Category ►►► Presidential Pomp and Circumcision

April 16, 2012

Wreckless Presidents

Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

Considering the sheer volume of travel Presidents of the United States undertake, and the bizarre and unstable places they sometimes visit, and the vast sea of negligence through which they (and the rest of us) routinely wade, I find it simply astonishing that in all of American history, not a single American president has ever been killed in office by accident.

Nearly 10% of American presidents (four) have died in office due to illness; the same number have been murdered in office. But none has died in a plane crash, a helicopter crash, a car crash, a train crash; none has fallen off a high platform or precipice; none has drowned; none has accidentally ingested poison; none has died of hitting his head against something hard and solid, like a bathtub or a protruding steel pipe; none has been crushed by a collapsing building nor blown to bits by an underground hydrogen bubble; none has impaled himself on a rhinoceros horn nor strangled to death in a grand piano; none has been mauled to death by a wild animal (no Monica Lewinsky jokes, please! And even Jimmy Carter survived the seaborne rabbit attack); none has frozen to death, burned to death, starved to death, drunk himself to death, or decompressed to death; heck, we've never even had a POTUS stamp his foot so hard, the ground cracked open and swallowed him up like Rumplestiltskin.

Isn't that run of excellent luck more than a little bizarre?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 16, 2012, at the time of 1:02 AM | Comments (2)

August 28, 2008

Some Very Heartening Numbers That Aren't Getting Nearly Enough Attention, You Know

Polling Keeps a-Rolling , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

Most of the polling buzz seems to center around the Gallup tracking poll -- which for the first time during the Democratic National Convention shows a small bounce (up to +6) for Barack H. Obama. But there are some other numbers that belie the idea that the convention has spawned a significant -- or even noticible -- surge towards the Democrats (yet).

Gallup notes that the pre-convention tracking poll found Obama and John S. McCain in a dead-even tie, 45-45; so this represents a 6-point bounce on this particular poll. But -- and this is a very big but -- Obama's support still remains below 50%; he has a 48-42 lead over McCain.

This is significant because, in the history of this tracking poll, from the end of March until today, Barack Obama has never been above 50%; and John McCain has never been below 40%. In fact, Obama was up to 49% in late July -- a point higher than today -- and McCain was a point lower then. So the so-called "bounce" is still within the cosmic background noise of this particular poll. (And bear in mind, Gallup is polling registered voters, not likely voters; we have no idea how much of the increased support comes from people unlikely to translate that mini-surge into actual votes two months hence.)

It's entirely possible that tomorrow -- or by Monday, when the first fully post-convention number are released -- Obama will be up to 54% or 56%; nobody has a working crystal ball (especially not Larry Sabato). But at the moment, at least, Obama is doing no better than he generally has in the months before the convention.

And this is only one poll: According to Real Clear Politics' polling aggregation today, the other major tracking poll, Rasmussen daily tracking, shows no bounce at all so far. In the final three-days before the convention -- the poll released on Monday the 25th, showing polling from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday -- Obama was ahead by 4% (46-42) without leaners and 3% (48-45) when leaners were added in. The poll released today shows Obama ahead by only 1% (45-44) without leaners -- and dead even (47-47) with leaners added. Thus according to Rasmussen, Obama's lead has declined by 3% during the convention (again, so far).

As with the Gallup tracking poll, Obama has never been above 50% going all the way back to early June (not including leaners; he had three days of exactly 50% in early June if you include leaners). Similarly, he has enjoyed an 8% or 7% lead many times in that tracking poll... far better than the 1% (0%) he has right now.

We also have some puzzling non-tracking, pre-convention polling. The USA Today/Gallup poll in late July had McCain up by 4; and just before the convention, it had Obama up by 3, a 7-point gain for the One; but over that same period, the CNN poll had Obama up by 7 in late July, and just before the convention, it had them dead even -- a 7-point loss for Obama! Such the "science" of polling.

But I find some other numbers even more encouraging: the polling on the "generic congressional vote." This number derives from pollsters who ask variations on "do you plan to vote for the Democrat or the Republican in congressional races this November?" with no specific candidate names mentioned. It measures party strength... rather, it measures people's feelings about each party's "brand name."

