Monday, June 30, 2008

Winning the Working Class

From Heather Wilhelm’s [pictured] story on the the book Grand New Party by Atlantic writers Ross Douthat and Riehan Salam, here’s more on GOP problems with the working class:

America's working class is the ultimate swing vote, but it has yet to find a home. The GOP may have squandered opportunities in the past, but it can win working-class hearts with a politics that is oriented around the interests of the "Sam's Club" demographic, that aims to "make government work better, not pare it to the bone," and ultimately will "lead working-class America out its post-seventies struggles."

Grand New Party argues key GOP-supporting groups want more government involvement, not less, particularly regarding economic issues. The authors write, "this problem--that the working class wants, and needs, more from public policy than simply to be left alone--has prevented the Republican party from consolidating an enduring majority."

 "non-college-educated voters who make up roughly half of the American electorate” are currently wracked with a crisis: a crisis of growing inequality, social insecurity, and "anxiety over health care, pensions, and income volatility." Republicans are dreadfully out of touch with this insecurity, as well as its main political implication: "rising sympathy for the political left, with its promise of equality-through-redistribution."

 the authors express serious concern over growing social and economic stratification, in which "the country's mass upper class becomes increasingly segregated from the rest of the population" while the working class grows isolated from the culture of inherited success. The problem, which the authors admit, is that this sorting may be the natural, "logical endpoint" of a meritocracy.

 The authors say the main challenge facing the Sam's Club demographic isn’t globalization or the rise of the information economy, it’s the dramatic decline of the working class family. Working-class travails have "as much to do with culture as with economics." The sexual revolution wreaked havoc on the working class, leading to skyrocketing divorce, illegitimacy, and single-parent homes.

 "For the working-class American, who inhabits a more precarious world than the rich or the upper-middle class, family stability is a prerequisite for financial stability, and so [family instability], according to the Brookings Institution, "may be responsible for over 30 percent of the growth in income inequality between 1979 and 1996."

 How to address the issues facing America's working class? Douthat and Salam argue Republicans should promise "to fix the welfare state, rather than abolish it; to reform the Great Society, but leave more or less intact" those parts of the New Deal economically supporting social and familial reconstruction. Reward marriage and children with tax credits; recommend school choice, but in a slightly watered-down form; call for "an environmentalism that is both pro-growth and pro-jobs."

Wilhelm faults the book for missing “the over-the-top scare tactics frequently used by the ideological left. Whether it comes to school choice, Social Security reform (which Grand New Party gives up on, suggesting a payroll-tax-the-rich option instead), or other policies that could dramatically increase working class opportunities, left-wing politicians reliably unleash a firestorm of horror stories, leaving the GOP in the dust.”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Economy, Stupid.

We are truly suffering because of the high price of oil. Beyond that, there is a real question about how bad the economy is performing. From pollster Frank Luntz, writing in the LA Times recently, comes a good summary of where middle income people, families with incomes of about $50,000 a year—the national average—stand on the current economy. They are:

highly pessimistic and negative about the direction of the country and the condition of the economy. From 1994 through 2004, Republicans tended to have a narrow advantage among these floating voters, allowing the GOP to capture and maintain control of Congress for the decade. But they returned to the Democratic fold in the 2006 campaign and are leaning Democratic this year. They despise President Bush's economic policies and are most certainly "change" voters, but tax increases are the kind of change they will eagerly vote against.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Myths of Evan Thomas (Part III)

Evan Thomas’ best case for debunking the Munich lesson, as mentioned, comes from U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Thomas rightly says “the fear of appeasement” was “the single most important factor in dragging America into Vietnam.” But then Thomas says Lyndon Johnson “mistook” a “civil war” for an “assault by monolithic communism,” ridicules the “domino theory” that Vietnam’s fall would turn “all” of Southeast Asia communist, and brands Vietnam a “fiasco” of defeat and lost lives. At least for “liberals who had marched against the war,” Vietnam taught us to avoid military intervention abroad.

Problems with Thomas’ take on Vietnam:

 Contrary to Thomas’ assertion, Johnson saw Vietnam as a civil war between the North and the South, the North backed by Communists, and we required to back the South (like Korea). Thomas’ friends on the left, by contrast, (correctly?) saw Vietnam as a war of national liberation, with the Communists fighting descendents of French colonialists.

