 votes, a scant 31 votes short -- puts more pressure on the 28 Democrats who voted for it, including all Democratic presidential candidates still in the Senate, to resign from that august body in disgrace.

The proposal lost 29-67 on a procedural vote, falling 31 votes short of the necessary votes to advance. Of the 67 senators who opposed Feingold's proposal, there were 19 Democrats, 47 Republicans and Connecticut Independent Joseph Lieberman. Of the 29 supporting, 28 were Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders.

(Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, 100%, is undisgraceable, so is excused from the calls for mass resignation.)

Everyone knew that the bill wouldn't be able to clear the 60-vote hurdle; but Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) was stunned by how little support he actually had within his own Democratic conference: The bill passed among Democrats by only 60% - 40%. In contrast, Republicans were solidly united against it; not even Sens. John Warner (R-VA, 64%), Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%), Susan Collins (R-ME, 48%), Charles Grassley (R-, 88%), or Chuck Hagel (R-, 75%) voted in favor. Sources within the Senate who do not wish to be identified say this signals an impossible task for the pro-surrender wing of Congress.

In a clear sign of a dangerous divorce from reality, Majority Leader Reid announced that a 60-40 split is an example of party unity:

"We stand united.... in our belief that troops are enmeshed in an intractable civil war," said Reid, D-Nev.

A number of independent observers have long raised concerns about Sen. Reid's mental stablity. This worry adds to many others in a rising tide of anti-Reid sentiment that threatens to force his resignation from the Senate, from politics, and perhaps from the world, were he to retire to a life of religious study and monkdom.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%), who once harbored dreams of being elected president (or at least nominated), joined a number of other rats swimming towards the sinking ship:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential front-runner, previously opposed setting a deadline on the war. But she said she agreed to back the measure "because we, as a united party, must work together with clarity of purpose and mission to begin bringing our troops home and end this war."

As it became clear that Democrats are only united in their disunity, she found herself twisting slowly, slowly in the wind -- which, to be fair, is generally her preferred residence; she's not called "the weathercock of the Senate" for nothing. As pressure mounts for her to end her presidential run and leave public life, she may eventually find such a course more palatable than the increasingly untenable alternative.

Presidential formerly hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) cast his lonely vote for the bill in order to send a message:

Sen. Barack Obama, another leading 2008 prospect, said he would prefer a plan that offers more flexibility but wanted "to send a strong statement to the Iraqi government, the president and my Republican colleagues that it's long past time to change course."

Instead of a message, he should have sent a sausage: It would have been more easily consumed. But he is right; it is time for Obama and his fellow Democratic candidates and the Democratic majority in Congress to "change course" -- perhaps to supporting American victory, rather than agitating for American defeat.

Even perennial defeatist Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, 100%), a veteran of such campaigns against victory, appears to have scented the shift in the prevailing winds; he voted against the Feingold bill, ironically remarking:

'We don't want to send the message to the troops' that Congress does not support them, said Levin, D-Mich. 'We're going to support those troops.'

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, 100%), proudly and enthusiastically supported the failed effort on the Senate floor; however, this blog was unable to find a single source, even anonymous, who cared. Many believe that Biden intends his current presidential campaign to be a "swan song" to his overly long political career.

As the ripples spread from the crushing Democratic defeat, Sen. Warner's own surrender bill -- setting benchmarks with troop-withdrawals attached -- also failed. Sen. Levin, seeing the handwriting on the wall and reluctant to join the Democratic exodus out the door, withdrew his demand for defeat without allowing it to come to a vote.

Seeing nothing but "miserable failure" on all his anti-victory bills, Majority Leader Reid has evidently given up; he is now likely to admit the Democrats cannot pass any of the troop-abandonment bills that relentlessly burble up from the chamber on the other side of the Capitol Dome:

The Senate must take the next step by passing its own measure. Given the political forces at work, that legislation will be a placeholder, its only purpose to trigger three-way negotiations involving the House, Senate and Bush administration on a final compromise.

As a result, officials said Tuesday that Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had discussed jointly advancing a bill so barebones that it would contain no funds and do little more than express congressional support for the troops.

This non-bill bill, intended to be written entirely in the joint conference, has led to the suggestion from a number of voices that the majority leader should change his nickname (for however long he can withstand calls for him to step down) from Harry "Pinky" Reid to Harry "Fill In the Blank" Reid.

Even the majority leader himself appears to recognize the drubbing his party just took:

Negotiations on the final compromise are expected to take days.

Wednesday's votes on Feingold and other proposals "will provide strong guidance to our conferees and help shape the conference negotiations we have ahead of us," said Reid.

Let us hope so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 16, 2007, at the time of 2:00 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

May 9, 2007

Dems Threaten to Sue Bush - for Signing a Bill

Congressional Calamities , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

Has Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) been inhaling a bit too much of her district's principal export?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is threatening to take President Bush to court if he issues a signing statement as a way of sidestepping a carefully crafted compromise Iraq war spending bill [where "compromise" means between different factions of the majority party].

Pelosi recently told a group of liberal bloggers, “We can take the president to court” if he issues a signing statement, according to Kid Oakland, a blogger who covered Pelosi’s remarks for the liberal website dailykos.com.

All right, show of hands everyone who knows what a "signing statement" is...

When the president signs a bill duly enacted by Congress, it becomes law; but the president -- the Executive -- is the person tasked with the enforcement and execution of such laws. He is also assigned the duty to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." It's right there in the oath he takes on January 20th of the year following his election.

Sometimes the two duties conflict; in that case, the Constitution must win. But suppose the vast majority of a bill is fine, but one small segment of it appears, from the president's perspective, to be unconstitutional. He could veto the entire legislation; but the other provisions may be urgently needed (such as funding our troops in the field during wartime).

Thus, he may sign the bill -- but issue a signing statement laying out his reasoning why the one provision is unconstitutional.

The signing statement simply announces what (and what not) the president understands the new law to entail... and in particular, makes note of elements that the Executive -- a coequal branch with the Legislative -- believes violate the Constitution he is sworn to protect and defend. He puts Congress and the Court on notice that the Executive will not enforce those provisions it deems unconstitutional (indeed, it cannot), until and unless the Court specifically holds that they are constitutional.

(A similar situation could arise if an outgoing president signs an unconstitutional bill; the incoming president would have to refuse to enforce it, or else he would be in violation of his oath of office.)

There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional about appending a signing statement to a bill when signing it. If the Court agrees with the president about some unconstitutional aspect of the bill, the signing statement has no effect; but on the other hand, if the Court decides instead in favor of Congress's interpretation... why, in that case, the signing statement has no effect!

A court could take the reasoning in the signing statement into effect during judicial proceedings, but it's not obliged to; it could just ignore the signing statement and proceed as it pleases.

Yet evidently, the Democrats who run Congress (for the moment) believe that the president is an adjunct position, like a legislative analyst, whose duty is simply to rubberstamp whatever the People's House enacts... and that President Bush had better oughta keep his nose out of the People's business. I mean, who the heck elected him?

But this is utter madness; the courts have never gone along with Congress's repeated attempts to leash the president:

In the 1970s, congressional Democrats tried to get the courts to force President Nixon to stop bombing in Cambodia. The courts ruled that dissident lawmakers could not sue solely to obtain outcomes they could not secure in Congress.

In order to hear an argument, a federal court would have to grant what is known as “standing,” meaning that lawmakers would have to show that Bush is willfully ignoring a bill Congress passed and that he signed into law....

Lawmakers have tried to sue presidents in the past for taking what they consider to be illegal military action, but courts have rejected such suits.

Starting in 2000, when losing presidential candidate and sitting Vice President Al Gore tried to sue his way into the White House, the Democrats have been seduced by the nigh-erotic fantasy of using the courts to cripple the Executive branch of federal government, both as Chief Executive and as Commander in Chief. Now they appear willing to drop the last shoe... a lawsuit to declare once and for all that the presidency is the only branch of government that has no plenary power whatsoever to decide constitutionality; that he must accept, perforce, any interpretation Congress hands him.

What next? Will Nancy Pelosi threaten to sue Bush tomorrow for vetoing the next surrender bill?

If this is the level of congressional overreaching just four months after the Democrats take over, I cannot even begin to imagine how far they'll have jumped the shark by November 2008.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 9, 2007, at the time of 5:50 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 7, 2007

Americans With Discivility Act

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Huh. I found this partially written post in the "vault," circa a couple of days before Bush vetoed the troop-funding bill shackled to a time-release surrender. Waste not, want not: I changed the most obviously dated sentences, and here it is!

~

From now on, I reckon we'll have to start calling Sen. "Slow" Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) Macho Joe Biden instead:

Biden is asked what he'll do when Bush, as is expected, vetoes the Iraq funding bill.

First, he talks about his son, and the equipment soldiers need -- "The idea that we're not building new Humvees with the V-shaped things is just crap. Kids are dying that don't have to die."

And: "Second thing is, we're going to shove it down his throat."

And where Macho Joe goeth, can the Pink Sapphire, alias the Silky Pony, be far behind?

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said Monday [just before vetoing the Democratic surrender bill -- the Mgt.] he believes President Bush will capitulate if Congress continues to confront him with bills to pull troops out of Iraq. [Yeah, that'd be my guess, too... remember all those times he backed down on the Iraq war? -- the Mgt.]

"The president is just ignoring what the Congress is saying and ignoring what the American people want," Edwards said in an interview in Las Vegas. "He just doesn't care. He's just going to do whatever he wants, and he has to be stopped."

The fiend... the very Devil himself! So the president wants to play rough, eh? So he won't take Congress' whip for an answer?

Although Bush said Monday he would work with Congress on an alternative, Edwards said legislators must not compromise.

Instead, Edwards said Congress should continue to pass similar bills. "They need to submit another bill to him with a timetable, and they need to continue doing it until he finally signs one," he said. Asked whether he believed Bush would back down in such a showdown, he said, "Eventually."

Whew! Tough talk from a guy who was originally known as the Breck Girl before he picked up his other two monikers.

This is real "taunt the caged lion" stuff: Two guys whose only previous demonstration of courage is moving faster than the speed of light to kow-tow to Kos and MoveOn.org on everything from Iraq withdrawal to rejecting the tax cuts to refusing to debate other Democrats in a forum sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus... because it's also sponsored by (cue the melodramatic music) the Fox News Channel.

Great Scott, they might have to field a question from Britt Hume! Maybe he'll take his cue from Chris Matthews: "What is the thing that you like best about America?" That'll stump the Democrats.

Mockery aside, what irritates me most is that Democrats only seem to show feistiness when there is nothing on the line: The president is not going to physically attack them, as al-Qaeda would; he won't even force them to make a decision and accept accountability for it; but if Democratic candidates for president are insufficiently uncivil and insolent, they incur the wrath of the nutroots... and that sets their knees a-knock.

So instead of showing some spine by joining Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT, 75%) and actually supporting the war against a quasi-Fascist fundamentalist theocracy -- which you and I and Chris Hitchens think should be the essence of liberal democracy -- they emit belicose, schoolyard threats to someone they know will simply ignore them.

There is little I despise more than cowardice. I wonder how many independents -- and even center-left Democrats -- have sufficient manliness to be as creeped out by this poltroonery as I?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 7, 2007, at the time of 3:52 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 3, 2007

Counterinsurgency Funding: the Good, the Bad, and the Weird

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The Washington Post has a window into the negotiations ongoing between the Bush administration and the Congress anent funding our troops in the field (hat tip to Patterico, of all people).

Good news...

According to the Post, the Democrats have already caved on the surrender timetables. No, really:

President Bush and congressional leaders began negotiating a second war funding bill yesterday, with Democrats offering the first major concession: an agreement to drop their demand for a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq.

Democrats backed off after the House failed, on a vote of 222 to 203, to override the president's veto of a $124 billion measure that would have required U.S. forces to begin withdrawing as early as July.

Yes, we're all blinking in shock. We knew they would eventually have to either drop the poison-pill... or else go whole hog and brazenly declare that the Democratic Congress intends to abandon our troops in the middle of a war.

But I don't think anyone expected such a quick exit (stage right) for the shibboleth that separates what Paul Wellstone used to call "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- now exemplified by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) -- from the corrupt and unprincipled party machine: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and especially House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairman "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 65%). Evidently, nearly all the Democrats fall into the latter category... quelle surprise!

Bad news...

Alas it's time, as Larry Elderberry so often says, for the big butt: Congressional Democrats have not given up their insistance that they have some sort of operational control over military strategy and the president's foreign policy:

But party leaders made it clear that the next bill will have to include language that influences war policy. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) outlined a second measure that would step up Iraqi accountability, "transition" the U.S. military role and show "a reasonable way to end this war."

Even more unfortunate, a handful of Republicans have been seduced by the siren song of "congressional power," and they're siding with the Democrats... not to the extent of demanding troop withdrawals, but on the touchy subject of how to "enforce" all the myriad "benchmarks" for the fledgling Iraqi government to achieve:

But a new dynamic also is at work, with some Republicans now saying that funding further military operations in Iraq with no strings attached does not make practical or political sense. Rep. Bob Inglis (S.C.), a conservative who opposed the first funding bill, said, "The hallway talk is very different from the podium talk...."

Just four Republicans supported the first version of the spending bill: Sen. Gordon Smith (Ore.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (Md.) and Rep. Walter B. Jones (N.C.). But a growing number of GOP lawmakers want language that would hold the administration and the Iraqi government more accountable.

"The general sense is that the benchmarks are critical," said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), a moderate who opposed the original bill but supports some constraints.

White House officials are also looking to benchmarks as an area of compromise, but they want them to be tied to rewards for achievement, not penalties for failure.

This actually is a pretty good idea: If you want to incentivize the Iraqi government, carrots make much more sense than sticks. Did I actually just use the Dick Gephardt word "incentivize?" I don't think I did; if you thought you heard it, your audio track needs maintenance.

Well, all I can say is that it's a good thing for our congressmen such benchmarks are not applied to the American Congress... else there might be some severe punishment for, e.g., the complete failure of the last Republican Congress to enact critical bills such as immigration reform, Social Security reform, making the Bush tax cuts permanent -- oh, and the 2007 budget; and even more severe punishment for the complete failure of the new Democratic Congress to enact... well, anything.

The idea of "rewards for achievement" of various benchmarks, instead of "penalties for failure," is a pretty good idea: If you want to provide an incentive for the Iraqi government, carrots make much more sense than sticks. The best carrot is handing over more Iraqi territory to the Iraqi government; but other incentives for achievement would include:

  • More money for infrastructure -- hospitals, schools, dams, pipelines, power generating plants, libraries, and especially communications and internet connectivity programs.
  • Pressing for Iraqi membership in international trade organizations.
  • Allowing Iraq to buy near top of the line military helicopters, fighters, anti-IED MRAP armored vehicles, and Predator drone aircraft -- which are useful not only for fighting terrorists and insurgents but also to defend Iraq against its next-door enemies, Iran and Syria.
  • Pushing Arab neighbors and our allies around the world to recognize Iraq and negotiate treaties, accords, and oil and other trade agreements with them.

Each of these motivators would be dual-use, to expropriate a term that used to have a much more sinister meaning in that country: It would certainly give Iraq a strong incentive to step up movement towards full responsibility; and it would simultaneously ensconce Iraq deeper into the Functional Core, as Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the group of highly connected (economically, politically, and via communications), civilized nations of the world in his book the Pentagon's New Map.

The more thoroughly connected Iraq or any other country is to the community of civilized nations, Barnett convincingy argues, the less likely it will behave aggressively towards its neighbors, harbor terrorists, or finance jihadist groups around the world. Contrariwise, the deeper a country is in the Non-Integrating Gap -- isolated, hermetically sealed, radicalized -- the more likely it is to serve as a base of operations for strikes against the Great Satan and our allies. (Think of Afghanistan under the Taliban, Sudan, the Palestinian Authority, North Korea, and Venezuela.)

News of the weird...

So the Democrats' idea of benchmarks isn't too ghastly; benchmarks (or milestones) are useful to see how you're progressing, and you can use positive incentives to encourage the country to pick up the pace.

But what is truly bizarre is the the Democrats don't want to use positive reinforcement: they're absolutely dying to enact a bill where failure to achieve these benchmarks would be "punished" by cutting off civilian funding:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) indicated that the next bill will include benchmarks for Iraq -- such as passing a law to share oil revenue, quelling religious violence and disarming sectarian militias -- to keep its government on course. Failure to meet benchmarks could cost Baghdad billions of dollars in nonmilitary aid.

The absurdity is that every benchmark requires a huge outlay of money: Building up the Iraqi army and national police takes gold; quelling violence and disarming militias require a strong army and police; passing the oil-revenue-sharing bill demands a strong government, which can only be achieved by quelling violence and disarming militias.

Thus, punishing failure by cutting off civilian funding simply ensures that all of the achievement gaps will simply get worse and worse. Here is a good analogy:

A huge corporation buys a small company in Kalamazoo; they want to turn it into a subsidiary (the company, not Kalamazoo itself). They hire a new CEO and order him to retain the product designers and hire a lot more staff; for this purpose, they allocate a significant budget for the new subsidiary.

But after a while, the Board of the big corporation decides that the CEO isn't moving fast enough: Too many of the senior designers are talking about leaving, and it's hard to get more low-level employees for the money the subsidiary is offering.

The corporation decides to "send a message" to the CEO... so they slice the subsidiary's budget by one third. They threaten that if the CEO is still unable to retain top people and hire new personnel, they'll slash the budget even further!

Yeah. That'll work out. With even less money available, surely employee retention and recruiting will skyrocket...

Bottoms up!

All in all, considering that the ink of Bush's veto has barely dried, I think we've come a long way back towards wartime sanity. But it's an equally long road ahead; and like a skittish donkey, it doesn't take much -- a funny colored rock, a squirrel darting across the path -- to cause the Democrats to freak out entirely, dig in their hooves, and refuse to budge another inch.

Keep your garters crossed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 3, 2007, at the time of 5:32 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 2, 2007

We Win, They Lose Inc.

Blogomania , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Patrick Ruffini has a cool new site called We Win, They Lose. (The line is taken from Ronald Reagan's well-known description of his basic strategy for dealing with the Soviets.)

He has a petition up that I just signed, and I think you all should, too. So there.

Ruffini graciously allows us bloggers to embed the petition in our own blogs. Everyone who signs through Big Lizards earns us "credit," though I'm not sure towards what; I'm hoping there's a free lunch at Souplantation in here somewhere, but it might just be towards getting a little silver star on my permanent record.

In any event, here you go:

So sign away, and be sure to include your blog URL, if you have a blog. If you don't, then use this one, which I randomly pulled out of a hat: http://biglizards.net/blog.

(I'm not exactly sure when I took to carrying around the Big Lizards URL in my hat, but now I'm glad I did.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2007, at the time of 6:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Letting the Beans Out of the Cat

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

I have charged the Democrats for months with mandating surrender in Iraq, not because they're afraid we'll lose, but because they are afraid we might accidentally win.

I believe my thesis has just gained a little traction. Here is a seemingly minor snippet from a longer AP article on the House of Representatives, which (as expected) failed to override the president's veto of the withdrawal timetable masquerading as a troop-spending bill:

Numerous possible compromises are being floated on Capitol Hill, all involving some combination of benchmarks. Some would require Bush to certify monthly that the Iraqi government is fully cooperating with U.S. efforts in several areas, such as giving troops the authority to pursue extremists.

The key impasse in Congress is whether to require redeployments of U.S. troops if the benchmarks are not met.

Under one proposal being floated, unmet benchmarks would cause some U.S. troops to be removed from especially violent regions such as Baghdad. They would redeploy to places in Iraq where they presumably could fight terrorists but avoid the worst centers of Sunni-Shia conflict.

I believe the strands of the web are just beginning to fit into place: As a "compromise," the Democrats now propose that if they can't get all the combat troops to come home... they should at least be allowed to disrupt Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy!

The counterinsurgency is 80% focused on getting control of Baghdad, on an obvious Iraqi-based principle: Who controls Baghdad controls Iraq, and who controls Haifa Street and Sadr City controls Baghdad.

By insisting that failure to live up to unrealistic "benchmarks" must, at the very least, lead to canceling the counterinsurgency -- thus returning to the failed Rumsfeldian strategy of a "war of attrition," which never works against an outside-financed insurgency -- the Democrats show their tails: Their core goal is to ensure that we cannot win, hence are defeated.

You can tell a lot about a man's priorities, in the midst of negotiation, by the compromises he offers when he cannot get everything he wants; you learn not only his priorities but, more important, his estimation of your intelligence. This Democratic counter-offer speaks volumes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 2, 2007, at the time of 5:15 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 1, 2007

Honda's Chinese Accord

Congressional Calamities , Mysterious Orient
Hatched by Sachi

The recent visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington D.C. has raised, yet again, the tired issue of the Korean and Chinese (and yes, Japanese) "comfort women"... another meaningless cause celebre for Democratic outrage, like the Armenian genocide and reparations for distant descendents of African slaves:

Abe’s first U.S. trip as prime minister comes as Congress considers a nonbinding resolution that urges Japan to apologize for its role coercing women to work as “comfort women” for the Japanese military. Abe sought to explain to U.S. lawmakers Thursday a comment he made last month that seemed to minimize Japan’s role in forcing thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II....

People across Asia and the United States, including conservative supporters of Japan in Congress, were infuriated at Abe’s suggestion in March that no proof existed that the military had coerced women into brothels.

Abe should have taken Big Lizards' advice. As we said back in March, the proper answer is not to deny that such sex slavery existed; of course it did. The correct response is to point out that the government that carried out that grotesque policy has not existed for 60 years!

The Japanese military dictatorship was obliterated more than three generations ago; nobody who was in any position of authority, from Tojo on down, is still alive... and in fact, we hanged many of them ourselves, including Prime Minister Hideki Tojo himself in 1948.

If only Abe had listened to us! Here is what we suggested, in our previous post, that he say:

To the American Congress, we thank you for illuminating the atrocities and war crimes, committed by the National Socialist dictatorship that occupied Japan for a number of years in the early part of the last century, against the innocent people of Korea and China. That same socialist tyranny committed equally horrific crimes against the Japanese people, and we join with you in expression our abhorrence of all such totalitarian systems.