Democrats usually do much better on this poll -- especially this far out -- than they end up doing in the election itself. And even the raw election numbers favor Democrats more than the actual results do, since the raw data include huge leads for seats with Democratic incrumbents.

At the moment, averaging across all polls conducted entirely within this month, the Democratic advantage on the generic poll is in single digits, a scant 8.4%. To put this in perspective, for all the polls conducted in July (in whole or in part), the generic advantage for Democrats was 12% -- it has dropped 4% in one month. This includes polls that have not yet been released this month, such as the AP/Ipsos, which might come in stronger for the Democrats (AP usually does); but even comparing the August polls to the previous versions of the exact same set of polls (USA Today/Gallup then and now, Fox News then and now, NBC-Wall Street Journal, Battleground, Rasmussen), the generic advantage for Democrats was 11%... so it's at least a 3% drop no matter how you cut it.

This is very, very important; even if McCain is elected president, if there is a huge surge of Democrats into Congress, he will be forced to work with them and will perforce shift left; if there is not -- if Republicans in the Senate still have enough reliable members to filibuster, for example, and if there is no chance of a veto-override in either the House or Senate -- then more than likely, ultra-liberal legislation won't even land on President McCain's desk.

Finally, one more number that made me smile. The RCP average of President George W. Bush's job approval is now up to 30%, having been as low as the mid-twenties earlier. He's on a roll!

(Congress, led by Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, D-Caesar's Palace, 85%, and Squeaker of the House Nancy "NARAL" Pelosi, D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%, is now down to an RCP average of 17.3% approval. If this number continues to drop as we approach the election, I'll have to ask -- is it possible for measured job approval to be a negative number?)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 28, 2008, at the time of 5:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 23, 2008

The Real Reason POW Phillip Butler Won't Vote for McCain

Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

The Democrats have trotted out their own Vietnam POW, Phillip Butler, who was shot down over Vietnam (like John S. McCain III), was a prisoner of war for eight years (McCain was a POW for five and a half years), and has now written a small piece telling us why he won't be voting for McCain.

It boils down to something very simple: Phillip Butler opposes McCain because Butler is a liberal Democrat.

There is nothing wrong or disreputable about this; but of course, it's hardly surprising, either. Heck, I won't be voting for Barack H. Obama because he's a liberal Democrat. In Butler's entire piece, he offers only one reason why anybody but a liberal Democrat might consider voting against McCain:

I can verify that John has an infamous reputation for being a hot head. He has a quick and explosive temper that many have experienced first hand. Folks, quite honestly that is not the finger I want next to that red button.

Well, all right. But for me, McCain's temper is vastly overbalanced by Obama's fecklessness, grandiosity, narcissism, radicalism, and willingness to cozy up to America's bitterest enemies, from Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright to Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But then, I'm not a liberal Democrat.

And oddly, for the rest of the piece, Butler paints us a portrait of an honorable, courageous, loyal, dedicated, and conservative John McCain. Does he think this will appall or turn off the electorate? Did the Democrats even read anything beyond the title? Here are some excerpts from what the Democrats think is an "attack piece" on McCain:

John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. And I believe he must have come as close to his goal as any midshipman who ever attended the Academy....

John's treatment as a POW:

1) Was he tortured for 5 years? No. He was subjected to torture and maltreatment during his first 2 years, from September of 1967 to September of 1969. After September of 1969 the Vietnamese stopped the torture and gave us increased food and rudimentary health care.... John allows the media to make him out to be THE hero POW, which he knows is absolutely not true, to further his political goals.

Butler offers no evidence that John McCain controls the media.

2) John was badly injured when he was shot down. Both arms were broken and he had other wounds from his ejection. Unfortunately this was often the case - new POW's arriving with broken bones and serious combat injuries. Many died from their wounds. Medical care was non-existent to rudimentary. Relief from pain was almost never given and often the wounds were used as an available way to torture the POW....

3) John was offered, and refused, "early release." Many of us were given this offer. It meant speaking out against your country and lying about your treatment to the press. You had to "admit" that the U.S. was criminal and that our treatment was "lenient and humane." So I, like numerous others, refused the offer....