 The “domino theory” became reality in Indochina—South Vietnam’s fall led to the fall of Laos and Cambodia.

 The Vietnam “fiasco,” which involved too much U.S. sacrifice, may have kept Indonesia and most of Southeast Asia non-communist in 1965, and by earning the Chinese and Soviet leaders’ respect, contributed to Nixon’s diplomatic triumphs with both.

Thomas further mischaracterizes the bitterness felt by U.S. military involved with Vietnam, including John McCain’s father, at “the failure of will of civilian leaders.” Of course, military resentment was reserved not for “civilian leaders” Nixon and Ford, but for Democrats in congress who refused to appropriate funds needed to keep South Vietnam viable following U.S. withdrawal in 1973. Thomas embarrassingly equates these U.S. military complaints to Nazis and others who blamed Germany’s World War I defeat on a Jewish “stab in the back” (he avoids the word “Jewish”, since openly likening the U.S. military to German anti-Semites would instantly discredit his overwrought analogy).

Reviewing the post-Vietnam era, Thomas continues his rewrite of history:

Thomas says Reagan wasn’t really the nail-spitting enemy of the “evil empire” he set out to be, but actually a wall-to-wall negotiator in his second term, dealing from “a position of strength.” In fact, history honors Reagan for his “position of strength” not his negotiating; his military build-up bankrupted the Soviet Union, effectively winning the Cold War (a victory recorded with the USSR’s 1991 demise).

Thomas says George H.W. Bush made a “flawed” comparison of Saddam to Hitler, when the Iraqi dictator rolled over an international border to invade Kuwait, because Saddam was only a “local” menace. In fact, Bush’s parallel was valid; Saddam had invaded Iran and had designs on other neighboring states including Saudi Arabia, and wanted to control the whole of Middle East oil.

Thomas suggests Clinton similarly erred in the Balkans when his administration likened Milosevic to Hitler. In fact, Milosevic horrified Europe with his Hitler-like ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

Thomas suggests (he puts the words in others’ mouths) McCain is a “slightly unhinged former POW who has stubbornly determined to stay in Iraq in a war without end.” Thomas says McCain is a “believer in all or nothing” which has “a certain purity and nobility” that doesn’t reflect “the messy reality of limited wars against local insurgencies.” In fact, McCain’s belief that if you fight, you put in enough troops to win was the Iraq policy of General Shinseki, Colin Powell, and other Democratic Party heroes, though Democrats abandoned the strategy once Bush embraced McCain’s surge. In fact, McCain was hardly “all or nothing” about Vietnam; his advocacy of U.S. recognition of Vietnam as an ex-POW greatly influenced Republicans to do so in 1995. In fact, McCain’s policy to stay in Iraq until we’ve won is a “war without end” only to those like Thomas who see victory as impossible.

Thomas suggests (apparently quoting Obama) Iran’s Ahmadinejad is “no Hitler,” isn’t “the real power in Iran,” and may be gone after elections next summer, so we shouldn’t too concerned about Obama’s promise last year to negotiate with Ahmadinejad “without preconditions” in his first year. In fact, Ahmadinejad is Hitler-like in his anti-Semitic ravings and threats and in his desire to extend Persia’s control over the entire Middle East, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. And Ahmadinejad, who enjoys the support of Iranian supreme leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei, armed with nuclear weapons will have power Hitler only dreamed of. Let’s hope that in spite of Thomas’ effort to rewrite history for his favorite next president, Obama is fully alert to the parallels the world will see if he goes umbrella-in-hand to Tehran.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Myths of Evan Thomas (Part II)

Evan Thomas links his effort to disparage the Munich lesson to David Halberstam, who did more than any other journalist to redirect U.S. policy on Vietnam. Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest called Munich’s lesson a misapplied justification for “interventionism” and “use of force.” Thomas agrees, rejecting the Munich “myth” and saying he likes presidents who “realize that the choice between negotiation and force is rarely clear-cut or either-or.”

In practice, however, Thomas revises history to honor negotiation above force.

Thomas says Roosevelt praised Chamberlain at Munich and declared war on Germany only after Hitler acted first. In fact, FDR was eager to join Churchill in taking on Hitler, and more eager than Churchill to invade the continent.

