Commentary Magazine


Topic: energy independence

America’s Coming Energy Independence

In this Wall Street Journal oped Ed Morse of Citigroup points out a little appreciated fact: that oil and natural gas production is soaring in the United States—and also in our neighbors Canada and Mexico. Thanks to technological developments such as the exploitation of oil shale, the U.S. has become the fastest growing oil producer in the world and is likely to remain that way for a decade or more. Already we produce almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia; soon we will surpass it.  Already we have become a net petroleum-exporting country for the first time since 1949; in the future we have the potential to export far more, or to lessen even more our already declining dependence on oil imports.

That will make us increasingly energy independent and lessen the strategic importance of OPEC. It is also the latest of many reasons why predictions of American decline are so overwrought.

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In this Wall Street Journal oped Ed Morse of Citigroup points out a little appreciated fact: that oil and natural gas production is soaring in the United States—and also in our neighbors Canada and Mexico. Thanks to technological developments such as the exploitation of oil shale, the U.S. has become the fastest growing oil producer in the world and is likely to remain that way for a decade or more. Already we produce almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia; soon we will surpass it.  Already we have become a net petroleum-exporting country for the first time since 1949; in the future we have the potential to export far more, or to lessen even more our already declining dependence on oil imports.

That will make us increasingly energy independent and lessen the strategic importance of OPEC. It is also the latest of many reasons why predictions of American decline are so overwrought.

The country that is supposedly going to overtake us—China—has scant energy reserves of its own and is heavily reliant on imports brought by water along sea lines which are either now controlled by the U.S. Navy or could be in a time of war. That places China at a major strategic disadvantage in the long-term. When combined with America’s other advantages—especially the fact that our population is not aging nearly as fast as China’s—this suggests that there is no reason American cannot remain No. 1 for a long time to come, provided policymakers in Washington don’t mess it up. Of course, as seen from the Obama administration’s refusal so far to approve the Keystone pipeline that will bring oil from Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, official obstructionism remains a potent obstacle to exploiting America’s natural strengths.

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Memo to Congress: Do Nothing!

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of the British House of Lords in Iolanthe thus:

When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,

As every child can tell,

The House of Peers, throughout the war,

Did nothing in particular,

And did it very well.

The American Congress — not itself unknown for doing nothing in particular on occasion — has an opportunity in the next couple of weeks to do nothing at all and render the country a considerable service thereby.

What it needs to do nothing about is ethanol, one of the truly epic boondoggles in American history. As the ball falls in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, both the 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit on ethanol (which goes to companies that blend ethanol and gasoline, i.e., Shell, Exxon, et al.) and the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on foreign ethanol will expire, unless Congress acts.

The 45-cent tax credit costs the government $5-6 billion a year and is opposed by such strange bedfellows as the Sierra Club and the National Taxpayers Union. Those in favor are, no surprise, ethanol producers and the farmers who grow the corn it is made from. The 54-cent tariff, which, of course, is paid by American consumers, keeps cheaper foreign (mostly Brazilian) ethanol out of the American market.

Ethanol was supposed to be the road to American energy independence (sticking it to big oil into the bargain), while cutting down on the risk to the environment from traditional oil drilling. But even Al Gore is now against it. “One of the reasons I made that mistake [of supporting subsidies for corn ethanol],” he recently said, “is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

Since federal law now mandates that motor fuel contain 10 percent ethanol, both the tax credit and the tariff favor only the few (corn farmers and ethanol producers) at the expense of the many (taxpayers and drivers).

Once a tax or a credit is in place, it is often very hard to get it repealed, because the special interests benefited fight fiercely to see that it remains on the books, while the general interest does not fight nearly as hard to get senators and congressmen to vote to repeal. Political inertia is the lobbyist’s best friend. But in this case, Congress merely has to do nothing: let the tariff and the credit get lost in the hectic final days of the lame duck session and call it a job well done.

Even members of Congress should be able to that.

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Appeasing an Arab Autocrat

After yesterday’s magnificent performance in front of the Knesset assailing “the false comfort of appeasement,” President Bush is in Saudi Arabia today to appease an Arab autocrat. Over tea, during meals, at a horse farm, our leader is humbling the United States.