But it must be remembered that [McCain] was one hero among many -- not uniquely so as his campaigns would have people believe.

Butler offers no evidence that McCain's campaign has claimed that he was the only hero of Vietnam.

John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity.... He was a POW who surmounted the odds with the help of many comrades, as all of us did....

Senator John Sidney McCain, III is a remarkable man who has made enormous personal achievements. And he is a man that I am proud to call a fellow POW who "Returned With Honor." That's our POW motto. But since many of you keep asking what I think of him, I've decided to write it out. In short, I think John Sidney McCain, III is a good man, but not someone I will vote for in the upcoming election to be our President of the United States.

But again, the last few paragraphs of Butler's piece make clear why he won't: He complains about McCain's support for "Bush's war in Iraq" and even trots out the "100 years" canard without seemingly understanding what McCain clearly said; Butler attacks "John's views on war, foreign policy, economics, environment, health care, education, national infrastructure and other important areas," equating them with those of President George W. Bush; he's afraid that McCain will appoint judges who believe in judicial restraint, which would surely lead to "continuing loss of individual freedoms, especially regarding moral and religious issues;" he argues that McCain is too comfortable with "some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers;" and he attacks McCain for treating Bush decently... as opposed, I assume, to spitting in Bush's face, as Butler evidently would like to do.

In short, Butler is simply a true, blue liberal... and he is convinced that McCain is a true conservative -- just as McCain says he is. Is that a persuasive reason to vote against the man?

If this is what the Democrats are relying upon to turn the public away from McCain and towards Barack Obama, then -- as I said in an earlier post -- bring it on.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 23, 2008, at the time of 3:17 AM | Comments (7) | 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 10, 2007

Victorians of the Press

Media Madness , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

What is wrong with the following peevish attack on President Bush from the drive-by media -- I mean, apart from the fact that it's yet another tedious, peevish attack on President Bush from the drive-by media?

Bush on track to become the vacation president

On Thursday, Bush left for a weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, and his family's summer compound, Walker's Point. On Monday, he heads to his Crawford retreat, where he has spent all or part of 418 days of his presidency, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent and meticulous record-keeper....

Bush's August sojourn will be his 65th trip to Crawford, according to Knoller.

The 1,600-acre ranch has proved a durable haven for Bush, who often disappears into its varied landscapes for days or weeks at a time without public appearances. He has an attractive stone house, shaded swimming pool, miles of rugged bike trails and law enforcement at every entry point keeping people out....

The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.

Even so, this year's August vacation for Bush is a contrast to previous years such as 2005, when he dragged out vacation in Texas to five weeks. That was also the year Bush remained on vacation immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Give up? Stumped? I doubt it; I suspect you all realized immediately the unfairness of this nasty dig (more worthy of the Weekly World News than the Houston Chronicle): The writer, Julie Mason, makes the cub-reporter mistake of assuming that the time Bush spends at his Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas is "vacation" time; just as she assumes that the days when President Reagan was at Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara, he was resting and relaxing.

Liberals typically call such residences "vacation homes," and they imagine -- and want us to imagine -- Bush or Reagan loafing, skipping stones in the lake, lying in the hammock, and in general just lazing about -- for 400+ days. (One never reads these stories when a Democrat is in the White House, no matter how many weeks he spends at Camp David or Hyannis Port.)

The reality is exactly the opposite. Like every other president before him, Bush uses Prairie Chapel Ranch not to get away from his work but simply for a change of scenery; when the president travels, the workload travels right along with him. Bush won't be on vacation in Crawford... he'll be working at the "branch office."

He doesn't take August off; he shifts his work location to Texas. Heck, everybody in D.C. either moves out during August or wishes he could... especially including Congress, which has a traditional "August recess." (And they're not vacationing either; they usually spend the time campaigning and strategizing.)

Everything the president can do in la Casa Blanca he can also do at whatever location he has selected as his retreat, whether it's San Clemente, Santa Barbara, Crawford, or Camp David. In fact, the president doesn't even get a break en route: Air Force One contains a presidential office, and every president since FDR has used it as a workplace during long flights, though it wasn't called "Air Force One" until 1953. (Bush does get a break while flying in Marine One, the Sea Hawk or Whitehawk helo from Andrews AFB to the White House.)