Thomas says Stalin had no designs on Western Europe after World War II. In fact, only strong action by Truman headed off Communist triumphs in Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, and West Berlin.

Thomas says Communism’s conquest of China was simply an internal Chinese matter. In fact, Truman’s explicit decision to defend South Korea, Taiwan, and Indochina from Communism responded to the shock Americans felt when China went Communist on Truman’s watch.

Thomas says Eisenhower “ludicrously. . . went to the brink” to protect Taiwan’s Quemoy and Matsu from Communist attack. In fact, Eisenhower’s action stopped an invasion that threatened Taiwan.

Thomas says World War II conscientious objector Ted Sorensen wisely wrote the words in Kennedy’s inaugural, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” In fact, Sorensen’s speech carried the words that led directly to Vietnam—“we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” (Here, Thomas fools only people younger than himself—Obama maybe?—we all remember how Kennedy’s speech ratcheted up the Cold War).

Thomas says Kennedy stood up to the Soviets in divided Berlin. In fact, Khrushchev threw up the Berlin Wall shortly after meeting Kennedy in Vienna, and sizing him up as a weakling (see Obama, summit, first year, no preconditions).

Thomas says Kennedy “shrewdly balanced force and diplomacy” during the Cuban missile crisis. In fact, Kennedy carried the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust, forcing Khrushchev into a public humiliation that cost him his job within two years. (When Khrushchev rashly sent missiles to Cuba, he acted after the president’s ill-prepared Vienna summit led Khrushchev to underestimate Kennedy’s nerve; see Obama, summit, first year, no preconditions.)

Thomas says Kennedy negotiated a secret Cuban missile compromise similar to the “appeasement” Kennedy later charged Adlai Stevenson had advocated. In fact, Stevenson truly worried about war. In fact, the U.S. agreement to pull obsolete Jupiter missiles out of Turkey meant little; the missiles had no strategic significance, and the secrecy of their withdrawal protected Turkish face. In fact, Khrushchev had to back down because of an 8:1 U.S. advantage in strategic missiles—a fact Thomas knows but ignores.

The truth is, as Thomas writes, "The Kennedy's favorite word--and highest praise--was 'tough.'" Roosevelt was tough in war, Truman was tough in dealing with Communists, Eisenhower valued peace but was tough with China, Kennedy was tough. None were Evan Thomas-type presidents squeamish about using force. All believed "the Munich lesson" and all viewed "appeasement" as a dirty word.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Myths of Evan Thomas (Part I)

Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor of Newsweek, is the grandson of famed American socialist Norman Thomas and author of six books. He is also responsible for the embarrassingly inexcusable defense of the media’s pre-trial conviction of several Duke lacrosse players, saying, “The narrative was right, but the facts were wrong." And last month he co-wrote Newsweek’s partisan, pre-emptive attack on John McCain.

With Newsweek’s help, Thomas has now written another amazing article “The Mythology of Munich,” his revisionist history of the last 70 years. Thomas knows the left may soon be running U.S. foreign policy. So Thomas is seeking to justify an upcoming American foreign policy lurch to the left, should Obama move in that direction.

Let’s examine Thomas’ thinking. Thomas believes Churchill’s bulldog defense of England in the face of Hitler’s 1940 invasion threat needs a little rewrite. Churchill, you see, actually considered a secret Hitler peace offer, but helped by Neville Chamberlain’s opposition to the offer, decided instead to tell the world, “We will never surrender.” Thomas likes that Churchill wavered, saying he’s “all the more admirable for it.”

Thomas’ larger objective is to rewrite Munich history by elevating Chamberlain’s role as he diminishes Churchill’s. Thomas suggests critics wrongly view Chamberlain as “weak-kneed” and Churchill as “the beau ideal of indomitable leadership.” And he builds sympathy for Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler by quoting a Roosevelt telegram that praises Chamberlain’s action at the time—as if FDR and his entire administration didn’t see the folly of Munich within a few months. Thomas here and elsewhere acts as if readers themselves barely know history, or that people who know World War II are no longer with us (Thomas was born in 1951).

