Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The value of eyewitness accounts for history

John Hornfischer, author of such books as The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors offers an excellent argument in favour of interviews in the art of historiography.
For those of us who have never served in uniform, it's easy to see World War II as a grand, sweeping drama, featuring actors large and small driven by a sense of overriding mission, all sins and failings vindicated by victory. Yet for the veterans I meet, the war is often about something else entirely. Any talk of it brings them back to a single, pervasive memory sequence: a moment of impossible decision or helplessness when, through their action or inaction, they believe, a comrade paid the eternal price. They can't talk about the war without reliving their powerlessness to influence its predations, without revealing how it changed them.
Otto Schwarz served on the USS Houston in the early days of World War II. The heavy cruiser was sunk off Java on February 28, 1942, and Schwarz spent more than three years in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps. When he returned to New Jersey in 1945 he was a different man than the one who had enlisted in January 1941 to escape an abusive home life. . . . "It was the loneliest moment of my life. I absolutely didn't know what to do. Even though I was going home to my family, I had just left my family that had kept each other alive for so long." . . .
Historians have long been vexed by the problem of eyewitness testimony, so enticing but also so fraught. Any recollection of a traumatic event will have emotional and psychological complexities that can destroy its value as a measure of historical fact. Yet evaluating an eyewitness source boils down to simple common sense. What did the observer say and what was his basis for saying it? Did he directly witness the events he describes? Was he equipped to understand what he saw? Did his memory accurately preserve his perceptions when it was finally tapped, years down the road? Can his memories be corroborated by others who were there?
Though some historians are more comfortable with the reliability of documents produced contemporaneously with events, it is just as healthy to be suspicious of the agendas that can underlie them. Is an after-action report written by an ambitious officer looking to justify a mistake inherently more reliable than the recollection of an event, a trauma or a grudge many years later by a man for whom that one thing is among the most consequential of his life?
I've been confronted many times before with the question of the balance between documented & verbal history.  (Allow me the conceit that I am a trained historian.)  Sir John Keegan falls on the side of documentation when he has written how naval ship logs are a treasure of information for the historian since even in the midst of battle there are logkeepers writing moment-by-moment details.  I brought this up during a conversation with the head curator of the USS Texas (BB-35), which saw action at Vera Cruz & in World Wars I & II, & is now a state park adjacent to the battlefield at San Jacinto.  The curator (a retired Commander, USN) said that he did not share Keegan's enthusiasm & pointed out, amongst other examples, how an inbound kamikaze attack at Okinawa was shot down, all the while escaping the attention of the numerous logkeepers, apparently distracted by the necessity of fighting a major naval engagement.

Though always cautioned to consider how one "remembers with advantages" (to use the phrase of Henry V), it is difficult to dismiss the value that men such as these, eyewitnesses & participants to stunning events that have quieted their accounts for decades, can give to us beyond mere words.

Hornfischer's article is well-written & well worth the time.

The worth of a college 'education'

Jason Riley brings us up to date with the education bubble & the de-valuing of a college degree with "Sociology and Other 'Meathead' Majors" in today's Wall Street Journal (subscribers only):
Only the military academies, certain Great-Books colleges and MIT (and its like) want to tell students what they must study. Most colleges offer a cornucopia of choices, and most of the choices are bad.

Obama golfs away Memorial Day - again

The MSM is covering for Obama as usual, so it took the British press to pick up on this.  Obama blew off the traditional Memorial Day ceremonies in favour of playing golf - just like last year.  Nile Gardiner, writing in the Daily Telegraph:
Can you imagine David Cameron enjoying a round of golf on Remembrance Sunday? It would be inconceivable for the British Prime Minister to do so, and not just because of the usually dire weather at that time of the year. Above all, it would be viewed as an act of extremely bad taste on a day when the nation remembers and mourns her war dead. I can’t imagine the PM even considering it, and I’m sure his advisers would be horrified at the idea. And if the prime minister ever did play golf on such a sacrosanct day he would be given a massive drubbing by the British press, and it would never be repeated. . . .
Does it matter if the president chooses to play golf on Memorial Day, and for the second time in his presidency (he did so as well in 2009)? I think it does, and it displays extraordinarily bad judgment, not only by Obama himself but also by his advisers. His chief of staff for example should have firmly cautioned against it. President Obama is not just any American but Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces.
. . . President George W. Bush stopped playing golf [entirely], out of respect for the families of Iraq War dead. This demonstrated not only good judgment but humility and respect for the men and women who keep America safe. . . . The president’s actions smack of poor taste, as well a lack of empathy and support for the US military, hardly the kind of leadership the White House should be projecting at a time of war.

On a similar note, the military returns the compliment, based on the Gallup poll from yesterday:
Thirty-seven percent of all active-duty military personnel and veterans surveyed approved of the job Obama is doing during the January 2010 to April 2011 time frame. That compares with 48% of nonveterans interviewed during the same period.
Obama's approval rating varies by age, with younger Americans in general most likely to approve and older Americans least likely. The gap in approval between veterans/active duty military and nonveterans persists across the age spectrum, from 18- to 29-year-olds to those 80 and older. 
In my extended household of both veterans & active-duty (n=5), the approval rate for Obama is 0%.  And as far as the trend persisting across age groups in the poll above, what is the correlation between age & liklihood of voting?  Oh yes, the older you are, the more likely you are to vote.

Two tours - from Soviet to NATO in Afghanistan

The May/June issue of Military Review has a good article from the perspective of an Estonian army major, just back from a tour in Afghanistan, after a tour there as a Soviet SPETNAZ soldier some twenty years ago.  There are some interesting observations, e.g.
The first major difference was the rules of engagement. Soviet rules were loose, when they existed at all. NATO rules are very restrictive. They save civilian lives, but they also allow the Taliban to live and to fight another day. . . .
My first tour was all about offensive combat and taking out enemy logistics. My second tour was static defense, and the challenge was keeping the enemy from gaining the initiative. In both tours, the fight was about logistics and interdicting the enemy’s lines of advance, withdrawal, and communications. Deception was important in both tours, but more difficult in the second.
I have spent more of my life in the vicinity of Kandahar than I ever wanted to. Yet, I will go back again and, strangely, I am looking forward to it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: To Absent Companions

Today is Memorial Day, honoring the military fallen in the wars of the United States.   There is good evidence that it was begun during the Civil War (the War Between the States) when women of the Confederacy decorated the graves of their soldiers. The beginning of the tradition is officially ‘disputed’, even more so, as I have seen during my lifetime, when it has become more and more politically correct to denigrate or simply ignore the culture of the South and the Confederate States.  Several cities and towns, both North and South, lay claim to be the original site of the observances, but Waterloo, New York was chosen by Congress as the official site in the designation of Memorial Day as a federal holiday in 1966.  Far prior to that though, in 1868, the first proclamation of the day came from General John Logan, then commander of the Grand Army of the Republic:
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land.  In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit. ... If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us. Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
The sense of the nation growing together gained momentum during the Spanish-American War, symbolised recently by the scene in the movie Rough Riders (by John Milius), when US troops are passing through the South (still suffering from the after-effects of Reconstruction) enroute to their embarkation ports in Florida.  A young boy asks his grandfather, "Are those Yankees, Grandpa?"  The old man answers, "No, boy.  Those are Americans."