Bush receives ambassadors and other official visitors at Crawford; he commands military actions and manages rescue and recovery actions by FEMA from Crawford; he drafts executive orders and legislation he hopes to get through Congress, lobbies congressmen, meets with his cabinet, prepares for foreign trips, spends hours on the phone with various officials, writes speeches, manages personnel problems, holds press conferences, and interviews potential federal appointees. A "vacation" like that I need like a hole in the head.

Sachi and I are going on a cruise next month. Bush doesn't get to go on any cruises; and even when he goes to vacation hot-spot Paris, it's to talk to President Nicolas Sarkozy, not stroll down the Champs-Élysées window shopping or play poker at l'Aviation Club de France.

So let's be honest: Bush has not spent 418 days on "vacation;" he has spent 418 days at the Crawford branch office. It's possible that on some of those days, he did no work... possible, but not likely; the presidency is a 24-7 job. More likely, he even works on Sundays (after church) and holidays.

And likely a heck of a lot longer and harder hours than a typical journalist... even the workaholic Ms. Mason.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 10, 2007, at the time of 3:27 PM | Comments (7) | 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

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

March 22, 2007

New Kid On the Bayou

Elections , History , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

Warning: This is one of my infamous "too much time on my hands" offerings...

Yesterday, we noted that Bobby Jindal still stands a good chance of being elected governor of Louisiana, even after Gov. Kathleen Babineaux "Blankout" Blanco dropped out, to be replaced (everyone assumes) by the much stronger candidate former Sen. John Breaux.

Suppose Jindal does win this year and serves a full four years. Then suppose he runs for president at the next opportunity... how would the "child prodigy's" age compare to our youngest presidents?

First of all, we must clarify what we mean by the youngest president. There is no question that John F. Kennedy was the youngest person ever elected President of the United States. Kennedy was born on May 29th, 1917 -- the first president born in the twentieth century *. He ran for office and was elected on November 8th, 1960. (The first Tuesday was November 1st; but Congress in 1845 set the date for federal elections to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November; thus, the election is never held on the 1st.)

John Kennedy was thus 43 years, 5 months, and 10 days old when he was elected. Nobody else even comes within two years of that age.

However, that's not the end of it. There is another way to become president besides following your own election; and indeed, when William McKinley was assassinated, dying on September 14th, 1901, Vice President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt became president without being elected.

Roosevelt was born on October 27th, 1858; thus, he became president when he was 42 years, 10 months, and 18 days old. Kennedy became president on January 20th, 1961 -- and he had aged 2 months and 12 days to the ripe, old age of 43 years, 7 months, and 22 days. Therefore, while Kennedy was the youngest ever elected, TR beat him into the office by 9 months and 4 days.

(Roosevelt was not actually elected until November 8th, 1904, when he was a doddering ancient of 46 years and 12 days.)

So back to Jindal. He was born on June 10th, 1971. If he were to be elected president in the next election after serving a single term as governor, that would be on November 6th, 2012; and he would assume the office on January 20th, 2013: Jindal would be 41 years, 4 months, and 27 days old when elected and 41 years, 7 months, and 10 days when he assumed the office -- easily beating both Kennedy for youngest ever elected (by more than two years) and Roosevelt for youngest president (by more than a year).

But if Jindal instead serves a second successive term as governor -- which has only happened four times in Louisiana history (though some governors have served several non-sequential terms, such as Earl K. Long) -- then Jindal would leave that office in early 2016. The next presidential election would be November 8th, 2016; if he won, he would have been elected at age 45 years, 4 months, and 29 days.

That would be almost two years older than Kennedy was, but still younger than Teddy Roosevelt, the second-youngest person ever elected president. (Bill Clinton -- born August 19th, 1946 -- was elected on November 3rd, 1992, when he was 46 years, 2 months, and 15 days old.)