Thomas states Munich’s lesson was that “giving into aggression just invites more aggression.” In fact, Munich’s lesson is that we have to meet aggression head-on immediately and decisively, for it’s much harder after the aggressor strengthens. Hitler was bent on aggression, which should have been evident enough to Chamberlain in 1938 that he was willing to take him on. By characterizing Munich's lesson as “giving into aggression just invites more aggression,” Thomas implies that not stopping Hitler when he digested Czechoslovakia and doing little to Hitler after Poland’s fall (the Phony War) were no big deal—stop aggression sooner or later, the result is the same. But waiting until 1940 to fight in fact cost the allies millions of unnecessary lives. (See William Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.) Munich’s lesson was act swiftly to save lives.

Thomas is out to knock down the Munich “myth” because he sees (as we unenlightened do not) the “messy reality” of “statesmanship.” It “inevitably involves compromise, including. . . saying one thing while doing another.” Whatever Reagan said, he was in fact a negotiator. And in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy “understood that choice between appeasement and force is a false one, the trick is to know when to deal and when to fight.”

Is Thomas really saying Chamberlain was right to “deal” and not “fight” with Hitler? Well, maybe not. For Thomas also tells us, “the only real Hitler was Hitler,” so even if his friend Chamberlain might have been a bit wrong at Munich, don’t apply the Munich lesson anywhere else. For Thomas, what made Hitler different from other megalomaniac dictators like Stalin, Milosevic, and Saddam is that he set out to conquer Europe "and he very nearly succeeded." This is an odd statement for Thomas, a man seeking to disparage the Munich "myth," to make. The reason Hitler nearly succeeded is that he wasn't stopped at Munich!

In sum, Thomas thinks we misunderstand the Munich lesson because Chamberlain actually had some backbone and Roosevelt supported him. But if you don’t like his first answer, Thomas’ second defense is that Hitler was sui generis. Does that sound like a lawyer talking? Surprise, Thomas is a lawyer.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Stock Market Sinks Below Betsy’s Level

It took over 11 weeks. But the market dropped below levels it was at before its April 1 jump, falling back as ABC’s Betsy Stark had predicted it would on April Fools Day (she anticipated days, not months). Oil prices are indeed behind what “gloom and doom“ Stark, rarely seen since March, called Wall Street’s deepening “mood of despair.”

Even pessimists get it right sometimes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Haditha: One Bad Marine?

Was there a massacre at Haditha? Maybe. But Michelle Malkin reports “Yet another U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, had charges dropped Tuesday in the so-called Haditha massacre -- bringing the total number of Marines who've been cleared or won case dismissals in the Iraq war incident to seven. 'Undue command influence' on the prosecution led to the outcome in Chessani's case. Bottom line: That's zero for seven for military prosecutors, with one trial [Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, pictured] left to go.”

She goes on to repeat the before-trial convictions offered by anti-Iraq war critics Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa (“Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."), MSNBC ‘s Keith Olbermann, The Nation magazine, The New York Times, especially reporter Paul von Zielbauer but also Maureen Dowd ("My Lai acid flashback"), The Guardian ("My Lai on the Euphrates?"), the Daily Telegraph ("Massacre in Iraq just like My Lai"), the Los Angeles Times ("What happened at the Iraqi My Lai?") and the Associated Press (story with old My Lai photos).

Cozy Bed: Trial Lawyers, Democrats, Media, Hollywood

The following summarizes an article by Steven Malanga of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank:

Trial lawyers. Melvyn Weiss, the dean of U.S. securities litigation, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in what a judge called a decades-old “nationwide conspiracy” of lawyers using illegal kickbacks to recruit plaintiffs for lawsuits against corporations.

Media. Given the magnitude of Weiss’ cases, his sentencing, which marked the end of his career, might have seemed like a slam dunk front-page newspaper story. It wasn’t at all.

Democrats. Obama rails against a “corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed.” Yet while Weiss’ former partner, William Lerach, is jailed for obstruction of justice and the biggest misdeeds are piling up in front of the trial bar, they don’t elicit outrage or calls for reform.

Hollywood. Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the Mississippi plaintiffs’ attorney who wrestled with the tobacco industry in the 1990s, was portrayed heroically in the movie “The Insider.” He pled guilty in March to trying to bribe a local judge.