The current governments of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China must surely be familiar with the horrors that mass, coercive socialism can inflict: each has plagued its own people with even more murderous and torturous atrocities since World War II ended. And each, unlike Japan, still has the same government that perpetrated those crimes against humanity: Mao's so-called "cultural revolution" and his murder of seventy million of his own countrymen; and Kim Il-Sung's unprovoked invasion of South Korea in 1950 which precipitated a war that killed 2.5 million... and the more millions who have died from starvation under the government of Kim's royal successor, Kim Jong-Il. Not to mention the deprivation of liberty under both those Communist systems.

We extend our sorrow not only to those who suffered under one form of totalitarianism, we also extend our sorrow to those who have suffered under another form of totalitarianism. But we cannot apologize or accept responsibility for crimes that none of us in the government today, nor the government itself, had any hand in committing.

So we thank the American Congress for its interesting history lesson; but as to apologies or reparations -- bite me.

Japan has repeatedly and unnecessarily apologized for past wrongs committed by the military dictatorship. They have paid tens of billions of dollars in reparations to several Asian countries, and are still paying them, mostly to Red China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Korea. China alone has received $30 billion over these many years. Despite this -- or more accurately, because of this -- the issue is brought up over and again by China and both Koreas.

Now the United States Congress, which has no other business to discuss other than the forty or sixty investigations of the Bush administration they're currently running, is weighing in on the issue. A House resolution demanding Japan's formal apology currently squats in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution is sponsored by (Japanese American) Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA, 95%) and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan corruption of more than 100 congressmen and congresswomen.

Recently, I found an illuminating interview on PBS that touches on this issue -- and upon another possible motivation for Rep. Honda. On Foreign Exchange, Fareed Zakaria interviewed Yoshihisa Komori, Washington D.C.-based Editor-at-Large for Japan's Sankei Shimbum (Sankei Newspaper).

Sankei Shimbum is definitely right of the center, and Komori himself is quite right wing. Thus it was hardly surprising that he tiresomely insists that the Imperial military had no official policy to forcibly bring in women for sex slaves. In this, Komori treads the same needlessly disreputable path trodden by Abe himself, as we reported in our earlier post:

Abe is right to resist this nonsense... but the poor sap is right for all the wrong reasons. He is trying to defend Japan against the charge by denying that there were any comfort women in the first place; or failing that, by insisting that the Japanese government and military had nothing to do with it... all the coercion was carried out by private contractors.

...Who were merely hired by the Japanese government and military. So you see, there's no connection!

But in the course of Komori's interview, he levels some very serious charges -- almost Clintonian charges -- against the resolution's main sponsor, Rep. Honda:

Note that we have no independent verification of what Komori is saying; we simply rely upon his appearance on PBS. It's possible Komori is completely wrong. But on the other hand, he is an editor on a major Japanese newspaper; he is based in Washington; and he may very well have solid sourcing on his accusation.

Besides, it's hardly out of character for Honda's party to be remarkably chummy with the People's Republic of China.

So take what he says with a dollop of soy sauce... but I say it still demands an answer.

What follows is transcribed by Sachi from the PBS video; the transcript for the April 28th show is not yet available, but when it is, you should be able to find it here. In the meanwhile, here is Sachi's transcription; this section begins about 7:00 into the segment (when the countdown timer hits 5:40 remaining) and continues to the end (Sachi omits unessential parts):

Look at what's going on [in the] House of Representatives in the U.S....

So we... criticism now coming is from the United States. New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, are bashing Japan and Japanese leadership as if there is something wrong in the Japanese DNA. None of us was around when these things happened....

"So our question is, why do they have to bring up this issue now...?

[E]ven behind this current move against Japan, there is a Chinese move. Congressman Mike Honda of California has been receiving a huge amount of political donation from the Chinese, Chinese activists who associated with the Chinese organization [Komori likely means "Chinese authority"] And so interestingly, there's very little supportive actors from Korea.

So, I see this as a diplomatic maneuver on the part of certain countries [China and the Koreas] to keep Japan in a emasuculated way or inferior way, just portraying Japan as if something. the country or the people who are sort of genetically wrong or something inferior. That's how strongly I feel.

Komori is not just talking about the "comfort women" issue. The Chinese and Koreans (both North and South) have been escalating their complaints to Japan and the world community about a great many issues:

  • A few years ago, it was Japanese history text books (which did actually minimize Japan's role in atrocities).
  • Then the countries complained about former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the war shrine of Yasukuni Jinja.
  • Then just a year ago, the South Korean navy forcibly seized the island of Takeshima from Japan, despite the fact that there is no international dispute that Japan owns it... only in the mind of South Korea's anti-Japanese (and anti-American) President Roh Moo-hyun.

Everything Japan does, the PRC, the DPRK, and the RoK denounce; they were particularly steamed when Japan sought a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. They accuse Japan of insensitivity, racism, human rights violations, and of not abasing themselves sufficiently -- kow-towing to the Chinese, you might say. Japan has never done enough; and inevitably, the plaintiffs demand more money from Japan.

But this time, I don't think it's about money alone: Communists -- and the rabid President Ro of South Korea -- hate the fact that Japan and the United States have a good relationship. They want to drive a wedge between us.

And of course, the anti-American American left hates pro-America Japan; which is why Rep. Honda has introduced his resolution. What Honda has against Prime Minister Abe is simply that he is pro-America, and even pro-Bush. That, obviously, is quite enough for the Democratic leadership!

But the last thing the Bush administration wants to do is accuse Japan of a "new" war crime. So far, Bush had acknowledged Abe's most recent apology and moved on.

Sadly however, I see many Japanese conservatives -- who should be siding with Bush and the GOP -- becoming more and more anti-American, in response to what seems to them as a growing anti-Japanese fervor in the government. (It's almost impossible to tell Japanese conservative bloggers that congressional Democrats are actually enemies of the Republicans and especially the president, because modern Japan has always had one-party rule: They literally don't understand the idea that one party controls one part of the government, while the other party controls another part.)

The Japanese right would be foolhardy to wreck the relationship between the United States over this silly, meaningless resolution: That is exactly the response the Communists in Red China and North Korea desperately want... just as the terrorists in Iraq desperately want us to enunciate a timeline for surrender.

Isn't it amazing how often the Democratic Party finds itself on the same side as America's national enemies?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 1, 2007, at the time of 6:14 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 24, 2007

Ruminations On the State of Things In Iraq

Congressional Calamities , Good News! , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Most of this post derives from several sources:

  • Historian Arthur Herman's article in the Wall Street Journal, "How to Win In Iraq (and How to Lose);"
  • Weekly Standard contributing editor and AEI scholar Fred Kagan's article in the current issue of the Weekly Standard, "Friends, Enemies and Spoilers." (Hat tip to frequent commenter Tomy for drawing our attention to this article.)
  • Previous posts by Big Lizards or articles by Bill Roggio and Michael Yon (as linked at the time);
  • What I see in the mainstream media, including Fox News, filtered through the knowledge base formed by the sources above.

Just as the title indicates, I'm simply looking at the current state of things in Iraq -- which is not only not "deteriorating," as the elites would have us believe; it's pretty good and is getting better; at the end, I'll mention a few things we can all do to help keep things moving in the right direction...

So what is this "new strategy" anyway?

We have already discussed, in How to Win/Lose In Iraq (based upon the Herman article), that the new counterinsurgency strategy envisions a very different way of fighting a war. First and foremost, in counterinsurgency, the emphasis is upon maintaining everyday security on the streets -- "clear and hold" -- rather than on hunting down and killing bad guys (the "search and destroy" tactics we used unsuccessfully early in the Vietnam war).

Sometimes clear and hold demands searching out and destroying a particular enemy; but on other days, it may demand adjudicating disputes between neighbors or neighboring tribes, engaging in simple policing in some dangerous areas, reconstruction and clean-up, police and army recruiting, training Iraqis in modern economics, marketing, and business practices, and so forth.

A second element of counterinsurgency is to deliberately mingle Iraqi and American forces to a tremendous degree, at Joint Security Stations (JSSs), as Kagan explains in the Weekly Standard article:

The new plan pushes most U.S. forces out into the population. Americans and Iraqis are establishing Joint Security Stations and Joint Combat Outposts throughout Baghdad. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers eat, sleep, and plan together in these outposts and then conduct mounted and dismounted patrols continually, day and night, throughout their assigned neighborhoods. In Joint Security Stations I visited in the Hurriya neighborhood, in the Shiite Khadimiya district, American and Iraqi soldiers sleep in nearly adjoining rooms with unlocked and unguarded doors between them.

Being constantly seen in and among the Iraqi population, while we're doing everything we can to maintain the security of ordinary Iraqis and help them in their daily lives, we obtain far more intelligence tips; Americans are seen more as "part of the solution" than "the big problem." Kagan notes that since the counterinsurgency operation began, "[intelligence] tips have gone up dramatically over the past two months, from both Sunnis and Shiites."

Second, the basic strategy of counterinsurgency, as developed by French Lt.Col. David Galula, envisions a particular way of looking at the war in order to concentrate our forces:

Galula divided his own district into zones: "white," where government control was complete or nearly complete; "pink," where insurgents competed with the government for control; and "red," where the insurgents were in complete control. A successful counterinsurgency involved turning pink zones into white zones, then red into pink, through a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood struggle to force the terrorists into the shadows.

Besides a continuous and visible military presence and the red-pink-white model, the third element of counterinsurgency is a sense of inevitability about our eventual victory -- so more and more terrorist supporters jump ship and come to our side instead. The large number of Sunni tribal leaders who have broken from al-Qaeda and now fight against it, along with the formation of an explicitly anti-al-Qaeda Sunni political party (see below), are strong signals that the third element is working as well.

So how goes it, mate?

Drive-by media sources I read earlier said that three of the projected five new brigades have now been deployed to Iraq, and Kagan and Roggio confirm this.

Now, if a person imagines that the "surge" consists of nothing more than adding a few troops to the same failed strategy -- I name no names, but refer you to a senator whose initials are Harry "Pinky" Mason Reid -- he might be tempted to believe that the "surge" is 60% completed, and that the 40% reduction in sectarian violence is all that it will accomplish.

That opinion betrays ignorance of the counterinsurgency strategy itself. Kagan notes that the real heavy lifting has yet to begin:

Most of the military operations of recent months have been laying the groundwork for clear-and-hold operations that will be the centerpiece of the new plan. Coalition and Iraqi forces have targeted al Qaeda and other Sunni insurgent cells in Baghdad, in their bases around the capital, and in Anbar, Salahaddin, and Diyala provinces. They have established positions throughout Baghdad and swept a number of neighborhoods in a preliminary fashion. They have begun placing concrete barriers around problematic neighborhoods to restrict access and change traffic flow to support future operations. Targeted raids have removed a number of key leaders from the Shiite militias as well, reducing the effectiveness of Sadr's organization, which was already harmed by his hasty departure for Iran early this year....

Major clear-and-hold operations are scheduled to begin in late May or June, and will take weeks to complete, area by area. After that, it may be many more weeks before their success at establishing security can be judged.

In other words, the very significant drop in sectarian murder we have seen in the last two months has not been due to the actual clear-and-hold strategy, turning red to pink and pink to white, because that phase has not even started yet. Rather, the drop in murders is the result of mere preliminaries, "laying the groundwork" for the major operation to come.

This bodes very, very well: When we shift from groundwork-laying to insurgent clearing, the bad guys will face an assault many times harder than what they have experienced to date... and they're already being disrupted and dispersed!

Evolution in action

Naturally, as with any battle plan, this one has not survived first contact intact: We are already making changes as the enemy responds. Fortunately, Gen. Petraeus's strategy is flexible enough to accomodate.

When al-Qaeda in Iraq reacted to the troop buildup by fleeing Baghdad to the southern suburbs and nearby towns, and also northward into Diyala province, we responded by redirecting some of the American and Iraqi Army troops to reinforce those areas.

When the leaders of both the Mahdi Militia (Muqtada Sadr) and the Badr Organization (Abdul Aziz al-Hakim) ordered their terrorist groups to stand down and not fight us, we seized the advantage to make more thorough pre-sweeps through Shiite areas, such as Sadr City, a neighborhood within Baghdad.

And as Iran began to take a more aggressive and explicit role in the fighting in Iraq -- shipping explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) to Shiite militias, training insurgents to build their own EFPs, and even sending the Iranian Revolutionary Guards "Qods Force" into Iraq to train and even fight alongside Iraqi insurgents -- we began methodically hunting them down, capturing a number of high-ranking Iranians and infuriating President Ahmadinejad... a sure sign that those operations were successful.

What about more generally?

The Iraqi Assembly of Representatives is not only stable, it's growing stronger as more and more Sunnis come to accept it as the legitimate government. There is no sign of any popularly supported attempt to overthrow it; no Hussein-like "strongman" looks likely to seize control.

When the six members of the government who were also top players in the Mahdi Militia resigned their portfolios, on Muqtada Sadr's orders, Sadr announced that this would cause the government to collapse. It did not, and there is no sign of a motion of no confidence.

Rather, the Shia-dominated government has moved to take firmer control of the Iraq National Police, which used to have a serious problem with Shiite-militia infiltration. From the Kagan article (reparagraphed for clarity):

[S]ectarian killings have dropped because of dramatically increased partnership between the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army, and American forces. The Iraqi police were heavily implicated in the killings; the Iraqi army less so.

U.S. forces do not tolerate such behavior. The partnership has helped American units identify individuals within the Iraqi police and army who have participated in atrocities. As these individuals are identified, U.S. and Iraqi leaders work to prepare evidence packets to support their arrest, detention, and conviction.

As a result, the Baghdad Security Plan is supporting efforts to weed out the worst elements from the Iraqi Security Forces. In some cases, entire police units have been pulled off line, vetted, and "re-blued"--that is, retrained after the removal of known felons and militia infiltrators. In this way, the security plan is improving the quality of the Iraqi Security Forces, which is essential to giving these forces legitimacy in the eyes of the Iraqi people.

This can only occur through the close cooperation of American and Iraqi forces at all levels.

The Iraqi demand that we create courtroom-ready "evidence packets" to go after the infiltrators, rather than just using military intelligence to pick them up as enemy combatants, is actually a very good sign: It means that the Iraqis no longer think of Iraq as a country under occupation, but rather as a sovereign nation that must operate under the rule of law, not "military expediency."

In my opinion, the same is true regarding Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's decision to stop the construction of the ugly, prison-like wall surrounding the Sunni Baghdad community of Adhamiya, which is next to the radical Shiite community of Sadr City: While such "barriers" certainly are effective -- there's no denying that -- you cannot wall off all the dangerous areas of Baghdad or Iraq, because then you have de facto partitioned the country.

Maliki called for "other means of protection for the neighborhoods." I suspect what will actually result is a compromise: less intrusive fencing with sensors, better gating to isolate approaching vehicles and minimize the impact of a car bomb exploding at the gate itself, and more cross-neighborhood patrols of national and local police. I believe this would better serve to bring Iraq together than would a series of walled-off "Baghdad bantustans." (Bill Roggio disagrees, seeing the wall as "a crucial component of the Baghdad security plan.")

The same Roggio piece above notes the formation of a new Sunni political party that is specifically anti-al-Qaeda:

In Iraq's Anbar province, the Anbar Salvation Council continues to gain steam in its fight against al Qaeda. Seven new tribes have just joined the Anbar Salvation Council's political movement, the Anbar Awakening. Last week, the Anbar Salvation Council announced it was forming the Iraq Awakening, a national political party which would "oppose insurgents such as Al Qaeda in Iraq and reengage with Iraq's political process." The Iraq Awakening is scheduled to meet in May, and will be the first Sunni political party to openly oppose al Qaeda in Iraq.

The oil-revenue-sharing bill continues to work its way through the Iraqi parliament. This is the most critical economic compromise that must be wrought, determining whether the Sunnis of Iraq will have any access at all to the Iraqi economy: Needless to say, if they don't, they will have no incentive whatsoever to remain bound by ties of nationalism to the rest of Iraq. Failure to enact this bill would be a death-blow to a free and democratic Iraq.

Fortunately, the Shia and the Kurds -- who control all the oil -- recognize this necessity, and the party leaders have agreed upon a plan (the one mentioned above). There also appears to be broad general agreement on the principle of "un-de-Baathification," allowing former members of the Baath Party who have no blood on their hands to rejoin society... just as Germany eventually had to allow low-level ex-Nazis, most of whom only joined because it was necessary to conduct business, to eventually rejoin German society.

We are still waiting, however, for significant movement towards nationwide local elections.

Democrats gone wild

Looking ahead, there is very little that the Democratic majority in Congress can do to prevent us from fighting this war for at least the next two years:

  • Unlike in 1973 and 1975, Congress does not have a cowed or compliant president to sign its defeatist bills; President Bush has promised to veto any bill that seeks to impose an artificial timetable for withdrawal or undercut the authority of the Commander in Chief to conduct war;
  • Also unlike the end of Vietnam, there is no significant number of Republicans so anxious to surrender that they are willing to defy their own president to override a veto; there is virtual Republican unanimity on that point;
  • The Democrats in Congress, while they have the majority, do not have the overpowering majority they did in the mid-70s; in fact, their margin in each house is slim: in the Senate, 49 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats (51%); and in the House, 232 Democrats (53%). By contrast, back in the 94th Congress (elected in 1974), the Senate was 60% Democratic, while the House was one representative shy of 67% Democratic.
  • Many of the Democrats in both House and Senate were elected or reelected from fairly conservative districts in 2006... districts that certainly don't favor enforced defeat in the Iraq war;
  • The Democrats' willing accomplices in the humiliation of America -- the elite media -- no longer enjoy an information monopoly, as they did back in the 70s; there is no "Uncle Walter" to tell Americans that we have already lost the war... just an Ugly Stepfather Harry Reid;
  • Despite the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Bush administration about what would happen if supplementary war funding weren't approved by April 15th, in reality, the president has a wide latitude of spending power within Congressional appropriations: He can shift funds around from elsewhere in the military budget to cover ongoing operations for more or less the entire remainder of his term;
  • But he won't have to do -- since the Democrats do not dare do anything to get the "anti-military" label slapped across their mugs again; not with a tight election coming up! The public attitude towards our military is very, very different today than it was in the mid-70s;
  • And even the longer-term future looks brighter than it did at the end of the Vietnam "tunnel": While some conservatives are disenchanted with George W. Bush and less than enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and especially John McCain, conservative despair is nowhere near the depths it was during the Watergate-dominated periods of the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Conservatives will vote -- which they did not do in 1976, once Ford defeated Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. There is, thus, a very good chance that the tide will turn again, and Republicans retain the presidency, retake the Senate, and maybe even retake the House as well;
  • Finally -- and most important -- today, we have the horrible example of Vietnam and what happened in the aftermath of our shameful surrender, which we can throw in the faces of those counseling just such a betrayal in Iraq.

But what can I do?

All those who support the war can do their part to help win it by refraining from, on the one hand, schoolmarmish hectoring of every wartime decision the Commander in Chief makes, and on the other, Edvard Munch-like despair at every setback. (Republicans are especially prone to the latter.) Remember that we still get most (not all) of our news from the elite media, and they have a vested economic and class interest in forcing a humiliating loss for America. Don't trust them to tell the truth.

Send or raise money for organizations like Soldiers' Angels that support our troops in the field. Press your local churches, synogogues, mosques, and civic groups to similarly support the troops, whether or not they support the war.

Keep abreast of what is happening in both the larger war on global jihad and the individual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq by reading books, newspapers and magazines, and especially non-MSM sources such as Bill Roggio and Michael Yon (now sometimes carried by Dean Barnett at Hugh Hewitt's blog).

The next time Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes doesn't know -- or care -- whether al-Qaeda is predominently Sunni and Shia, I want every questioner at the townhall meeting to be able to educate him. Maybe it will eventually stick.

If you have a Republican representative or senator, write him immediately and repeatedly, demanding that he support the war effort and refuse to join with Democrats who want to see us defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Use your superior knowledge base to point out the terrible catastrophe premature withdrawal would create.

If you have a Democrat in both positions, but you live in a nominally conservative or patriotic district, then write them both anyway. Who knows? Our pal above, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, actually supported a troop increase of 20,000 - 30,000 men, back in December, 2006.

If you live in San Francisco or Boston, write to fence-sitting members of Congress on either side of the aisle. If they're cowardly enough to be afraid of the war, they should be cowardly enough to be afraid of an outraged electorate, too!

Blog (or at least comment) in favor of fighting the war by the smartest means possible (which I personally think is Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy at the moment, but that's up to you).

Talk to your liberal friends about the war (yes, you "have to"). It's not enough to preach to the choir; you must preach to the anti-war "sinners." Don't hector them; but let them know that it is not a given that the war is "lost," that in fact it's going pretty well; that the Iraqis and the United States are both much better off with Saddam dead; that this is an existential fight; that the Democratic leadership really does want us to lose (look at Majority Leader Harry Reid); and so forth. Not every liberal wants to commit cultural suicide... look at Mort Kondracke and Joe Lieberman.

The biggest danger is if Republicans in Congress lose heart or misplace their courage, and the bulwark against despair or cowardice is a high morale. It would be humiliating indeed if those not even under fire sank into low morale at the very time our troops' morale is high. So don't do it, and don't let your congressional representatives or your governor do it.

Hold your head high; you're not being shot at. Be the eyes, the ears, and especially the mouth of reason and courage.

And that's the way it is, April 24th, 2007, in what is still the greatest nation that has ever existed on this planet.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 24, 2007, at the time of 5:38 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 21, 2007

Speak For Yourself, "Pinky"

Congressional Calamities , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

This is by way of addendum to our previous post, Into Every Life, Some Reid Must Fall. Now it's falling into the lives of Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates.

Our squirrelly little Majority Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) -- who spent Thursday telling reporters that the Iraq war was "lost" and that the "surge" had been proven a "failure" -- now goes even further in his hubris: He purports to speak for the Secretaries of State and Defense, flatly stating that they, too, believe the war is lost and the counterinsurgency a failure. (Hat tip to Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics.)

In the clip, Reid does not quote anything they said to that effect, because of course they have said no such thing. Nor does he claim they told him this privately. He simply announces, ex cathedra, that they agree with him that all is lost!

Oh, and he also implies that President Bush thinks so, too... though here, he allows as how he might not actually know what Bush thinks. (Evidently Reid believes he does absolutely know what Rice and Gates think.)

What next? Will Reid announce tomorrow that he channeled the brain of Gen. Petraeus -- and that the commander of MNF-I also believes his own counterinsurgency strategy stinks?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2007, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2007

Into Every Life, Some Reid Must Fall

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Today's lily-livered belly crawling by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), flatly announcing that "this war is lost," should disqualify him from the "leadership" position he now occupies, say I... since he is no longer leading but deserting.