Jindal would, in that case, take the silver medal for second-youngest person elected, bumping Roosevelt to third youngest and Clinton out of the medals at 4th. However, because of that whole assassination thing, Jindal would only be the third youngest person (45 years old) to assume the presidency, after both Roosevelt, 42, and Kennedy, 43; Clinton would be fourth in this race as well at 46.

(If Barack Obama were to be elected in 2008, he would be 47 at both election and inauguration, far out of the running.)

In either case, Jindal would be the first former Hindu president and the first Asian.

We needn't wait for 2012; there are records poised to be made in the upcoming (2008) election as well:

  • Obama would be the first non-white and the first former Moslem;
  • Mitt Romney would be the first Mormon and probably the richest president;
  • Hillary Clinton would be the first woman -- making her both first woman and First Lady;
  • And Giuliani would be both the first Italian-American and would have the record for the most divorced president.

The first divorcé to win the presidency was Ronald Reagan; James Buchanan was the only bachelor president to remain unmarried throughout his administration, but Grover Cleveland was a bachelor until a year into his first term.

* There is some controversy about the first president born in the nineteenth century: It's either Millard Fillmore, if you count 1800 as 19th century, or Franklin Pierce (1804) if you don't.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 22, 2007, at the time of 6:51 AM | Comments (4) | 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 18, 2007

At Last - a Real Iraqi Civil War!

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

A funny thing happened on the way to the civil war...

Since about three hours after the invasion of Iraq began on March 20th, 2003 (yes, the fourth anniversary is this Tuesday), the anti-war peaceniks have insisted that Iraq is in a "full-blown civil war." If that's true, then for consistency, we would have to say the same about Los Angeles during the 1970s gang violence between Crips and Bloods.

But the Left has been disappointed time and again by its arms-length allies, who consistently fail to field opposing armies, capture territory, enunciate a national front, set up a shadow government, or any of the other requirements of a civil war. It's getting increasingly hard for even the elite media to keep a straight face when they report that Iraq in 2007 is in the same boat as Spain in the 1930s, America in the 1860s, or England in the mid-17th century... or even Haiti in the 1990s. Hoi polloi insist upon going about their normal lives; don't they know there's an American election looming in a scant twenty months?

But recently, a bona-fide civil war has erupted in Iraq... in fact, two of them. And the Democrats would be applauding -- except that, just like all the WMD we've found, "it's the wrong kind" of civil war!

First, we read about Sunni tribal leaders throwing in their lot with the American and Iraqi forces, joining the battle against al-Qaeda. In response, the terrorists have begun to direct their car-bombs and "martyrdom operations," not against the Americans or even the Shia, but against their own people, Sunni Iraq:

Al Qaeda's activities in Diyala are stirring up local resistance to the terror group. Al Sabaah reports Local sheikhs in Diyala are organizing against al-Qaeda and its Islamic State in Iraq, "which [is] spreading corruption in the province districts." The Iraqi government [is] beginning to plan military operations in Diyala as well. The Diyala sheikhs are beginning to organize, and are said to be forming a anti al Qaeda group akin to the Anbar Salvation Front, a grouping of former insurgents and tribes that oppose and fight al Qaeda's presence in western Iraq.

As a sign al Qaeda is concerned about this development, the terror campaign against hostile tribes is now underway. The homes of Sunni and Shia tribesmen who oppose al Qaeda are being burned to the ground on the city of Muqdadiya. Unconfirmed reports indicate 30 to 100 homes have been torched in the city. Two days ago, a police station in Hibhib in Diyala province was overrun. One policeman was killed, 3 wounded and 10 have been reported missing.

And Thursday, we learned the same sort of "red on red" violence had begun among the Shia:

Gunmen opened fire on the convoy carrying [Muqtada Sadr loyalist] Rahim al-Darraji Thursday in eastern Baghdad, seriously wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards on Thursday, police and a local official said.

Al-Darraji was the principal negotiator in talks with U.S. officials that led to an agreement to pull fighters off the streets in Sadr City, a stronghold of the feared Mahdi Army, and a local commander said suspicion fell on a group of disaffected militiamen who are angry about the deal....

