2008 Election

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It does not matter what the United Nations may have said. The President of the United States may not commit us to war without authorization by the US Congress. President Obama has ordered the United States military to commit acts of war against the nation of Libya. That he has (so far) only authorized cruise missiles and bombing raids does not make the actions anything other than acts of war.

The President’s impulsive decision to intervene militarily in the rebellion/civil war in Libya is foolish in the extreme. It demonstrates hubris, hypocrisy, and contempt for the Constitution. And a shocking ignorance of history and the dynamics of foreign policy.

And a clumsy disregard for the “Powell Doctrine” (which more accurately ought to be called the “Weinberger Doctrine”):

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

My overwhelming first response is: A LOT of people owe George W. Bush an apology about now. Starting with Barack Obama, Hilary Clinton, and the editorial boards of NPR and the New York Times.

Perhaps the most jarring, maddening aspect of Obama’s military adventurism is his total disregard for the constitutional limitations on the president’s use of military force. Bush sought, and received, congressional authorization for the use of armed force in Iraq. It passed the House 297-133 and the Democratically controlled Senate 77-23. A MAJORITY of the Democratic Senators (29-21) voted for it! The TITLE of the Bill was The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002!

Obama is relying exclusively on a vote of the United Nations Security Council for his decision to make limited war on Libya. He has done this without ANY authorization from Congress.

I’m listening for the howls of outrage from Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, but all I’m hearing is…. [crickets chirping].

I will stipulate to the court that Muammar Gadaffi is a tyrant. I pray for his overthrow and a grant of freedom and a peaceful representative government to the people of Libya (as many did in both Egypt and Tunisia earlier this year).

However, I am ever mindful of the principles of John Quincy Adams. Even before he was elected president, Adams was (and remains) our most experienced foreign diplomat ever. At 11, he went with his father to France. At 14, he went as Secretary to the US mission to Russia. At 26 he was US Ambassador to the Netherlands. At 30, he was our Ambassador to Prussia. He served in the MA legislature and the US Senate. Finally, in his 40’s he was our ambassador to Great Britain, before being appointed Secretary of State in 1817 by the newly elected President James Monroe. The famous “Monroe Doctrine” which warned the european powers to stay out of the affairs of the Western Hemisphere was formulated by John Quincy Adams, though it acquired its name from the President rather than the author.

Let me quote from Adams’ speech on July 4th, 1821:

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America’s] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force….

She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit….

[America’s] glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.

Afghanistan was the base from which murderous attacks on the United States were launched. We had a right and a duty to respond with military force, though I differ with Presidents Bush and Obama on the wisdom of continuing to remain there.

Iraq invaded an ally of the United States and we were obligated by treaty to come to her defense, and join the war against Iraq. For ten years thereafter, Iraq repeatedly violated the terms of the cease-fire in that first Gulf War and repeatedly provoked and played games with International Inspections that she had agreed to. Both the United Nations and the United States Congress had had enough by 2002.

And Libya? Gaddafi is a tyrant and deserves to be overthrown. He’s the 2nd longest ruling tyrant in the world. But that begs the question, “Why haven’t we launched cruise missiles at Havana?” There are a half a dozen other tyrants who rule cruelly and unjustly. Shall we attack them all?

Obama has now launched more cruise missiles than all the other Nobel Peace Prize Winners. . . combined! And in the words of Michael Moore (oh sweet irony!), perhaps we should declare a 50 mile quarantine around Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Seriously, Obama’s hypocrisy, his hubris, and his disregard for the Constitution are dangerous.

 

 

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I’m not sure how to account for my affection for George W. Bush. I only know that I admire him. I enjoy listening to his speeches. I enjoyed reading his book. Of all the presidents of my lifetime, he’s been the most unfairly treated. The canard that he is dim-witted is the most mendacious. You don’t graduate from Andover, Yale, Harvard Business School and complete jet fighter flight school if you’re dim-witted.

My affection does not automatically spring from a complete  agreement with him on matters of politics and foreign policy. Though I am profoundly grateful to him for saving us from President Gore and President Kerry. And it still makes me smile to recall that for all the “chimpy” catcalls of the left, he won four straight elections over ten years that gave him two terms as governor of Texas and two terms as President of the United States.

