The last word is the first word, and all the words in between: Fred Thompson. And so to bed.
Posts For: January 10, 2008
This was one of the better debates of the season. For all the hand-wringing about the future of the GOP, this was a pretty lively group. The Republican Party is just a lot more interesting place than the Democratic Party. Even Huckabee and Paul add something to the debate (unlike, say, Democratic outliers Gravel and Kucinich), and the other candidates responded to them with serious, substantive answers.
The Democratic debates have been full of empty code words about change, hope, experience, and so on. Tonight we saw more a tumultuous — and more vibrant — GOP.
I think the loser in this debate, from a tactical perspective, was Rudy Giuliani. His performance was solid, his answers clear and upbeat, he was very confident. But at this point, Rudy is trying to climb above the fray so that if things remain uncertain after South Carolina (where he is far behind), he becomes a fresh force in Florida. But tonight, he seemed, at best, “me too.” He seconded McCain on the surge. He seconded Thompson on Reagan. He seconded Huckabee on Israel. Rudy’s problem tonight, as it has been throughout the campaign, has been the absence of a noisy, distinctive agenda.
It was a remarkable thing to see how Mike Huckabee worked his way out of a clever question about whether he really believes women should submit graciously to their husbands, as has been widely reported. He made jokes, clarified the context, but then explicated the Biblical verse from Paul’ss epistle to the Ephesians without ever sounding defensive. There has never been a politician in America who knows how to mix religion and politics, Scripture and personal belief the way Huckabee
does, and in doing so, he shows how awkward and foolish Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Ralph Reed were. There is so much politically to dislike about Huckabee, but he is formidable.
Mike Huckabee just offered a passionately Zionist riposte to a Ron Paul rant against American support for Israel. He said he has been to Israel nine times, that it is the only democracy in the Middle East, that he will defend Israel from attack and assault.
…is not only winning this debate, he is giving the most commanding debate performance we’ve seen from any candidate in either party since the beginning of this endless primary process.
I don’t take Ron Paul’s ideas seriously, but his presence in this debate really is the best proof that Ed Rollins, Mike Huckabee’s campaign manager, is right: The Reagan coalition is gone. Don’t just listen to Paul. Go read the material put out by the Cato Institute. Listen to Chuck Hagel on the war in Iraq. Follow the debate on immigration. Think back to Republican reaction during the Dubai Ports World debate. For a brief moment, the Reagan coalition seemed to get together again in fighting the Harriet Miers nomination. Once that was taken care of, that momentary Reaganite unity disappeared.
Ron Paul claims to be a follower of the libertarian economics of Ludwig von Mises, but perhaps, given what we’ve been learning about him, he should stay away in the future from saying he believes in anything “Austrian.”
Like a good libertarian, Ron Paul responds to a question about whether he would disavow his 9-11 Truther supporters — who think the attack on America was an inside job — by saying “I can’t tell them what to do.” Maybe he should just say he didn’t know they were saying it and that he loves Rosa Parks.
John, Fred Thompson is tonight, as you suggest, giving one of the strongest performances of his campaign. Quite consciously, he is arguing to be Reagan’s heir. In debates, that is a winning issue. But I think any honest assessment of Republican challenges requires an admission that the
Republican party needs to go beyond the core Reagan messages (which, to be clear, I embraced with enthusiasm). David Frum’s new book, Comeback, makes a similar argument. At a certain point, these candidates have to set an agenda for the future, creating conservative responses to terrorism, health care, immigration, global competition. Reagan nostalgia is insufficient as an
Fred Thompson just said Huckabee’s politics “are not the model of the Reagan coalition. They’re the model of the Democratic party.”
Fred Thompson drank a lot of coffee before the debate, because he just gave the best answer on taxes and tax cuts and had the best 90 seconds of his candidacy.
Mitt Romney tried to ding John McCain because McCain has said some jobs “are not coming back” to Michigan. But as a factual matter, McCain is right and Romney is wrong about trying to save jobs in Michigan and elsewhere. The reason the U.S. created far more jobs in the 1980s and 1990s than Europe was that didn’t stop companies from eliminating thousands of jobs. Job destruction is critical to an economy that creates new jobs and new industries. This is probably just a semantic difference between Romney and McCain here, but McCain’s “straight talk” (as he called it) makes more economic sense here.