Meanwhile, trial bar offenses in the decades-long asbestos litigation frenzy, in which lawyers have ginned up phony diagnoses using compliant doctors, and paid kickbacks to union officials to recruit workers as plaintiffs, go unnoticed. Defendants have already paid out a staggering $70 billion in claims that wrecked dozens of businesses, cost thousands of workers their jobs, and enriched plaintiffs (many with no demonstrable health problems and no medical bills) and especially their lawyer, who’ve claimed more than half the awards in fees and expenses. As judge Denis Jacobs noted, many asbestos claims are based on “fraud, corrupt experts, perjury, and other things that would be deplored and persecuted by the legal profession if done within other commercial fields.”

A cadre of lawyers has relentlessly pursued and dealt devastating financial blows to a series of industries, from construction firms to vaccine makers, to manufacturers of scientifically-proven safe products like silicon breast implants, to publicly held firms whose only offense was a sharp drop in share price. Yet you have to look hard to find editorial outrage about the trial bar’s dubious methods.

Contrast that with the massive coverage and indignation over corporate misdeeds. Enron CEO Kenneth Lay in 2004 garnered more than 1,000 stories in just a few days. But whereas Enron quickly produced the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, all the trial bar’s shenanigans seem to have shaped in Washington is more friendly legislation on their behalf. In the hopper now is the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, which includes a provision to allow plaintiffs’ attorneys to deduct upfront from their tax bill the expenses of pursuing a case on a contingency-fee basis.

The direct victims of the trial bar are mostly deep-pocketed institutions like companies, governments and big nonprofits (hospitals, for instance) that elicit little sympathy from the press, while trial lawyers skillfully cultivate the press, providing them scoops in advance of lawsuits. It was a trial firm, for instance, that originally provided the New York Times transcripts of a meeting of Texaco managers which (falsely, it turns out) purported to show them using racial epithets.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Third Falsehood

First came Iraq. A lost cause; the sooner we’re out, the better. Now with its cover saying, “Iraq starts to fix itself,” the Economist, which had proclaimed the U.S. effort in Iraq a “debacle,” sits itself down to a meal of crow. Of course the article is full of qualifiers, but the Economist is ahead of the American media in owning up to the current positive picture in Iraq. In the U.S., as the Economist notes, the media have dealt with Iraq’s turn for the better by ignoring it--airtime that in 2007 went 22% for Iraq news is now down to 4% and falling.

Iraq is the media’s #1 reason for voting Obama this fall. But reason #2 is the second falsehood, the poor state of our economy. Where is that recession, anyway? Though he overstates his point, Anatole Kaletsky, in The Times (London), says flatly: “If there were going to be a US recession in response to the credit crisis, it would have started by now. So let me stick my neck out and say without qualification - the US economy is out of the woods.”

Given their success with Iraq and the economy, the media are now working on their third falsehood designed to deliver the election to Obama: McCain is Bush, or McBush. Democrats want to tie McCain to Bush because of the president’s high negatives, and the media are gleefully going along. McCain is Bush because he favors victory in Iraq. Never mind that McCain called for Rumsfeld to be fired and blasted Rummy’s strategy, never mind McCain called for a troop surge three years ago, and never mind McCain’s strategy turned out to be right. McCain is Bush because he wants to keep taxes down, and supports free trade. Never mind that raising taxes and curbing free trade are disastrous policies McCain would be wrong to favor. And of course McCain opposes abortion and supports a strict constructionist Supreme Court.

But McCain isn’t Bush. He’s a maverick who denounces overpaid CEOs including oil men, favors campaign finance reform, strictly opposes enhanced interrogation techniques, supports cap-and-trade and other policies to curb global warming, won’t drill in ANWAR, opposes pork barrel spending Bush went along with, criticized Bush for Katrina screw-ups, and believes in getting along with the media by being open and honest with them. The media, having succeeded in falsely making Iraq and the economy issues that work against McCain, will now falsely paint McCain as Bush #3. They will do so because given their slipping power, they want to be seen as so biased in favor of Obama that they will be blamed for (actually credited with) Barack’s win.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Media, Democrats Exaggerate Bad Economy

“Democrats insist Republicans are ruining domestic policy, Republicans insist Democrats are ruining foreign policy. Neither claim is true.”