Reid triumphally pronounced defeat in a press conference he called shortly after leaving the White House and his discussion with President Bush. Reid particularly singled out the counterinsurgency strategy -- which of course he belittled as "the surge" -- as having been an abject failure... because there were some big bombings yesterday:

"Now I believe myself ... that this war is lost, and that the surge is not accomplishing anything, as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," said Reid, of Nevada....

Well, who could argue with that? I also conclude that, since it was chilly yesterday, therefore global warming is false.

People of at least ordinary intelligence understand that both global warming theory and the counterinsurgency strategy must be evaluated after a reasonably long period of time: ten years or so for the former, six or seven months for the latter. In both cases, a single day is void of meaning.

I have had my suspicions about Reid from the git go. Consider the biography of Harry "Pinky" Reid. First, Reid is one of those politicians who has never held any other job in his life besides -- politics. And even at that, he has never held a political job that had any actual performance standards, no administrative job like governor or even mayor. He served as lieutenant governor; but of course, that has fewer administrative responsibilities than being a dormatory R.A. at UC Santa Cruz, or even being Vice President of the United States.

(Oh, but let me be precise here: Reid allegedly worked as an attorney for two years in the mid-1960s, between when he received his J.D. and when he first ran for the Nevada state assembly. No idea if he actually argued any cases -- unlikely -- or whether he simply clerked for some local judge or worked as a junior peon in a Searchlight law firm. And then, there is that odd, three-year gap between when he failed to be elected senator in 1974 and when he turned up as Nevada gaming commissioner in 1977, during which he must have done something. Maybe he worked as a Pai Gow poker dealer or pit boss at a craps table. But that about covers it.)

During Reid's entire, illustrious, forty-year political career -- as state legislator, lieutenant governor, Nevada state gaming commissioner, U.S. representative, and senator -- with attendant array of "leadership" positions -- he has never once distinguished himself, never stood out, never brought himself to public attention. I suspect that virtually nobody in America except for political junkies could name the majority leader... unlike his counterpart, the Squeaker of the House.

Even Reid's "scandals" have been little and insignificant peccadillos: some land deal trifle in Nevada, having contacts with Jack Abramoff, free boxing tickets, and earmarking a bridge that would marginally help his bottom line -- bagatelles all. He can't even be spectacularly corrupt. One might guess that no crook in his right mind would concoct a spectacular scheme that depended upon somebody like Harry "Pinky."

Reid is like Sir Joseph, the Lord Admiral in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta H.M.S. Pinafore: a man who rose from "office boy to an attorney's firm" to "ruler of the Queen's Navee" without ever once having set foot upon the deck of a ship:

Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn't fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule--
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee
!

One might also compare Sen. Reid to a eunuch in a harem: He is aware of something wonderful going on all around him, but he is unequipped by nature to participate.

But we crave more illumination from the majority leader from Searchlight:

"The (Iraq) war can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically, and the president needs to come to that realization," Reid said.... [Once we withdraw our troops in defeat, as Sen. Reid would counsel, then how strong of a diplomatic, political, or even economic "hand" does he think we would have?]

Reid said he did not think more U.S. troops could help. "I think it's failed, I say that without any question," he said of the troop increase.

The "troop increase," which is how Reuters avoids mouthing the words "new counterinsurgency strategy," has been under way for less than two months; and only half of the projected troops have yet been inserted. It will take several more months before we really have an idea how well it will work.

But even so, even with only a fraction of the force we intend to bring to bear turning red to pink and pink to white, and even including the attacks yesterday, the death rate in Baghdad over the past two months is dramatically lower -- about 40% lower than the two previous months.

And that also includes the annual Islamic religious celebration of massacring pilgrims on the road to Karbala, some of which spilled over into Baghdad (killing more people than were killed yesterday).

Good Lord, imagine being adrift in a lifeboat with Harry "Pinky" Mason Reid. He would announce that we were toast and suggest we capsize the boat -- within sight of the Port of Long Beach!

Reid is a reedy drudge, a drab, little man in a drab, little suit, toiling away in a drab, little office in the bowels of an ineffectual body of Congress, which has itself become a mere footnote in the march of destiny. Reid is Walter Mitty without the saving grace of imagination:

  • He waves his abnormally small fist -- former amateur boxer! -- and announces "we killed the Patriot Act!" But of course, he did no such thing. All he managed was to delay its reauthorization for a short bit by filibuster; it was reauthorized intact a couple of months later.
  • He bemoans that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, because that allowed to Court to uphold a federal law banning partial-birth abortion -- a law for which Reid himself actually voted!
  • He cannot decide whether he is for or against immigration, for or against gun control, for or against abortion.

"Pinky" Reid is the Director, from C.S. Lewis's seiminal novel That Hideous Strength, the third of his Perelandra series: the man who was never quite awake yet never entirely asleep, never found in broad sunlight nor yet in starry night; always betwixt and between, never actually deciding anything -- but ruling N.I.C.E. (the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments) as a perpetually ambiguous demonstration of the philosophy of perpetual twilight.

There is, however, one silver lining to the dark cloud Reid uses to rain defeatism and despondency on Gen. Petraeus's parade; this one nugget of information jumped out at me, perking me up immeasurably:

"I know I was like the odd guy out yesterday at the White House, but at least I told him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear," he added. ["Him" means the president; that "him."]

It is indeed heartening to read, from Reid himself, that his delusion that we have already lost the war is not shared by his fellow Democrats in the House and Senate delegations; Reid was, as he put it, "the odd guy out."

Odd indeed; and thankfully, more or less out -- of the reckoning. And by his own withdrawal. I suppose that even footnotes must have their footnotes.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 19, 2007, at the time of 3:02 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 17, 2007

The Soundering of Floundering

Afghan Astonishments , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

That sound you hear -- is the sound of Democrats running just fast enough to miss the train. "By jingo, what rotten luck!" I doubt their more radical constituents will be fooled.

For some reason known only to Eris, Goddess of Chaos, the Democrats seem to have convinced themselves that, no matter what President Bush said, he would sign their troop-handcuffing funding bill in the end. But as it becomes increasingly clear that he will veto it instead, just as he promised... it turns out that the Democrats never did have a "Plan B."

So what are they going to do? They don't know. It's obvious they can't simply proceed with the defunding of the war; they simply don't have the votes even to pass such a bill, let alone override a presidential veto. The House surrender bill passed by a bare majority, 218 to 212... and surprise, so did the Senate version, 51 to 47.

If even one, single Democrat refuses to go along with cutting off the troops and leaving them to the tender mercies of al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Militia, if a solitary member crosses the aisle in either house, the bill goes down in flames.

Congressional Democrats say there is no doubt President Bush will soon be confronted with legislation calling for an end to the Iraq war.

But the new majority must decide how far to go in trying to tie Bush's hands and what will happen after the president's inevitable veto.

The debate is likely to expose fissures among Democrats, who remain divided on whether to cut off money for the unpopular war and risk leaving troops in the lurch.

"My feeling is at a certain point we're going to have a 'come-to-Jesus' moment in the caucus and talk about whether you fund (the war) or not," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

"Baghdad" Jim McDermott (D-WA, 95%), you'll recall, visited Saddam Hussein in 2002 to show solidarity and received a $5,000 payoff from a Saddam insider, Shakir al Khafaji. It would be a miracle indeed if Baghdad Jim were to have a "come-to-Jesus" moment. He was reluctant to vote for the bill pushed by Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), not because it would hogtie our military commanders, but because it actually appropriated money to fight the war.

McDermott is trembling with excitement at the thought of making America lose. I suspect it's as close to a religious experience as he is ever likely to feel.

But there are other Democrats who would recoil from a troop-funding cutoff as from a leper's kiss: Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE, 35%), for example, or several of the Senate and House freshmen.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters Monday that should Bush veto the bill as expected, Democrats would likely opt to replace the withdrawal language with a "softer version" that ties U.S. aid to political progress made by the Iraqi government....

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Monday he was open to the idea.

"The president is not going to get a bill that has nothing on it," Reid said.

No; but he's likely to get a bill that may as well have "nothing on it." What will eventually land on the desk of the Commander in Chief will be a bill that fully funds the wars and includes vague "goals" and "benchmarks" that the Iraqis ought to meet... but no firm deadlines for withdrawal, and no "triggers" for withdrawal if X, Y, or Z isn't done by time T.

In other words, a clean bill with a little face-saving Democratic window dressing. And Reid and Pelosi will look even more like a pair of jackasses, braying out their defiance as they continue to pull the cart.

Thank goodness for Democratic cravenness. Just think of the fix we'd be in if the congressional Democrats had as much chutzpah as their insurgent allies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2007, at the time of 7:42 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 12, 2007

Newsflash and Followup: Chairman of Sen. Foreign Relations Committee Is an Airhead

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

The Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced yesterday that the "surge" is doomed; in the next breath, he demonstrates that he has no idea what the new strategy is:

Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D) said today that the Bush Administration's surge strategy in Iraq is doomed to fail and criticized Army General David Petraeus for offering what he called an overly optimistic assessment of the situation on the ground....

Biden paraphrased comments made by Petraeus several years ago that "there comes a moment in an invasion where you have a brief opportunity to set things straight and then it turns into an occupation," adding that "He was right then, he's wrong now...."

But it was Iraq where Biden was most strident, insisting that advocates of President Bush's strategy for reducing violence and killings in Iraq -- most notably McCain -- had no plan beyond adding more troops. "Assume the surge worked, then what?" asked Biden. "Stay there forever? If you don't stay there forever, what's the political solution?"

He also reiterated his belief that those -- including many within his own party -- who believe that a centralized democratic Iraqi government will emerge are flat wrong. "Not possible," Biden said. Biden has long advocated a proposal that would split Iraq into three sections occupied by the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, respectively.

...Did I mention that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) is running for Commander in Chief?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 12, 2007, at the time of 4:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 11, 2007

We Don't Need No Steenkin' Evidence!

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Has AP gone wobbly?

They appear to have inadvertently blurted out the truth... that the 110th Congress' Democratic majority wants to get rid of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- for no reason other than to show that they can. After the forced resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the Democrats hunger for another scalp, by any means necessary:

It all adds up to relentless pressure on an administration that for six years of Bush's tenure operated with virtually no oversight from the Republican-controlled Congress.

No longer.

Democrats don't have - or apparently need - evidence of wrongdoing to shake Gonzales' hold on his job or challenge the White House's defense of its internal deliberations.

But the odd thing is... AP doesn't appear to see anything wrong with this.





Is it just me?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2007, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

Congress Elects Itself President

Congressional Calamities , Globaloney Sandwich , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Congress is getting frisky.

Flush with their success in anointing themselves Commanders in Chief of the armed forces (via the supplementary funding bill for the troops) and chiefs of foreign policy (applauding as Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%, negotiates a separate peace at any price with Bashar Assad), Democratic and a few Republican legislators now want the rest of the cake.

They plan to pass a bill establishing a new heirarchy of national security and intelligence priorities for the United States. Demoted from the top spots are global jihadism and terrorist financing networks, the Middle East, nuclear proliferation, CBW, Red China, and North Korea.

Promoted to the top spot will be -- wait for it -- global climate change!

The CIA and Pentagon would for the first time be required to assess the national security implications of climate change under proposed legislation intended to elevate global warming to a national defense issue.

The bipartisan proposal, which its sponsors expect to pass the Congress with wide support, calls for the director of national intelligence to conduct the first-ever "national intelligence estimate" on global warming.

In other news, this month is shaping up as the coldest April ever. Except on Capitol Hill, which is experiencing an unusually hot high-pressure zone.

Lest you think Congress can be satisfied merely by a quick study, which finds that there are no such "national security implications," legislators insist not only that the CIA and the Department of Defenser report -- they demand the Executive agencies arrive at the correct conclusions... and then act on them:

The measure also would order the Pentagon to undertake a series of war games to determine how global climate change could affect US security, including "direct physical threats to the United States posed by extreme weather events such as hurricanes."

The article makes it pretty plain that the purpose is to completely bypass the EPA and the president and simply force the country to implement the Democrats' preferred solutions (smash the looms, same as their solution to "global cooling" in the 1970s). Once again, science is to be decided by a roll-call vote in the House and Senate:

The growing attention to global warming as a national security issue could open new avenues of support for tougher efforts to limit greenhouse gases, according to specialists.

"If you get the intelligence community to apply some of its analytic capabilities to this issue, it could be compelling to whoever is sitting in the White House," said Anne Harrington , director of the committee on international security at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington. "If the White House does not absorb the independent scientific expertise, then maybe something from the intelligence community might have more weight."

When confronted by scientists who refuse to toe the party line on global warming, it's always in the best tradition of the scientific process to turn to Lysenkoism.

There's not much else to say about this story. You can't parody a farce.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 10, 2007, at the time of 4:49 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 5, 2007

Dems: Do As We Say, Not As We Said!

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Our commenter Tomy directed my attention to this breath of fresh air on the Iraq supplemental funding bill... an opinion piece in today's Washington Post.

What is most astonishing is that it came from the pen -- word processor -- of former Bush-41 Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the fellow who successfully fought the Florida election debacle in the Supreme Court on behalf of his old boss's son, the current president. Oh yes, and the co-chair of the Iraq Study Group.

I rise in astonishment, because Baker has been pretty much of a pain in the tuchus for some months now, demanding more "diplomacy" with Iran and Syria (he does it again in this Op-Ed, but it's still worth reading).

You remember the Iraq Study Group, right? Evidently Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) does not. They were the bipartisan group (the other co-chair was former Democratic dauphin of the House Lee Hamilton) which produced a series of recommendations anent Iraq. Way back in the dim mists of January, it pleased the Democrats to declare those recommendations the single most important blueprint for moving that thorny problem forward... and they insisted, nay demanded, that President George W. Bush follow every last jot and tittle of that report.

Well today, Baker reminds us of one of the most important of the ISG's recommendations -- one that appears to have slipped Mr. Reid's mind:

The best, and perhaps only, way to build national agreement on the path forward is for the president and Congress to embrace the only set of recommendations that has generated bipartisan support: the Iraq Study Group report...

The report does not set timetables or deadlines for the removal of troops, as contemplated by the supplemental spending bills the House and Senate passed. In fact, the report specifically opposes that approach. As many military and political leaders told us, an arbitrary deadline would allow the enemy to wait us out and would strengthen the positions of extremists over moderates. A premature American departure from Iraq, we unanimously concluded, would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions in Iraq and possibly other countries.

In addition, many of the provisions of Lt.Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy embrace the unanimous recommendations found in that document. For example:

The president's plan increases the number of American advisers embedded in Iraqi army units, with the goal that the Iraqi government will assume control of security in all provinces by November. It outlines benchmarks and indicates that the Iraqi government must act to attain them. He has approved ministerial-level meetings of all of Iraq's neighbors, including Syria and Iran; the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council; and other countries.

Well how about it, Sen. Reid? Do you -- or do you not -- wish us to follow the ISG's bipartisan recommendations?

If so, you and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 90%) surely cannot insist upon timetables for surrender and defunding the troops! As Chairman Baker of the Iraq Study Group writes...

An important way to encourage Iraqis to work together is to hold them to the type of benchmarks that Congress, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have all considered. If the Iraqi government does not meet those benchmarks, the United States "should reduce its political, military, or economic support for the Iraqi government," the report said. But we did not suggest that this be codified into legislation. The report doesn't recommend a firm deadline for troop removal unless America's military leadership believes that the situation warrants it.

Nothing has happened since the report was released that would justify changing that view. Setting a deadline for withdrawal regardless of conditions in Iraq makes even less sense today because there is evidence that the temporary surge is reducing the level of violence in Baghdad. As Baghdad goes, so goes Iraq.

I can only say -- and I know I'll hate myself in the morning -- that the Democrats were for the Iraq Study Group recommendations before they were against them.

I sure hope Tony Snow is in good enough shape to call a bigger than usual press conference, invite the entire White House press gang -- and hurl the Baker Op-Ed right in their fat, pasty, moon faces.

And thanks, Tomy... that was a great comment.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2007, at the time of 12:45 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 4, 2007

Cutting Off Your Dough to Spike Your Race

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), in a snit that the president will exercise his constitutional authority to veto a congressional bill micromanaging the surrender, now vows to cut all funding for the war.

Perhaps Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will take her hijab off long enough to tell Harry Reid to "calm down."

As a quick aside, I had no idea just how fatuous Pelosi's entire statement was. First, President Bush explains why he will veto the bill:

"The consequences of imposing such a specific and random date of withdrawal would be disastrous," he said. "Our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars. They'd spend the months ahead plotting how to use their new safe haven once we were to leave. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C. to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away."

Perhaps I'm just viewing everything he says through red-state-colored glasses; but honestly, he doesn't sound either hysterical or out of control -- the times when it might make sense for someone to say "calm down." To me, it sounds like a calm, simple, and straightforward recitation of what would likely happen were he to sign that bill.

Then the Squeaker responds:

"On this very important matter, I would extend a hand of friendship to the president to say to him, calm down with the threats," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill. "There's a new Congress in town. We respect your constitutional role. We want you to respect ours.

"When the president says he wants to veto this bill he says, I am vetoing accountability - accountability of my own administration and of the Iraqi government," she added. "He says, I forbid. He told me, I forbid, I forbid accountability. I forbid additional assistance and meeting the health needs of our military and our veterans. I forbid meeting the needs of the people struck by Katrina. I forbid [SCHIP] helping the poorest children in America get healthcare. I forbid disaster agriculture assistance to farmers and cattlemen across the country who need this help."

I forbid? Again, I'm hardly Mr. Even-Handed... but this sounds exactly like Violet Beauregarde pitching a tantrum because she can't have a clown, a pony, a tattoo, and the Harajuku Girls on her eighth birthday party. "You don't ever let me have anything! You don't want me anymore, and I'm going to throw myself in the trash!"

Anyway, back to the annoying Sen. Reid and his puppet friends, who actually seem mature by comparison:

Reid's new strategy faces an uphill battle because many of his colleagues see yanking funds as a dangerous last resort. The proposal increases the stakes on the debate and marks a new era for the Democratic leadership once reluctant to talk about Congress' power of the purse.

"In the face of the administration's stubborn unwillingness to change course, the Senate has no choice but to force a change of course," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who signed on Monday as a co-sponsor of Reid's proposal with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

What fascinates me is the Democrats' stubborn unwillingness to admit that the appointment of Lt.Gen. Petraeus is a strategic change of course: It marks the first time the American military has treated the Iraq war as a counterinsurgency, rather than a traditional force-on-force engagement of one national power against another.

At the beginning, it was entirely a standard invasion: Our enemies was the Iraqi Army of Saddam Hussein and especially the feared Republican Guard (which turned out not to be as bad as they looked on paper); it was a classical manuever-war of regiment vs. regiment. But that phase quickly ended in total victory for the Coalition, as the Baath Party government completely collapsed.

Then we had an interregnum of several months, during which nobody really knew what to do: There was no replacement government, but the insurgency had not yet started. The Coalition Provisional Authority made some progress (and some regress) at rebuilding the country... but nothing done during this time, no matter how clever or thoughtful, would have prevented the rise of a dueling pair of insurgencies: an al-Qaeda-backed Sunni terrorist insurgency, and an Iranian-backed Shiite militia insurgency.

There was a power vacuum in Iraq, and both of the ascendant powers of the Middle East rushed to fill it. In response, we had to rush back in ourselves, this time into a proxy war between Iran, the transnational Sunni jihadis, the ex-Baathists (who still fantasized returning to power), and the Iraqi Ex-Pats -- Achmed Chalabi and that lot, who had little but the title of "interim Prime Minister."

After that shook out, the Iraqi people voted in three successively more successful elections to create a government... at that moment, the enemy's focus shifted to a true insurgency, à la the Algerian FLN.

Alas, our own strategy was not as nimble; we remained committed to the earlier strategy of force on force... so we were stymied.

We killed lots of bad guys but never seemed to make headway, which is exactly what happened to France in Algeria. Finally, Lt.Col. David Galula realized the dreadful mistake France was making and devised a counterinsurgency strategy instead. The war turned completely around within a year... but the politics at home did not, and the French poodles pulled the plug -- by pretending that nothing had changed, there was no "change of course," and everything was hopeless.

The point is that Petraeus is doing the same thing in Iraq that Galula did in Algeria and will likely have the same impact on the war. Rather than admit this, however, the Democrats continue to insist that the president displays a "stubborn unwillingness to change course." There are two macro-explanations for this rhetoric:

  • Majority Leader Reid, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and a strong majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress sincerely cannot see the difference between a force-on-force strategy and a counterinsurgency strategy... so they're being honest (but stupid) when they say nothing has changed;
  • They do understand that Bush appointed Petraeus precisely in order to make a major strategic change; but for some occult reason, the only "change of course" the Democrats will accept is 180 degrees about... from moving forward to a strategic rearward redeployment to next-door Okinawa.

I would ordinarily find the first explanation sufficient for Reid, Kerry, and Pelosi, whose intellects are -- let's face it -- not quite first-class. But I cannot believe that their Defense aides are that stupid. And generally, senators don't simply blow off their top aides and start freelancing their most important positions. So I have to assume that, at the very least, they have been informed about the distinction between then and now in Iraq.

So that brings us back to explanation 2: that they know, but either they don't care or, more disturbingly... that they actually fear victory more than they fear defeat.

Mindful that they hold a shaky majority in Congress and that neither chamber has enough votes to override a presidential veto, Democrats are already thinking about the next step after Bush rejects their legislation.

Reid said Monday that if that happens, he will join forces with Feingold, one of the party's most liberal members who has long called to end the war by denying funding for it.

Reid has previously stopped short of embracing Feingold's position. When asked whether he would ever consider pulling funds for the troops, Reid said Congress would provide troops what they needed to be safe.

Reid's latest proposal would give the president one year to get troops out, ending funding for combat operations after March 31, 2008.

"If the president vetoes the supplemental appropriations bill and continues to resist changing course in Iraq, I will work to ensure this legislation receives a vote in the Senate in the next work period," Reid said in a statement.

This line makes the entire argument sound like a power struggle between two branches of the government. It's certainly true that both the Squeaker and the Majority Mouse seem quite intent upon aggrandizing the power of Congress at the expense of diminishing the office of the presidency itself. This actually makes sense for them, no matter who wins in 2008:

  • If a Republican wins the presidency, then naturally the Democrats in the Senate and House would prefer he arrive already emasculated;
  • But the Democrats almost certainly believe that the Democratic nominee will be Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); so if she wins... well, let's just say there can only be one queen-bee in a hive.