The Republican candidates are debating in South Carolina, and Chris Wallace of Fox News has tripped up John McCain at the outset by asking what short-term measures he would take to mitigate or stop the recession. To which McCain responded, “We should stop runaway spending.” Actually, the only time you don’t want to rein in federal spending is at the outset of a recession.
ANOTHER Connecting the Dots EXCLUSIVE
Jennifer Dyer, a retired Commander from U.S. Naval Intelligence, responds to readers commenting on her previous post:
I do not fully share NaCl’s view that our political message (that Iran must endure isolation until it plays ball) has gotten through to Tehran, but he brings out the important point that what we are already doing in the Gulf has a deliberate purpose in our national policy. If Iran cannot make us stop doing it — if we continue our policy of keeping the Gulf open to international traffic on OUR terms — then whatever points Iran may imagine herself to have scored are moot.
I do think, incidentally, that the timing of this little probe is related to the release of that execrable NIE on Iran’s nuclear programs.
Regarding what was in the boxes dumped by the IRGCN boat crews, no information on that has become available, as far as I know. It is a good question whether our ships would even have retrieved them, given the possibility that they actually contained explosives. There are ordnance disposal experts in the Gulf, of course. Retrieval of the boxes would more likely have been attempted by other forces. Laying explosives in international waters is, in fact, an act of war, so we would not lightly dismiss the follow-up operations on this incident. But I do not have further information on it. (My assessment is that the Iranians did NOT put actual explosives in the water. See the last paragraph below.)
NaCl is right to point out that the Phalanx 20mm close-in weapon system (CIWS) has been upgraded for use in surface mode, and most of our active combatant ships have now been fitted with the Block 1B upgrade, which includes a FLIR sensor for better tracking of small/non-metal-hull targets. Hopper and Ingraham would certainly have had the Phalanx Surface Mode (PSUM) upgrade. The M240 deck-mounted machine gun would be the better tool for firing warning shots, however. I certainly don’t want to leave the impression that the U.S. Navy has ignored the small boat threat — upgrading the Phalanx with a PSUM capability (undertaken in the 1990′s) was a direct result of fleet commander concerns about the unsuitability of our prior options for dealing with small boats. In the interim, before the Block 1B upgrade came into the fleet, ships were even fitted with deck-mounted 25mm chain guns as a temporary measure.
Training for tactical responses to small boats has been a routine part of fleet work-ups for the last two decades as well, and in particular the period since Desert Storm. Ship commanders typically spend considerable time drilling their crews in tactics for encounters both at sea and in port. The fact that our ships handled this incident without overreacting is undoubtedly due to the time we put into such training.
The point about the small boats is that they are a threat like mines, and some others in a similar vein: we may be as prepared and suspicious as it is possible to be, and if the enemy is ready to commit everything to a small-scale objective, he has a good chance of getting the job done. All three of our ships could have engaged their 20mms in surface mode, and if the small boat swarm were large and suicidal enough, a shoulder-launched missile could still get through. We should never be sanguine about this, but not every tactical setback is a crushing blow to our national power and interests. The reason we even have a Navy is that there are bad guys who want to do these things, and sometimes they might succeed.
Here is what happened the last time Iran tried something similar in the Persian Gulf.
Believe me, Iran has not forgotten this, even if we have.
Today’s Jerusalem Post has an editorial that puts the entire Palestinian terror machine into proper perspective:
Yesterday, Bush said the first thing he would ask Abbas is “what are you going to do about the rockets” that are being fired from Gaza into Israel. As much we appreciate this question, a more salient one might be: “Why is your television glorifying suicide bombers?” Just last month, PA television, which Abbas brought under his personal authority when he took office, started rebroadcasting a video that ran dozens of times at the height of the suicide bombing campaign against Israel. The video begins with an imagined scene of a woman shot dead in the back by Israeli soldiers. She then rises to an Islamic paradise to join the “72 virgins” who await any suicide bomber. Next a young man swears to avenge the woman, is also killed by Israelis, and is seen joining this group of young women for his eternal reward. This is education for anything but peace.