He said the attack has created tension within the ranks of the militia and renewed a debate on the merits of allowing the Americans to operate in Sadr City without resistance during a security sweep aimed at ending the sectarian violence that has raged since a Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

In January, when we first heard about Muqtada Sadr's plan to "stand down" his Mahdi Militia during the US and Iraqi forces' new security operation, then "return to power" when the coast is clear, it was plain Sadr had not really thought this through: the Mahdi Militia and their rivals, the Badr Organization (ne Badr Brigades) are not regular armies; they have no military dicipline and no patience to wait quietly for very long.

Rather, they're gang-bangers with AK-47s and explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) supplied by Iran's Qods Force. In addition, Sadr is hiding in Iran, and his orders from so far away cannot carry much weight, in contrast to the direct orders of "commanders" on the ground in Iraq.

Sadr ordered his men not to resist even if they were arrested; but we also know Sadr sold out some of his less-than-loyal followers, fingering them to the Americans and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces (Sadr is using us to punish his rivals). So imagine you're one of Sadr's men who is in imminent danger of being arrested during this security crackdown; what would you conclude?

Is Sadr going to rescue you, as he promised? Or is he going to sell you to the highest bidder between the U.S. Marines and the Iraqi Army?

If you think the latter (for which you have good justification), it would make more sense for you to rebel against Sadr now, rather than wait until he returns to power -- and until you get a change of address to the Sadr-City Sing-Sing.

"Sadr is weak," you would argue; "he's not fit to rule. He fled when he was needed the most, and he's cooperating with the infidel invaders!" He cannot sit on everybody's head at once; somebody is going make a move... and now, somebody has

So let's review the betting. Since the 2006 elections, which "crippled" President Bush, turning him into "the lamest of lame ducks," we have see the following:

  • Bush's enemies among al-Qaeda and the Sunni rejectionists have begun to battle each other, wasting time and ammunition that could have been used against us;
  • Bush's enemies among the Shia death squads have fallen upon each other hammer and tooth, initiating a war to choose a successor to Muqtada Sadr -- who is shocked, as he was unaware he was in such urgent need of succession;
  • And Bush's enemies on Capitol Hill are locked in internecine warfare over how quickly to surrender in Iraq.

Thus, all the president's nemeses are busy locking horns with each other, leaving him free to jet around South America and look presidential. Not a badly played hand for the man that the dean of American political thought, Donald Trump, has called "the worst president in the history of the United States."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 18, 2007, at the time of 5:39 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

January 28, 2007

Narcissa of Nova Yorc

Drama Kings and Queens , Media Madness , Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

This hagiographic Hillary-ous AP piece is remarkable for the casual arrogance she displays... the contempt not only for us peons but also for her rivals for the Democratic nomination. For example, how's this?

"I am going to level with you, the president has said this is going to be left to his successor," Clinton said. "I think it is the height of irresponsibility and I really resent it."

Buried within this "how dare you!" is the offhand assumption that HRH HRC is just naturally going to be the next president of the United States. Yeesh.

She also slips into the "royal we" when not consciously fighting against it:

Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, asserting it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

Harumph. We are not amused.

We are, however, amused by the cockamamie idea that the Iraq war is Bush's mess, and as such, he should clean it up (withdraw all the troops) by the arbitrary date of January 20th, 2009... no matter what is happening on the ground. That would be like President-presumptive Dwight D. Eisenhower demanding in 1950 that Truman withdraw every last soldier and Marine from South Korea before January 20th, 1953 -- or they (Eisenhower) would stamp their feet like Rumplestiltskin (or Rumplestiltskins).

Here's more of Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham, patronization on parade:

One questioner asked Clinton if her track record showed she could stand up to "evil men" around the world.

"The question is, we face a lot of dangers in the world and, in the gentleman's words, we face a lot of evil men and what in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men," Clinton said. She paused to gaze while the audience interrupted with about 30 seconds of laughter and applause.

Oh, yes, the perennial Democratic fantasy: that George W. Bush is the most evil man who ever lived, next to whom the jihadists (if they even exist) pale into insignificance.

She never did actually answer the question. Here is a near-miss:

During the town hall meeting, she tried to make clear that she thinks she would be a chief executive with enough fortitude to confront any danger facing the country.