--Gregg Easterbrook, Brookings Institution

How bad is the economy, really? The cost of oil has gone through the roof, directly impacting gasoline prices and indirectly most everything else. When oil hit $139 a barrel, the Dow Jones dropped 400 points. We are also going through a deflating housing bubble and a related credit crisis. Yet the stock market is up again this week, unemployment remains historically low at 5.5%, and we still haven’t seen a recession, though Democrats and the media have used the “R” word repeatedly for nearly a year.

Easterbrook adds, “Inflation was up in 2007, but this stands out because the 16 previous years were close to inflation-free; living standards are the highest they have ever been, including living standards for the middle class and for the poor[; furthermore,] all forms of pollution other than greenhouse gases are in decline.”

I have looked at a contrasting set of statistics, and concluded Republicans will have a hard time justifying their stewardship of the economy to voters this Fall. Still, I share Easterbrook’s amazement that, as a recent CBS News/New York Times poll showed, "Americans' views on the economy and the general state of the country have hit an all-time low," with 81% saying the nation is on the "wrong track" – the worst-ever number for this barometer. It’s not that bad.

Easterbrook, a media person himself, believes
increasing pessimism from the news media is surely a factor – and the media grow ever-better at giving negative impressions. . . Whatever goes wrong in the country or around the world is telecast 24/7, making us think the world is falling to pieces – even when most things are getting better for most people, even in developing nations. . .

The relentlessly negative impressions of American life presented by the media, including the entertainment media, explain something otherwise puzzling that shows up in psychological data. When asked about . . . their own jobs, schools, doctors and communities, people tell pollsters the situation is good. Our impressions of ourselves and our neighbors come from personal experience. Our impressions of the nation as a whole come from the media and from political blather, which both exaggerate the negative.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Two Conservative Writers Worry about Obama

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s brilliant speechwriter, believes these points characterize Obama’s America:

 love of country is a decision. It's one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.

 Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.

 We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it.

 Religion is problematic.

Noonan also feels “Obama is the new world [of] doubt as to the excellence of the old[, one that] prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.”

More pointedly political in her rejection of Obama, The Weekly Standard’s Noemie Emery writes in seemingly obvious pursuit of those who voted Clinton in the Democratic primaries:

Obama carried white voters in only two places--state capitals and university towns, where he amassed huge followings among students, teachers, and employees of the government, most of whom (a) tend to lean left; (b) live in a world of words and abstractions; and (c) due to tenure, unions, and parental support, find themselves outside of the world of the marketplace. As such, they are pushovers for ego-massaging and vacuous maunderings. They tend not to notice that his frame of reference is always himself and his feelings, and that his appeals to racial healing, bipartisanship, government reform and sweet reason do not connect to his acts in real life.

In the real world, [Obama] has voted party line on almost all issues, has managed to befriend and hang out with an amazing collection of people whose lives contradict all these themes, including racists, demagogues, some of the most corrupt practitioners of machine urban politics, and people whose idea of political action once involved planting bombs. These sorts of things may not bother students or shoppers at Whole Foods, but they do bother people who cling to God and their guns out of sheer desperation. . .

Thursday, June 12, 2008

McCain Muffs Town Hall Meeting

McCain’s New York City town hall meeting just concluded (covered on Fox News). McCain moved around, freed from the teleprompter that gripped his eyeballs in earlier, stiff TV appearances, yet he seemed to be worried he would miss key points. So he kept looking back at a card he had on a podium, something Obama wouldn’t have had to do. At one point—and he only answered a few questions after a long and less-than-smooth introduction—he completely lost his train of thought when an articulate Hispanic lawyer asked him a softball question about what kind of person he wanted on the Supreme Court. McCain so focused on the questionnaire’s appearance that he could only talk about the Hispanic vote, and had to fumble his way to having the simple question repeated. Embarrassing.