    I don't think the Divine Ms. P. would appreciate suddenly playing lady-in-waiting to Her Hell-to-payness; and I'm sure that Mr. R. will side with Ms. P. on any issue of relative power between the legislative and the executive branches.

Thus I might be tempted to believe the worst -- that the congressional Democrats want to pull out before the Petraeus counterinsurgency can bear fruit because victory in Iraq is the very last thing they want to see -- were it not for this one argument, which the Democrats appear sincerely to believe... and which certainly boosts the meme that Democrats really are that dense:

Reid's proposal is unlikely to pass. But Democrats say they believe with each passing week - as the violence in Iraq continues and voters grow increasingly tired of the war - they pick up additional support.

This argument presupposes, as an axiom not subject to debate, that the strategy will fail, that Iraq will just get worse and worse, and that defeat is preordained by Gaia.

If the Democrats thought, no matter how secretly, that the counterinsurgency had any chance of success, they would not follow their current course: After all, if six months pass and Reid and Pelosi are still struggling to yank us out of Iraq -- at the very same time that Iraq is looking better and more winnable with every passing day -- that cannot possibly be anything but catastrophic for Democratic congressional and presidential chances in 2008.

Instead, if the majority Democrats thought there was even the smallest possibility of success, they would back away, say "we're going to give President Bush one last chance to turn this around," and then wait and see which way to jump when the outcome becomes a little less hazy.

If it failed, then they would be well-positioned to begin passing defeat-and-retreat bills in October, still long before the first primaries in January (unless New Hampshire gets caught up in a game of "can you top this" and changes their primary date to this coming July).

But if the strategy succeeded, then the Democrats could pat themselves on the back, crow with triumph about how their own forbearance gave Petraeus enough time to pull it out, and find some way to minimize the damage.

Therefore, they must truly believe our efforts are doomed. And that means that when the Petraeus strategy actually works, the Democrats are going to end up looking like Charlie Brown when someone line-drives one of his pitches: upside-down with shoes and clothes flying off in all directions.

Now... here is the take-away from this story: There is one remarkable point that has eluded all the "pundants" in the big-box media:

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said if legislation to cut off funding for the war fails, Reid will try again with the hopes of getting new supporters. "It is the next in a series of steps to try to ratchet up the pressure to try to get the administration to change its policies," he said.

The bill to cut off funds for the war would likely be introduced as standalone legislation and would not be tied to the supplemental spending bill, Manley said.

That tells me that Reid is resigned to giving the president a clean troop-funding bill after Bush vetoes the current bill. To a poker player as savvy as George W. Bush, this "tell" may as well be a neon sign flashing "busted flush, busted flush."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 4, 2007, at the time of 5:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 3, 2007

Raft of Daft Drafts Wafted Aft

Congressional Calamities , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Yet another wacky Democratic voice has joined the growing chorus within the caucus to reinstate the military draft... none other than everyone's favorite friend of the military, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA, 65%):

"I voted against the volunteer army because I felt if we ever had a war, we wouldn't be able to sustain [it]," Murtha said during the March 29 edition of CNN's "The Situation Room."

"This is one of the smallest armies we've had since before World War II, right before the Korean War," added the congressman [this is a great help for anyone who doesn't recall when World War II occurred; now you know it was "right before the Korean War."]. Murtha, a frequent critic of the war in Iraq, claimed that the president's handling of the war has depleted the country's strategic reserve.

"And I think also, everybody ought to be able to serve in this country," Murtha said. "I think we ought to not just have a select few who volunteer. I think everybody ought to be obligated to serve. [Did Murtha just change his mind in mid-ramble, or does he literally see no difference between "be able to serve" and "be obligated to serve?"]

"We'd do it by lottery, and we'd call everybody up," he continued. "I think we have a citizen's army is what it ought to be, not just a volunteer professional army."

Murtha -- Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee -- thus joins House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY, 95%), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 100%), and then-Sen. Fritz Hollings, Rangel's co-sponsor in the Senate. That's three members of the House leadership and one senior senator who want to reinstate the military draft... and they're all anti-war Democrats!

In fact, Rangel admits that the primary reason for reinstating the draft would be to make it virtually impossible for the United States to actually use its military; like the rest of the Democratic Party, they're living in the past, longing for the good ol' days of mass anti-war protests shaking the foundations of the nation (or so they fantasize; the reality was much less melodramatic):

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Rangel and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in Dec. 2002 proposed a reinstatement of the military draft in an attempt to stall possible military action against Iraq.

"I think if [members of Congress] went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war," Rangel said at the time, "there would be more cautiousness and more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.'"

The funniest part, however, is the expert trotted out to promote the draft: "John Roper, professor of history at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va." Mr. Roper explains why conscript soldiers are much better than trained, professional volunteers:

"They defeated the professionals who were well trained and who were, on paper, better suited to the battle," he added. "Citizen soldiers accomplished the stated mission in every war from 1775 to 1973.

...Because, of course, everybody knows that the British during the 1700s never conscripted soldiers; and there were no draftees in the Civil War, or among the Axis armies in World Wars I and II (Hitler was morally opposed to forced labor, you see). As well, every member of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army was a trained, professional volunteer... Uncle Ho would never force anyone to fight against his will!

I'm certainly glad I never attended Emory & Henry College.

"Such a drafted army looked like America, as some like to say of other things," Roper stated. "It was America. Everybody was in the army, all racial groups, all religious beliefs, every kind of character, people from every class.

As opposed to today's American military, one presumes -- which exclusively comprises blacks, the poor, and people who din't studie in skool and got stuk in irak. This was Rangel's other reason for the draft, he claims: Because the military now is "30% minority."

But according to the 2000 census, America is 31% "minority." (Only 69.1% of the American population is "non-Hispanic white.") Today, the population is even more minority than seven years ago; I wonder if the military has kept up? (I doubt it.)

Does Rangel want the military to be whiter than the country, affording its manifold opportunities and advantages to fewer minorities than it does today? Rangel defends his own attempt to reinstate the draft thus:

People "from the lower economic levels of our society" should not be the only ones placed in harm's way, [Rangel] said.

This has got to be a first for Charlie Rangel -- the first time he has ever demanded a federal affirmative-action program to ensure that America's largest employer hires more rich white kids!

In the real world, the military population is more educated, more accomplished, and more likely to achieve success later in life than the American population as a whole. Looking at John Murtha's syntax above -- "I think we have a citizen's army is what it ought to be" -- I'm not sure he would be qualified to enlist nowadays.

But back to Mr. Roper:

"The beauty of the uniform was that it could not be designer made, and the poor could wear it as proudly as the wealthy," he noted. "The beauty of the mission was that a democratic people could vote to start it or stop it.

We all distinctly remember that there was a "national war plebiscite" before each and every one of America's previous wars... until Iraq rolled around. Then, not even Congress got to vote. King George simply flung us into combat, willy nilly, over the stentorian objections of the House and Senate! (And George Bush went it alone, too... he and his forty allies.)

Heavens, I used to think I remembered at least something from my history classes; but evidently, I am a complete ignoramus, unaware of the most basic facts about the rapture and joy with which Americans greeted the draft in ages past... and also so unobservant that I'm unaware of the mass protests and riots against the all-volunteer army, demanding that Rangel's Roundup immediately restore the Selective Service process.

I have forgotten all about the Civil War volunteer riots; and a century later, the dirty, smelly hippies out in the streets in the 1960s, chanting "F--- the trained, professional, all-volunteer army!"

I should start reading newspapers.

In any event, just so long as all the teenagers in this country understand who is pushing this -- the leaders of the Democratic Party -- and that it's the Republicans in Congress and running the Pentagon who vigorously oppose it. But I have the sinking feeling that if Rangel, Conyers, and Murtha ever get this passed... somehow, it will turn out to be all Bush's fault.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 3, 2007, at the time of 6:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 30, 2007

That Was Then, This Is Still Then. To Them. You Dig?

Congressional Calamities , Cultures and Contortions , Illiberal Liberalism , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Just a few Spring mullings...

The more I ponder the Democrats, the more amazed am I at their anachronism. They insist upon living in the past. But unlike Civil War reenactors or the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Left also insists that the rest of us live in their past, as well.

Virtually every position they actually take -- and there aren't many -- is an attempt to relive the "good, old days" of the 1960s (actually, a fantasy 60s that's more like Tribes, Billy Jack, or Hair). In their own tepid way, they are as anxious to recreate a bygone era as are Islamic fundamentalists... which may be one reason they find it easier to understand our enemies than fellow Americans.

Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho

First and most obvious is the Democratic/liberal/New Left support for governance by protest. Back in the very late 60s and early 70s, "protest" was more than a means of political expression; it became, for the first time in American history, a lifestyle choice for a small but influential segment of the populace... a populace that has now grown old (if not up) and seized the levers of governmental power.

The 1960s saw the rise of the professional agitator in America; in this, they mimicked the professional rabble-rousers of Europe, starting in the late 19th century and through the early 20th. But as usual in America, nothing succeeds like excess: Our professional agitators became an entire "class."

Thousands of people decided to take Timothy Leary's advice to "turn on, tune in, drop out" without having the least idea what Leary was talking about: There was a chance to freeload in there somewhere, and by golly, they were going to grab it! Most of the hippies weren't particularly political; but when the Yippies took over the "movement," it became explicitly hard-left; in fact, the Youth International Party paved the way for the Symbionese Liberation Army, the ultimate expression of "action directe."

Action directe, besides being the actual name of an actual terrorist group in France, is the philosophy that rational discussion is no longer sufficient to change the direction of the country towards socialism (or more often, Stalinism). Rather, revolutionaries must take "direct action"... that is, protest, sabotage, and violence.

Political violence is like a drug that comes with a built-in higher rationale:

  • It gives the user an amazing high;
  • It's addictive;
  • It becomes all-consuming, so that the addict must drop out of the normal world. Soon, it's the only thing that matters in the addict's life.

(Terrorism is the ultimate example of action directe, of course; but that takes more courage than is found in most American lefties... to our great good fortune.)

As anybody knows who has paid attention in the past few years, protest as a way of life, which had faded from view for decades, is back... big time. Cindy Sheehan may be the best exemplar. (Warning, harshness alert!) She appears to have filled the void left by her son Casey's heroic death in Iraq with perpetual protest against... well, virtually everything. It's hard to pin her down.

But she has abandoned her real family (including her other son) in favor of the permanent-protester acolytes, who call her "Mother Sheehan" and treat her like a visiting saint.

Sheehan is joined on the agitation circuit by virtually every major Democratic politician; they drift from protest to protest, delivering drive-by remarks on a variety of subject about which they are ignorant. At each venue, they lead the audience in some version of the "hey, hey, ho, ho" chant -- e.g., "Hey, hey, ho, ho, western civ has got to go!"

Puppets and pageantry fill the empty corners of their lives the way that family, friends, and civic activities fill the lives of real Americans. I mean literal puppets: Giant marionettes and Hindenburg-sized inflatable animals are perennials at every major protest, just like they are at every children's party.

Most of the perennial protesting politicians did at least go to university during the 60s; but curiously, many were not, in fact, hippies, Yippies, or protesters themselves (think Hillary Clinton). So it may not be nostalgia so much as a "mulligan." It's an attempt to go back in time and actually engage in the socially conscious behavior they always secretly admired, longed to join, but lacked the courage to do: They wish they could have been, if not Jerry Rubin or Abbie Hoffman, at least John Kerry or Jane Fonda.

And of course, given the age advantage of most Democratic party leaders and the fact that they have at least confabulated memories of the great protest "movement" of the 60s, they still receive the worshipful attention of the mass of today's 20-something protesters -- giving them a hit of a stronger and more addictive drug: guruhood.

For those who want a taste of action directe but aren't gutsy enough to go skinny dipping in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the natural analog is governance by judicial fiat: They take their political theater into the courtroom, shop for a sympathetic judge, and parade a circus of pathetic victims whose woes can only be cured by the direct judicial imposition of socialism, atheism, infanticide, and euthanasia.

Hey, hey, LBJ...

The 60s protests had two distinct foci: the civil-rights movement and the anti-war movement. The latter is most obviously relevant today, with the Iraq war dominating the American consciousness like the Incredible Hulk.

It's one thing to protest the plight of the poor, American support for fascist dictators, genetically engineered corn, abortion rights, grapes, or trans-fats. It is an altogether finer thing to protest a war.

For one thing, wars are big, violent, and obvious; you don't need to enunciate a complex explanation of the evils of war -- as you do when protesting the evils of carbon dioxide, which everybody exhales and green plants love.

All you need do is show pictures of dead, bloody bodies, and you're in business. Who could possibly be in favor of dead and/or mulilated kids? The only trick is to make people believe that America is responsible whenever the enemy commits an atrocity... which is not a difficult task, as most people around the world believe that the American government is God and can do anything it wants. So if it's not preventing some catastrophe, the only explanation is -- they want it to happen!

Thus, President Bush wanted Hurricane Katrina to kill those hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, because the victims were all poor, black Democrats. He wanted the tsunami to wipe out large portions of the developing world. And he certainly wanted those 650,000 (or was that 650 million?) innocent civilians to die horribly in Iraq.

The first two are hard sells, because most Americans are somewhat skeptical of the ability of the President of the United States to prevent natural disasters by signing the Kyoto Protocol. But since we did, in fact, invade Iraq -- a peaceful country led by an enlightened leader who was keeping the Islamists at bay and bringing prosperity and love to his people -- that's an easy sell to anyone who doesn't like Bush. Or Republicans. Or Southerners. Or anyone who believes in the biblical God.

But being anti-war is more than just protesting; it too is a way of political life. Being anti-war means never having to say you're guilty: It provides absolution for any other sin you may commit. This time, think of the corrupt Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%) -- or the ambulance-chasing, settlement-extorting John Edwards.

You don't even need to enunciate a coherent anti-war position, one that tackles the original danger that sparked the war in the first place. All you need do is intone the appropriate mantra -- "war is not the answer," "give peace a chance," "the survivors will envy the dead," "Bush lied, people died" -- and you never have to answer the question of what would have happened had we not gone to war.

War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. So obviously, we must have peace at any price... even if the price is surrender to jihad.

No justice, no peace!

The original cause that spawned the protests of the 60s was civil rights; mass ant-war protest came later. There is a huge advantage to trying to recreate the civil rights era in today's political culture, but there is also a minor drawback:

  • There really, truly was a nationwide culture of racism and bigotry that had to be overcome, not just in the South but everywhere: Consider the "zoot-suit riots" in Los Angeles, for only one example.

    Few people today could look back with equanimity at what ordinary Americans, just a few decades ago, could say and support without feeling shame. Segregation was not invented; and we really did have whites-only public facilities, government sponsored terrorism against Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and Chinese, and concentration camps for Americans of Japanese descent (Michelle Malkin notwithstanding).

  • But on the other hand, no such climate exists today. Thus, effective protesters must invent one.

That challenge means the agitator must identify all three elements: the victim, the perp, and the crime. But this can actually be a strategic advantage (when life gives you lemons, squirt lemon juice in people's eyes). During the actual civil-rights era, it was easy for people to ensure they were on the right side: just oppose racial discrimination (Jim Crow laws) while supporting racial discrimination (affirmative action), and you were home free!

But when the Left gets to indentify not only the actors but even the crime itself, then everyone is potentially guilty... so no one is secure.

  • Yesterday, the victims were oppressed atheists, the bigots were those who believe in the Judeo-Christian God, and the crime was allowing any cross to be visible anywhere in the United States, rather than hidden decently behind closed church doors. (And sometimes not even there; I cite the College of William & Mary.)
  • Today, the victims du jour are radical Moslems, the bigots are those who support the war on global jihad, and the crime is failing to respect the jihadists' religion, which requires them to throw the Jew down the well.
  • In early 2001, the victims were Afghan women, the bigots were freshman President George W. Bush and his administration, and the crime was doing absolutely nothing to boot the Taliban out of Afghanistan. See how adaptable the game is?

Maybe tomorrow, the victims will be religious Christian leftists who believe in liberation theology, the bigots will be secular Americans, and the crime will be refusing to vote for socialized medicine and same-sex marriage. We shall overcome!

Where have all the flowers gone?

The Democratic Party has three core crusades, in order of increasing abstraction:

  1. End the Iraq war at any price: So they agitate for withdrawal, release of political prisoners such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, and reinstating the draft, Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-Harlem, 95%) favorite hobby horse: Terror of the draft spawns million-mom anti-war rallies.
  2. Eliminate the Jim-Crow laws that elevate Judeo-Christian culture and oppress other religions, such as Islam, Wicca, and Santeria: So they agitate for polygamy, gay marriage, and animal sacrifice.
  3. Suppress democracy -- legislative action -- in favor of judicial decree and action directe: So they support activist judges and nominate politicians who cater to protest groups, from CAIR, to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, to NOW, to NARAL, to International ANSWER, to NAMBLA.

Each affords the opportunity for Democrats to revel in a past that never was -- or at least never was for them; to riot and agitate and feel the joy of bluster and bravado without the actual risk of combat; to fulfill every libertine fantasy they ever dreamt while toiling away in college; to feel self-righteous and wash away the sins that bedevil them; and simply to indulge the childish desire to run off and join the carnival (complete with a Washington freak show that dims the luster of the geek, the fat lady, and the half-man, half-woman).

Nostalgic for yesterday, frightened by tomorrow, and befuddled by today, the Democrats drive pedal to the metal, while staring fixedly in the rear-view mirror. I hope the American people prefer to watch where we're going.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 30, 2007, at the time of 3:59 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 28, 2007

The Politics of Politics

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Yes! Exactly!

The Democrats are finally understanding the underlying issue of the U.S. 8:

Democrats have described the firings as an "intimidation by purge" and a warning to remaining U.S. attorneys to fall in line with Bush's priorities. Political pressure, Democrats say, can skew the judgment of prosecutors when deciding whom to investigate and which indictments to pursue.

You got it at last! That is exactly the issue: the fired United States Attorneys were canned precisely because they refused to "fall in line" with the president's priorities. And I sure hope "political pressure... can skew the judgment of prosecutors when deciding whom to investigate and which indictments to pursue." What's wrong with that?

Under the Democrats, political pressure skewed prosecutors' judgment to not investigate, indict, or prosecute terrorists; and it skewed their judgment to investigate and indict corporate polluters and "institutional racism."

Political pressure under the Bush administration has skewed prosecutors' judgment to investigate and prosecute terrorism, financial support for terrorism, corporate accounting scandals, and election fraud. That is the consequence of rejecting a Democratic presidential candidate and electing (and reelecting) a Republican president instead: The Executive priorities likewise change.

[Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff Kyle] Sampson, who resigned this month because of the furor over the firings, is to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In his prepared testimony, he maintained that adherence to the priorities of the president and attorney general was a legitimate standard.

Of course it is. Congress may differ with the president; the Court may file its own flight plan. But we have a unitary Executive; every single person in the administration -- every department, every agency, all of the Gnomes of the EOB... and even the 93 United States Attorneys -- should "fall in line with [the president's] priorities."

The Secretary of State doesn't get to conduct his own foreign policy contrary to the president's. The Secretary of Defense cannot start a war or invade a country over the objections of the Commander in Chief... just as the VP of sales cannot decide simply to ignore the product priorities of the CEO and the board of directors and pursue his own policies, as if he were in charge.

If he does, he will be given his walking papers.

Thank you, Democrats, for finally understanding that. What took you so long? (Did you attend public schools in Democratic districts?)

"Presidential appointees are judged not only on their professional skills but also their management abilities, their relationships with law enforcement and other governmental leaders and their support for the priorities of the president and the attorney general," Sampson said.

He strongly denied Democrats' allegations that some of the prosecutors were dismissed for pursuing Republicans too much and Democrats not enough in corruption cases.

"To my knowledge, nothing of the sort occurred here," he said.

To my knowledge, though the Democrats frequently drop sly hints to that effect, none has had the honesty to point to a single, specific instance where a prosecutor was demonstrably fired for pursuing corruption cases against a Republican, causing the case to collapse. And a "scandal" must have many such instances to warrant attention. Democrats don't even trouble to make the case anymore, preferring to rely upon inuendo and journalists' morbid imaginations.

True, individuals, including Sampson himself, are at risk if they deliberately lied to Congress. But on the merits of the case itself -- firing the attorneys -- there is not only no underlying crime, there is no underlying scandal: The firings were completely proper.

And I'm pleased that the Democrats themselves seem to recognize that fact, albeit only tacitly; that explains their shift of focus from "what did Bush know, and when did he know it" to "what did Kyle Sampson say, and why did he say it?"

In the end, even there, I suspect nothing will come if it, except to convince the American people that the Democrats are obsessed with one and only one goal: to "get" the president, by any means necessary.

This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.

Let Leahy tingle his bell. Poor fellow... what else has he got?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 28, 2007, at the time of 5:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 27, 2007

Double Secret Withdrawal Date

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The most bizarre and grotesque suggestion -- risible, actually -- anent the Senate version of the emergency supplemental funding bill for the troops in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan comes from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR, 75%)... who should win the Northern Alliance's vaunted "Loon of the Week" award, if there's any justice.

Pryor bravely stood up and voted against the previous Democratic attempt to cripple our troops. But he's feeling the heat -- the molten lava -- from "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," as the late Sen. Paul Wellstone used to call his beloved nutroots. Pryor is desperate to find some accomodation that will allow him to vote for the bill.

But he cannot vote to have a firm timetable and simply announce it to the enemy: "Just hold on until this date, and you're home free!" He knows, as does every other Democrat, that this is a prescription for miltary defeat; but unlike the rest of them (including former political hero Ben Nelson, D-NE, 35%, this time), Mark Pryor actually doesn't want us to be defeated.

So he has come up with what he imagines to be a compromise:

Unlike the plan's Republican opponents, Pryor wants a withdrawal deadline of some kind. He just doesn't want anyone outside the White House, Congress and the Iraqi government to know what it is.

"My strong preference would be to have a classified plan and a classified timetable that should be shared with Congress," Pryor said yesterday. A public deadline would tip off the enemy, "who might just bide their time and wait for us to leave," he said. "Then you'd have chaos and mayhem and instability."

There you go! We have a firm withdrawal date... but we keep it a secret: It would only be known by the president, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, many people working in the Departments of Defense and State and in the CIA, all the generals, colonels, and many of the majors in Iraq -- and the entire United States Congress -- plus staff!