The observance grew greatly in importance and number after World War I, when it began to include the fallen of all of America’s wars, though the South in many cases continued its tradition of honouring its Confederate graves distinctly.  My brother remembers stopping by a family reunion on that day in our grandmother’s home town of Marlin, Texas, and seeing the graves in the old town cemetery marked by Union and Confederate flags, with the Confederate flags in more abundance.

With World War I, we have also adopted a poem of that war, In Flanders Fields, written by the Canadian Lt Col John McCrae before he died in the cause of that war in 1918.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
McCrae was qualified as an officer of the artillery (from his service during the Second Boer War) in addition to being a highly qualified surgeon.  As such, he was a field surgeon with the Canadian artillery at the front until ordered away to set up a general hospital.  His disappointment was voiced to a friend: “'Allinson, all the goddamn doctors in the world will not win this bloody war: what we need is more and more fighting men.”

I am resigned to hear each year about this ‘holiday’, in the sense that it’s a day off for celebrations such as a day at the beach, or a backyard barbeque and party.  I hear greetings of ‘Happy Memorial Day!’ or a comment of gratitude to me like ‘Thank you for your service’.  While the people who greet me thus are typically quite sincere in their feelings, nevertheless it would be nice if they could understand the true meaning of the day.  I believe that it is slowly getting better, due no doubt to the large number of veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in this long crusade (yes, that’s what it is) against the Islamic Supremacists. 

So if you thank me for my service on Memorial Day – well, I appreciate your greeting if it is well-meant, but today is not for me or other veterans.  That would be Veterans Day.  I accept the sentiment not for me but in honour of the service of my family, both before and after me, and in particular for two of my sons serving with the Army (101st Airborne Division & 75th Rangers).  But today is for those who gave their lives in defense of our country.

The eloquent Walter Russell Mead brings us up to date on the subject:

But on this Memorial Day it is not enough to remember, and give thanks, that Osama’s dream died before he did and that the terror movement has been gravely wounded at its heart.
Because the dream didn’t just die.
It was killed.
And it was killed by coalition forces.  They killed it by fighting harder and smarter than the enemy and they killed it by winning trust and building bridges better than the enemy.  They did it because they were better, more honorable warriors and better, more honorable partners for peace.  Mostly American and mostly Christian, the coalition forcers were more compassionate, more just, more protective of the poor and more respectful of Arab women than the crazed thugs who thought setting off bombs in the market was fulfilling God’s will.
We must continue to honor and thank the Arab allies and tribal leaders who made the choice for America in a dark and a difficult time.  But especially on this Memorial Day we must honor and remember the American heroes who by their lives and by their deaths brought victory out of defeat, understanding out of hatred and gave both Muslims and non-Muslims a chance to get this whole thing right.
The story of America’s victory over terror in Mesopotamia needs to be told.  In justice to those who sacrificed so much, and for the sake of those who may have to face similar dangers in the future, somebody needs to tell the real story of how, against all odds and in the face of unremitting skepticism and defeatism at home, our armed forces built a foundation for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.
All wars are tragic; some are also victorious.  The tragedies of Iraq are real and well known.  The victory is equally real — but the politically fastidious don’t want to look.  The minimum we owe our lost and wounded warriors is to tell the story of what they so gloriously achieved.
On ths Memorial Day, a truth needs to be told.
We have not yet done justice to our dead. 
So then, on this day I hold a day of remembrance, for all those fallen and in particular for Absent Companions.  We cannot be a Land of the Free unless we are also the Home of the Brave.

Victor Davis Hanson explains it well as always:
The list of American wars, interventions, and campaigns, past and present, is endless — a source of serial political acrimony here at home over the human and financial cost and wisdom of spending American lives to better others. Sometimes we feel we are not good when we are not perfect, whether trying to stop a Stalinist North Vietnamese takeover of the south, or failing to secure Iraq before 2008. But the common story remains the same: For nearly a century, the American soldier has often been the last, indeed the only, impediment to butchery, enslavement, and autocracy.
It was the custom of great leaders from Pericles to Napoleon to declare that the graves of their soldiers in far-off foreign soils were testaments to their nations’ grandeur, power, and reach; yet our white crosses in American cemeteries from Epinal, St.-Mihiel, and Normandy to Manila, Tunisia, and Sicily are tributes to American military courage and competency — and a willingness to see an end to wars that brutal men started and might have won had our youth not crossed the seas.
We should remember all that in the present age of cynicism and nihilism, recalling that nothing has really changed, as some Americans this Memorial Day seek to foster something better than Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Moammar Qaddafi. Behind every American soldier, dozens of their countrymen tonight sleep soundly — and hundreds more in their shadow abroad will wake up alive and safe.
Update: Mark Helprin’s article ‘Memorial Day Beyond Stone and Steel’ in the Wall Street Journal of this Memorial weekend sets a tone similar to my notes above.  Unfortunately, the full article is for subscribers only, but these few quotes should encourage you to look it up, if you are able to find a copy (perhaps the library?).
Largely out of touch with the tragedies of war, America sends often principled and self-sacrificing volunteers to suffer and die in our behalf.  We call them heroes and salve our consciences in a froth of words.  Or, among those of us who will fight only if the Taliban comes to Beverly Hills, and probably not even then, congratulate ourselves for being intelligent enough not to volunteer.  Then we go about our business, either satisfied that we are appropriately patriotic or assuming that as we face only imagined dangers we need not lose sleep over the unfortunates who pursue them, often unto death, leaving behind broken and grieving families who suffer a pain that will never go away. . . .