"I believe that a lot in my background and a lot in my public life shows the character and toughness that is required to be president," Clinton said [Caesara of Chappaqua elected not to elaborate]. "It also shows that I want to get back to bringing the world around to support us again."

This is condescending in the worst way, just as she practiced during her entire first senatorial campaign: questions are effrontery; interrogators are traitors -- off with their heads!

Finally, here is a tyop that, I think, shows the true feelings of the Associated Press and many other establishment liberals -- why they're so anxious for Madame to be elected:

Clinton said he will run hard in Iowa's leadoff caucuses, an early contest her husband skipped when he sought the nomination in 1992 [He, not she; the Big He]. That year, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was in the race and Democratic rivals opted not to challenge him in his home state.

"My participation in the Iowa caucuses is the only thing in politics that I will do that Bill has not done," she said.

I have long suspected that AP, et al, imagine that a Hillary presidency would really mean two more terms for Bill Clinton. This is a not so very secret desire to return to those days of peace and tranquility (assuming one didn't live in Bosnia, Kosovo, or Haiti), back to the womb, when nobody had ever heard of Osama bin Laden or seen any need for a United States military. As all wise men know, the quickest and easiest way to make evil go away is to pretend it's not there. That always works.

Oh well, I'm sure I'm reading too much into this piece. It's just a bit of fluff, and you shouldn't even have wasted your time reading it. Too bad I didn't tell you that before you started, eh?

For God's sake, next time, before you commence reading -- have the common sense to skip to the end and see whether it's going to be on the test, even!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 28, 2007, at the time of 8:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 24, 2007

The Lizards React to the State of the Union

Presidential Pomp and Circumcision
Hatched by Dafydd

I have to be honest: I'm often more affected in the long term by speeches delivered low-key than by ringing, declaiming barn-winders by William Jennings Bryan wannabes; I will not crucify Mankind upon a cross of rhetoric. So to cut to the climax before we've even left the introduction, I absolutely loved the State of the Union speech last night.

The mix between domestic affairs and foreign relations was a little too skewed towards the former; but the domestic agenda that President Bush raised is by and large sound:

  • Keeping the economy rolling without tax increases;
  • Holding the line on spending. The Democrats have already killed the Gregg amendment, which would have allowed the president to send unvoted earmarks back to Congress to reconsider -- in the full light of day; so if this is to happen, it will have to be through presidential vetoes (I'm pleased that the GOP found enough of a spine to filibuster the minimum-wage increase until there are proper safeguards for small businesses);
  • Earmark reform in general (the Democratic House reluctantly supports it; the Democratic Senate recoils as from a leper);
  • Reform of "entitlement" programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and of course Social Security; as Lawrence Kudlow explained: "The real problem with Social Security is not bankruptcy. It's the dreadful investment return (barely 1 percent) that future retirees have to look forward to."
  • Expanding "No Child Left Behind" -- eh, it's probably a minor improvement. Nobody is championing my personal solution: the real problem with American public education is not lack of money, oversized classes, the specific curriculum, or the particular mix of administration to teachers: the real problem with American public eduction is that most teachers are plain lousy.

    The solution is to fire the incompetents; all else is dicta. At a minimum, teachers who cannot pass subject-matter tests at least at college level (for teaching primary school) or graduate level (for teaching secondary school) should be sent packing: if you cannot pass a mathematics test equivalent to a GRE, you have no business teaching high-school math.

  • A tax deduction for health-care insurance: I never met a tax cut I didn't like; but this is "DOA" in the Democratic Congress, or at least "wounded on arrival," as Ron Pollack of the ultra-liberal Families USA put it (link is subscriber only, but you can find the same sound-bite elsewhere);
  • Comprehensive immigration reform -- you know where we stand on this one!
  • More nuclear power plants, coal, solar, wind (yes); more ethanol (yeesh); and although Bush referred to us being "on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil," I wanted to hear more about advanced reactor designs -- and especially high-temperature ceramic engines;
  • A straight up-or-down vote in the Senate on all federal judges appointed by any president: this is so no-brainer that even Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 96%) probably supports it!