I make that out to be somewhere north of 1,500 people. So it's a secret that's only shared among the population of a small town. But wait -- Sen. Pryor has already thought of that, ah, potential source for leaks. He has an answer:

Pryor said a classified plan would be provided by the president, shepherded by Senate committees and ultimately shared with Congress and Iraqi leaders. He is confident that the plan would remain secret, because Congress is entrusted with secrets "all the time."

Yup... secrets such as the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program, the SWIFT financial tracking program, spy satellite programs -- or for that matter, the fact that we had captured and interrogated some of the terrorists who hijacked the Achille Lauro.

Do we know for sure that each of these blown secrets was leaked by members of Congress (or their staffs, who would also know)? Some of them, yes; but not all of them. Some were blown by Democratic members of the CIA or the State Department (same thing)... and only confirmed by members of Congress. And in the end, it makes no difference whether the double secret withrawal date is blown by Congress or disgruntled bureaucrats in the administration; it'll be blown by somebody.

In fact, you wouldn't even need a direct leak to the New York Times. All it would take to blow this one would be a congressional budget that showed a sharp decline in Iraq war funding starting in a particular quarter. Hm... I wonder what that could mean?

Suppose Congress and the president did enact this double secret classified withdrawal date. Suppose you are a reporter for the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, or any other elite news agency. What would be you number-one priority? With hundreds of reporters calling every, single person they know to get that date, I cannot imagine that the "secret" would last longer than three days -- classified or not.

And if Pryor doesn't know that -- he ought to; he's been around D.C. since he was three years old.

Mark Pryor may be unique among Senate Democrats in actually feeling a slight twinge of regret at the thought of Congress forcing America to lose the Iraq war; but he certainly shares with his colleagues (left and right) the general congressional inability to follow a chain of events to its logical conclusion.

And in the end, it made no difference; the Senate has just voted 50-48 not to strip the timetable from the Senate bill; Pryor voted to strip the timetable... but in the end, he will vote for the final bill. Bush will veto it, and the veto will easily be sustained.

And the kabuki dance goes on, while our troops twist slowly, slowly in the wind.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 27, 2007, at the time of 3:16 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

March 26, 2007

The New Media Math: 3 + 2 = 2.5

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Quick quiz: According to this AP article, how many Republicans have now turned against Alberto Gonzales and joined hands with Democrats to force Karl Rove to testify?

Republican support for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales eroded Sunday as three key [GOP] senators sharply questioned his honesty over last fall's firings of eight federal prosecutors. Additionally, two Democrats joined the list of lawmakers calling for Gonzales' ouster.

Several Republicans also urged President Bush to allow sworn testimony from his top aides about their role in dismissing the U.S. attorneys - a standoff threatening to result in Capitol Hill subpoenas of White House officials.

Let's see... "three key senators," plus "several Republicans" equals... mumble mumble, carry the nine... that would be -- less than three, right?

How is that possible? By the "new math" of the media elite, of course:

  • The "three key senators" who questioned Gonzales's honesty yesterday were Arlen Specter (R-PA, 43%), Lindsay Graham (R-SC, 83%), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 75%).
  • Yet despite the AP trying their level best to make it appear as if those "several Republicans" calling for Rove and Harriet Miers to testify under oath were different from the group above, in fact they were the same -- with one MIA: Lindsay Graham opposes subpoenaing the president's close aides, urging instead that Congress accept Bush's offer of private discussions to answer questions related to the firing of 8 United States Attorneys.

So in other words, three GOP senators think Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is a liar; but only two of them want to see top White House aides questioned under oath. Hence, 3 + 2 = 2.5... not 5.

The rest of the article merely reiterates the malign mischaracterization of Gonzales's response about his attendance at meetings... and we have already thoroughly discredited this claim.

But at least now we know that the "elite" media, which so often appears illiterate in decoding simple English sentences, is evidently innumerate as well.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 26, 2007, at the time of 6:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 24, 2007

What the Meaning of "Fizz" Is

Congressional Calamities , Laughable Lawyers , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Now that's a scandal!

I don't mean the firing of eight United States Attorneys who had agendas and priorities that differed from the president's; I mean the scandalous abuse of the English language by Senate Democrats, aided and abetted by their unindicted co-conspirators in the elite media. See if you can follow this:

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys.

On Friday night, however, the Justice Department revealed Gonzales' participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.

Ooh! Sounds bad, eh? Let's get a few more details...

At that meeting, the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales' aides said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week....

The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.

(AP fails to inform us what the fifth step was; sacrificing some liberal toddler on the Cthulhu altar in the bowels of Karl Rove's office, no doubt.)

[Justice spokeswoman Tasia] Scolinos said it was not immediately clear whether Gonzales gave his final approval to begin the firings at that meeting. Scolinos also said Gonzales was not involved in the process of selecting which prosecutors would be asked to resign.

On March 13, in explaining the firings, Gonzales told reporters he was aware that some of the dismissals were being discussed but was not involved in them.

So let's parse this:

  • Gonzales says that he was not involved in "any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys." He was not involved in selecting which USAs would be let go.
  • Kyle Sampson was in charge of the actual selection process.
  • Gonzales may or may not have signed the final document.
  • But now we find out that he was, in fact, a party to discussions about how to go about revealing to the world that they had been fired.

And the Democrat's response at this "contradiction?"

Nonetheless Democrats pounced late Friday.

"Clearly the attorney general was not telling the whole truth, but what is he trying to hide?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"If the facts bear out that Attorney General Gonzales knew much more about the plan than he has previously admitted, then he can no longer serve as attorney general," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who is heading the Senate's investigation into the firings.

Added House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers:

"This puts the attorney general front and center in these matters, contrary to information that had previously been provided to the public and Congress."

Mindful of the language restrictions on this blog, I will constrain myself to acronyms: GMAFB.

Any ordinary person, when asked if he was involved in discussions about firing the attorneys, would understand the question to mean, "Did you participate in discussions about which attorneys -- if any -- to fire?" And he would honestly say "No, I did not."

Nobody but a Democrat in full cry, anxious to find something, anything, to justify more scandalmongering, would imagine that the original question would also include any ancillary discussions about the best way to break the news to the press!

Here is the analogy:

You order your subordinate Chris to go out and buy some new computers for your department; it's up to Chris how many and what kind, and who gets which computer.

Later, Chris has a meeting with you and a couple of guys from CIS, and you have a lively discussion about setting up whatever computers Chris decides to buy. The big question: Should you pay extra to have the CIS technicians set them up over the weekend, or should you have them set up during weekdays, potentially disrupting people's work. You do not discuss what Chris plans to buy.

Later, someone asks you, "Were you involved in any discussions about purchasing those eighteen Sun micros that Chris ultimately decided on?" And you say, "No, I was not involved in any such discussions. I left it entirely up to Chris."

Then the VP of your corporate rival finds out about the meeting to discuss whether they would be installed on the weekend or weekdays... and he calls a press conference to denounce you as a notorious liar and demands you be ousted from your company.

This isn't even as solid as clutching at straws; the Democrats are clutching at strands of gossamer.

Alberto Gonzales must stay.

To fire him over this utter rot would be almost as bad -- as if the Brits were to agree to vote against sanctions on Iran in exchange for the release of their Royal Marines. Heaven forfend that either should come to pass.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 24, 2007, at the time of 6:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 23, 2007

Imagine...

Afghan Astonishments , Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd
Imagine there are no Republicans,
It's easy if you try...

This is quite remarkable: The Washington Post, normally a pretty good newspaper, published a front-page article about the Democratic House and Senate caucuses wrangling with their wayward members. They tussled over how to enact legislation that would begin to force an American surrender in Iraq within the next few months -- by hanging that legislation like an albatross around the neck of the president's emergency supplemental war-funding bill.

The Post managed to get all the way through the story... without ever once mentioning the Republicans in the Senate, who will almost certainly filibuster the bill to death. In fact, the Post seemed unaware that Republicans in either chamber would get to cast a vote.

For that matter, they never even mentioned that President Bush fellow, who would naturally veto it, if it ever came to his desk. Rather, the Post implied that passing the Mount Everest of roadblocks -- getting the liberals to agree with the Blue Dogs to agree with Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) -- meant that the bill would immediately become law!

What, have we suddenly become invisible?

"Liberal opposition to a $124 billion war spending bill broke last night," begins the story...

...when leaders of the antiwar Out of Iraq Caucus pledged to Democratic leaders that they will not block the measure, which sets timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

The acquiescence of the liberals probably means that the House will pass a binding measure today that, for the first time, would establish tough readiness standards for the deployment of combat forces and an Aug. 31, 2008, deadline for their removal from Iraq.

A Senate committee also passed a spending bill yesterday setting a goal of bringing troops home within a year. The developments mark congressional Democrats' first real progress in putting legislative pressure on President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces.

Progress? Oh, please. They managed to get nearly all the Democrats to agree; I suppose that's progress of a sort... but it's like me saying I'm making "real progress" towards winning the Pullet Surprise this year because I convinced a few of my friends that I really deserve one.

This isn't the FDR era, when we had essentially one-party rule, and even Bob Hope (D-Hollywood, 120%) joked that there must be a Republican hiding in the bushes somewhere. "After all, somebody's buying all that caviar!"

Here is the only mention of the word "Republicans." It's not in the context of the Senate; they only mention House Republicans, who are powerless. I don't have a print edition in front of me, but I wouldn't be surprised if even this pair of grafs comes after the jump:

To the surprise of many antiwar activists, House Democratic leaders have been able to keep their conservative Blue Dog members largely onboard as they ratcheted up the bill's language. But with Republicans virtually united in opposition, Democrats can afford only 15 defections.

Bush and congressional Republicans have done their best to exploit the divisions, repeatedly mentioning that the Democrats are not united.

The editorial board of the WaPo aside, they still have to pass the bill in the United States Senate... where, contrary to the Post's fantasy, Republicans are still allowed to vote on the issue. There are 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and one Independent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT, 75%); but Lieberman is certain to vote against the timelines and readiness standards and forced troop withdrawals. That makes the score 50-50... and since Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 85%) is likely still medically unable to vote, that makes it 50-49 against passage.

On the last go-round, one Republican senator, Gordon Smith (R-OR, 72%), voted in favor of Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%) previous attempt to surrender. But two Democrats, Sens. Mark Pryor (AR, 75%) and Ben Nelson (NE, 35%), voted against the bill. (Had Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, 65%, voted, it would have been 51 to 48 against, for an absolute majority.)

If the Democrats manage to get both Pryor and Nelson to flip back, and if they retain the vote of turncoat Smith, the absolute best they can manage is 51 to 49 in favor. But the vote will never even occur, because the Republicans will filibuster it. And the Democrats are lightyears away from the sixty votes needed to break a filibuster.

So just like every other Democratic attempt to starve the troops out of Iraq, binding or non-binding, the result will be a possible victory in the House -- swallowed up by the Senate. No bill will even reach the president's desk for him to veto.

But you'd never realize that from the Washington Post article. If that were all you read, you'd think it was a done deal, and the troops were already on their way home!

The more intriguing question is what will happen after the supplemental funding bill dies in the Senate. Will the House Democrats have the guts to refuse to bring up a clean funding bill? I'm skeptical that they're willing to face the American people and say, "Yes, b'gad, we are cutting off all funding to the troops in the field! Screw them; let 'em all die." If they did that, they certainly could never claim any credit for a victory... but boy, would they own the defeat.

The Democrats are poltroons. They know that if they cut the troops off at the knees, the Democrats would hemorrhage seats in 2008, likely losing one or both chambers of Congress and the presidency. And Bush would find a way to keep the war going anyway. The Democrats are not willing to go to the mattresses for their "ideals;" not if it means sacrificing their majority.

Look at the ADA ratings for Pryor and Nelson: 75% and 35% (!) respectively, and they both represent red states; Ben Nelson is the Democrat's version of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 36%). What is the advantage for either of them in throwing away everything, just in order to force a defeat and withdrawal on America?

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi may have the burning desire to recreate the Vietnam debacle, but I doubt Pryor and Nelson do... especially when there is zero chance of it passing -- but a 100% chance of a vote against the troops coming back to haunt them. Nelson is much more conservative, and he's safe until 2012; but Mark Pryor is up for reelection in 2008.

How many times are the Democrats going to go replay this commedia dell'arte farce? Have they enacted any substantive legislation through both chambers of Congress yet? I suppose they plan to gallop pell-mell through the entire 110th Congress, doing nothing but trying to cram defeat down the throat of victory in Iraq.

That's fine with me. They won't succeed in doing anything but pâté-ing their own foie gras... and I can live with that.

But next time, maybe Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%) can give Washington Post Executive Leonard Downie, Jr. a call and sort of, you know, jog his memory a bit. I'm sure forgetting the very existence of Republicans was just an oversight.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 23, 2007, at the time of 4:15 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 20, 2007

Imperial Congress Summons Its Subjects

Congressional Calamities , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

Alone among all the issues that divide Congress, there is one that unites them all -- Republican and Democrat, Right and Left, conservative and liberal, good hair and bad hair: They uniformly agree that Congress should be the preeminent branch of government, and the other two branches mere appendages whose only function is to implement the decrees from the Capitol Dome... and be quick about it!

Accordingly, Congress demands that close advisors to President George W. Bush scurry over and take their seats for the "show trials" to come:

Mr. Bush reiterated his support for his embattled attorney general, Alberto R. Gonzales, and said Mr. Gonzales would testify before the appropriate legislative committees. But Mr. Bush said he would only allow close White House aides to be interviewed privately by the lawmakers rather than be placed under oath.

“We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants,” Mr. Bush said, vowing to fight any attempt by Congress to subpoena his top political adviser, Karl Rove; the former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers and others.

“Initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts,” Mr. Bush said. “It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available.”

Bush's use of the Stalinist-era term "show trials" is both heartening and illuminating. The key distinction between a "show trial" and a real trial is that in the former, guilt is assumed; the only purpose of the show trial is to humiliate and beat down the supposed "defendant" (actually, the victim of the State) and ideally force a public confession out of him.

After which, he is taken away and shot.

This pretty much describes the Democrats' intentions perfectly, except that shooting is replaced by forced resignation and being "frog-marched out of the White House," as Lyin' Joe Wilson so suavely put it. Thus, Bush enunciated the perfectly correct term.

We've all heard the phrase "the imperial presidency;" I believe it arose during the presidency of Richard Nixon, either coined or at least popularized by ultra-liberal historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and has been routinely flung against every Republican administration ever since (similar to what monkey tribes do to each other). By now, its use induces an immediate gag-reflex and symptoms of mal de mer.

But what has in fact happened during this period was the rise of the imperial Congress; House and Senate have taken on all the trappings of the old British House of Lords:

  • Relection rate is so high that a huge percentage of members may as well be called Senator for Life So-and-So, or Representative for Life Thingumy. Congressional office has become a life peerage, and sometimes even passed to one's own issue or brethren -- the Kennedy seat, for example, or the Murkowski, Gore, and Chafee seats.
  • Congressional staffs tend to be loyal to individual, powerful patrons within the Congress, rather than to the people that Congress supposedly represents... Congressional aides are actually courtiers.
  • Congress has as many or more "advisory bodies" -- blue-ribbon panels, caucuses, and of course the all-powerful committees themselves -- than the administration.
  • More and more, Congressmen tend to see themselves as above the ordinary laws; they routinely exempt members from the legislation that governs the rest of us, privileging themselves beyond lesser mortals ("privilege," from the Latin privilegium, privus plus leg- : a "private law" for one person or a group of people). And they certainly refuse to answer to the president in any way; in fact, it aggravates them that they must submit their legislation to him for approval or veto.

Today, Congress wants to haul Karl Rove and Harriet Miers (plus Does 1-99, to be named later) before an open congressional committee, with the cameras rolling, and embark upon a multi-day fishing expedition... hoping to extract a "confession" to any of a number of supposed crimes the Democrats imagine permeate the inner circle of the Bush administration. Failing of that, they will simply throw so many accusations and spitballs at Rove that it will seem as if he must be guilty of something... "where there's smoke, there's fire!"

Of course, sometimes where there's smoke, there's nothing but a giant smoke screen. But you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time -- and that's enough for a healthy percentage of the vote.

So imagine this thought experiment: Suppose that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales subpoenaed Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT, 95%), Chuck Schumer (D-NYC, 100%), Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco, 90%), and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%); followed by Reps. John Murtha (D-PA, 65%), Henry Waxman (D-CA, 95%), and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%). They're each hauled into an auditorium in the bowels of the Justice Department building, where about 150 print and television reporters await.

JD lawyers administer the oath to each member of Congress separately, then commence grilling them on the inner discussions within committees, caucuses, and even private conversations between senators, representatives, and their aides. Those aides have already been subpoened and extensively questioned; so if a member says anything that differs from what an aide said, the member is threatened with a perjury prosecution.

Would Congress put up with this? Would the courts allow it? I certainly hope not in both cases. But if we rightly recognize that the Executive branch cannot simply force members of the Legislative branch to testify under oath about their private advice, criticisms, and discussions with other members of their branch -- how the heck can the Legislative do exactly that to members of the Executive -- a supposedly co-equal branch of government?

The Democrats, however, are immune to shame and are not backing down:

The current White House counsel, Fred Fielding, offered this afternoon to make Mr. Rove and Mr. Miers available for private interviews -- but not sworn testimony -- before Congressional investigators.

But Democratic leaders immediately turned down the offer, demanding that President Bush’s aides testify under oath. That set the stage for a major political fight and perhaps a court showdown over the rightful powers of the executive branch and those of a Congress now controlled by Democrats.

It's quite clear that this is not an attempt to find out whether the eight U.S. Attorneys were fired (rather, did not have their contracts renewed) for legitimate reasons or in order to obstruct justice; they could most effectively find that out by private conversations. Rather, the Democrats are hot for some Testimony Theater!

(Say... do you think they might have a partisan political motivation for hauling Karl Rove in front of the TV cameras and badgering him under oath?)

I have no idea how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule on this... but I predict it will have to, because the Democrats who run the Judiciary Committee (including Schumer, Feinstein, and Chairman Leahy) are assuredly going to issue subpoenas -- and the president is just as adamant that he will not allow Rove, Miers, Deputy White House Counsel, William K. Kelley, Special Assistant to the Office of Political Affairs J.Scott Jennings, or any other close aide to testify under oath, where they can be asked anything at all, and in open session... completely obliterating the ability of the president to get candid advice and possibly even endangering national security by straying into discussions of FBI intelligence gathering and NSA surveillance.

If he did, Bush would not just be ceding the right to the 110th Congress; he would be throwing it away for all future presidents versus all future Congresses.

But heck, what's jettisoning a couple of hundred years of traditional governance and crippling the presidency in perpetuity, as compared to the opportunity of possibly indicting Karl Rove? We must keep things in perspective!

In the slither-on, a few more quotations from Democrats, who clearly have confused the Capitol building with Versailles and believe that senatorial blood runs as blue as that of Louis the XIV...

Mr. Fielding proposed that Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers be interviewed by members of the Senate and House judiciary committees at the same time, and that the interviews be limited to the events surrounding the dismissal of the federal prosecutors.

Mr. Fielding told the senators and representatives that he had been working for days “to accommodate your interests, while at the same time respecting the constitutional prerogatives of the presidency.”

Democrats angrily rejected Mr. Fielding’s position. “After telling a bunch of different stories about why they fired the U.S. attorneys, the Bush administration is not entitled to the benefit of the doubt,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “Congress and the American people deserve a straight answer. If Karl Rove plans to tell the truth, he has nothing to fear from being under oath like any other witness.”

Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, was just as emphatic. “I was glad to meet Mr. Fielding, and I welcome the fact that these issues have his full attention,” Mr. Leahy said. “I don’t accept his offer. It is not constructive and it is not helpful to be telling the Senate how to do our investigation, or to prejudge its outcome.”

[!]

“Testimony should be on the record and under oath,” Mr. Leahy said, repeating a demand that he first made on network television over the weekend. “That’s the formula for true accountability....”

[!!]

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also reacted coldly to the White House offer. Mr. Schumer said Mr. Fielding was proposing in effect that Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers be available for “conversations” with lawmakers.

“That’s fine,” Mr. Schumer said. “Let’s have a conversation under oath, with a transcript.” [A transcript is essential for subsequently demanding a special prosecutor to go after Rove for perjury... whenever his answers don't match Democrats' expectations.]

Mr. Leahy has already said that his committee would vote Thursday on whether to subpoena Mr. Rove and Ms. Miers, as well as William K. Kelley, the deputy White House counsel.

“I do not believe in this ‘We’ll have a private briefing for you where we’ll tell you everything,’ and they don’t,” Mr. Leahy said Sunday on “This Week” on ABC. “I want testimony under oath. I am sick and tired of getting half-truths on this.”

I'm not a sack of oats... I'm the king! I want my noodles, and I want them now.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 20, 2007, at the time of 7:23 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 15, 2007

Democrats In the Dental Chair

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

One of the weirdest -- and funniest -- segments of the original Roger Corman movie the Little Shop of Horrors is when dental patient Wilbur Force (Jack Nicholson in a very early role in his career) demands that the dentist, Phoebus Farb, drill Force's teeth without anaesthetic: Wilbur Force is a masochist, you see, and that's how he gets off. (When first we see him, he's sitting in the waiting room, reading an issue of Pain Magazine -- and giggling.)

Whenever the Democrats throw another handful of defeatist red meat onto the floor of Congress, I always think of Jack Nicholson squirming in the dental chair, laughing in masochistic glee. I'm not sure why I have that association...

The latest volley of dueling Democratic defeat-o-ramas -- one in the House, three in the Senate -- raises my earlier question to greater urgency: Does the 110th Congress plan to do anything besides making symbolic gestures of surrender?

Do the Democrats have any agenda at all, other than to bring the troops home in failure and disgrace? They seem to believe that if only America can be "chastened" and "humbled," if we stop acting as though we're somehow "better" than other countries, then maybe the rest of the world will love us again. It might be true: The reaction to 9/11 proved that the world loves America when America is on its knees.

But as usual, the result of these non-binding (or binding but unpassable) resolutions outside of the liberal fantasyland is just more pain and humiliation for the Democrats. As witness today, when the House Appropriations Committee only narrowly passed along an emergency supplemental surrender bill to the full House... and the Senate actually rejected a similar cut-and-run bill by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), 50-48.

Yup: The Democrats needed 60 votes; they couldn't even get 50. And if both McCain and Johnson had voted, it would have been an absolute majority against, 51 to 49.