I enjoyed Decision Points. He’s a good writer. He’s best when he’s telling an anecdote. Thus, the book is strongest and most interesting when Bush is describing his own life story before he became president or giving some vignette that provides us with a bit of insight into the character of Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, or Crown Prince Abdullah.

As the child is father to the man, I found his account of his family the most interesting part of the book. He’s the oldest son, a bit of a rebel, a smart-alec, and he clearly idolized his father. His father comes through as a strong man of incredible integrity and accomplishment. Bush senior enlisted in the Navy just after his high school graduation and flew a Navy dive-bomber against the Japanese in World War Two. Came home, married his sweetheart, and enrolled at Yale. Bush, Jr attended his father’s college graduation as a toddler. Bush Sr, incidentally graduated Phi Beta Kappa in two and a half years.

George and Barbara had six children, but their second child, Robin died when she was three. There was a significant gap in years between George and his surviving four younger siblings. He left for Andover as a boarding student during his high school years.

The press have cherry-picked and distorted passages from the book, as is their wont. Bush Derangement Syndrome apparently does not allow for any natural recovery with the passage of time. To give but one example, several accounts have harped on what they have called the “bizarre” anecdote that Bush tells of his mother showing him a fetus that she had miscarried and had in a jar. The garbled press version makes Barbara Bush sound macabre, if not downright deranged. The truth is that George’s mom summoned him for help shortly after he got his driver’s license and told him he needed to drive her to the hospital. She’d had a miscarriage and his dad was out of town. She took the miscarried fetus with her to the hospital because it would be important for the doctors to be able to know how to treat her. In that context, Bush talks about the impact that the whole event had on him and his awareness of the life and humanity of a baby before it is born. Not quite the same story the press has told, is it?

The book is organized thematically rather than chronologically, but the earlier chapters give us his reflections on significant decisions he made early in his life. The first chapter is entitled, “Quitting” and tells the story of his decision to stop drinking. He was not an alcoholic in the classic sense – he wasn’t sloppy drunk every day, or every night, or even every weekend. But he acknowledges he was drinking too much. And he made the decision to quit more because of the things he was missing than anything else.

The second chapter is entitled “Running” and talks about his decision to run for Congress in 1978 when he was 32. It’s the only political race he ever lost. But he decided politics wasn’t something he wanted to pursue and went back to a career in oil and gas real estate for sixteen years. He played a part in his dad’s presidential campaigns in 1980, and again in 1988 – but as eyes and ears and utility player, not as campaign director. He then talks about his decision to run for Governor of  Texas in 1994 against a popular incumbent, Ann Richards. She’s not the first Democrat to have under-estimated him.

Chapter three is titled, “Personnel.” It’s interesting to read his own accounts and thinking in his selection of Dick Cheney for VP, Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice and others to serve in his cabinet. He discusses his Supreme Court nominations and remains pleased and proud of both Roberts and Alito. He admits that the nomination of Miers was a mistake, but explains how the choice came to be made.

The other chapters focus on specific incidents and crises of his eight years as president: 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, the Surge, the Financial Crisis. In each of these one is struck by how much more complex the situations were than was known to the public. And how, in many cases, none of the options were good, all had flaws. One is reminded too that even though the President of the United States might be the most powerful man in the world, there are limits to his power. If the governor of Louisiana doesn’t want federal troops to come into the state, it’s not easy to mandate federal control of a relief operation. As Barack Obama has discovered to his own surprise, being president isn’t as easy as it looks. Governing is different from campaigning.

Perhaps the most intriguing chapter is the next-to-the-last, entitled, “The Freedom Agenda.” Most of this chapter tells the story of the painful three steps forward, 2.5 steps back process of negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians. The situation is hellishly complicated with many bad actors who deliberately seek to sabotage any steps towards peace. Bush’s personal approach and engagement with other national leaders pays him some dividends, but of course it remains a problem which no president in sixty years has been able to find a solution to. The intriguing part of the chapter is the way in which Bush uses the cause of freedom to weave together his dealings with the Palestinians, the Russians, and the Chinese. His concluding sentence expresses his admirable idealism and guarded optimism:

There will be setbacks along the way. But I am confident in the destination. The people of the Middle East will be free, and America will be more secure as a result.