We will fail to assure the national security . . . if we make the armed forces a laboratory for the hobby horses of progressivism; and if our political leaders, very few of whom have studied much less known war, commit our troops promiscuously, in service to tangential ideology, with scatter-brained objectives, and without what Winston Churchill called the “continued stress of soul” necessary for proper decision.

Only the dead have seen the end of war, which will not be eradicated but must be suppressed, managed, and minimized.  This cannot be accomplished in the absence of resolution, vigilance, and sacrifice.  These are the only fitting memorials to the long ranks of the dead, and what we owe to those who in the absence of our care and devotion are sure to join them.
Well do I remember the many impassioned statements in those dark years by leading politicians and pundits that the [Iraq] war was lost, lost, irretrievably lost.  It was over now, they wailed on television and in print.  The Iraqi government was a farce and could never take hold.  These clowns made Diem look like Charles de Gaulle.  We had no option but to get out as quickly as possible.  On and on rolled the great choir of doom, smarter than the rest of us, deeper thinkers, capable of holding more complex thoughts behind their furrowed brows.
Now they have glibly moved on to other subjects; the mostly complicit media is helping us all to forget just how wrong — and how intolerant and moralistic — so many people were about the ‘lost’ war.
While the politicians washed their hands and hung up white flags, and while the press lords gibbered and foamed, the brass kept their heads and the troops stood tall.  And gradually, a miracle happened.  America started winning the war. . . .
*****
Update:  The Veterans Administration has an official page on the origins of Memorial Day.  (H/T to Team Ruptured Duck)

*****
Update: My 2012 post on the same subject, and the one for 2013.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mamet revisited

I've posted before about the conversion of David Mamet, the famous playwright who took the time & commitment to think through his perceptions & arrive at the conclusion that he can be nothing else but a conservative.

Now comes an article in the Wall Street Journal as an expanded discussion of the topic, concerning the review of his new book, The Secret Knowledge; On the Dismantling of American Culture, & an interveiw with the author.
Hear him take on the left's sacred cows. Diversity is a "commodity." College is nothing more than "Socialist Camp." Liberalism is like roulette addiction. Toyota's Prius, he tells me, is an "anti-chick magnet" and "ugly as a dogcatcher's butt." Hollywood liberals—his former crowd—once embraced Communism "because they hadn't invented Pilates yet." Oh, and good radio isn't NPR ("National Palestinian Radio") but Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt. . . .
He starts, naturally, with the most famous political convert in modern American history: Whittaker Chambers, whose 1952 book, "Witness," documented his turn from Communism. "I read it. It was miraculous. Extraordinary hero-journey of this fellow that had to examine everything he believed in at the great, great cost—which is a cost I'm not subject to—of abandoning his life, his sustenance, his friends, his associations, and his past. And I said, 'Oh my God. . . . Perhaps it might be incumbent upon me to see if I could get my thought and my actions into line too."

There were other books. Most were given to him by his rabbi in L.A., Mordecai Finley. Mr. Mamet rattles off the works that affected him most: "White Guilt" by Shelby Steele, "Ethnic America" by Thomas Sowell, "The Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War" by Wilfred Trotter, "The Road to Serfdom" by Friedrich Hayek, "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman, and "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill.

Before he moved to California, Mr. Mamet had never met a self-described conservative or read one's writings. He'd never heard of Messrs. Sowell or Steele. "No one on the left has," he tells me. "I realized I lived in this bubble."  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strauss-Kahn is more equal than others

I frankly don't care about most of the items in the pop culture – I don't care what drug Lindsey Lohan is doing; Mel Gibson is still a smart, talented actor & director despite (perhaps because of) his mental instability; I have no idea why the Kardashians are on magazine covers or even who they are; any time spent on Paris Hilton or Perez Hilton is a waste; & I am proud to say that I have never watched an episode of Oprah. 

However, the recent tribulations of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French, socialist, high-rolling, now-former director of the International Monetary Fund, accused of sexual assault of a hotel maid, borders slightly in the realm of this web log insomuch as it portrays the socialist elite of the masses (“Some animals are more equal than others”).  This attitude seems to be so oddly accepted by so many of the liberal, mostly-European crowd, such as his friend & defender Bernard-Henri Lévy.
This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretend to take him for a subject of justice like any other. 
Or his friend Gilles Savary, with the quote of “everyone knows that he is a libertine”, among others:
The pro-DSK comments which have infuriated women’s groups have mostly been made by left-wing politicians and commentators who would normally position themselves as supporters of women’s rights. Socialist former culture and Education minister, Jack Lang, said that DSK should have been given immediate bail since “no one was dead”.

The commentator and leftist-nationalist activist, Jean-François Kahn – a close friend of DSK – said the allegations amounted to no more than a “troussage de domestique” (literally, stripping or having casual, forced sex with a servant). Both men have since apologised for their remarks.

Another friend of DSK, the Socialist Euro MP Gilles Savary, suggested that the ex-IMF chief might have been a victim of a “cultural” gulf between France and the US. Mr Strauss-Kahn, he said, was a “libertine” who enjoyed the “pleasures of the flesh” but this was not tolerated in a “puritan America, impregnated with rigorous Protestantism”.

Mr Savary has not yet apologised for calling an alleged attempted rape “pleasures of the flesh”.
But I digress.  I stumbled over this gem from the file photos of the New York, & I just . . . can't . . . help myself:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kennedy launches the US manned flight to the moon effort 50 years ago today

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the speech delivered by John F Kennedy, in which he challenged the US in the 1960s:
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
We achieved that goal on 20 July 1969 with the landing of Apollo 11 on the Sea of Tranquility.  We journeyed to the moon several times thereafter, until the final voyage of Apollo 17, which lifted off the surface of Taurus-Littrow valley on 14 December 1972.

Many will point to the Kennedy speech before Congress (a codicil, if you will, to his state of the union speech the previous January) as the articulation of his space programme, built entirely around the flight to the moon, as justification for the sharp decline in the pace of our original expectations.  Overlooked, then, in this argument is Kennedy’s speech at Rice University on 12 September 1962, which outlines a broader and more expansive task:
The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.
. . . [T[his generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space.  We mean to be a part of it – we mean to lead it.  For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. . . .
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it.  He said, “Because it is there.”

Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there.  And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
In the intervening years since 1972, despite some great accomplishments by NASA, we have nevertheless fallen short of the original vision of our space programme.