Only one Republican, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon [72%], voted in favor of the measure. Two Democrats, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas [90%] and Ben Nelson of Nebraska [55%], voted against it, as did Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut [80%]. Senators Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota [95%] who is ill, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican [65%] who is in Iowa, did not vote.

(The House bill was passed by the committee with one fewer vote than there are Democrats on the panel: Rep. Barbara Lee -- D-Berkeley, 95% -- decided it was too pro-Bush and too right-wing, since it didn't call for an immediate pull-out... not today, man, yesterday!)

Meanwhile, a pair of -- wait for it -- non-binding resolutions in the Senate, each promising that funding would not be cut for troops in the field, passed overwhelmingly, according to Paul at Power Line:

The [Sen. Judd] Gregg Amendment, which I understand calls says that Congress should not eliminate or reduce funds for troops in the field, has passed 82–16. The [Sen. Patty] Murray Amendment, which I understand calls for Congress to provide funds for training, equipment and other support for troops in the field, has passed 96-2.

How many holes can we drill before the Democrats are left utterly toothless?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 15, 2007, at the time of 8:03 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The New Anti-War Math

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Everybody is already talking about the new Democratic Iraq surrender plans (I think this makes numbers 16 and 17, according to the count by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 84%), and we have little to add -- just one amusing giggle that symbolizes the lucklessness of the Democrats as they struggle through les cent jours...

The Democrats are desperate to lose the war, quick, before we accidentally win it. But they've already wrong-footed, judging from the boneheaded response by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) to McConnell:

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said passage of the withdrawal measure "would be absolutely fatal to our mission in Iraq" - and he sought to rebut Democratic supporters with their own words.

He quoted Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada as saying in 2005 that setting a timeline was "not a wise decision because it only empowers those who don't want us there, and it doesn't work well to do that."

That was McConnell's jab plus right cross; here is Reid's attempted block:

"To take a statement that I made five years ago, to think that things haven't changed in five years is without any degree of sensibility," he responded to McConnell a few moments later on the Senate floor.

Five years? From 2005 to 2007? I think Harry Reid must be punch drunk!

The judges just called that round for the Right corner. Now let's see whether the Democrats can even get a bare majority on the House bill, let alone get anywhere near 17 Republicans, like last time. (The Senate is drawing dead on its own plan, to muddle up the boxing metaphor; there is no way they can even get 60 senators to shut down debate and call a vote.)

Has the 110th Congress passed any actual legislation? I don't believe they've even raised the minimum wage yet, as far as I know.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 15, 2007, at the time of 7:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 6, 2007

Dishonest Abe

Congressional Calamities , Mysterious Orient
Hatched by Dafydd

I must apologize for the title; I could not resist. Anyway, I'm not talking about "Abe," the diminutive of Abraham; I mean Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- and the family name is pronounced "Ah Bay," with both syllables stressed equally.

Here we are, with yet another non-binding resolution from the Democrat-controlled House (do they ever pass binding resolutions anymore?)

Note: I have steadfastly resisted using the term "the Democrat Party," instead of the Democratic Party, because I think it's a silly and insulting affectation.

But just a couple of days ago, I heard, with my own ears (not a loaner pair), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) refer to "the Democrat majority in the Senate."

Taking my cue from the senior Democrat in the upper body of Congress, I shall now have no compunction about using the adjective "Democrat" instead of Democratic. If it's good enough for the senator from Searchlight, it's good enough for me!

Anyway, we have yet another non-binding resolution -- from the House, not the Senate, naturally; the latter won't be able to overcome the fillibuster. This one is really a lollapalooza: the Democrats demand yet another apology from Japan for the use of Japanese, Korean, and Chinese "comfort women" -- sex slaves -- by the Japanese Army before and during World War II... though you wouldn't know there were any Japanese forced into prostitution by reading the New York Times article (that doesn't fit "the Story," you see).

Abe has already announced that if the Congress passes such an offensive resolution, Japan will reject it out of hand:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that if the United States Congress demands that Japan apologize for his nation’s use of foreign women as sexual slaves during World War II, his government will refuse to comply.

So this is yet another Democrat exercise in legislative futility; they have turned the Congress of the United States into the Elves, Leprechauns, Gnomes, and Little Men's Chowder & Marching Society. Cushlamocree!

Abe is right to resist this nonsense... but the poor sap is right for all the wrong reasons. He is trying to defend Japan against the charge by denying that there were any comfort women in the first place; or failing that, by insisting that the Japanese government and military had nothing to do with it... all the coercion was carried out by private contractors.

...Who were merely hired by the Japanese government and military. So you see, there's no connection!

Speaking in Japan’s parliament, Mr. Abe reiterated the position of conservative scholars here that Japanese soldiers and government officials had no hand in forcing women into brothels during the war; they say that private contractors hired by the Japan’s military were to blame.

Former comfort women have testified before a House committee that they were kidnapped by Japanese soldiers to serve in military brothels. But Mr. Abe said that any such testimony was “a complete fabrication.”

He also criticized the proposed House resolution, which holds Japanese authorities responsible for the coercion, saying that it “was not based in objective fact, and does not consider the Japanese government’s measures so far.”

That last sentence demonstrates the real problem here: for years and years, the two Koreas (and to a lesser extent China) have been demanding more and more demeaning apologies; it's not just bullying, however. There is method to their meanness: the ultimate goal is to force Japan to pay billions of dollars in "reparations" to the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China.

And so far, whatever Korea wants, Korea has gotten. Japan has a terrible guilt complex, and the Japanese Left hates and despises Japan even more than the American Left hates and despises this country.

So why is Abe actually right to refuse yet another apology? And why, then, are his reasons wrong?

First, let's start with a few admissions against interest. Here are some facts that really are not in dispute:

  1. There is no question that some Korean and Chinese women -- and Japanese women -- were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in the 1930s and during World War II;
  2. There is no question that it was the Japanese government that ordered such slavery... and no question that the Japanese military carried it out. Whether they worked directly or through "private" proxies is irrelevant;
  3. It's irrelevant because there were no truly private companies at that time in Japan: Japan was a Fascist dictatorship... which means the party of Tojo controlled every business, every company, every transaction. Nothing moved without the government allowing it to move.

But it that's true -- then why shouldn't Japan apologize? And even more, why shouldn't they have to pay reparations for the terrible wrong that they did? For a simple reason that is just as undeniable as the facts above:

  1. The Japanese government that did these horrible things ceased to exist on September 2nd, 1945, when Japan formally surrendered -- unconditionally -- to Allied forces, signing the surrender documents on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
  2. The current government of Japan did not come into existence until May 3rd, 1947, when it adopted its current constitution; or perhaps in 1952, when we formally turned over all remaining control to Japanese elected officials; or maybe even 1956, when the U.N. recognized the new nation of Japan;
  3. Thus, the current Japan did not even exist at the time these crimes were committed;
  4. In fact, neither did the current countries of the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the People's Republic of China: All are post-war creations.

Neither the perpetrator (Imperial Japan) nor victims (united Korea, pre-Communist China) still exist, and all members of the perpetrator government (the military dictatorship) are dead and buried.

This makes complete nonsense out of virtually this entire article, which espouses a theory that can only be called "racial guilt" -- the racist idea that all persons of Japanese descent who happen to live in the modern nation of Japan are racially guilty of the crimes of completely different persons who also happen to have been of Japanese descent and who lived in the same geographical area as modern Japan, but before modern Japan was created.

Yes, you read that correctly: the New York Times is espousing a racist theory of propagation of guilt through the DNA, solely in order to benefit two Communist countries and a grubby, greedy capitalist one. Let's read the Times article carefully:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said today that if the United States Congress demands that Japan apologize for his nation’s use of foreign women as sexual slaves during World War II...

Abe's nation did not exist during World War II, so it could not have used foreign women as sex slaves.

Japan has already lobbied hard against a resolution now under consideration in the United States House of Representatives, which would call on Tokyo to take clearer responsibility for the Japanese army’s enslavement of about 200,000 women, mostly Korean or Chinese, who were euphemistically called comfort women.

How can present-day Tokyo "take clearer responsibility" for what other people did under the previous regime -- a regime that enslaved and brutalized the Japanese people as well, making them the first and worst victims of its totalitarian National Socialism?

It is not morally possible: If a man commits murder but then dies himself, do we send his child to prison?

Japan has apologized over the matter before, including in 1993. But there are widespread concerns that Mr. Abe and other conservative Japanese lawmakers may try to water down or reverse such public admissions of guilt, as part of a broader push to change the way the nation regards its wartime history.

"It" doesn't have a "wartime history," because "it" didn't spring into existence until a minimum of two years after the war ended (not with a whimper, but with a pair of big bangs). And on and on.

Here is the correct way for Abe to reject this spurious charge:

To the American Congress, we thank you for illuminating the atrocities and war crimes, committed by the National Socialist dictatorship that occupied Japan for a number of years in the early part of the last century, against the innocent people of Korea and China. That same socialist tyranny committed equally horrific crimes against the Japanese people, and we join with you in expression our abhorrence of all such totalitarian systems.

The current governments of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China must surely be familiar with the horrors that mass, coercive socialism can inflict: each has plagued its own people with even more murderous and torturous atrocities since World War II ended. And each, unlike Japan, still has the same government that perpetrated those crimes against humanity: Mao's so-called "cultural revolution" and his murder of seventy million of his own countrymen; and Kim Il-Sung's unprovoked invasion of South Korea in 1950 which precipitated a war that killed 2.5 million... and the more millions who have died from starvation under the government of Kim's royal successor, Kim Jong-Il. Not to mention the deprivation of liberty under both those Communist systems.

We extend our sorrow not only to those who suffered under one form of totalitarianism, we also extend our sorrow to those who have suffered under another form of totalitarianism. But we cannot apologize or accept responsibility for crimes that none of us in the government today, nor the government itself, had any hand in committing.

So we thank the American Congress for its interesting history lesson; but as to apologies or reparations -- bite me.

Imagine, a head of government talking like John Bolton (Japan has no "head of state"). Now that would be something to hear!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 6, 2007, at the time of 6:40 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

February 28, 2007

Desperate Dems Declare Dastardly Deal

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Congressional Democrats, still struggling for attention from an increasingly bored and impatient electorate, have decided upon a new attempt to humiliate the president, undercut the troops, and perhaps finally, finally satisfy the nutroots that the elected leaders really are radicals and not just poseurs. If you can figure out what they're trying to do, my hat is off to you, because I can't make heads or teakettles out of it:

House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq while requiring President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military....

The tactic is more likely to embarrass Bush politically than force his hand on the war. He would have to sign repeated waivers for units and report to Congress those units with equipment shortfalls and other problems.

All right, show of hands... how many can honestly say they have any idea what the Democrats' plan actually entails? Isn't this AP story even more uninformative than usual? Why can't they just tell us what the Democrats plan to do?

A curious thought just occurred to me: many Democrats thought that the plan pushed by Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 75%) was "brilliant": to enact a binding resolution putting all sorts of restrictions on the deployment of troops, each one supposedly for the good of the troops themselves.

For example, one element of the plot guaranteed, by law, one full year of "rest" between deployments -- followed by many months of training before they could be sent back. This would have made it virtually impossible to send reinforcements or relieve forces that had been in Iraq for a long deployment. The Democrats believed that they would be able to put the Republicans between Iraq and a hard peace, forcing them either to vote with the Democrats, or to vote against "helping out" the troops.

But then Murtha went and shot his mouth off on some internet interview site; he actually let the beans out of the cat about his real purpose: to strangle the new security operation a-borning, to kill it with kindness. This confession was picked up and bruited all about the internet, then all about conservative talk-radio, and finally all around the entire communications grid... and the Democrats had to call it off.

So now, with the warning firmly in cheek that "loose lips sink ships," along comes AP -- which runs a story about a new Democratic strategy, but fails to go into any details at all about it!

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

In any event, I doubt this will succeed any better than the other schemes. Here is the rapid-reaction Republican response:

The House Democrats' plan brought a sharp response from Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"If this is the Democrats' last ditch effort to appease the ultraliberal wing of their party while appearing to support the troops at the same time, I don't think they are going to convince either one of any commitment whatsoever," Kennedy said. "This appears to be political posturing at its worst and yet another attempt to undermine the mission of our troops in harm's way. The American people are going to see right through it."

Tagged, bagged, and released back into the wild with a microburst transmitter up the drainpipe.

The Democrats (and the Bigfoot media) consistently misunderestimate the capacity of the American public to see through their little Kabuki dances. Just because Murtha didn't lurch to the mike to broadcast his too clever by half scheme this time doesn't mean that the voters will fail to see that this ruse is just the same as the earlier attempt to micromanage the war. Once bitten, twice shy.

Or to haul out another hoary quotation: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. The third time, Mr. Bond, is enemy action."

Don't let us meet for a third time, Mr. Murtha.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 28, 2007, at the time of 4:32 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 27, 2007

Chuck Hagel on Viet-raq... Revelation Included!

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Chuck Hagel (R-For Now, 96%) hints that he may want to run with a Democrat on the Unity08 ticket (oh sure, I've heard of them!). One presumes that Hagel wants to sufficiently damage the Republican nominee -- whoever he may be -- that the Democrats win; then he can say "if only they had listened to me."

That should tell us just about everything we need to know about Chuck "Swift Surrender" Hagel:

Hagel joked during the interview about teaming up with New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a moderate Republican, and also floated the possibility of joining a bipartisan unity ticket with a Democrat -- with his name first, of course.

Hagel clearly admires Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and calls him "a star," but he doubts the two could ever team up given the vast difference in their parties' principles. "I don't know if it gets to that point, but there is a shift going on out there, and there's nothing like a war that does that," Hagel said.

That was a month ago. A few days later, he made a tepid denial of the possibility in a recent "hagelographic" Newsweek profile (the February 5th issue), calling the possibility "ludicrous" (page 4) -- but not stating categorically that he would not go for it anyway if his quest for the Republican nomination appeared hopeless.

Before this climax, however, some unintended insight breaks through on pages 2-3, as the Hagel brothers (Chuck and Tom) discuss their Vietnam experiences:

Chuck and Tom were both sent to Vietnam.... It was 1968, America's bloodiest year in the war, and on the ground the brothers were hardened by a grisly conflict they tried not to think of as futile. "You see it today in Iraq," says Tom. "We go in, kill all these insurgents, lose all those people. Then we leave town and they just move back in. Same damn thing we did every day over there."

[Chuck Hagel] recalls making a vow to himself: "If America were to go to war again and I was in a position to influence things, I would do everything I could to understand the reality and not allow another Vietnam to occur."

I think we have finally found what makes Chuck Hagel tick like a time bomb about the Iraq war: He and his brother hated their time in Vietnam and came to see it as utterly futile (Tom immediately, Chuck some time later). So today, perhaps in cosmic expiation of their sins, they simply matte "Vietnam" over "Iraq" and react accordingly.

What need have they to investigate what is actually happening in Iraq? Why bother following our evolving tactics -- or how we now hold the towns and cities we take, denying the terrorists easy return? And what's the point of seeing how different Iraq is from Vietnam?

Even more basic, this simplistic identification means Hagel has neither the need nor the desire to honestly consider the argument that Vietnam was voluntary but Iraq is mandatory. He has his one-to-one mapping of Vietnam onto Iraq. And since the first was an exercise in futility, surely the second must be just the same! Thus the obsessive desire to stop the war at any cost.

I am neither psychologist nor psychiatrist... and in my inexpert and uninformed opinion, Sen. Chuck Hagel is not a rational man when it comes to the war: He suffers from the delusion that history is repeating itself exactly all over again; and like a bad Outer Limits episode, Hagel is determined to change history this time.

He is demented about the most important issue facing America today... not a good characteristic in a powerful senator. Earth to Nebraska: Do you think it might be time to start recruiting candidates for a primary fight -- even if Hagel runs for reelection to the Senate at the same time as he runs for president?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 27, 2007, at the time of 5:24 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 18, 2007

Conspiracy!

Congressional Calamities , Media Madness , Politics
Hatched by Dafydd

I believe in many conspiracies: I believe that a bunch of jihadis conspired to hijack passenger jets and fly them into the World Trade Centers, for example. I also believe that Iran conspires with Muqtada Sadr to extend the former's influence into Iraq.

And I have long suspected that there is, at the least, a conspiracy of shared interests among the elite media in this country -- and many allies within the State Department, the CIA, academe, and such -- to destroy the Bush Administration and engineer the Republican loss of Congress (done) and the presidency (unlikely).

But I believe we are witnessing a rare instance of an out and out, traditional conspiracy among newspaper editors who actually made a deliberate decision to copy certain language from each other. See what strikes you about this New York Times article:

The Senate on Saturday narrowly rejected an effort to force debate on a resolution opposing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq....

The 56-to-34 vote in a rare Saturday session was the second time Republicans were able to deny opponents of the troop increase a debate on a resolution challenging Mr. Bush....

But the outcome, four votes short of the 60 needed to break a procedural stalemate....

Seven Republicans split from their party and joined 48 Democrats and one Independent in calling for a debate....

“We will be relentless,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat. “There will be resolution after resolution, amendment after amendment, all forcing this body to do what it has not done in the previous three years: debate and discuss Iraq....”

A vote to open debate would have allowed the Senate to begin considering the identical language that was approved on Friday by the House....

Without 60 votes for the procedural motion, the Senate was unable to start debate.

I have never before seen a filibuster, the "procedureal stalemate" hinted at above, described as an attempt to prevent debate; in fact, it is the cloture vote -- which failed yesterday -- that is an attempt to end debate and actually bring a measure to a vote.

It was the Democrats attempted to cut off debate and actually vote on the Senate version of the House rebuke (not refutation) of President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq, thus leaving us in the failed status quo (I'm certain that if they succeeded, the next vote would be one to withdraw the troops -- on the grounds that we hadn't changed a policy that was failing).

Certainly, no newspaper ever described the Democratic filibusters against dozens of presidential nominations to the federal bench as "cutting off debate" on those judges. Those actions were rightly described as preventing a final vote.

At the absolute most, the Republicans voted to prevent the start of final debate/voting on this particular non-binding resolution; but this is a peculiar use of the word "debate" that is part of Senate jargon. It doesn't mean "debate" in the normal, dictionary sense, as that has been going on continuously since before we invaded Iraq. There has been and continues to be ample opportunity to "debate the Iraq war" in the Senate:

  • Whenever any appropriations, budget, or spending bill comes up in the Senate that in any way touches on the war, a debate on the war inevitably ensues;
  • Debate over the war invariably breaks out during any other debate over a bill touching on the war, such as the bill currently before Congress to "fully implemenent" the 9/11 Commission recommendations, or the anti-terrorism bill, also currently before Congress;
  • During any confirmation hearing involving any nominee even remotely associated with Iraq, the military, or an intelligence agency, another debate on the war spontenously erupts;
  • During any testimony by any member of the administration -- yet another debate on the war;
  • During any committee hearing or meeting on any subject whatsoever... you guessed it. Another debate.
  • Finally, Majority Leader of the Senate Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) can, any time he wants, recognize members for an extended debate... on the Iraq war or any other topic he chooses.

None of these requires breaking a filibuster; the GOP can stop none of these debates from occurring... and they occur virtually every week of every month of every term, and have done so even back when the Republicans ran the joint. Rather than the symbolic debate on the war being stifled, it has virtually consumed the business of the United States Senate, to the exclusion of much real legislation (for example, consideration of the necessary spending bills for the current fiscal year, which have yet to be debated).

The Senate debates and debates and debates every aspect of the war, like a deranged, obsessed UFO nut going on about the "Greys" who have taken over Washington, Moscow, and Bermuda. But one element of the obsession is to insist that nobody is even debating the war -- the nutroots can't get a hearing! They don't get to make their points! Their freedom of speech is being denied! (Translation: the opposition wants to confuse matters by participating in the discussion, to paraphrase the late Robert Anton Wilson.)

And nearly every elite newspaper uses the same bizarre circumlocution to keep up the pretense that Republicans are denying Democrats "a debate" on the war.

The Washington Post was the most ambivalent; they alternated between calling the filibuster an attempt to prevent a vote (which is is) and an attempt to cut off debate (which it isn't):

With the 56 to 34 vote, Democrats fell shy of the 60 votes required to kick off debate on a nonbinding resolution passed by the House last week that expresses support for the troops but criticizes Bush's decision to expand combat ranks by more than 20,000 troops....

Seven Republicans voted with the Democrats to allow the debate to proceed.

The Los Angeles Times also slipped a pro-forma reference to the Democratic attempt to end debate as the attempt to initiate debate:

In addition to Collins, Republicans voting to debate the measure were Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and John W. Warner of Virginia.

The Wall Street Journal slyly slips it in as part of a quotation from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Bedlam, 95%) -- but allows the term "debate" to stand without debate (paid subscription required):

"The United States Senate, the greatest deliberative body in the world, is probably the only place in this great land where this debate is not taking place!" said 89-year-old Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune ("the Strib") took the easy way out, as usual; they reprinted the Washington Post article... but they added this bit at the top:

Sixty votes were needed to begin debate on the nonbinding measure, which would repudiate Bush's increase of troops.

In fact, of course, the Senate spent the entire day debating the non-binding resolution; Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK, 80%) was particularly scathing during this debate on Reid's demand that the senators all come in on Saturday and debate a futile and meaningless exercise in defeatism.

I thought at first that maybe all these papers took the phrase from the Associated Press; but I didn't recall the AP story from yesterday using it... and indeed, at least the one published yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times does not:

The 56-34 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to advance a nonbinding measure identical to one the House passed Friday. Seven GOP senators broke ranks, compared with only two during an earlier test on the issue.

But if that is the case -- where did this amazing coincidence of terminology come from? The only other explanation that occurs to me is that editors at the other newspapers simply copied what the New York Times wrote, that the Republicans had "rejected an effort to force debate" on the Iraq war. I suspect they originally wrote their articles straight; but when they saw that artful bit of misdiction in "America's newspaper of record," the lower-tier editorial boards gushed, "What a great way to put it! Let's us do that as well."

I can't think of any other way that such a contorted and misleading phrasing, never before used, could appear on the same day in a half dozen major newspapers and probably dozens of minor ones.

Of all the major media stories I read, only the Chicago Tribune truly got it right:

In a rare Saturday session, one day after the House issued a stinging rebuke to President Bush's plan to boost the number of troops in Iraq, Senate Democrats were unable to muster the 60 votes necessary to end a Republican filibuster and pass what has become a symbol of resistance to the war....