Surely that is an honorable goal, a worthy pursuit. And one it is clear Bush devoted considerable efforts towards achieving.

The verdict on his presidency won’t be rendered for many years of course, if indeed it ever will be. Its safe to predict that future historians will be much kinder to Bush and his legacy than the press or his political enemies were – but I repeat myself. How will his stock fare in twenty years? or fifty years? or a hundred?

I’d bet on Bush. His opponents have consistently under-estimated him over the past twenty years. Its quite possible, probable, even likely that they are  continuing to do so. It’s also clear that many of his critics can’t be bothered to read the book and attempt to understand what it was like to be President from 2001-2009. It’s a book worth reading, for that alone.

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httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtxqtBq0uVw

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Unlike some of Sarah Palin’s critics, I’ve waited until I actually read the book from page 1 to the end (page 413). It’s a good read. The subtitle is “An American Life.” It is an autobiography, not a political manifesto. It would be a mistake to judge it for not doing things the author never intended. As biography, I found it fascinating – and funny, and sad.

The book is divided into six sections. In chapter one, Sarah tells the story of her parents’ lives and their decision to move to Alaska when Sarah was two. She talks about her experiences growing up in a close-knit family on America’s northern frontier. Her dad was a high school science teacher and a coach – and a hunter and avid outdoorsman. The whole family grew up hiking, hunting, and fishing. Sarah played several sports in high school, but freely admits she was not as talented an athlete as her older brother or older sister. But she worked hard, and in her senior year she led her high school basketball team to the state championship. She talks about meeting and marrying Todd, whose background is equally fascinating. Todd has to have the toughest work ethic of anyone in his generation. If you’ve ever caught an episode of “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel, that’s Todd.

Chapter two describes her decision to enter politics and her terms on the Wasilla city council and then as the full-time mayor of Wasilla, finishing with an unsuccessful run for Lt. Governor and her service on the state regulatory board which oversaw oil and gas exploration. Chapter three recounts her run for Governor of Alaska and the challenges she faced as the first woman governor.

These three chapters make up the first half of the book. The second half of the book is a retelling of the 2008 election campaign, from the time she was selected as the nominee for Vice President through her decision to resign as governor of Alaska. Her inside view of the campaign doesn’t fully explain what went wrong, but there are plenty of clues. The VP’s campaign is run separately from the Presidential nominee’s with few joint appearances. But it’s clear that Sarah was a different sort of Maverick from Senator McCain – and that neither the Senator, nor his staff – especially his staff – ever understood her, or knew what an asset she could have been in rallying popular support for the ticket.

Palin has nothing negative to say about Senator McCain. What comes through in the book is her sincere admiration and respect for him. They had met before the campaign – McCain had made appearances at the National Governor’s Conferences and they seem to have liked each other. It is McCain’s staff who come off badly, especially campaign manager Steve Schmidt. He seems to have been a stubborn, profane bully who regarded Palin as an annoyance and a distraction from the beginning.

There are a couple of funny anecdotes (and a few shocking ones) from the campaign trail. Just before her debate with Joe Biden,

“. . . a campaign consultant whispered some last-minute advice on voice inflection. I hated to drop a bomb on her, but I’d been talking the same way for forty-four years and doubted our few moments alone would miraculously reform my style. Besides, I thought of all the money Tina Fey was making imitating me; I didn’t want to screw up her SNL thing by changing up on her midstream. I’m all about job security for the American worker.”

[heh]

That anecdote catches the flavor of the book. Palin is not afraid to poke a bit of fun at herself. She appreciates the absurdities of politics. She has a wry sense of humor.