It’s early, and there’s still time. But Fox News’ Carl Cameron said McCain is only interested in doing town meetings—nothing else grabs his passion. If so, McCain’s people have to be really concerned that Obama and the national audience Obama would bring with him will show up for a future town hall meeting, because off tonight’s performance, it looks like Obama would wipe the floor with McCain.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Iraq: Best Month Yet

Here is our latest monthly highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
2007: 63
2008: 30
May: 15

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
1970: 413
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.20 (Revised upward, 1/08)
actual: 2.50 (5/08)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,130 (5/08)

Since our last monthly report, the monthly American KIA total fell dramatically from 49 in April to 15, the second lowest total for any month of the Iraq war. The KIA total was up in April in support of al Maliki's apparently successful effort to reduce the power of outlaw Shiite militias in Baghdad and Basra. Maliki's success has in turn brought the low level of violence seen in May. The low May KIA total for Americans has made 2008, thus far averaging only 30, the war's best year for average monthly KIA. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.]

In April, oil output jumped from 2.40 to 2.50 million barrels a day, the second highest monthly total ever. Revenue from oil exports continues to hit all-time highs, with May's total the highest on record, and $1 billion above April's. As with oil, output for electricity increased, growing from 4,030 megawatts in April to 4,130 megawatts in May. May's output was the highest for any May since the war began. Electricity output remains above the 4,000 megawatt threshold; significant because Iraq needs 8,500 megawatts to meet its demand, and gets from 2,000 to 4,500 megawatts from privately-owned generators.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Truth about Iraq

"[Concerning Iraq,] what don't the critics like? Democracy? The defeat of al Qaeda? Muslims turning to the US military for help? Troop cuts? The dramatically improved human-rights situation? What's the problem here? The answer's simple: Admitting that they've been mistaken about Iraq guts the left's argument for political entitlement. If the otherwise deplorable Bush administration somehow got this one right, it means the left got another big one wrong. . . The bottom line? Al Qaeda let the war's opponents down."

--Ralph Peters, The New York Post

Well, not exactly.

While many on the left did (do) hope the Bush administration, the U.S. military, and the Iraqi government chosen by Iraqis in U.S.-facilitated elections would lose out to either al Qaeda, Muqtada al Sadr, or both, the congressional Democrats including Obama who have relentlessly pushed for withdrawal from Iraq in the face of the surge’s mounting U.S. success have a fallback position. If the U.S. somehow proves able to leave a functioning national Iraqi government behind, that’s fine with them. Just don’t have it happen before November 4, 2008.

Democrats know they will get some real cooperation from the military, who are too professional and measured to proclaim early victory, and who have a bias toward sticking with a fight they began. And the military have a natural skepticism about the Iraqis’ ability to operate Iraq’s political and security system on their own. The military are unlikely to proclaim victory between now and November, which leaves Democrats somewhat free to perpetuate their colored version of progress, one that emphasizes the messy part of war. “We should have never gone in. Not worth the cost. Bush’s war.”

After he’s safely in the White House, Obama will be able to heed the words of U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker [pictured], who recently said of this war: "In the end, how we leave and what we leave behind will be more important than how we came."

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Two Americas

The key demographic – unaffiliated 40+ white voters in the swing states – . . . appear to have developed (if recent state and congressional results are anything to go by) an instinctive dislike of the Republican Party, because of its complete inability to govern successfully.

-- David Runciman, London Review of Books

What are the baby boomers' collective traits? Like all perpetual adolescents who suffer arrested development, we always want things both ways: Don't drill or explore for more energy, but nevertheless demand ever more fuel from other suppliers. . . Housing not only has to stay affordable for buyers, but also must appreciate in value to give instant equity to those who have just become owners. . . And why accept that the conduct of all wars is flawed and victory goes usually to those who persevere in making the needed adjustments when we can just keep pointing fingers at the official who disbanded the Iraqi army or sent too few troops after the invasion? . . . We "earned" our generous unsustainable Social Security benefits, so why should we have to suffer by cutting them? Sociologists have correctly diagnosed the perfect storm that created the "me" generation -- sudden postwar affluence, sacrificing parents who did not wish us to suffer as they had in the Great Depression and World War II, and the rise of therapeutic education that encouraged self-indulgence.

-- Victor Davis Hanson, May 29, 2008

So, should we blame Bush, or should we blame the “me, me” folks who can’t stand him? Answer: blame Bush. It’s easier (look how much shorter the anti-Bush message is, and how quickly it gets to its point), and it’s based on some truth. The some truth: Katrina. The gift that keeps on giving.