When Yasser Arafat brought his operation to the future Palestinian homeland with the 1993 Oslo Accords, one of his first priorities was to revamp the schools and media. Israel was immediately removed from maps, suicide bombers became official martyrs, and a propaganda blitz began with the singular aim of raising a generation of Palestinians committed to the violent struggle against the Jewish state. Kids who were five years old back then are now turning twenty, having spent the great majority of their lives under that cultural rubric. Small wonder they join terror groups.
Perhaps Hamas and Fatah can rein in terror, for longer or shorter periods of time–and perhaps not. But it seems clear that the only true indicator of Palestinian intentions, the most important test that any diplomat should be using, is what they teach their kids. Want peace with Israel? First, put it back on the map.
The blogger Ace of Spades, who likes to use very foul language (so be warned), goes on a stunning tear about people — some of them involved with the very interesting Libertarian magazine Reason – who are still arguing that Ron Paul is not responsible for the contents of the racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay Ron Paul Political Report and other Ron Paul newsletters dug up by CONTENTIONS’s own Jamie Kirchick. Just a flavor of the Ace invective:
There’s a big difference between a real libertarian who joins the movement due to a belief in the power of freedom and someone using libertarianism as a flag of convenience to add respectability to retrograde and repugnant views. Ron Paul’s positions don’t indicate that he’s terribly interested in freedom so much as he’s interested in keeping the Jews from stealing his gold.
His goldbuggery? He’s trying to keep “international bankers” (wink, wink) from “manipulating” currencies to enrich themselves at the expense of normal, patriotic people. Normal, patriotic people who spin no dreidls and do not control the media. Savvy?
His foreign policy? He just wants to keep “the Jewish lobby” — “the most powerful lobby in America,” he says — from getting the US to fight more wars on behalf of Israel.
Oh, and he wants to stop fighting in the Middle East and stop supporting foreign countries. Let me just postulate, based on Ron Paul’s long record on such issues, that he’s chiefly interested in ceasing animosity with Israel’s enemies and most passionate about ending support of Israel. The other countries are just added for consistency….He’s just “prone to nutty conspiracy theories,” eh? Let me paraphrase Umberto Eco by saying There is no conspiracy theory on the planet that does not, at some point, involve the Jews.
This is rather obvious. I can count on one hand the conspiracy theories I’ve heard that didn’t involve Jews, “international bankers,” Mossad, or Golda F—g Meir at the center of the web of manipulation.
Who the f— did Reason think Ron Paul had in mind for the ultimate malefactors of the Vast International Banker Conspiracy? The Knights F—-g Templar?
At the heart of every conspiracy theory is irrational hatred and scapegoating, boys. Not “Love,” not even the backwards kind of love in R3VO_|ution.
Was it really up to me to alert the brain trust at Reason of this fact? You guys didn’t sort of figure that out on your own?
No wonder you were so blindsided. Committed conspiracy-nut suspects International Jewry might be up to some malfeasance. Surely no one could have seen that surprise twist coming. It’s like the end of The Usual Suspects, except Keyser Sose turns out to be Rabbi Moishe Lefkowitz.
There’s more, a great deal more, including an immortal observation about crack. Click here for the complete rant for the ages.
A Dutch nonprofit, send.a.message, is now offering a service whereby, for the low, low fee of 30 euros, a group of Palestinians will spraypaint whatever message you like (provided it’s not “obscene, offensive and extremist”) on their side of the security wall. Besides the generally exploitative nature of this project (the company’s website makes a point of how much economic damage the wall has done, which means, logically, that the Palestinian employees are bargaining for wages under constraint, right?) there’s a fair amount of, uh, paternalism involved. In their FAQ, the organization answers those worried about whether their haute bourgeois whimsy might put people in danger thusly:
Is it dangerous to spray on the Wall?
The ‘wallwriters’ in Palestine know the local circumstances well. Also realize: the situation on West Bank (within the Wall, where we work) is a lot more stable than in far away Gaza. However, ‘our’ Palestinians will never risk their lives to get your text on the Wall. Be sure of that.
“Our” Palestinians. You have to love the quotes around the word our. That’s right, Europe: now you can wash away three centuries of imperialism with irony-quotes! Sweet. Also, how ominous does this sound:
Where does the money go?