As an autobiography, this is a great read. She gives us lots of stories about her childhood, her marriage, and her children. It’s very clear that she loves being a mom and loves her children. Her description of receiving the information that their youngest child, Trig, would be born with Down ‘s syndrome is emotionally charged and very moving. In short, she’s a real authentic person. Reading about her as a daughter, a wife, and a mother – as well as her stint as an athlete, competing in the Miss Alaska Pageant, and working part-time as a sports journalist – makes it clear that she has an identity and a sense of who she is quite apart from her forays in the political realm.

I have no idea if she intends to run for another office. This is NOT a political manifesto, it is autobiography. We hear about politics as she experienced it growing up in Alaska. She admires Reagan and Thatcher and describes herself as a “commonsense conservative.” She’s in favor of not just slowing the growth of government, but in reducing its size. This hasn’t always been a radical position. It clearly resonates with a large segment of the American electorate. She’s not an ideologue, driven by a passionate commitment to a philosophical or political system. She’s a daughter, a wife, and a mom who got involved in local and then state politics, and knows a thing or two about what’s wrong and what could be done to improve things.

The genius of the American political system has always been the opportunity for the citizen-legislator to run and serve, and then return to private life. Professional politicians – people who have spent their whole lives in the business of politics and whose deepest drive is to acquire political power – do not have a particularly stellar track record. Will Palin run and serve again? We could do far worse.

– Rob Shearer, publisher

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What seems to be lacking amongst the main-stream media’s love fest is a little historical perspective.

Obama remains, at this point, neither the messiah nor the devil. The best adjectives to describe him are untested, little known, unproven. We will not really be able to discern the arc of his presidency for some time yet.

Sort of like the Greek proverb, “Call no man happy until he is dead.”

To supply some historical context, I offer the following bit of data:

Presidential approval ratings, ~30 days into office
(Johnson & Ford omitted for obvious reasons)

Barack Obama                   2/21/2009   59%
George Bush (43)             2/21/2001   61%

Bill Clinton                         2/14/1993   51%

George Bush (41)             2/27/1989   60%

Ronald Reagan                  2/16/1981   55%

Jimmy Carter                     2/15/1977   71%

Richard Nixon                    2/25/1969   59%

John Kennedy                   2/15/1961   72%
Eisenhower                        2/26/1953   66%

Source: The American Presidency Project, UC-Santa Barbara
http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/popularity.php

In God we trust.

All others, bring data!

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According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal:

An obscure Commerce Department office with a $19 million budget and fewer than 20 grant officers could end up in charge of $7 billion in grants to expand Internet access in rural areas. A Congressional Budget Office report said it could take eight years for those grants to be issued because the amount of money would “far exceed” the agency’s traditional budget and require the deployment of technology that is “not widely available today.”

The $7 billion dollars to expand the internet in rural America is ONE percent of the total appropriation in the Stimulus Bill. And it will take that agency eight years to disburse the money.

The potential for waste, fraud, & abuse is astronomical.

Prediction: We will be reading horror stories about how the funds were mispent starting in about two years and continuing for about ten. And we and our children, and our grand-children will spend the rest of our lives paying for it. See this chart, from the Strategas Group (h/t to Powerline):

Note that NO deficit in the last forty years has exceeded 7.5% of GDP. For the past sixteen years, deficits have been kept to less than 5.0% of GDP. President Obama’s first year deficit is now projected at 15.0%.

Still to come: National healthcare, and imposing accountability and diversity on talk radio.

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After flying Mr. Bush to every state in the country but Vermont, and on 49 foreign trips to 75 countries, many of them more than once, Colonel Mark Tillman will be ending his 30-year career in the Air Force. 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/17/politics/main4731488.shtml

Those who have villified President Bush would be well-advised to pause and consider why he continues to inspire loyalty among those who serve and protect him.

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disappointment.

outrage.

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans.”

– quoted from Obama’s Divisive Choice of Rick Warren

There’s a Facebook Group with 1,800+ members already called No Rick Warren at Obama Inauguration

Sample comments:

“We must never, never, nerver forget how Obama betrayed us.”

“Take off your shoes, America, and get ready to hurl them hard!”

“What is Obama’s obsession with fake-Christian hatemongers? He promised change, not status quo.”

Short honeymoon, eh?

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