Now come three of the most distinguished pioneers in US space aviation history: Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon; James Lovell, commander of the near-disastrous Apollo 13 which returned to Earth under heroic circumstances; and Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, with a column in USA Today accusing President Obama of accelerating the demise of our space effort.
But today, America's leadership in space is slipping.  NASA's human spaceflight program is in substantial disarray with no clear-cut mission in the offing.  We will have no rockets to carry humans to low-Earth orbit and beyond for an indeterminate number of years.  Congress has mandated the development of rocket launchers and spacecraft to explore the near-solar system beyond Earth orbit.  But NASA has not yet announced a convincing strategy for their use.  After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent.

Kennedy launched America on that new ocean.  For 50 years we explored the waters to become the leader in space exploration.  Today, under the announced objectives, the voyage is over. John F. Kennedy would have been sorely disappointed.
It is telling that great men of this calibre feel the need to proclaim this so publicly.  Their words bear study and action.  It is also telling that Neil Armstrong is 80 years old, James Lovell is 83, and Gene Cernan is 75, and too soon we will be seeing the only men to walk on the moon dying off from old age.

*****
Rand Simberg, the eternal Cassandra on the subject, has a contrary view, followed by lively discussion.

Update: Lane Wallace, writing in The Atlantic, weighs in.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pakistan draws closer to China

A news report from The Statesman newspaper – of India – has the interesting item that China has
“warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.”

The warning was formally conveyed by the Chinese foreign minister at . . . the China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington [two weeks ago], The News daily quoted diplomatic sources as saying. China also advised the US to “respect Pakistan's sovereignty and solidarity”, the report said.
This is in the wake of the US assault on the compound of Usama bin Laden in Abbottabad, & comes after the recent ‘gift’ of 50 new JF-17 fighters to Pakistan.

I haven’t found corroborating news from another less partisan source (India after all has well-established opinions on the subject of Pakistan), but it presents some interesting thoughts.  If true, this could compel a closer – or at least more open – relationship with India by the US.

(H/T to Ed Morrissey at HotAir)

Thoughts on the War Powers Resolution

In the Libyan civil conflict, our commentators & pundits are now once again dusting off the provisions of what is bandied about as the ‘War Powers Act’ of 1973 (actually, it is the War Powers Resolution), as we have passed the sixty day mark as stipulated therein, whereas the president must begin withdrawing our forces from this (or any other) foreign conflict unless he has a congressional authorisation to continue the commitment of US forces.  By this act, the president is further limited in his role as Commander-in-chief by being able “to introduce US Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated” only after (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorisation, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.


This is political theatre, nothing more, & it always has been, from the very conception of the WPR.  The act itself was an attempt by Congress to seize power from the president in the realm of use & control of the military, & it has no real basis in constitutional law.

Remember (if you can, if you’re old enough and/or not a product of public education) that the era of 1973 was a time of bitter divide between a number of segments of American society, & no less so than among the parties.  President Nixon had won the greatest landslide in US history in 1972, & the Democrats, quickly scrambling to recover, were still in the process of turning the perception of the Viet Nam War from ‘Johnson’s War’ into ‘Nixon’s War’.  No longer did they try to talk around the rampant mis-management of the war by Lyndon Johnson & his Secretary of Defence, Robert McNamara.  Instead, the complaint was that Nixon was now the ‘tar baby’ & couldn’t move fast enough to get us out of South Viet Nam, despite the fact that Nixon’s policy of ‘Vietnamisation’ of the war was continuing apace.  In fact, the recent Easter Offensive of 1972, when the North Vietnamese (the Viet Cong had effectively ceased to exist after the Tet Offensive in 1968) launched an all-out assault across South Viet Nam, had been beaten back by primarily South Vietnamese forces, though with important assistance from US air & naval gunfire & American advisors.  Nevertheless, the Democrats were insisting that Nixon (confusing as we often do the person with the office) was exercising too much war-making power.  They apparently woke up to this idea after Johnson was out of office, & they lamented that Congress had acquiesced their responsibility in this regard.  This was not, they said, how the division of power was to be exercised according to the Constitution, as if Congress had somehow overlooked that idea for some 180 years.  Now it was primarily Congress who would be vested with war-making decisions, with the president functioning as the Commander-in-chief in order to carry out the will of Congress.  The WPR allowed the president to commit troops to action in the case of an emergency, but he was greatly restrained without some form of congressional authorisation.

Every president since this declaration of Congress, from Nixon to Obama (& that covers a wide range, believe me) has paid mere lip service to it.  None of them has accepted the constitutionality of it, & Congress has not pressed the issue, except in a political attempt to brow-beat whomever occupies the White House at the time.  All of the presidents have been correct.  Congress has not sought to have the issue clarified by the Supreme Court, (& the Court has remained silent on the issue) likely due to the very real conclusion that the act would be found to be unconstitutional.

The limitation of awaiting a declaration of war is simply a reference to Article 1, Section 8 which gives Congress that power.  A declaration has served only as a formal escalation of a war or hostile situation that is already underway, & has only been exercised five times in history, among our 200-some-odd armed conflicts.  A declaration as such is simply a legal nicety & is far from a requirement.  (Churchill paid faint praise to a declaration of war by saying, “When you have to kill a man it costs nothing to be polite.”)

Otherwise, the act unrealistically limits real options on the part of the president.  For example, it does not allow for NEO operations (Non-combat Evacuation Operations) to rescue American & other citizens from foreign danger, to protect our embassies, or to carry out security commitments of a treaty, such as imposition of a cease-fire.  According to the provisions of the WPR, the president cannot even act to deter an imminent attack, but instead must absorb the first blow.

It is not unusual that presidents have exercised military action without congressional authorisation.  Franklin Roosevelt sent troops to Iceland in 1940 over the apparent objections of Congress; Johnson sent Marines to the Dominican Republic in 1965.  After the WPR, Ford recaptured the Mayaguez, Reagan invaded Grenada & extended the naval operations against Iran beyond the 60-day limit, Clinton sent the military to Haiti.  President Ford’s comments about the evacuation of DaNang in April 1975 are telling:
When the evacuation of DaNang was forced upon us during Congress’ Easter recess, not one of the key bipartisan leaders of the Congress was in Washington.

Without mentioning names, here is where we found the leaders of Congress: two were in Mexico, three were in Greece, one was in the Middle East, one was in Europe, and two were in the Peoples Republic of China.  The rest we found in twelve widely scattered states of the Union.