But where Bush really shone was in his ringing defense of the war in Iraq as part of the larger war on global jihadism. From the recitation of several huge, ghastly terrorist attacks that we thwarted after 9/11; to the chilling quotations from the jihadis themselves about their murder, mayhem, and bloodlusting plans for our future; to the brief explication of the split among the jihadis between Sunni and Shia... all of it was grand and necessary.

And it seems to have had some effect. John Hinderaker at Power Line buried this great news at the bottom of a post about Sen. Lurch opting out of the presidential race; but the news deserves its own post: a CNN poll found significant movement towards the president among those who viewed the speech (laugh at CNN's lefty spin):

Forty-one percent of 370 adults who watched the speech said they had a "very positive" reaction to it. Another 37 percent said their response was "somewhat positive." In 2006, however, the "very positive" number was 48 percent; in 2005, it was 60 percent....

Sixty-seven percent of speech watchers said they believe Bush's policies will move the country in the right direction, the lowest total of his presidency. In 2006, the number was 68 percent; in 2005, it was 77 percent.

Meanwhile, 53 percent said they believe the speech will lead to more cooperation between Bush and the Democrats who control Congress. Forty-three percent said it will lead to more disagreements.

Among the speech viewers, 51 percent said they were very or somewhat confident that the United States will achieve its goals in Iraq. After Bush's 2004 speech, the number was 71 percent.

But before Bush's 2007 speech -- which is the proper comparison -- the number was 25%. Which means that before Bush's January 11th speech, 25% - 29% of people thought our strategic change of course in Iraq would help; but now, after that speech and after the State of the Union speech (among those who actually listened to it), the percent that believed the new strategy would help more than doubled.

Note, these are two separate pools of respondents: most of those surveyed on January 11th had not watched the president's speech -- and it was heavily skewed towards Democrats. The CNN poll had a much smaller partisan advantage, and those polled were all interested enough to have troubled to watch the SOTU. The wording of the questions was also marginally different. But those differences do not account for all of that rise, in my opinion.

I think this speech did change people's minds. Some people, at least; perhaps only Republicans and some portion of Independents... but that's a start. The reason Bush's approval rating is so incredibly low (especially with such a good economy) is that many of his core supporters have deserted him -- mostly on the war.

The word "dire" is being flung about by everybody now (they got it from the Baker-Hamilton ISG report); even Lt. Gen. David Petraeus used it during his testimony a couple of days ago. But for God's sake, "dire" describes Dunkirk, not Baghdad. "Dire" describes the retreat down the "frozen Cho-sen" in 1950. "Dire" is the word you'd use for the beleagured 20th Maine Volunteers, commanded by Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, on Little Round Top, at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863...

And it's important to note -- three fights far more dire than what we've got in Iraq... yet we won every one of those wars.

Iraq is neither so dire nor so bloody, by orders of magnitude, as World War II, the Korean War, or the Civil War. But those were fought by a different class of American, I reckon... a class that had the courage of their convictions, and just plain old courage. Don't we want to take them as our model, rather than Murtha, Pelosi, Hagel, and their ilk?

I believe this speech by Bush has called us all to courage by the simple act of patience: remember that we're Americans, he urges, and give our change in strategy some time to work.

I think both the speech and the underlying strategic change have already started to work; the panic has abated somewhat, and we're killing and capturing both Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squad members at a joyful clip. Fear is the mind-killer: when the shroud of fear lifts, and people can start to look with dispassionate eyes, they will see that we're really not doing anywhere near as badly as the knee-knockers pretend.

Are we doing as well as we would like? Hell no; but that always happens in the midst of a war. The proper reaction is to figure out what we're doing wrong, fix it, and move forward towards victory.

That is what President Bush, David Petraeus, and the rest of the American military command are doing. What about Congress? As a number of us are asking, what conceivable purpose does it serve, when the strategy is already decided and in motion, to pass a resolution expressing Congress's firm belief that we're going to fail and go down to horrible defeat?

As Sachi put it, these resolutions may be non-binding, but they are not non-damaging.

We only have one question for the nitwits dithering about whether to sign aboard either "surrender swift" or "surrender slow" -- the decision has been made; the die is cast. We're rolling; are you coming?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 24, 2007, at the time of 5:47 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

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