He’s nominally there to celebrate 75 years of relations between Washington and Riyadh, but the real topic is the price of oil, which jumped more than three dollars today to hit a record high of $127.82 a barrel. For the second time this year, Bush has made a trip to the Saudi kingdom, which possesses the world’s largest reserves of this commodity, to ask King Abdullah to pump more of it. For the second time this year the monarch will politely refuse.

That does not mean that the Saudi will not take the offerings Bush has carried with him. The Kingdom will gladly accept American assistance to build a civilian nuclear energy program for the House of Saud, but this is not nearly sufficient to overcome its overwhelming interest in charging as high a price for oil as international markets will bear.

As we have seen, there is a high correlation between the possession of oil and authoritarianism. And at least for the foreseeable future, global economic development will only drive hydrocarbon prices higher. That means, if the world continues along its present course, democracies will become beholden to dictatorships, as today’s meeting in Riyadh suggests. If we want to avoid the spectacle of another president going hat in hand to Saudi Arabia–or worse, Russia, Venezuela, or Iran–then we have only one real option. We will, in short, need to further develop our own energy resources. We don’t need to achieve complete energy independence; we just need to do enough to affect prices at the margin.

So let’s be realistic. Appeasing oil producers, especially those who stand behind the OPEC cartel, is a dead end. The President can go to Riyadh seven more times before his term is out, and he still will not be able to convince the Saudis to drop prices. The solution to the energy crisis is within our own borders–and not in some horse farm in the middle of a faraway desert.

After yesterday’s magnificent performance in front of the Knesset assailing “the false comfort of appeasement,” President Bush is in Saudi Arabia today to appease an Arab autocrat. Over tea, during meals, at a horse farm, our leader is humbling the United States.

He’s nominally there to celebrate 75 years of relations between Washington and Riyadh, but the real topic is the price of oil, which jumped more than three dollars today to hit a record high of $127.82 a barrel. For the second time this year, Bush has made a trip to the Saudi kingdom, which possesses the world’s largest reserves of this commodity, to ask King Abdullah to pump more of it. For the second time this year the monarch will politely refuse.

That does not mean that the Saudi will not take the offerings Bush has carried with him. The Kingdom will gladly accept American assistance to build a civilian nuclear energy program for the House of Saud, but this is not nearly sufficient to overcome its overwhelming interest in charging as high a price for oil as international markets will bear.

As we have seen, there is a high correlation between the possession of oil and authoritarianism. And at least for the foreseeable future, global economic development will only drive hydrocarbon prices higher. That means, if the world continues along its present course, democracies will become beholden to dictatorships, as today’s meeting in Riyadh suggests. If we want to avoid the spectacle of another president going hat in hand to Saudi Arabia–or worse, Russia, Venezuela, or Iran–then we have only one real option. We will, in short, need to further develop our own energy resources. We don’t need to achieve complete energy independence; we just need to do enough to affect prices at the margin.

So let’s be realistic. Appeasing oil producers, especially those who stand behind the OPEC cartel, is a dead end. The President can go to Riyadh seven more times before his term is out, and he still will not be able to convince the Saudis to drop prices. The solution to the energy crisis is within our own borders–and not in some horse farm in the middle of a faraway desert.

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More on Hillary’s Fabrication

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

I wanted to add my thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s fabricated story about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996. It is a damaging, and probably deeply damaging, blow to an increasingly weak and desperate candidate. It will now become fodder for late night talk show hosts. It also builds on other false claims she has made, from her role in the Northern Ireland peace talks to S-CHIP legislation. And the sniper fire tale reinforces an existing impression about the Clintons: they cannot be counted on to tell the truth in matters small or large, about them or about others, about policy or about their personal conduct. It’s worth noting, I suppose, that Senator Clinton acknowledged the story was false only after indisputable video evidence (in this case from CBS News) emerged. Like her husband and the blue dress, the Clintons only concede their untruthfulness when they’ve been caught – on camera or via DNA – in their untruths.

I have thought for a long while now that Clinton Fatigue Syndrome was real, even among Democrats, and it would emerge as the campaign unfolded. It has, in many different ways – triggered by angry and false comments by Bill Clinton to this story to much else. It brings rushing back many of the bad memories from the 1990s and reminds people how the Clintons operate, both in campaigns and while in office. There is, at core, a corruption of character.