Part of your money stays in Holland, to cover the (minimal) costs of setting up and running ‘Sendamessage’. The bulk of the money will go to the Palestinian NGO’s (independent foundations) doing the work. They will fund small social, cultural and educational projects with the money earned (from buying bicycles to fixing the roof).
Will they buy weapons?
No, we work with organisations that are legal in Palestine and are allowed to work-also by the Israeli government. People we work with were found thanks to the network of ICCO, a large Dutch Christian NGO. The money overthere will be spent on small social, cultural and educational projects.
That fills me with confidence. Especially since
An independent board oversees and checks the activities of this registered charity Foundation, from Amsterdam, Holland. All financial matters are checked by an independent, registered financial controller.
Valentine’s day is about a month away. Place your orders now and get “our” Palestinians crackin’!
ABC News reports that there’s something of a Romney-Huckabee showdown brewing in Michigan. Mike Huckabee aims to exploit Michigan’s Evangelical vote in a bid to douse Romney’s full court press in the northern state from which he hails. Ed Rollins, national chairman for the Huckabee campaign said:
There were two groups of voters who would be amenable to Huckabee’s message: Evangelicals open to his faith and values, and disaffected former “Reagan Democrats” who helped then-President Ronald Reagan win overwhelmingly in his 1984 re-election campaign, then helmed by Rollins.
Romney’s has pulled his TV ads in South Carolina and Florida to focus on Michigan. Things could get particularly nasty if Huck tries to pit Evangelicals against the hometown Mormon. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seems that since Iowa the religious angle has been absent, mercifully, from campaign coverage.
Huckabee has a history of using shock-jock-type antics for political advantage–from moving his family into a trailer to working a full day at a DMV. With him using his time in South Carolina planning ahead for Michigan, one cringes at the prospect of the coming spectacle. Some say the Romney campaign, which is hemorrhaging, needs Michigan to survive. The ultimate beneficiary of this bloody face-off may be slow-and-steady John McCain (who recently earned endorsements from the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press).
Are the internal communications of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, ABC, CBS, and NBC news routinely being intercepted and analyzed without warrants? The shocking answer is probably yes.
These news outfits all regularly collect classified information from the U.S. national- security apparatus. Some of the highly sensitive secrets they gather are put before the public, as when as in 2006 the New York Times disclosed a joint CIA-Treasury program to track al-Qaeda finances. But some secrets, the media decline to publish, making their own judgments that to do so would damage national security or imperil American lives.
But as editors deliberate about such sensitive matters, public officials may well be listening in, trying to uncover exactly what journalists know. Only they are not officials from our government.
In November 1983, Ronald Reagan issued a top-secret directive, which has now been declassified and posted on the web by the Federation of American Scientists. It explained that:
Mobile and fixed communications systems used by key U.S. Government officials in the Nation’s capital and surrounding areas are especially vulnerable to intercept and exploitation by foreign intelligence services. Information transmitted by such systems often is extremely sensitive. Even information which in isolation is unclassified can reveal highly sensitive classified information when taken in aggregate.
And Reagan imposed a solution:
To limit this aspect of the hostile intelligence threat, I direct immediate action be taken to provide secure mobile and fixed official telecommunication systems to support the U.S Government officials in the following categories.
The directive proceeded to list the various officials whose communications were to be immediately secured. We can assume, once this directive was fulfilled, that foreign intelligence agencies found it much harder to conduct electronic surveillance of the U.S. government.
But what about protecting the communications of the press?
Let’s take an editor like Bill Keller of the Times at his word when he says that his paper, in the name of safeguarding American security, only publishes a fraction of the classification information it unearths from the U.S. government. Even if it is true, it is irrelevant.
For technologically sophisticated foreign spy outfits, like Russian and Chinese intelligence, directing antennae toward the headquarters of the Washington Post or the Washington bureau of the New York Times, or for that matter, the New Yorker — the home of that master liberator of American secrets, Seymour Hersh — would be a perfectly logical and highly fruitful move. What better way to get up-to-date assessments of high-level U.S. government deliberations? And what better way to uncover the occasional highly significant classified fact?
Is such surveillance really going on? Connecting the Dots has no direct evidence that it is. We can only conjecture. And ask knowledgeable readers to help connect the dots.