Thursday, December 31, 2009


Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano’s said Sunday that “the system worked.” She was discussing the U.S. effort to deal with Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab’s Christmas attempt to blow up a Delta flight carrying 300 passengers and crew.

Because the system utterly failed, Napolitano’s statement is rising to the level of George W. Bush’s famous line, spoken to inept Federal Emergency Management head Michael Brown shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, that "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Bush’s presidency never got past those eight words. His Gallup approval ratings, at 50% in mid-2005 before Katrina, mostly stayed below 40% after Katrina.

Napolitano isn’t the president; Obama can fire her in fact. In that sense, Napolitano’s words damage Obama less than Bush’s own words relating to Hurricane Katrina hurt Bush. Nevertheless, here’s some of what makes Napolitano’s words count so heavily against Obama:

➢ Napolitano is in charge of Homeland Security, and her liberal (Anita Hill’s lawyer), non-security background (contrast her with ex-war hero Tom Ridge and rail-thin Justice Department tough guy Michael Chertoff, her only two predecessors) makes her from the word go seem unqualified to protect us. That reflects badly on Obama.

➢ Obama and Napolitano don’t like the “war on terror,” which supposedly ended with Bush-Cheney’s departure. Napolitano replaced the term terrorism with the phrase “man-caused disasters,” saying,”we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur."

➢ Fact is, Obama and Democrats hate the “war on terror.” It helped Republicans defeat Democrats in the 2002 and 2004 elections, when Republicans charged Democrats were weak on fighting terror before 2001 or in Iraq. Republicans truly worry about external threats to America and are willing to go to war against them. Democrats don’t believe foreign extremists threaten our way of life. For Democrats, the big threats are poverty, environmental degradation, and discrimination at home, best fought with money we can’t afford to waste on overseas wars.

➢ The real Obama wants to close Guantanamo, gain international recognition for outlawing “enhanced interrogation,” bring to justice Americans involved in illegal torture of terrorists (including Dick Cheney if possible), protect suspected U.S. terrorists from having their communications monitored, try terrorists in U.S. civilian—not military—courts with full U.S. constitutional protections, and be the man who understands the world’s people seek to move beyond U.S. imperialism to an era where we all live together in peace.

➢ Democrats fight terrorism now only because they have to. Democrats will bring the troops home as soon as it is politically possible to do so. They believe we are close to having a majority of Americans opposed to any overseas military involvement for any reason—recognizing our real challenge is at home.

For these reasons, Napolitano’s attempt to defend a failed response to Islamic extremism with the words “the system worked” is a disaster. It confirms American popular suspicion that the Obama who made Napolitano his Homeland Security boss isn’t serious about the threat Islamic terrorism poses for the U.S.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Obama gets Afghanistan right.

For a time, I was worried. Obama had a Peace Prize, and peace prizes don’t go to war makers. But tonight President Obama somewhat bravely made the case for war, as he ordered 30,000 more U.S. military personnel into Afghanistan by next June. It’s Obama’s “surge,” put together by the same folks who mapped out the 2007 surge in Iraq that Obama opposed every step of the way.

To those who say, “But he gave us a timetable for withdrawing in 18 months!” I say, “He makes withdrawal conditional on conditions on the ground,” the same language Bush used in Iraq. Way to go, Obama.

Obama made it clear that Afghanistan isn’t Iraq. Afghanistan is the war we must fight, the one to take out the people who gave us 9.11. Iraq was different, and Obama, as we all know, would have avoided that war. Still, this wasn’t easy for Obama. Right now, the war in Afghanistan is unpopular, though Obama’s speech should help change that.

I see Afghanistan special envoy Richard Holbrooke’s strong influence over Obama’s decision. Obama’s best, most sophisticated words were about making Pakistan a strategic partner. Pakistan is our real problem, and by playing in Afghanistan, we enable America to play in Pakistan. We are operating on one side of the border, the Pakistani army on the other, and it looks like it just might become a joint operation. Way to go, Holbrooke.

National security has become a Republican issue by default. The public does hate war, but they also want America to be safe. However much it goes against Obama’s true beliefs, using military force against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in the end can help Obama politically.

It’s not easy being elite.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”
--Henry IV, Part II (3. 1. 33)

“Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob.”
--Oscar Wilde

“Stakeholders,” as we have said, is a word describing the interest group leaders liberals cultivate to hold their majority. Democracy is about people, voters, and capitalism empowers people, consumers. But when we legitimize “stakeholders’” rule, we entrench a status quo of club members who already have elite status. “Stakeholders” represent the parts of the Democratic coalition—leaders of public and private sector unions, Hispanic groups, civil rights organizations, the women’s movement, environmental groups—that deliver the organized blocs of voters liberals need to retain power.

As long as organized voting blocs do their part—follow their “stakeholder” leaders—liberal Democrats will retain control. We must be clear. Stakeholders have real power. It’s no surprise that America’s most powerful union leader, Andy Stern of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union, has visited Obama’s White House more often than any other guest—an average of 3 times a month. Obama and other liberal leaders work hard to accommodate various stakeholders; it’s how they gain and retain power. Obama’s White House resembles a medieval king’s court, with the ruler engineering compromises among his various supporters.

Obama’s court is liberal. Minorities, women, labor, their leaders anyway, and the rest of the national elite including the media all share values. They reject war. They want big government and big spending at home, along with more taxes to support bigger government. They’ve got their act together inside the castle.

What they worry about are the peasants outside. What Oscar Wilde calls “the mob.” Do the elite genuinely worry about the “mob,” or do they worry most about elite figures beyond their control who might organize the mob? It matters little in practice.

Liberals want an enemy with a face, one they can treat as potentially powerful. And they don’t want to appear to be against the people. So the liberal elite still rail against Republican “malefactors of wealth” who they claim use money and various ruses to fool the mob. And more recently, liberals constantly attack “right wing extremists,” often associated with the “religious right,” a force that does genuinely seem to concern them.

Liberals should be worried. Now powerless Republicans and conservatives have little choice but to listen to those outside the liberal castle, and work with that mob to recapture power. Republicans believe they know best how to create jobs—you do so by helping small business. So if the mob cares most about job creation, and if liberals don’t deliver jobs, the mob will indeed threaten our king’s crown.