Angry Republicans insisted that the language in question would demoralize American soldiers fighting in Iraq. And they rejected assertions that their filibuster was preventing the Senate from debating the merits of the war strategy.

"Here is the truth that the American people need to know: Republicans in the Senate have not prevented any debate over the war in Iraq," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). "We are debating the war again today. We have debated the war in the past and we will continue to debate the war in the future.

So a tip of the hat to the Trib, and a raspberry to the rest of the fourth-estate tarts. For God's sake, gentlemen -- can't you leave off the inappropriate politicking for even a moment?

Ah, but I forget: "the personal is political," as the feminists constantly insist: thus, for newspaper editors who cut their teeth on the anti-war, anti-Republican protest movement of the late sixties (post-November 1968), whose entire existence is wrought up in their leftist politics, there is no sphere that is not essentially political; when they sit down to breakfast, they ponder the of geopolitical significance of eggs sunny-side up or hard-boiled.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 18, 2007, at the time of 5:47 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 16, 2007

The Bigg Fizz

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Once again, the Democrats tried to slap President Bush -- and got bushwhacked.

The "big news" as far as the media cares is that the House passed a meaningless resolution "refuting" Bush's troop buildup in Iraq.

(Yes, "refutes" was the word local radio station KRLA kept using; they're the station that carries Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. Although "to refute" can mean "to deny the accuracy or truth of," the more common usage is "to prove to be false or erroneous; overthrow by argument or proof." In either case, you cannot "refute[] Bush's decision to send 21,000 troops to Iraq.")

But the real news is that only 17 Republican representatives voted for it -- and 2 Democrats, Jim Marshall (D-GA, 70%) and Gene Taylor (D-MS, 60%), actually crossed party lines and voted with the Republican majority against the resolution:

Seventeen Republicans voted for the resolution. Two Democrats, Jim Marshall of Georgia and Gene Taylor of Mississippi, voted against it. Mr. Marshall is the son and grandson of Army generals and was wounded in combat in Vietnam, according to The Almanac of American Politics. Mr. Taylor has a generally conservative voting record and is “strongly pro-defense,” the almanac says. Six representatives cast no vote.

The final vote was 246 to 182; six representatives did not vote (two Democrats and four Republicans, I believe), and of course conservative Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA, 100%) passed away a few days ago. But as recently as two days ago, Democrats were predicting that from 30 to 60 (!) Republicans would defect. Most analysts said the minimum would be "dozens."

The seventeen "white-flag Republicans" are:

  • Michael Castle (DE, 28%)
  • Richard (Ric) Keller (FL, 96%)
  • Timothy V. Johnson (IL, 52%)
  • Mark Kirk (IL, 36%)
  • Wayne Gilchrest (MD, 42%)
  • Frederick Stephen Upton (MI, 80%)
  • James Ramstad (MN, 46%)
  • Howard Coble (NC, 84%)
  • Walter Jones (NC, 80%)
  • James T. Walsh (NY, 65%)
  • Steven C. LaTourette (OH, 71%)
  • Philip Sheridan English (PA, 88%)
  • Robert Inglis (SC, 84%)
  • John J. Duncan Jr. (TN, 92%)
  • Ron Paul (TX, 76%)
  • Thomas M. Davis (VA, 57%)
  • Thomas Petri (WI, 72%)

What is so encouraging about this vote is that those voting in favor of a non-binding (meaningless) resolution came nowhere near the number needed to override a presidential veto, which is 290 (2/3rds of 435). Although this has no meaning in a non-binding resolution, which needs no presidential signature, it has great significance in the next round of the Democrats' assault upon America's war effort: the attempt by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 100%) to cut off funding for the troops in Iraq, which would prevent them from being reinforced or relieved by new troops, leaving them in a perilous position.

This has wide support among Democratic lawmakers; but there are not enough of them (only 233 in the House, 51 in the Senate, assuming Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, 95%, is well enough to vote) to override Bush's certain veto. But such a scheme will certainly get fewer Republican votes -- and probably fewer Democratic votes as well, considering the opposition by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%) -- than the meaningless exercise in symbolism they just passed.

That means that there is no chance at all that the Murtha scheme can ultimately succeed, which requires overriding a presidential veto... and in fact, depending on how many Democrats follow Hoyer, who opposes the Murtha scheme, even though he supported the non-binding resolution, they might not even get a simple majority to pass the Murtha scheme in the first place.

So how long will the anti-war Democrats continue along this march to futility? It would actually make much more sense, not just militarily (of course) but even politically, for the majority caucus to say something like the following: "While we have reservations about the president's current strategy, we'll support it for now and give it a chance; if it succeeds where all his other strategies have failed -- wonderful! But if it fails, then Congress will have to step in and decide whether continuing down this road is in the best security interests of the United States." (It doesn't matter whether they believe it; it's still in their best political interests to say it.)

That way, if it fails, they get credit for allowing Bush "one last-ditch effort" to salvage the war (I'm speaking from the perspective of Democrats; I actually think the war is going much better than the media pretends). But if it succeeds, which could happen -- failure is always an option, but so is victory -- then the Democrats can bask in the glory along with the GOP.

As it stands now, with their repeated and increasingly shrill attempts to sabotage the war, they will inherit some of the blame if we lose (because they "handcuffed" our troops, and so forth). But if we win, they will get no credit whatsoever... because they predicted nothing but defeat and dishonor.

The Democrats think they're in a win-win situation... but in fact, it's lose-semi-lose. Welcome to the "majority" of a closely divided Congress.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 16, 2007, at the time of 3:58 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Not A-Feared We're Gonna Lose...

Congressional Calamities , Congressional Corruption , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

The more success we have in our new strategic change of course in Iraq -- the more desperate the Democrats become to stop it in its tracks. The dynamic has become as crystal: the Democrats are not afraid we'll lose... they're frantic that we might somehow win.

Their entire political strategy is based upon the assumption that Iraq in 2008 will be even more a catastrophe than today (and they have very funny ideas of how bad it is today).

Thus, I am hardly shocked that the Democrats in Congress, perhaps stunned by the speed with which President Bush's new strategy appears to be bearing fruit, have gone back on their word... and now openly threaten to cut off funding to end the war, a tactic which only a couple, three weeks ago was dismissed by both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%) as Republican paranoia:

Democrats are challenging President Bush's power to wage war, contending they've found a way to block a troop increase in Iraq and prevent any pre-emptive invasion of Iran....

"This country needs a dramatic change of course in Iraq and it is the responsibility of this Congress to consummate that change," said Rep. John Murtha, who chairs the House panel that oversees military spending.

Murtha, D-Pa., is preparing legislation that would set strict conditions on combat deployments, including a year rest between combat tours; ultimately, the congressman says, his measure would make it impossible for Bush to maintain his planned deployment of a total of about 160,000 troops for months on end.

The Fox News "All-Stars" had a lively discussion of Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA, 100%) scheme on Brit Hume yesterday: The basic idea is to set up a series of "benchmarks" -- not for the Iraqis to achieve, not even for the soldiers and Marines to achieve in the field; the benchmarks are "readiness" and "rest" standards that American units must meet in order for the Commander in Chief to be allowed by Congress to send them to Iraq.

(And the scheme is probably an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers.)

The standards are ludicrous. For example, units cannot be deployed to Iraq if they have been in the United States less than one year, no matter what. They cannot be deployed if they have not received some very high level of training. Troops' tours cannot be extended; stop-loss extensions are forbidden; equipment must be up to some impossible standard... and all these must be reported, certified by the president, and (presumably) agreed to by Congress before the president is allowed to deploy any troops.

To Iraq, that is; none of this nonsense on stilts would apply to units being deployed to Afghanistan.

In an interview on the website MoveCongress.org (in a passage now "sanitized" from the site), Murtha made his intentions clear -- and it's not simply to prevent the so-called "surge" in Iraq:

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has begun consideration of the president’s $93 billion supplemental appropriations request for Iraq. Action on the request will be the first opportunity for the new Congress to exercise its “power-of-the-purse” over the Iraq war.

Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president’s foreign and national security policy. Chairman Murtha discusses these steps in a videotaped conversation with former Congressman Tom Andrews (D-ME), the National Director of the Win Without War coalition, sponsor of MoveCongress.org.

In the discussion on Special Report, Hume, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, and Nina Easton (no Mara yesterday) all agreed that the actual effect of the Murtha bill, if it were passed into law, would be to prevent reinforcements from arriving to relieve the augmented troop levels that will already be in country long before that point. They also all agreed that the bill has no chance at all of actually being enacted: It will never make it through the Senate and might not even pass the House, if the Republicans were to expose and attack it for what it really is.

Nina Easton thought it was good politics for the Democrats: They appear to be "pro-troops," looking out for their welfare, when in fact their real intent is to block the strategic change of course in Iraq. But both Fred and Mort, the "Beltway Boys," thought it would in fact turn out to be terrible politics for the Democrats, and I agree:

  • Even many of those who oppose the troop increase (a small but necessary part of the change of course) will balk at the idea of cutting off funding after the troops have already arrived, which is what the Murtha scheme would do;
  • This feeds directly into the traditional weakness of the Democrats on national defense, that they are so allergic to war that they actually prefer us to lose rather than win;
  • Even those who won't go that far might still think it feckless for Congress to try to micromanage the exact level and location of future troop deployments;
  • Since the FY 2007 budget is already appropriated, funding the DoD through September, President Bush can simply move funds from other DoD projects to fund the war; the Supreme Court has already ruled that this is within the Executive's authority; thus, Congress cannot cut off funds until at least October;
  • But by October, the Democrats' worst fears may be realized: it may already be obvious that the new strategy is working, and working so well that even the big-box media cannot cover it up.

Thus, it's almost a given that the Murtha scheme is doomed to fail -- which will make it all the more likely that moderate Democrats in the House will defeat it, led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 95%), who beat John Murtha out of that post and still bears ill will, and who has already come out against the Murtha scheme.

When the Democrats are unable to act on the supplementary budget request for the troops, they will have to scramble to accept it as is, without the Murtha scheme attached. This will humiliate and disempower Murtha within the Democratic caucus, relative to Hoyer.

What is most likely to happen then is that the frustrated Defeat Caucus in the House, having failed to enact the Murtha scheme, will push something even more radical... possibly a naked cut-off of funding to the troops in the field, essentially telling our soldiers and Marines in combat to "dry up and blow away."

By then, unless the liberal Democrats come to their senses somewhere in the middle and stop themselves, they will finally restore the natural distinction between Republicans who support victory in the war and Democrats who support only defeat, dishonor, and disaster. (The distinction had grown blurry with the small number of "white-flag Republicans" infesting the Congress.)

As always, the lizards are optimistic: I still bet on George W. Bush to keep up the good, very good fight in Iraq against both al-Qaeda and also the millenarian cult of Shiite death squads -- rather than betting on the antics of the defeatist Democrats in House and Senate. The fight is not just good for the GOP; it's vital for the future of Western civilization.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 16, 2007, at the time of 5:18 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 1, 2007

Democrats, Hagel Back Down on Surrender Resolution - Slight Correction

Congressional Calamities , Good News! , Iraq Matters , Media Madness
Hatched by Dafydd

Correction: See below.

...But you would never realize it simply from reading the New York Times.

Here is the headline; when you read this, ask yourself whether that means attacks on the president's troop reinforcement are becoming harsher and more virulent -- or damping and diminishing:

Senate Critique of Bush’s Iraq Plan Wins New Support

Anybody reading just the headline would reasonably conclude that the big, anti-reinforcement snowball rolling downhill is picking up more and more support with every passing day. But wait... read the lede and second paragraphs:

A revised Senate resolution criticizing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq, offered by Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, drew new support today as two of the authors of a sterner resolution of disapproval said they would accept the Warner compromise.

Senators Joseph R. Biden, Democrat of Delaware, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said they would back Mr. Warner’s new wording, which among other changes removed language that Democrats saw as creating a potential loophole. [How do you get a "loophole" in a non-binding resolution?]

In other words, the "new support" for the "Senate critique of Bush's Iraq War plan" consists of the sponsors of the Biden-Hagel "Surrender Swift" resolution shifting their support to Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) less confrontational "Surrender Slow" resolution.

Previously more radical reinforcement opponents are now somewhat less radical; and the Times headline portrays this as another hammerblow against President Bush's strategic change of course in Iraq.

Nor is this just a rhetorical exercise -- "oh yeah, I support that one too, if ours doesn't pass." Contrariwise, the Democrats at the moment appear to have abandoned the harsher "Surrender Swift" resolution:

Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was the third author of that plan ["Surrender Swift"]; on Wednesday night he had agreed to support Mr. Warner, the ranking Republican on that committee.

The Democratic leadership of the Senate now intends to use Mr. Warner’s proposal, co-sponsored by Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, as the basis for the debate that will unfold next week, though Republicans could still raise procedural obstacles. [That is, they could -- and should -- and will filibuster.]

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%) is hopping mad, issuing a statement trashing "Surrender Slow" for not explicitly opposing the "escalation" (the Democrats' contrived word for the reinforcement and change in the rules of engagement, ROEs; it's a wonder they don't simply start referring to Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads as "the VC").

He also charged that it doesn't explicitly demand that the United States go to Iran, hat in hand, and beg them to take over security in Iraq... an offer I'm sure Iran would be eager to accept. Their economy isn't doing very well right now, and selling off some other country's oil would be a big shot in the arm for the mullahs and President Ahmadinejad.

Finally, the Times is already preparing us for what I think is increasingly likely: that none of these resolutions can gain the 60 votes necessary to overcome a Republican filibuster:

Backers of the new Warner resolution will likely need to attract at least a dozen Republicans to reach the 60-vote total required to overcome a filibuster or other procedural obstacles. Six Republicans have so far voiced their support.

Yesterday it was five Republicans, with one supporting "Surrender Swift"; then Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%) backed away from the Democrats' version and instead will support the milder version ("Surrender Slow") pushed by Sen. Warner.

Not one single Republican beyond the original list has joined this "bandwagon;" in fact, two of the GOP senators who were "flirting" with signing aboard "Surrender Slow" -- probably Sen. Sam Brownback (KS, 100%) and Sen. George Voinovich (OH, 68%), but I can't be certain -- have so far refused actually to pull the trigger.

One more point, which is either sloppy writing on the Times' part -- or else a backdoor admission of further erosion. The paragraph quoted above says that "at least a dozen" GOP votes would be needed to overcome a filibuster.

But wait: There are 51 Democrats, but Sen. Joe Lieberman (R-CT, 80%) is voting against both "Surrender" resolutions. That means the Democrats start with a presumed base of 50 votes for cloture, cutting off debate and anding the filibuster. They should only need ten GOP votes to make the magic number of 60.

Correction: As Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 95%) is still hospitalized and cannot vote, the Democratic majority should need 11 Republican votes to break a filibuster, not 10. Correction made throughout.

Why does the Times say a dozen? Has one more Democratic senator come out against Warner -- possibly Dodd or Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) -- on the grounds of honesty, arguing that if the Senate isn't going to cut off funding, it shouldn't even bother with non-binding monkeyshines? If so, that would make it even harder to pass anything in the poisonous congressional atmosphere that the Democrats inherited... and promptly made more noxious and noisome.

So the New York Times' headline has it exactly backwards: not only is opposition to the reinforcement and change of ROEs not growing, it's actually diminishing, from hysterical screaming down to mere grumbling. There is now less chance than before that even the Warner "Surrender Slow" resolution will pass muster in the Senate; after all this wrangling and arm-twisting, the Democrats are still six votes short of cloture.

And that is very good news indeed!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 1, 2007, at the time of 2:42 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 30, 2007

The Little Generals - 535 of Them

Congressional Calamities , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

In a burst of audacity and ingenuity that one wishes were aimed at America's enemies instead of the president, congressional Democrats now assert the sweeping authority to be co-Commanders in Chief; and in the case of one constitutional-law "expert," to dictate strategic and tactical military policy to the president, who in this scenario must simply salute and say "Yes sir."

This goes far beyond what they did during their successful effort to turn the Vietnam victory into defeat; in that shameful episode, Congress merely utilized the power of the purse, which everyone (even George W. Bush) agrees they have. Nay, one must go all the way back to the Civil War, when Congress routinely issued marching and battle orders to Union generals, to find a comparable moment of hubris in congressional history.

The first shot across the bow comes from Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA, 63%), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee began laying the constitutional groundwork today for an effort to block President Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq and place new limits on the conduct of the war there, perhaps forcing a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

They were joined by Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who led the panel for the last two years, in asserting that Mr. Bush cannot simply ignore Congressional opposition to his plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

“I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole decider,” Mr. Specter said. “The decider is a joint and shared responsibility.”

Back a few days ago, in our previous post None Dare Call It Cowardice, I pegged Specter as likely to join the efforts to seize command of the military away from the president:

[T]he only other Republican senator who scores lower than the top of this liberal group (Voinovich, 68%) is Sen. Arlen Specter (PA, 63%)...

(In this case, I based my semi-prediction not only on Specter's liberalness but also upon his vanity and tendency to preen before an audience.)

But what exactly is Specter saying here? Nobody denies that Congress is the "decider" when it comes to funding the military; the president's power is entirely negative: he can veto the funding legislation. And Bush's "decider" remark -- actually, he said "decision maker" in the most recent incarnation -- was very clear about what he was deciding: he said he was the decision-maker about implementing the plan, not funding it.

Thus, when Specter says “The decider is a joint and shared responsibility," he is literally saying that Congress has as much say as the Commander in Chief over determining the rules of engagement, repositioning the troops within Iraq, and sending U.S. forces from point A to point B. If Congress had any role at all in those types of decisions, it was whether to authorize the use of military force in the first place... which they did in 2002, with no time limit and no restrictions about exactly how they could be used in the upcoming war (though such restrictions would probably have been unconstitutional anyway).

Specter is not unaware of the enormity he's trying to pull off; he knows this is not our traditional understanding of the relationship between the branches... he is very much aware that he is trying to seize the most important power of a republic, the strategic and tactical specifics of waging war, away from the president and into Congress:

Mr. Specter said he considered a clash over constitutional powers to be “imminent.”

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI, 100%) is behaving more honorably than Specter: he is brazenly trying to cut off all funding for the war, which is at least a bona-fide congressional power. But even he is drunk on Congressional power, at the expense of the presidency, that goes beyond unseemly to the realm of the imperial:

Senator Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who acted as chairman for the hearing, said he would soon introduce a resolution that would go much further. It would end all financing for the deployment of American military forces in Iraq after six months, other than a limited number working on counterterrorism operations or training the Iraqi army and police. In effect, it would call for all other American forces to be withdrawn by the six-month deadline.

“Since the President is adamant about pursuing his failed policy in Iraq, Congress has a duty to stand up and prevent him,” Mr. Feingold said.

Mr. Feingold was joined by only two other Democrats at the hearing, Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, perhaps reflecting the wariness in the party’s caucus about any direct attempt to thwart the president’s strategy.

When did they inherit this duty? I see nothing in the Constitution to justify it: Congress has these powers anent war:

To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

To provide and maintain a navy;

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.

U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8

By contrast, the president has the following powers:

The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.

U.S. Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 2

I don't want to judge before all the facts are in, but I'd have to say that being "commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" trumps any congressional wartime power on the narrow issue of who gets to move around the pieces on the chessboard.

It's important to realize that not all Republicans are involved in trying to sabotage our efforts in Iraq; so far, the effort is still limited to a subset of the group we listed in None Dare Call It Cowardice:

  1. Sam Brownback (KS, 100%)
  2. Susan Collins (ME, 32%)
  3. Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%)
  4. Norm Coleman (MN, 64%)
  5. Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%)
  6. George Voinovich (OH, 68%)
  7. Gordon Smith (OR, 58%)
  8. John Warner (VA, 88%)

Not even Specter has come out and said he will support the Warner "Surrender Slow" resolution; and Hagel was the only Republican to support the Biden-Hagel "Surrender Swift" resolution. At the moment, the only GOP supporters of Surrender Slow, according to Daily Kos, are Hagel, Collins, Smith, Coleman, and Warner.

But Specter and Feingold have come as close as one could imagine to coming right out and saying that Congress, not the president, is the "decider":

Mr. Specter read the results of a survey of service members conducted by The Military Times, which found that only 35 percent of respondents approved of Mr. Bush’s handling of the war. The senator suggested that in that light, the military might be “appreciative of questions being raised by Congress.” [Yes, I'm quite sure the military appreciates being told they're on a fool's errand and are destined to be defeated by the terrorists.]

Mr. Feingold insisted that his resolution would “not hurt our troops in any way” because they would all continue to be paid, supplied, equipped and trained as usual -- just not in Iraq.

I'm quite certain that Feingold is blissfully ignorant of how offensive this comment really is to servicemen and servicewomen: he sees our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as nothing more than contractors whose only concern is that they get paid; Sen. Feingold is unequipped by nature to understand how important is the mission itself, success and victory, to the military.

The most breathtaking power-grab came not from a senator but from an "expert" in constitutional law. (And let's all guess which side called him to testify!) If this doesn't make your mouth gape, you have no astonishment left in you:

Other experts testifying at the hearing said that Congress had the power not only to declare war, but to make major strategic and policy decisions about its conduct. Louis Fisher, a specialist in constitutional law for the Library of Congress, said, “I don’t know of any ground for a belief that the president has any more special expertise in whether to continue a war than do the members of Congress.”

He said that the title of “commander in chief” was meant by the framers to emphasize unity of command and civilian control over the military. “The same duty commanders have to the president, the president has to the elected representatives.”

"The same duty" would be the duty to obey orders, no matter what he thinks of them. I'm virtually certain that Mr. Fisher was called by Russell Feingold (who served as acting chair for Sen. Pat Leahy, D-VT, 100% during this hearing). But I wonder whether Arlen Specter didn't have at least the faint trace of a Cheshire-Cat smile on his lips, as he envisioned future Congresses issuing marching orders to future Subcommanders in Subchief. (And by the way... when did the president cease being considered an "elected representative?")

Naturally, the subject slopped over from Iraq to Iran; the Democrats simply couldn't contain themselves, any more than a monkey can stop itself from dropping one handful of nuts to grab another:

Even as the panel discussed issues from past conflicts, Senator Kennedy used the session to focus on a possible future conflict, asking the panel about what authority Mr. Bush would have to attack Iran. The panel’s members agreed that he had the power to take what actions he saw fit to deal with any short-term threat that Iran might pose to American troops in Iraq, but that he would need some form of Congressional authorization to begin any large-scale or long-term conflict.