Monday night Joe Klein was on CNN downplaying the significance of Mrs. Clinton’s tall tale:

It’s a war story, and — and she exaggerated it. And it doesn’t speak well of her. And it’s very un-Hillary like. But could I just, for the sake of the fact that we’re in silly season now, and everybody — all these candidates are totally exhausted, just plead for charity, not only for her, but for the Obama supporters… I mean, these are not the important issues in the election. The important issues are two wars, an economic crisis, and — and the need for energy independence…. The question is whether you blow up these little exaggerations that everybody makes, including candidates, to the point where it obscures the real issues in the campaign. I’m willing to give her a break on this one, even though, as I said, it’s very much unlike her, and it’s clearly her telling a war story.

It’s not clear that this “exaggeration” is un-Hillary like. In fact, as I alluded to above, there are other examples. And of course she was a key figure in the Clinton White House which, as Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post wrote at the time, followed a “pattern of knowing and reckless disregard for the truth.” It strikes me that Klein was more on target when he wrote a 1994 cover story for Newsweek, “The Politics of Promiscuity,” in which he said this:

With the Clintons, the story always is subject to further revision. The misstatements are always incremental. The “misunderstandings” are always innocent – casual, irregular: promiscuous. Trust is squandered in dribs and drabs. Does this sort of behavior also infect the president’s public life, his formulation of policy? Clearly, it does.

Hillary Clinton will almost surely lose the Democratic nomination for president; the question is how much damage she will do to herself, and to Obama and her party, in the process. I suspect the answer is a fair amount.

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Romney Pulls Out

Mitt Romney is nothing if not a savvy businessman. We and others have calculated the nomination slipped out of grasp as the Super Tuesday votes were counted. He, smartly for himself, the Party and the country, pulled out.

Romney starts by giving a red meat, well received speech celebrating conservative values. He is, in front of the crowd, back to the Iowa Romney, stressing family and American traditional culture. He is energetic and polished, yet the speech strikes one as entirely ordinary. (That perhaps is part of his problem: offering oneself up as the conventional conservative is simply not enough, especially when not combined with a compelling messenger.) He then veers into energy independence and entitlement reform. Next, he addresses the threat of radical jihadism, whacking the Clinton presidency for cutting defense spending and reciting his litany of proposals to increase defense spending.
He warns that either Clinton or Obama would result in higher taxes and defeat in the war on terror. He says the crowd would be willing to fight on to the convention but that unlike 1976, this is a nation at war. This is both a clever and deeply reasonable basis for distinguishing between himself and Reagan and letting his followers down easy. He continues that it is not an easy decision and he “hates to lose,” but says it has “never been just about me.” All in all, a very classy way to go out. If he has ambitions for the future, he helped himself today.

Mitt Romney is nothing if not a savvy businessman. We and others have calculated the nomination slipped out of grasp as the Super Tuesday votes were counted. He, smartly for himself, the Party and the country, pulled out.

Romney starts by giving a red meat, well received speech celebrating conservative values. He is, in front of the crowd, back to the Iowa Romney, stressing family and American traditional culture. He is energetic and polished, yet the speech strikes one as entirely ordinary. (That perhaps is part of his problem: offering oneself up as the conventional conservative is simply not enough, especially when not combined with a compelling messenger.) He then veers into energy independence and entitlement reform. Next, he addresses the threat of radical jihadism, whacking the Clinton presidency for cutting defense spending and reciting his litany of proposals to increase defense spending.
He warns that either Clinton or Obama would result in higher taxes and defeat in the war on terror. He says the crowd would be willing to fight on to the convention but that unlike 1976, this is a nation at war. This is both a clever and deeply reasonable basis for distinguishing between himself and Reagan and letting his followers down easy. He continues that it is not an easy decision and he “hates to lose,” but says it has “never been just about me.” All in all, a very classy way to go out. If he has ambitions for the future, he helped himself today.

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LIVE: Blogging the Republican Candidate Debate, Part Two

The debate is over. I think at the end, as I thought throughout, that it changed nothing.

Moderator Carolyn Washburn has just made the worst demand in the history of debating: Offer a New Year’s resolution for somebody else on stage. She is the editor of the Des Moines Register. It must not be a very good paper.

McCain is asked when he wished he would have compromised on his ideals. He says he can’t think of a time.

Completely pointless observation: For a very tall man, Fred Thompson still has an uncommonly huge head.

Duncan Hunter is attacking Mitt Romney for having a company that funded a Chinese corporation’s effort to buy an American defense contractor. I don’t know the case, and chances are Hunter is being unfair, but thank G-d somebody is going after somebody else at long last.

Romney says it’s incredibly important that the next president should be a conservative. We need to follow Ronald Reagan’s model: social conservatives, economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives. I want to draw on those strengths. Very strong answer.

Huckabee’s faith means, he says, that the poor and the rich should have the same health care and education.

Quick call on the debate: Romney is very good. Huckabee is fine. Thompson is intelligent and thoughtful, but still not totally engaged. Giuliani is very fluid. McCain seems a little reduced in stature, for some reason. I don’t see much change coming out of this.

Character question for Giuliani: My government in New York City was very transparent. I’m used to it, I’m used to being analyzed, I haven’t had a perfect life and I wish I had. I’ve had an open transparent government and an open transparent life.

Giuliani: I’ve been tested by having to show leadership through a crisis — not just 9/11 but as a U.S. attorney and a mayor. We have problems we haven’t solved — terrorism, the border. We need an optimistic leader who can bring us solutions.

Romney: I know how to keep America strong. I know a lot about the economy. I know a lot about health care and the economy. And I know a lot about values. “And to the People of Iowa, I need your help, I’d like your vote.”

Alan Keyes says he would, upon assuming the presidency, instantly commit himself to an asylum. Okay, he didn’t say that.

John McCain: I can lead, I can inspire confidence and restore confidence in government.

Mike Huckabee: The first priority of the next president is to bring all the people together. We’re too polarized. The left is fighting the right — who is going to bring this country together again? We need to be the united people of a United States. This guy has a way of saying absolutely nothing and making it sound deeply meaningful.
Romney says we need to fight global jihad, reduce the size of government, and have stronger families with stronger values.

Thompson says he would go before the American people and “tell them the truth.” I’d tell them that we need to fight the enemy, that we’re bankrupting the next generation, that judges are setting the social policy in this country and that’s got to stop, and tell Congress we need to work together.

Rudy Giuliani says in the first year he would confront Islamic terrorism, end illegal immigration, and move to achieve energy independence. “You need bold leadership to accomplish that.”

Mike Huckabee says he has had the most executive experience of anyone on stage. Smart.

Thompson says the biggest obstacle to education is the National Education Association.

Alan Keyes inserts himself on education. He complains about how he is being treated unfairly. He is a deeply unpleasant buffoon.

Huckabee says we need to “personalize” learning for students who drop out because they’re bored to death. We need to build a curriculum around their interests. Unleash “weapons of mass instruction.” We need to teach the right side of the brain with the same energy as the left.

Romney gives an extraordinarily good and detailed answer on education.

Duncan Hunter cites Jaime Escalante as his model on education. This is like listen to an Oldies station. Twenty years ago, I wrote words of praise about Jaime Escalante as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan to speak.

Rudy Giuliani says parents should choose the school their child can go to. In America, higher education is the best in the world and there’s total consumer choice.

John McCain says on education, we need more choice and more competition. We need more charter schools, we need more vouchers where it’s approved locally, need more home schooling, need to be able to pay good teachers more and fire bad teachers. Odd praise for Mike Bloomberg’s work on public education, which doesn’t deserve much praise; is that a strange shot at Giuliani?

Mike Huckabee says Americans are looking for leadership, looking for change, want politicians not to be a ruling class, but a serving class. When we are elected, we are not elected to be elevated up but to truly remember what we’re looking for. Trying to help Americans be the very best they can be.

The debate is over. I think at the end, as I thought throughout, that it changed nothing.

Moderator Carolyn Washburn has just made the worst demand in the history of debating: Offer a New Year’s resolution for somebody else on stage. She is the editor of the Des Moines Register. It must not be a very good paper.

McCain is asked when he wished he would have compromised on his ideals. He says he can’t think of a time.

Completely pointless observation: For a very tall man, Fred Thompson still has an uncommonly huge head.

Duncan Hunter is attacking Mitt Romney for having a company that funded a Chinese corporation’s effort to buy an American defense contractor. I don’t know the case, and chances are Hunter is being unfair, but thank G-d somebody is going after somebody else at long last.

Romney says it’s incredibly important that the next president should be a conservative. We need to follow Ronald Reagan’s model: social conservatives, economic conservatives and foreign policy conservatives. I want to draw on those strengths. Very strong answer.

Huckabee’s faith means, he says, that the poor and the rich should have the same health care and education.

Quick call on the debate: Romney is very good. Huckabee is fine. Thompson is intelligent and thoughtful, but still not totally engaged. Giuliani is very fluid. McCain seems a little reduced in stature, for some reason. I don’t see much change coming out of this.

Character question for Giuliani: My government in New York City was very transparent. I’m used to it, I’m used to being analyzed, I haven’t had a perfect life and I wish I had. I’ve had an open transparent government and an open transparent life.

Giuliani: I’ve been tested by having to show leadership through a crisis — not just 9/11 but as a U.S. attorney and a mayor. We have problems we haven’t solved — terrorism, the border. We need an optimistic leader who can bring us solutions.

Romney: I know how to keep America strong. I know a lot about the economy. I know a lot about health care and the economy. And I know a lot about values. “And to the People of Iowa, I need your help, I’d like your vote.”

Alan Keyes says he would, upon assuming the presidency, instantly commit himself to an asylum. Okay, he didn’t say that.

John McCain: I can lead, I can inspire confidence and restore confidence in government.

Mike Huckabee: The first priority of the next president is to bring all the people together. We’re too polarized. The left is fighting the right — who is going to bring this country together again? We need to be the united people of a United States. This guy has a way of saying absolutely nothing and making it sound deeply meaningful.
Romney says we need to fight global jihad, reduce the size of government, and have stronger families with stronger values.

Thompson says he would go before the American people and “tell them the truth.” I’d tell them that we need to fight the enemy, that we’re bankrupting the next generation, that judges are setting the social policy in this country and that’s got to stop, and tell Congress we need to work together.

Rudy Giuliani says in the first year he would confront Islamic terrorism, end illegal immigration, and move to achieve energy independence. “You need bold leadership to accomplish that.”

Mike Huckabee says he has had the most executive experience of anyone on stage. Smart.

Thompson says the biggest obstacle to education is the National Education Association.

Alan Keyes inserts himself on education. He complains about how he is being treated unfairly. He is a deeply unpleasant buffoon.

Huckabee says we need to “personalize” learning for students who drop out because they’re bored to death. We need to build a curriculum around their interests. Unleash “weapons of mass instruction.” We need to teach the right side of the brain with the same energy as the left.

Romney gives an extraordinarily good and detailed answer on education.

Duncan Hunter cites Jaime Escalante as his model on education. This is like listen to an Oldies station. Twenty years ago, I wrote words of praise about Jaime Escalante as a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan to speak.

Rudy Giuliani says parents should choose the school their child can go to. In America, higher education is the best in the world and there’s total consumer choice.

John McCain says on education, we need more choice and more competition. We need more charter schools, we need more vouchers where it’s approved locally, need more home schooling, need to be able to pay good teachers more and fire bad teachers. Odd praise for Mike Bloomberg’s work on public education, which doesn’t deserve much praise; is that a strange shot at Giuliani?

Mike Huckabee says Americans are looking for leadership, looking for change, want politicians not to be a ruling class, but a serving class. When we are elected, we are not elected to be elevated up but to truly remember what we’re looking for. Trying to help Americans be the very best they can be.

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LIVE: Blogging the Republican Candidate Debate, Part One

Mike Huckabee is doing very well in this debate so far, which means he is winning it in a walk.

The worst question so far: “Mr. Keyes, what do you think?”

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain say climate change is real and Giuliani says we need energy independence to deal with it. Note he doesn’t use the term “nuclear.” Nor does Mitt Romney, who uses the term “new technologies.” “Nuclear” must poll really, really, really badly.

Fred Thompson refuses to be bullied by the debate moderator, who wanted candidates to raise their hands in answer to whether they believed climate change was the result of human action.

Tom Tancredo says we’re losing our sovereignty because Mexican trucks can cross our border without being checked.

Fred Thompson makes a commitment to free and fair trade.

Rudy Giuliani praises NAFTA. America should think about “free trade, global economy as things we want to embrace.”

John McCain, the world’s least pandering politician, attacks agricultural subsidies in Iowa.

Mitt Romney wants to create a “level playing field” on trade. In this way, as in so many others, you can see how a brilliant businessman has become a compulsively pandering pseudo-populist.

Ron Paul wants to open Cuba to the American market, which would, according to experts, contribute roughly 11 cents to the U.S. economy.

Duncan Hunter says he would finish the border fence with Mexico in six months when he is president, which is impressive, and in every respect, science-fictional.

John McCain says he has devoted his life to making our country safe. Claims responsibility for the surge. Has one “ambition: To keep America safe and maintain our greatness.”

Rudy Giuliani says he wants a flatter, fairer tax, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminate the inheritance tax (death tax).

Fred Thompson just said Mitt Romney was really rich. Romney essentially said, “Aw shucks.” Thompson said he’s becoming a good actor.

Mike Huckabee just said that his lunatic “fair tax” plan for a national sales tax might help “make poor people rich.”

Alan Keyes is literally ranting and raving.

Thompson “takes a risk”: He says we can’t afford entitlements at the level they are offered now. He’s going for the “I’m the truth teller” spot.

Quick first impression: Everybody is talking very softly, in measured terms. It’s said Iowans don’t like negative campaigning. The problem is that unless the candidates engage each other in debate, there will be no change in the dynamic of the race.

Ten minutes in. How to lower our debt? Giuliani says we need to restrain government spending, an important message for him to deliver in order to convince conservative voters that he is not a liberal. Giuliani uses the term “nanny government.” Ron Paul says we can cut government spending by looking to foreign policy: Isolationism as budgetary policy. Huckabee wants to reduce health care costs by moving to disease prevention rather than curing ills. Romney says he worked in the private sector, and wants to bring efficient methods of management to government — he’s trying to show his command of data about government waste. That’s good, but as usual, Romney is packing his answer with too much.

Five minutes in. So far, the debate indicates the degree to which the American economic debate has shifted toward protectionism. A question about the national debt has become the occasion for candidates to complain about foreign investment. Mike Huckabee claims the United States is no longer feeding itself, which is an astonishing thing to say about the world’s leading exporter of agricultural goods. John McCain says he will bring America to energy independence in five years, which suggests he will bring a magic wand to the White House. Alan Keyes is saying…what a minute, what on earth is ALAN KEYES doing here?

Mike Huckabee is doing very well in this debate so far, which means he is winning it in a walk.

The worst question so far: “Mr. Keyes, what do you think?”

Rudy Giuliani and John McCain say climate change is real and Giuliani says we need energy independence to deal with it. Note he doesn’t use the term “nuclear.” Nor does Mitt Romney, who uses the term “new technologies.” “Nuclear” must poll really, really, really badly.

Fred Thompson refuses to be bullied by the debate moderator, who wanted candidates to raise their hands in answer to whether they believed climate change was the result of human action.

Tom Tancredo says we’re losing our sovereignty because Mexican trucks can cross our border without being checked.

Fred Thompson makes a commitment to free and fair trade.

Rudy Giuliani praises NAFTA. America should think about “free trade, global economy as things we want to embrace.”

John McCain, the world’s least pandering politician, attacks agricultural subsidies in Iowa.

Mitt Romney wants to create a “level playing field” on trade. In this way, as in so many others, you can see how a brilliant businessman has become a compulsively pandering pseudo-populist.

Ron Paul wants to open Cuba to the American market, which would, according to experts, contribute roughly 11 cents to the U.S. economy.

Duncan Hunter says he would finish the border fence with Mexico in six months when he is president, which is impressive, and in every respect, science-fictional.

John McCain says he has devoted his life to making our country safe. Claims responsibility for the surge. Has one “ambition: To keep America safe and maintain our greatness.”

Rudy Giuliani says he wants a flatter, fairer tax, reducing corporate taxes, and eliminate the inheritance tax (death tax).

Fred Thompson just said Mitt Romney was really rich. Romney essentially said, “Aw shucks.” Thompson said he’s becoming a good actor.

Mike Huckabee just said that his lunatic “fair tax” plan for a national sales tax might help “make poor people rich.”

Alan Keyes is literally ranting and raving.

Thompson “takes a risk”: He says we can’t afford entitlements at the level they are offered now. He’s going for the “I’m the truth teller” spot.

Quick first impression: Everybody is talking very softly, in measured terms. It’s said Iowans don’t like negative campaigning. The problem is that unless the candidates engage each other in debate, there will be no change in the dynamic of the race.

Ten minutes in. How to lower our debt? Giuliani says we need to restrain government spending, an important message for him to deliver in order to convince conservative voters that he is not a liberal. Giuliani uses the term “nanny government.” Ron Paul says we can cut government spending by looking to foreign policy: Isolationism as budgetary policy. Huckabee wants to reduce health care costs by moving to disease prevention rather than curing ills. Romney says he worked in the private sector, and wants to bring efficient methods of management to government — he’s trying to show his command of data about government waste. That’s good, but as usual, Romney is packing his answer with too much.

Five minutes in. So far, the debate indicates the degree to which the American economic debate has shifted toward protectionism. A question about the national debt has become the occasion for candidates to complain about foreign investment. Mike Huckabee claims the United States is no longer feeding itself, which is an astonishing thing to say about the world’s leading exporter of agricultural goods. John McCain says he will bring America to energy independence in five years, which suggests he will bring a magic wand to the White House. Alan Keyes is saying…what a minute, what on earth is ALAN KEYES doing here?

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State of the Union (and of Bush)

For once, the mainstream media’s incessant badmouthing of George W. Bush worked for him. In the day-long lead-up to his State of the Union address, news-readers previewed the speech in tones usually reserved for a crashing market or a dying patient. “Bush’s popularity is at an all-time low.” “Bush’s approval ratings are as low as Gerald Ford’s.” “[They’re] approaching Nixonian levels.”

But at the crucial moment, in a hostile chamber, the President delivered a crisp speech in a strong voice, with no fumbling or smirking in sight. Instead of the traditional laundry list of departmental initiatives, Bush limited his domestic policy projects to a solid, attainable few. He knows that the electorate and the new Democratic majority want more action in the domestic arena. Balancing the budget, cutting earmarks, cleaning up entitlements, moving toward energy independence—all of these ideas are non-controversial. His health-care proposals will be going nowhere soon (too much opposition from organized labor, which stands to lose from his plan to tax especially generous health benefits). But immigration, on which the President called for a discussion “without animosity or amnesty,” is a good bet for quick action. Now that he will be working with a Democratic majority that shares many of his views on the issue, GOP support will depend on details.

But the Bush legacy does not depend on the details of health-care policy. It will live or die by our success or failure in Iraq and in the war on terror and Islamofascism. Last night’s speech smartly separated these two struggles, and did an excellent job of mapping out the many, various threats from different branches of Islam.

Discussing Iraq, the President listed the successes of 2005, and acknowledged our enemy’s response in 2006. He memorably said, “Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.” Still, when he spoke of turning our efforts “toward victory,” the Democrats (and a few Republicans) neither applauded nor rose.

George W. Bush knows that the struggle he is waging is not a popularity contest. It is a contest of will, force, and American credibility as the world’s leader. Last night’s speech signaled that he is again in fighting form.

For once, the mainstream media’s incessant badmouthing of George W. Bush worked for him. In the day-long lead-up to his State of the Union address, news-readers previewed the speech in tones usually reserved for a crashing market or a dying patient. “Bush’s popularity is at an all-time low.” “Bush’s approval ratings are as low as Gerald Ford’s.” “[They’re] approaching Nixonian levels.”

But at the crucial moment, in a hostile chamber, the President delivered a crisp speech in a strong voice, with no fumbling or smirking in sight. Instead of the traditional laundry list of departmental initiatives, Bush limited his domestic policy projects to a solid, attainable few. He knows that the electorate and the new Democratic majority want more action in the domestic arena. Balancing the budget, cutting earmarks, cleaning up entitlements, moving toward energy independence—all of these ideas are non-controversial. His health-care proposals will be going nowhere soon (too much opposition from organized labor, which stands to lose from his plan to tax especially generous health benefits). But immigration, on which the President called for a discussion “without animosity or amnesty,” is a good bet for quick action. Now that he will be working with a Democratic majority that shares many of his views on the issue, GOP support will depend on details.

But the Bush legacy does not depend on the details of health-care policy. It will live or die by our success or failure in Iraq and in the war on terror and Islamofascism. Last night’s speech smartly separated these two struggles, and did an excellent job of mapping out the many, various threats from different branches of Islam.

Discussing Iraq, the President listed the successes of 2005, and acknowledged our enemy’s response in 2006. He memorably said, “Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.” Still, when he spoke of turning our efforts “toward victory,” the Democrats (and a few Republicans) neither applauded nor rose.

George W. Bush knows that the struggle he is waging is not a popularity contest. It is a contest of will, force, and American credibility as the world’s leader. Last night’s speech signaled that he is again in fighting form.

Read Less




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