This, one might say, is an unfair example, since the Congress was in recess.  But it must be remembered that critical world events, especially military operations, seldom wait for the Congress to meet.  In fact, most of what goes on in the world happens in the middle of the night, Washington time.
(My favourite example of the president’s powers is Theodore Roosevelt & his dispatch of the Great White Fleet around the world in 1907.  Congress objected & threatened to withhold money for fuel.  Roosevelt sent the fleet anyway, & told Congress that if they wanted it back, they should cough up the funds.  They did.)

But the law is open in its requirement that prior consultation only applies if it is “possible”, & it requires that the president consult “regularly with Congress” during combat operations.

My point is that presidents consult with Congress anyway, though not in a formalised way such as the WPR.  If Congress wants to hark back to the formulation of the Constitution & the fear that a president will abuse his power, those days are gone.  During the run-up to Nixon’s eventual resignation, Defence Secretary James Schlesinger is said to have warned the high echelons of the Pentagon to ignore the orders of Nixon in case he was mentally unhinged.  Some would say that the story was a rumor, but I saw the anger in all the ranks I had access to at the time (which I shared) over the idea that the military would blindly follow the orders of the president that would not correspond to the oath to support & defend the Constitution.  As for Congress, they have always had the power of the purse to limit military options.  When the North Vietnamese again tried a strategic assault against the South in 1975 (as they had unsuccessfully tried in 1968 & 1972), Congress withheld funds for further support & South Viet Nam collapsed as a result, despite the best efforts of the best of South Viet Nam’s units.

Beyond this, though, the WPR gives the Congress, by concurrent resolution of both houses, the ability to direct the president to remove troops from military action, without recourse to a presidential veto.  This amounts to a legislative veto & as such renders the act unconstitutional.

Congress still retains, as it always has, the ability to pass a concurrent resolution to oppose the president’s use of the military.  This is not binding, of course, but it makes it clear that the president has lost the support of one of the three key components of any military action (the Congress, the military, & the people, as ably explained by the late Col Harry Summers), & such operations cannot long continue within the American democracy.

In essence, then , the War Powers Resolution is irrelevant to military operations & serves only as a political shibboleth or totem.  Congress does not need it, & it can be replaced by a legislature that has the backbone to express its views in a courageous way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Even AARP now has a waiver for ObamaCare

The Obama administration is continuing to hand out waivers to ObamaCare, its signature piece of legislation.  That’s some 1400 waivers so far.  But let’s focus on just one now, as reported by Investors Business Daily – now we find that AARP, perhaps the largest lobbyist in favour of this national health care bill, has received a waiver too.
So you can add AARP to the list of favored unions, corporations, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's constituents and even entire states such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Nevada that have received exemptions or waivers from various requirements of ObamaCare.
AARP won’t admit to the term ‘lobbyist’ but it did spend a large chunk on the $121 million advertising campaign to push passage of the bill.  Did it do so because it has the best interests of seniors in its heart?  Consider this – how does AARP make its money?  Subscription rates & membership dues?  Not by a long shot.  As a business, AARP exists primarily to sell supplemental health insurance, or ‘Medigap’ insurance – to make up for the gap between what the government will pay, & what seniors feel is adequate insurance coverage.  AARP stands to make a killing on ObamaCare, & even more so now that it won’t be burdened by the cost of adopting a plan that it lobbied hard to have passed.
That report also documented how ObamaCare would produce a billion-dollar windfall for AARP by forcing millions of seniors to lose or drop their Medicare Advantage plans they were promised they could keep, plans that were the only real competition to the Medigap policies AARP provides or endorses for a fee.

Michael Cantor trumps Obama at AIPAC

Rep. Michael Cantor (R-PA), the House majority leader, appeared last night at AIPAC to follow on the speech by President Obama on Saturday.  Cantor’s remarks “received a huge ovation that far exceeded anything received by President Barack Obama, although a large part of AIPAC’s delegates are undoubtedly registered Democrats”.

Cantor didn’t call out the president by name, but he clearly was referring to his recently articulated policies on the Palestinian question (& previous statements leading up to them) when he said:
In order for us to win this great struggle, we must have the courage to see the world not as we wish it to be, but as it truly is. It is not morally equivalent when the offenses of terrorists are equated with the defenses of Israel.
It still bewilders me that so many Jewish voters would rather vote Democrat  (the second-largest bloc behind Blacks), despite the now clear direction that the party is taking in reference to the Jewish nation-state.   Perhaps we are finally seeing a trend away from that sense of self-loathing.

(H/T to Ron Radosh, Pajamas Media)

Harold Camping vs Gaia

Harold Camping received a lot of news coverage of his prediction of the end of the world this weekend, particularly after it failed to materialise (again - he made the same prediction in 1994).  Maybe now he can go on to start his own denomination.

We can now move from dire predictions of the end of the world by religious zealots, & return to our regular coverage of dire predictions of the end of the world by . . . well, religious zealots.

At least Camping doesn't use taxpayer money.

Update:  It's always gratifying to find that the Wall Street Journal (first story) agrees with me.
Harold Camping is merely the Christian Al Gore.
Update:

(H/T to Donald Sensing)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Obama: 'I'm right; everyone else is wrong'

Obama says that his remarks calling for the Israelis to return to its pre-1967 borders “with swaps” were “misrepresented”.  So, he was misunderstood by everyone – everyone – including Benjamin Netanyahu after two hours of private consultations at the White House?  Remember, after the consultations the two leaders sat in the oval office in the familiar fireside press briefing.  The two began speaking to the press as usual, but then started talking to each other directly.  This is when Netanyahu stated that the return to the 1967 lines was “not going to happen”, then repeated the line for emphasis.  This was after Obama's intial speech on Thursday, when he sand-bagged the Israeli prime minister with remarks that the White House previously had said that he wouldn't make, & after Netanyahu's speedy reply in the Jerusalem Post rejecting them.

If the explanation that Obama gave to AIPAC yesterday has been the plan all along, he should have said so from the beginning.  Otherwise it looks as if he is scrambling to adjust the position, or he’s trying to say different things to different audiences, much like the Islamic Supremacist spokesmen who say conciliatory words to the West in English, but far different ones to the Arab world in Arabic.  I vote for the scrambling.

But to say that everyone misunderstood him?  What arrogance.

Update:  And now Obama 'rejects the controversy' over his remarks. 
However, he said, his policy on the border issue "means that the parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967," the eve of the war. Those negotiations will involve "mutually agreed-upon" land swaps to deal with changing conditions of recent decades, he said.
"That's what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation," Obama said to applause. "It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years," including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.
If this is the same formulation that the two sides have worked on "for a generation", then what is so bold about his original speech?
His proposal contained "nothing particularly original," he said, adding that "this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations."
"If there is a controversy, then, it's not based in substance," Obama said.
Who writes his speeches?  Emily Litella?

Update:  Bret Stephens, certainly not the most conservative writer at the Wall Street Journal, weighs in.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Marine receives the Navy Cross

Gunnery Sergeant Brian M. Blonder, USMC receives the Navy Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor) for action in Shewan, Afghanistan in the summer of 2008.  At the time, he was part of a Force Reconnaissance element attached to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines.

At the time, Shewan was a Taliban stronghold along Route 517, south of Herat & close to the Iranian border.  GySgt Blonder was part of a Force Recon platoon which, along with a platoon from Golf Company, 2/7, assaulted through the entrenched & bunkered enemy position in the village, despite the fact that the Marines were outnumbered more than 8 to 1.  (A rule established since the days of Xenophon states that the preferred ratio is 3:1, but in favour of the attacking force, not defending.)  

At the end of the day-long battle, in which they were all engaged in "direct, close combat", the Marines stood in possession of the village, & it was pacified for the rest of the deployment.  The Taliban left behind more than 50 confirmed E-KIA & “many more wounded”, but the Marines had nobody killed.  Chief Joe Martin, the unit corpsman who fought alongside Gunny Blonder, said “When you inflict that number of casualties on the enemy and none of us were killed, that’s a pretty successful fight.”

Blonder said he’ll wear the Navy Cross as a representation of the Marines he fought alongside that day.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Feds take a stand against zombies

I just can't pass this up.

The CDCP (or the CDC as it is popularly known), the federal Center for Disease Control & Prevention, has published guidelines for how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse.  No, really.

You can't make this stuff up.


I vote for shotguns, with a machete back-up (no need to reload).

Rick Perry for president?

Brian Preston of the PJ Tatler makes a compelling case for Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) to run for president.

I fully agree that Perry would make a great president (full disclosure: Rick was a classmate of mine at Texas A&M), but I believe that Preston underplays the liberal & media (but I repeat myself) apoplectic charge that Perry would be a clone of George W. Bush, with the very thinly veiled (if at all) idea that Texas isn’t, well, you know . . . cultured enough to be included in the real American public square (which to them bears a remarkable resemblance to Harvard Yard).

Perry can do it (if not now, then later), but he must first overcome this important obstacle.

Gingrich: How's that working out for you?

Since my original post on the status of Republican candidates, Newt Gingrich has gone on to augur in still further in his chances for the Republican nomination, which presently rank somewhere around that of a snowball in hell.

Steven Hayward of Power Line has an apt comparison to Romney, but not Mitt.  Instead it is to Mitt's dad George, governor of Michigan in the late 1960s & for a while a competitor with Nixon for the 1968 Republican nomination, until he committed a major gaffe.  Romney père was vulnerable to charges that he was vacillating on the war in Viet Nam (Vacillating?  Sounds like a family trait.) & tried to explain his position away by saying that he was "brainwashed" by DoD & State Department briefers during a previous visit to South Viet Nam.  (Yes, Steven, I'm old enough to remember it well.)  Compare this to Gingrich's inexplicable criticsm of Paul Ryan's plan - "radical" & "right-wing social engineering" - & his scramble to explain it away after a video aired of him being verbally accosted in Iowa.  As if that weren't bad enough, his panicked statement in response filmed outside the hall minutes later provides a good analogy to George Romney's verbal self-immolation.

Bryan Preston at the PJ Tatler has another analogy for Newt, this time to Charlie Sheen - "I'm winning!"

Obama undercuts Israeli negotiations

Despite White House claims to the contrary, Obama this morning has nevertheless called for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders.
The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually-agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.  The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.
Obama drops this bombshell (not entirely unexpected, but not now) just before the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu.  As Dr. Krauthammer has already pointed out (expecting this development in the face of White House denials the day before), the question of borders is something that Netanyahu should deal with & use to the extent that he can in his negotiations with the Palestinians.  I don’t understand what advantage Obama sees in offering this up instead, other than to undercut the Israelis to his own political advantage.

And "contiguous"?  Take a look at a map.  Tell me what that looks like.

Update:  Netanyahu says 'no'.  That took hardly any time at all.

Update:  Various analyses of Obama's speech have been rolling in, including this by William Dobson of the Washington Post.  He lists the countries that Obama directs to allow the reforms that need to happen, yet somehow leaves out Saudi Arabia.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Further union decline

Don Surber of the Charleston [West Virginia] Daily Mail explains the decline of labour union power in a state where the unions were at one time perhaps the most entrenched. 
I disagree with state Republican Chairman Mike Stuart.  The AFL-CIO is not a paper tiger; it is an albatross. . . . The loss of love for labor in West Virginia coincides with a national rejection of unions and liberals since the election of President Obama.
He goes into some detail about the public turn to rejection of the unions, specific to the state, but which can be extrapolated to other areas.  He includes an example from New Jersey:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took on the teacher unions and won – in large part because of union officials’ cavalier dismissal of the public’s concerns about ever-increasing taxes.
One $250,000-a-year educrat threatened to leave the state if the state imposed a limit on salaries.
Christie’s response – “I’ll help you pack” – resonated with the public.
I can only hope (& I believe it will) that the trend not only continues, but accelerates.

(H/T to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit)
 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Military details of the bin Laden raid

Now we have the story from what can be described as a 'usually reliable source' (and there are those of you who know what that means).  There are people within the military who are frustrated by the way in which this story has been handled and they've finally leaked a report that makes sense.

Obama and his administration declared early on after the raid that they would not 'spike the football', but that's all that they've been doing since.  Despite the fact that the NSC and others watched the raid unfold in real time, we've been abused by a string of changing variations of what happened during the raid (leading Rush Limbaugh to quip "Bin Laden is dead and we get the 72 versions"), and always from political spokesmen, not military.  Other than an insipid 'intelligence brief' at the Pentagon on 7 May for a large group of reporters from the MSM (the lead story of which was the release of footage of bin Laden watching himself on TV), there has been nothing of real substance allowed from the military.  I lamented this trend and predicted as much as early as 3 May.  It's no wonder that the military is as fed up, yet again, with the political grandstanding going on.

Now we know (for example) that there were five helicopters involved, as opposed to the four first reported, then corrected to two by Jay Carney.  It didn't take a lot of thought to dismiss the two-helo version, particularly knowing that there was an alternate plan in case one was lost, as actually happened.  Relying on only one other helo to transport out the entire team and the other helo crew, along with bin Laden's body, the intel booty and whatever else, strains to the breaking point the cliché of putting all your eggs in one basket.  Having two MH-60K Blackhawks (or a likely upgraded version) backed up by three MH-47 heavy-lift Chinooks makes far more sense.  I'm certain that there were more assets in the air and in support as well.  And speaking of helicopters, while we salute the superb job of Navy SEAL Team 6, let's not forget the vital contribution of the Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), as well as other elements that must have been involved.

The story includes other examples of the risk involved in the decision, but nothing dissuades me from my original assessment on 5 May that the only real risk invloved in making the "gutsy" decision was political.

And please, let's end this parochial taunting from liberal pundits (Newsweek among them) about how Obama "accomplished in two years what George W. Bush was unable to accomplish in eight".  Excuse me?  Did Obama throw out everything developed during the previous administration & start from scratch?  Newsweek includes the claim that Bush had a shot at Zawahiri in Pakistan but it was scrubbed by Rumsfeld in order to placate the Pakistanis (neither true nor accurate, & I expect that Newsweek knows that).  Telling though, is the quote from Richard Clarke, Bush's "counterterrorism chief" during the 11 September attack, who advised Obama during the early campaign in 2007 concerning the likelihood of another terrorist attack in the US: “We told him quite explicitly to get on the record putting the blame on the past administration.  We wanted him to show causality between what the Bush administration did and the continuing terrorism threat.”  This shows Clarke to be the feather-bedding, grandstanding political hack that he is.  Nevertheless, it's even more clear that the rule is: "If it's good, take credit.  If it's bad, blame Bush."

Update:  Concerning the question of the role of Pakistan in the decision-making process, some have alluded to a coming Cold War between them and the US, but it is accurate to say that the Pakistanis already have their own Cold Civil War within, and I question whether there was some complicity on the part of some locals on the scene.  The great Donald Sensing has already speculated about what may have caused the reported power outage in the area during the raid (Occam tells me that someone threw the switch).  I question the fact that, during an airmobile assault, complete with a crashed helicopter and others in close attendance, with gunfire in a compound within a thousand yards of the Pakistan Military Academy, and in close proximity to military units, as well as the residences of active and retired high-ranking Pakistani officers, it took over forty minutes to see any kind of response from the police or military from nearby.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Allen West comes through again

It's been a long day, and there's much to say that I wasn't able to get to.  Perhaps there'll be time to better analyse tomorrow (God willing), but let me leave you with this link to the PJ Tatler, of the incomparable Rep. Allen West (R-Florida) in his Congressional interrogation of an Obama administration apparatchik concerning the DISCLOSE Act, a political pay-to-play scheme requiring corporations to report the political contributions of their employees. 

I clearly don't live in Florida, but I supported West from the other side of the continent.  A retired Army light colonel, he ran afoul of the legal watch-dogs when he saved his troops in Iraq from IEDs, when he finally convinced a prisoner to talk after firing his sidearm next to his ear.  That made a compelling argument to the prisoner (now informant) and it saved American lives.  But it served as a roman à clef for the Bush administration's borderline interrogation tactics (yes, that's what they were - borderline at best, not torture), so he had to be made an example, resulting in a demand that he resign just three weeks short of his retirement. He was able to weather that and retire with full benefits, and without an apology for his actions.  There were no more attacks against his troops for the time that he remained, and as far as his conundrum about whether to protect his troops or follow the 'rules', his reply was, "I'd walk through Hell with a gasoline can to protect my men."

West's comeback was to be elected to Congress.  We're going to see more of this great American - the more, the better.  Check the video for a treat.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Richard Dawkins ducks for cover

Richard Dawkins, the Al Gore of the atheist movement, having previously been embarrassed by Ben Stein in Expelled, is now ducking a debate with William Lane Craig.

Right-to-work vs forced-union

I live in a forced-union state, & with my current employment I am compelled by state law to belong to a union, which to make matters worse is the corrupt SEIU, linked as they are with ACORN.  You may remember them being front & centre among the public-employee unions during the attempt to shut down Wisconsin.

The union problem surfaced nationally as a side-topic during the early Republican debates in South Carolina, due to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), packed with pro-union members by the Obama administration, issuing a decision that Boeing cannot build a plant in the right-to-work state, because it would hurt the union in Boeing's Washington state.

Now comes Arthur Laffer (of the Laffer curve [see also here]) & Stephen Moore to explain the case, with solid statistics about how right-to-work states fare much better than forced-union states.
As of today there are 22 right-to-work states and 28 union-shop states. Over the past decade (2000-09) the right-to-work states grew faster in nearly every respect than their union-shop counterparts: 54.6% versus 41.1% in gross state product, 53.3% versus 40.6% in personal income, 11.9% versus 6.1% in population, and 4.1% versus -0.6% in payrolls. . . .
Right-to-work states are also getting richer over time. Prof. Vedder found a 23% higher per capita income growth rate in right-to-work states than in forced-union states, which over the period 1977-2007 amounted to a $2,760 larger increase in per-person income in those states. That's a giant differential.
RTWT

Islamic Supremecists continue to attack Christians in Egypt

Andrew McCarthy catches the Washington Post in a sophistic canard in its reporting recently entitled “12 dead in Egypt as Christians and Muslims clash”, in yet another example of what may be accurate but not true.  The fact of the matter is that this 'clash' was in fact an attack by Muslim jihadists on a Christian church, & all dead were Christians at the hands of the mob.
Screaming “With our blood and soul, we will defend you, Islam,” jihadists stormed the Virgin Mary Church in northwest Cairo last weekend. They torched the Coptic Christian house of worship, burned the nearby homes of two Copt families to the ground, attacked a residential complex, killed a dozen people, and wounded more than 200: just another day in this spontaneous democratic uprising by Muslim hearts yearning for freedom.
The Post's use of the passive voice continues in a more actively passive sense (yes, I suppose I could say that) in its support of the Obama administration's policy toward the continuing (& escalating) turmoil in Egypt, as it takes some lengths to attempt to draw a distinction without a difference between what we are told (still) to believe is a secular, simply political ('well, okay there are some religious overtones') of the Muslim Brotherhood (Remember DNI Clapper's testimony before Congress to that effect, while the FBI's Mueller & the CIA's Panetta practically choked beside him?), & the more radical Salafists.  McCarthy makes the case that there is no real distinction between the two - in fact, they are practically one & the same.  With my time in that area of the world, I have to agree.  After all, the Muslim Brotherhood's motto is:
 “Allah is our objective, the Prophet is our leader, the Koran is our law, jihad is our way, and dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!”
See also the Wall Street Journal's take on the subject.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conservative Hollywood

No, really.  What used to be a solid front of benighted, liberal, American self-loathing is turning out to have been a vocal crowd of rich, pufferous proto-Communists with the 'tolerance' of Torquemada along with a select number of closet conservatives who knew that they had to keep their mouth shut if they expected to find work.  Not so much anymore.  In slow progression, we hear of people like Jon Voight, Kelsey Grammar, & Adam Sandler, & now "playwright, screenwriter, novelist, author, essayist, and filmmaker" David Mamet.  Power Line has an excellent article detailing his slow development into sanity & his coming-out, including the 2008 article in the Village Voice, "Why I Am No Longer A Brain-Dead Liberal",
 He recounted a moment of illumination listening to National Public Radio: "I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the **** up." Mamet explained:
I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been -- rather charmingly, I thought -- referring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."
And now explained in Andrew Furgeson's Weekly Standard article.
Forcing yourself into a new way of thinking about things is a wrenching experience. But first you have to look back and atone. You think, 'Oh my god, what have I done? What was I thinking?' You realize you've been a co-dependent with the herd. And then, when you decide to say what you've discovered, out loud, you take the risk that everyone you know will look on you as a fool."
Read it all.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Wall Street Journal takes on the Republican candidates

[This was due to post yesterday just before Blogger went down.]

You heard that right.  [Yesterday's] editorial pages of the nation's leading conservative paper delivers a blunt critique of Romney by way of RomneyCare in Massachusetts, since this is the core issue of his campaign.  It is an excellent piece of exposition about the failures of the Massachusetts health care reform act, perhaps best summed up by these lines:
Like Mr. Obama's reform, RomneyCare was predicated on the illusion that insurance would be less expensive if everyone were covered. Even if this theory were plausible, it is not true in Massachusetts today.
And it's conclusion pulls no punches:
For a potential President whose core argument is that he knows how to revive free market economic growth, this amounts to a fatal flaw. Presidents lead by offering a vision for the country rooted in certain principles, not by promising a technocracy that runs on "data." Mr. Romney's highest principle seems to be faith in his own expertise.
More immediately for his Republican candidacy, the debate over ObamaCare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election. On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.
Equally bracing was the evaluation of Newt Gingrich given the day before in James Taranto's Best of the Web column (and as Gingrich was announcing his candidacy), in the third item titled 'Gingrich for president? Nah.' (lest you doubt from the outset how this piece would go).  Some telling paragraphs:
We've met Gingrich a bunch of times, and we like him--which is to say, we find him engaging and entertaining. But the thought of him in the White House makes us uneasy. For one thing, he has an outsized sense of his own historic destiny (a trait he shares with Barack Obama).
For another, while he is undoubtedly very intelligent, he is erratically so. People on the left love to stereotype conservatives as "incurious," but Gingrich is too curious--too quick to latch onto ideas and drop them rather than give them thoughtful consideration. Thus the outbursts that raise those eyebrows.
After the lackluster, ho-hum performance (& more importantly, the reception) of the five early candidates debating in South Carolina a few days ago, these two shots at what must be considered two of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination simply points out what a slog may well be ahead for the GOP. 

This sets the stage for Mitch Daniels, whom I expect is seriously considering the run, though perhaps reluctantly.  The party needs to pump him up for the run not just for himself but also to overcome the appearance that he is just the last guy standing when nomination time comes around.  While he may lack the charisma that our MSM craves, it could well be in his favour if the GOP plays up Obama's stridently radiant vacuity against the question to the American electorate of 'Did you get what you paid for?' (& believe me, we've paid).  At the same time, Daniels' image should be cultivated as the new Calvin Coolidge, which would have been a pop cultural joke not too long ago, until Ronald Reagan almost single-handedly resurrected his image (though not completely: there's still a way to go, but to seize the iniative would help with a public-school populace in 2011 who mostly have never heard of Coolidge).

Update:  The WSJ editorial about Romney appeared just before his appearance at the University of Michigan, in his attempt to distance his RomneyCare from ObamaCare.  He made a valiant effort & laid out a far better plan, including points that conservatives have insisted would have a far better impact on the health care problem, such as competition across state lines & tort reform, which the Democrats have refused to consider (as laid out in the Washington Times):
In a five-plank federal plan rolled out in the lecture hall, Mr. Romney said as president he would grant more power and flexibility to states by block-granting Medicaid payments and easing federal standards. His plan would also promote individual coverage through tax deductions for those who buy their own insurance; allow people to buy insurance across state lines; and reduce the influence of lawsuits by capping damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Mr. Romney dedicated the opening of his remarks to his reading of American history and drove home the point that his health care plan was built on the federalist approach to governance that is spelled out in the 10th Amendment, reserving to the states all the powers not explicitly granted to the federal government. It's a philosophy that also has been a rallying cry for the tea party movement and a bedrock of the conservative movement for decades.
However:
. . . a recent WMUR Granite State poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, also found that Mr. Romney's ability to distance himself from Mr. Obama's health care plan will be of immense importance. Just 35 percent of New Hampshire adults favor the reform law, while 52 percent oppose it. Among the New Hampshire Republicans surveyed, just 5 percent support Mr. Obama's plan.
And he didn't convince the WSJ:
Mr. Romney also sold his plan using the same theories and language as Mr. Obama, and he might have rebutted the President from experience and evidence. Instead, he has lashed himself to the contradiction of attacking Mr. Obama's plan while claiming his own is different.
Many people have tried to talk Mr. Romney down from this daredevil campaign act, but Mr. Romney privately says he doesn't want to reinforce the rap he had in 2008 that he had reinvented himself too often [conservative senate candidate, liberal governor, conservative presidential candidate, . . .]. As a political matter, however, we think it's better to change positions than to try to defend the intellectually indefensible.
Mr. Romney is not taking our advice . . . . He even said yesterday that he would do it all over again in Massachusetts, which means he is in for a year in which Republicans attack him on policy while Democrats defend him on policy but attack him as a hypocrite.
It was a good try, but it just didn't wash politically.  I don't think Mitt can pull it off.