(Of course, under the War Powers Act, President Bush has even more power than that: he can attack Iran, so long as the entire engagement lasts 60 days or less; then he has to report to Congress. This means that the "Herman Option" is easily within the authority of the president to order without bothering to gain permission from (or even consult) Arlen Specter, Russell Feingold, or Nancy Pelosi. Or Nancy Sinatra, for that matter.)

Sticking with Iran, the Democrats also harangued the president on his refusal to kowtow to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the Baker-Hamilton ISG report recommended:

Republican and Democratic senators warned Tuesday against a drift toward war with an emboldened Iran and suggested the Bush administration was missing a chance to engage its longtime adversary in potentially helpful talks over next-door Iraq.

"What I think many of us are concerned about is that we stumble into active hostilities with Iran without having aggressively pursued diplomatic approaches, without the American people understanding exactly what's taking place," Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told John Negroponte, who is in line to become the nation's No. 2 diplomat as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy.

It's hard not to laugh at the spectacle of Barack Obama (100%) -- a fellow who has served as a U.S. senator for two whole years -- lecturing John Negroponte, a man who has spent his entire adult life, since before Obama was even born, working his way up the State Department's ladder of responsibility (except for the two years he served as the first Director of National Intelligence) on the basics of diplomacy and negotiation. I wonder... did Obama tap his head during this speech, as if urging Negroponte to think it through?

At least in this case, so far no Republican has hurled himself against the barracades, bringing about the very intervention by Iran that he professes to be trying to stop. This time, even GOP mavericks wisely left that job to the Democrats, who have more experience at anti-Americanism. This is the absolute juiciest that AP can muster:

Senators including Hagel, George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., sounded frustrated with the administration's decision not to engage Iran and fellow outcast Syria in efforts to reduce sectarian violence in Iraq.

Even so, we appear, as in the 1860s, to have 535 spare generals on Capitol Hill, each of them having his headquarters in his congressional seat. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln (R-IL, 100%), they appear to have their headquarters where their hindquarters ought to be.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 30, 2007, at the time of 8:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 25, 2007

The Urge to Surge - UPDATED

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATED with illuminating analogy... see below!

Paul Mirengoff of Power Line has an interesting argument -- but it ultimately fails of its logic:

I've always believed that Senators have an obligation to vote their conscience on matters of war and peace....

So where does that leave a Republican Senator who thinks it's a mistake to "surge"?.... Many conservatives who aren't running for office have said that the surge is a bad idea. (I have expressed my reservations about it). Thus, the law of averages tells us that, political calculation aside, there will be more than a few Republican Senators who have that belief....

Most of the "wobbly" Republicans appear to be trying to balance their conviction that the surge is a bad idea against their concern over the impact of an anti-surge resolution on the war effort. This is a responsible approach.... In my view, the best resolution for those who don't want the surge but aren't prepared to block it, would be one that expresses their skepticism, but also their hope that the surge succeeds and their willingness, now that it has been decided upon, to give it a fair chance.

Paul himself touches on the point that nullifies his argument. His point would hold -- only if Congress were in a position to stop the surge; and only then if they did so privately, not as a public rebuke.

Given the powerlessness (and rightly so!) of Congress to decide upon the particular strategies and tactics used by our military forces to fight the war (that clearly being an area where the Constitution clearly gives the Executive full control), Congress has no business smashmouthing the decisions of the generals or the Commander in Chief, a.k.a. the president.

It is functionally the same as when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was insubordinate to President Harry Truman anent the Korean War and whether we should invade China: once the decision is made, it is the duty of all those who do not have the power to reverse that decision to do everything they can to support it and help it succeed.

Nothing that Congress is doing in these resolutions helps the war in any way. And while conservatives who are not in public office always have the right, under the First Amendment, to express disapproval, however vehemently they choose to do so... such a "right" does not extend to the Congress of the United States in its official actions: the Congress, as a branch of the government, cannot morally or ethically repudiate wartime decisions in a way that will undercut the war effort itself. That's not patriotic; it's puerile.

And nobody has yet articulated any reasonable way in which these resolutions would help the war effort. Paul tries, gamely but vainly, to do so:

On the other hand, some say that such resolutions signal to the Iraqi government that our patience is not limitless and thus will induce it to improve its behavior.

But that is not the signal these resolutions of irresolution send: rather, they send the message that we a are a government divided, that we will pull out and abandon our allies in Iraq, that we have no stomach for the fight. If Congress wants to send a message, they should send it to the president... not try to conduct ad-hoc foreign policy by long-distance proxy. They can tell President Bush that they will not endlessly vote funding if there is no measurable progress on the ground.

But these resolutions are the worst of all worlds -- expressing fear and loathing without lifting a finger to do anything about it. "You're going to lose, you're going to lose! But don't expect me to stop you." (And neither of the two resolutions, so far as I have seen, expresses any hope at all that "the surge succeeds.")

Thus, much as I understand Paul's reluctance to support the Kagan strategy, and his discomfort at telling off senators for supporting what he, himself proposed a couple of months ago, he must take into account that the decision has already been made: and there is nothing honorable left but for Congress to support it, whole-heartedly and full-throatedly, until such time as they have an actual, constitutional decision to make.

There is never a good enough excuse to vote an extra-constitutional slap in the face to the American military in the midst of a difficult war, especially when the only possible motivation is to vent one's spleen -- having nothing better to contribute.

UPDATE, a few minutes later: Here is an analogy to demonstrate why I think Paul's argument fails...

Suppose you have a serious illness -- cancer. You discuss it with your doctor and your family, and you decide that surgery is your best option.

You arrange for the date, you show up at the hospital, and you're all prepped. Then, just before they wheel you into the operating room, your next-door neighbor shows up -- she has no familiarity with surgery, with surgeons, with this particular surgeon, or with the various medical treatments for your type of cancer -- yet she says, "surgery is against your health interest; you're just going to die in there!"

Now, she may have the sincere conviction that surgery is bad; after all, she once had an aunt who died in surgery -- in 1974. But that makes no difference; the decision is already made, and you're not going to change your mind because some random, uninformed acquaintance thinks surgery is barbaric.

Which means the only possible result of her outspoken resolution is to scare the living daylights out of you at just the moment you most need emotional support. In fact, she might even make it less likely you survive, because you'll be in such a fright that you might not react well to the anaesthesia.

Is there any imaginable scenario under which her action would be anything but despicable?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 25, 2007, at the time of 7:24 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A New Liz-ard?

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I just devoured a killer OpEd piece in the Washington Post that reads so brilliant, so clear and concise, and so inarguable that it could have been a Big Lizards post. The author is a former "principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs;" she heads the Iran-Syria Operations Group (ISOG), which uses its $80 budget to promote democracy (that is, regime change) in Iran and Syria; and she is married to Phil Perry, the General Counsel of the United States Department of Homeland Security. This gal has gravitas.

In fact, she is even a "Liz-ard," so to speak; her Christian name is Elizabeth, and she goes by Liz... some young gal named Liz Cheney.

I believe she has a famous father, but I don't think I've heard of him.

There are so many great quotes from this piece, I hardly know where to begin. Dang, I sure wish she were a senator, governor, or president! Here are a few excerpts, beginning with, well, the very beginning:

Sen. Hillary Clinton declared this weekend, "I'm in to win." Anyone who has watched her remarkable trajectory can have no doubt that she'll do whatever it takes to win the presidency. I wish she felt the same way about the war.

A few more, just to give you a taste of the joy you'll experience savoring this piece:

We are at war. America faces an existential threat. This is not, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi has claimed, a "situation to be solved." It would be nice if we could wake up tomorrow and say, as Sen. Barack Obama suggested at a Jan. 11 hearing, "Enough is enough." Wishing doesn't make it so. We will have to fight these terrorists to the death somewhere, sometime. We can't negotiate with them or "solve" their jihad. If we quit in Iraq now, we must get ready for a harder, longer, more deadly struggle later....

Beware the polls. In November the American people expressed serious concerns about Iraq (and about Republican corruption and scandals). They did not say that they want us to lose this war. They did not say that they want us to allow Iraq to become a base for al-Qaeda to conduct global terrorist operations. They did not say that they would rather we fight the terrorists here at home. Until you see a poll that asks those questions, don't use election results as an excuse to retreat....

Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them. They know that free people must fight to defend their freedom. No force on Earth -- especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents -- can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers' mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn't compute.

This is a rousing bitch-slapping of Sen. Hillary, but also of Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%) and Susan Collins (ME, 32%); and it's a bastard-slapping of Republican Sens. Warner, Hagel, Coleman, Brownback, Voinovich, and Smith. All of these Republicans (everyone listed above except Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, 100%) collectively form the Cowards Corps.

I listened to Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN, 63%) on Hugh Hewitt's show yesterday, and I was rather amused that he did not spend one, single minute explicating why it would help the war effort to send our troops into battle accompanied by the announcement that they're sure to be defeated. (St. Crispin's Day, it ain't.) Rather, Coleman spent the entire interview desperately (and laughably) arguing that the Warner amendment does not say the surge won't work.

Doddering octogenarian Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) resolution calls, instead of the strategic change of course that the president has already selected, that instead we should announce that we'll be withdrawing by 2008, and that instead we should negotiate with Iran and Syria, begging them to "stabilize" Iraq when we leave.

At the most, it forsees a really tiny surgelet, and only in Anbar province to fight Sunni terrorists... to heck with Baghdad, to heck with democratizing Iraq, to heck with everything else. It's about as anti-surge as the Biden-Hagel amendment, except it doesn't use the Vietnamesque word "escalation." Has Coleman even read it?

Perhaps Mrs. Cheney-Perry could telephone the Cowards Corps and personally tell them just how clownish they are being. (She certainly seems to have more testosterone than any of the males in that group. Well, more than Snowe and Collins, too, of course; but that's not as funny.) Not only are they damaging the country, but even worse from their perspective, they're damaging their own political careers: being a cowardly Republican won't help if their constituents actually want a principled, anti-American Democrat.

Speaking of which, Power Liners John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson followed Coleman on Hugh Hewitt's show, and they tried manfully to find some way to harmonize his current antics with his former stand-up attitude on the war. The best Scott could do was suggest that Coleman's "political viability" in Minnesota politics would be damaged if he did not nakedly undermine our troops. (Evidently, the typical Minnesotan is praying that we lose the war, so America will be humbled and broken.)

I would send a message to Mr. Coleman: dear Senator; if the only way you could maintain your political viability would be to sell out your country during a war -- then you have a duty to sacrifice your political career by doing the right thing instead.

I know it's giddy optimism, but I think there really is a chance that some of these Republican senators will come to their senses -- before they put Congress on record saying we're going to lose the war, and it's too late.

(For comparison's sake, here is how King Henry Vth of England sent off his troops on St. Crispin's Day -- with himself at the head of them... at least according to that Shakespeare fellow; click the "Slither on.")

From King Henry the Vth, Act IV, Scene 3:

KING HENRY V
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names.
Familiar in his mouth as household words
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester,
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 25, 2007, at the time of 4:13 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

Cautiously Optimistic...

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

In the first (easy) test today, some of the Republican cowards found just enough courage to reject the worse, Democratic version of the defeatism resolution today, Joe Biden's (D-DE, 100%) "surrender swift":

The Democratic-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee dismissed President Bush's plans to increase troops strength in Iraq on Wednesday as "not in the national interest," an unusual wartime repudiation of the commander in chief.

The vote on the nonbinding measure was 12-9 and largely along party lines.

"We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder," said Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the sole Republican to join 11 Democrats in support of the measure.

There are two other weak-kneed Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee: Norm Coleman (R-MN, 64%) and George Voinovich (R-OH, 68%); when an attempt by Coleman to amend the bill to make it more like Sen. John Warner's (R-VA, 88%) slightly less repulsive and dishonorable defeatism resolution ("surrender slow") was defeated in a bipartisan rejection, 17-4, both Coleman and Voinovich refused to sign aboard the Biden version.

In a defeat for Democrats that heartens me a bit, an amendment by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT, 100%) went down 15-6; it would have capped the number of American forces in Iraq, saying they "may not exceed the levels" we had before President Bush gave his speech announcing the strategic change of course. As there are only ten Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee, that means that at least five Democrats voted against capping the troops. (AP did not deign to tell us whether Sen. Chuck Hagel voted for or against the Dodd amendment, but I suspect he voted against it.)

Speaking of not telling, here is the entirety of what Reuters said about the actual vote on the resolution in committee:

On a bipartisan vote of 12-9, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution expressing clear disapproval of Bush's Iraq policy, a day after he asked Congress to give it more time to work. The vote is nonbinding, but supporters hope it will convince the president to reconsider.

Note how "largely along party lines" (AP) becomes "a bipartisan vote" (Reuters). Reuters does not see fit to mention that by "bipartisan vote," they meant 11 Democrats and one Republican.

A later Reuters story corrected that bizarre mischaracterization (the first story was kneejerk; the second was perhaps written after consulting their "public editor," if they have one):

The 12-9 vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee drew less Republican support than expected, given growing doubts in Congress about the wisdom of Bush's decision to add 21,500 troops in Baghdad and Anbar province. [By "growing doubts," they mean that liberals of both parties are increasingly against the war; only three non-liberal Republicans support any of these measures.]

Only one Republican, resolution co-author Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, voted for it, after accusing the Bush administration of playing "ping-pong" with American lives.

I'm cautiously optimistic... but the real test comes later, when the Senate is ready to vote on the Warner "surrender slow" resolution: where will Coleman and Voinovich stand then? Will they come to their senses enough to realize that, if they're worried about their constituents' dislike of the war, they can always vote against the resolutions (saying they undercut the president) -- but still badmouth the war back home?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 24, 2007, at the time of 1:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

None Dare Call It Cowardice

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Here is the most current list of Republican cowards that I can put together:

  1. Sam Brownback (KS, 100%)
  2. Susan Collins (ME, 32%)
  3. Olympia Snowe (ME, 32%)
  4. Norm Coleman (MN, 64%)
  5. Chuck Hagel (NE, 96%)
  6. George Voinovich (OH, 68%)
  7. Gordon Smith (OR, 58%)
  8. John Warner (VA, 88%)

The first thing to note is that, apart from Brownback, Hagel, and Warner, the rest are RINOs with an average "Republican partisan score" of only 50.4%; the only other Republican senator who scores lower than the top of this liberal group (Voinovich, 68%) is Sen. Arlen Specter (PA, 63%)... every other Republican senator is more Republican than these five, according to the American Conservative Union ratings.

All right, but what about the three we singled out first? What's up with them? Chuck Hagel has been against the war almost from the very beginning; he appears to be simply opposed to the very concept of American troops being sent anywhere for any reason.

Sam Brownback is running for president -- and he appears to have drunk the media Flavor-Aid that says the American people are desperate to lose in Iraq and are just begging us to turn tail and flee. Having neither principles nor brain cells, Brownback naturally tailors his message to what CBS tells him Americans want to hear.

John Warner is a strange case, however; I can only conclude that his very advanced age -- he turns 80 years old in 25 days -- has driven him into timidity and fear; Warner has become Grandpa Simpson... "oh no, we're all doomed!" What a sad, pathetic old man. If he had any decency, he would resign from the Senate, rather than disgrace his years of fine service with end-of-career hysteria and panic.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN, 88%) is trembling in his boots a bit, but he has not yet completely jumped the shark. And of course, the shining honor roll of Democrats supporting the president on his strategic change of course in Iraq -- exactly what they have pretended to demand for months now -- has but a single member: Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT, 80%).

If the roll-call stays as it is now, and if Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 100%) has enough brass to pull the trigger, then the GOP should be able to filibuster both these insulting, defeatist, and unAmerican resolutions to death: Even if every one of the eight poltroons listed above votes for cloture, along with all 50 Democrats not named Joe Lieberman -- assuming someone channels Tim Johnson's (D-SD, 95%) vote -- that would only give the forces of darkness and despair 58 votes... not enough.

But if two more Republicans defect, or if McConnell is made of Jell-O, then we face the prospect of sending our troops into combat... with the United States Congress shouting after them, "it'll end in tears -- you'll poke your eye out!"

There are times I despise politicians so much, I want to pass a law preventing anyone being elected who actually wants the job.

Too many people grow in office these days. Was it always this bad?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 24, 2007, at the time of 5:35 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

January 22, 2007

Warner Blithers

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

Republican Sen. John Warner (R-VA, 88%), former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the desperate need to garner more support for the Iraq war:

Mr. Warner said that while he saw “no direct parallels” between the Iraq situation and the United States involvement in Vietnam, he said that he vividly recalls the decline of American public and political support for the Vietnam war, when he was Navy Secretary. Restoring support for the Iraq mission and assuring American success there is essential, he said.

...And that's why he's co-sponsoring one of the two Senate resolutions saying the president's plan is doomed to fail!

John Warner: rocket scientist.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 22, 2007, at the time of 3:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 18, 2007

General Who? (Minor Attributional Update)

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters
Hatched by Dafydd

UPDATE: We should have provided a link to the policy paper "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" (hat tip to commenter Tomy); also, Gen. Jack Keane was not the primary author but one of the secondary authors. Everything said about the plan itself is accurate, however, as is Keane's advocacy of the plan to the president, and the fact that it formed the basis of the president's final decision.

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- now chaired by noted moderate Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) -- called several retired generals to testify that increasing our troop strength in Iraq was exactly the wrong thing to do... that we should be decreasing them instead.

The generals who testified were:

  • Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, Commander in Chief of Central Command from 1991 through 1994, after the Gulf War;
  • Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, Commander in Chief of Southern Command from 1994 through 1996;
  • Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters, Department of the Army 1981-1985 and Director of the National Security Agency 1985-1988. Odom is mostly known for saying we should not have deposed Saddam Hussein; for demanding our "immediate withrawal" of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2005; and for opposing the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program;
  • Army Gen. Jack Keane, Vice Chief of Staff and Acting Chief of Staff of the United States Army (ret. 2003). Keane's views on the surge were not reported by the New York Times... likely because he is the one of the authors of a policy paper this month titled "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" [the principal author is Frederick W. Kagan, not Keane, as we incorrectly reported yesterday]. This paper was instrumental in persuading President Bush to adopt the change of course in our Iraq strategy that included building up our troop strength in Baghdad and Anbar provinces.

    The Times notes only that Keane said that if we start pulling out -- as the other retired generals advocate -- “We will be shot at as we are going out;” they more or less imply that he joins the others in testifying against the policy that he, himself persuaded Bush to adopt... which is rather underhanded practice on the Times' part, I must say!

Note that not a single general (except Keane) has any military experience post-9/11; in fact, Gen. Odom has no military experience after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Conspicuous by their absence are such previously celebrated retired military officers as Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff of the United States Army; and Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Commander in Chief of United States Central Command. They were earlier trotted out (by anti-Bush Democrats) as the cream of the cream of military advisors -- back when Bush had rejected increasing the troop levels, and Shinseki and Zinni forcefully argued that we needed to do just that to win the war.

Is that why they appear to have gone from sine qua non to personae non gratae in one quick election?

Say, here's a thought: wouldn't it be effective were the president to set up a video conference between Shinseki, Zinni, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, President Bush -- and Commander of Multinational Forces - Iraq, Lt.Gen. David Petraeus, to explain the entire strategic change of course... and see if we can enlist Shinseki and Zinni to promote it?

What would Slow Joe Biden say then, I wonder...?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 18, 2007, at the time of 5:53 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 15, 2006

An Immodest Proposal

Congressional Calamities
Hatched by Dafydd

Everyone discussing the status of Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD, 95%) focuses on the possibility (not certainty!) that he may have a lengthy convalescence, during which his status could be in limbo: technically, he would still be a member and could not be replaced by Gov. Michael Rounds; but he is neither present nor voting in the Senate, reducing the Democrats to a 50-49 plurality.

Commentators consider the various responses to this:

  1. Republicans could demand that he be replaced, as he is not really "in" the Senate (in this scenario);
  2. Democrats could insist that the rules don't require a senator to be physically present or voting, and there is ample precedent for Johnson to stay on the rolls;
  3. Republicans could filibuster the organizing resolution, which would leave us in the queer situation that Sen. Harry Reid (D-Excalibur, 100%) is Majority Leader of the Senate... but all the committee chairmanships remain frozen as they are today, with Republicans in power.

But this chain of events presupposes one particular decision at the beginning, a decision that must ultimately be made by Sen. Johnson himself: Johnson must decide, in the event of incapacitation, whether will stay in the Senate during his incapacity.

For his personal fortunes, of course he should stay; that way, even if it takes him over a year to recover, he still has his Senate seat when he returns. But there is another viewpoint: Sen. Johnson might decide that the citizenry of South Dakota deserves to have two senators, like every other state.

He might decide that, regardless of his personal desires, it's not fair to the state he loves to leave it with only half the representation in the Senate as it deserves. He might choose, therefore, to resign -- even knowing that the governor will appoint a Republican to serve out the remaining two years of his term.

(The pressure on Mike Rounds not to appoint a fire-breathing conservative, but a moderate Republican instead, will be overwhelming: after Johnson offered such an act of self-sacrifice in favor of his state as stepping aside, were Rounds to take advantage of that by putting in someone diametrically opposed to Johnson, it would look churlish and belligerent and would surely damage Rounds' own political career.)

I think this would be the right thing to do, even were the politics reversed: if Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ, 100%) were suddenly to take ill and be unable to attend office, debate, or vote, and if his convalescence were expected to take months or even a year, then I believe it would be proper for him to resign -- even knowing that Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano would appoint a Democrat to fill his term (assume for sake of discussion that Arizona has the same method of succession as South Dakota).

I understand the damage is greater in Johnson's case, because switching one seat would switch control of the Senate from Democrats to Republicans (because Vice President Dick Cheney would cast the tiebreaker on the organizational vote; even if the Democrats filibustered, that would simply leave all the same Republican chairmen in place). But the "damage" in this case is purely partisan; the damage to South Dakota of not having two senators fighting for their interests is more direct and bipartisan: it hurts every South Dakotan, not just those of one party.

If Johnson is fully recovered by 2008, he can run for election again; and he would have a very good chance of winning. But until then, if his recovery is expected to take a long time, possibly even indeterminate, then I believe he should do the manly thing and step aside.

Alas, I suspect the question of resignation is not in the card table, no matter how long it will take for Johnson to recover. We live in the age of Partei über Alles.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 15, 2006, at the time of 4:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 1, 2006

That Was Then; This Is Now

Congressional Calamities , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The headline says it all: