Commentary Magazine


Topic: West Coast

The Bush Brothers and the Freedom Agenda

State of the Union has become the most interesting and best hosted Sunday talk show. Unlike ABC, CNN went for a down-the-middle, no-nonsense interviewer in Candy Crowley. Crowley is able to extract real news — in part because she listens to the answers and asks effective follow-ups. Sunday was no exception. She sat down with George W. Bush and then with Jeb Bush as well.

The newsiest tidbit was Jeb’s apparent openness to a presidential run — but not in 2012:

GEORGE W. BUSH: … I urged [Jeb] to seriously consider running for president, because I think he’d be a great president. But he’s chosen not to run this time, and I finally have believed him.

CROWLEY: See? So you’re getting some place. And you noticed “this time.”

JEB BUSH: You know what? You never say never about anything. I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012.

But just as interesting was the reminder that the so-called “freedom agenda” was central to Bush’s presidency (in obvious contrast to  Obama’s). Asked about the war in Afghanistan, Bush answered:

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there’s — first of all, Afghanistan was the site where extremists were able to find a safe haven to attack.

CROWLEY: But they’re mostly gone at this point in Afghanistan.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I wouldn’t make that assumption. Oh, in Afghanistan, yes, but it’s not to say they couldn’t come back if a regime that was welcoming them would give them safe haven again.

I would say that, put yourself in the position of a young girl in Afghanistan, and realize that her life will be incredibly brutalized and/or thwarted by people like the Taliban. And the fundamental question, is it worth it? That’s the question we’ve got to ask. Does it matter to our own national security, or does it matter to our conscience that women will be mistreated? I argue it does. And I understand it’s difficult.

On Iraq he sounded a similar theme: “I think somebody’s going to look back some day and say thank goodness the United States believed in the universality of freedom and liberated 25 million and gave the Iraqis a chance to have their own free — free society.”

Also evident is the devotion of both the Bush brothers to immigration reform:

JEB BUSH: Rick Scott got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida. We elected two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval. There were congressmen and women elected of Hispanic origin.

I think the problem is not just a West Coast problem, but it is a big-time California problem. And I think part of it relates to tone.

If you’re watching TV, and someone is kind of legitimately angry that we can’t control our border, and sending signals that it’s them and us, and, by the way, you’re not “us,” you’re “them,” it doesn’t matter what else people turn out. If they’re not — feel like they’re welcome, they’re not going to listen to the message.

CROWLEY: And how does the Republican Party sort of reach out on that? Because immigration reform, you tried.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I did. And I believe the best way to secure the border is to have a comprehensive approach, and said so during an Oval Office address.

The language got carried away though. I mean, people — the issue kind of spiraled out of control and sent bad signals.

I think the Republican Party can attract Latinos through good education policy, good small business policy, good policy toward our veterans. And there have been times when Latinos have voted Republican and times when they haven’t. And so we always need to learn from the past and be sensitive about the future. …

JEB BUSH: Yes. And at the same time, Latino, or Hispanic, as we call people of Hispanic origin in Florida, Hispanics want the border controlled. A great nation has to control its border for national security purposes, for all sorts of purposes. And so I don’t know anybody that says, yes, let’s just open up our border to create chaos.

So, once the border is controlled, and people view it that way, and there’s a perception, it’s benchmarked, and people say yes, then I think you’re going to find that there is common ground to change our immigration policy to help us grow faster as a nation and to welcome people that work hard and play by the rules to create prosperity for us.

None of the brothers got credit from the left for their efforts on immigration reform, while many on the right continue to savage the notion of comprehensive immigration reform — even the Bush formulation (border security first).

Likewise, Bush’s foreign policy was vilified by the Democratic party, which from FDR through JFK was in favor of a freedom-promoting foreign policy. But that’s a faint memory now. Bush’s emphasis on democracy promotion and human rights was the subject of such disdain, that it has taken the current administration two years to drop its aversion to even discussing these topics.

The Crowley interview is a timely reminder that Republicans should be wary of a cramped, batten-down-the-hatches form of conservatism. The political saleability of modern conservatism and its success domestically and overseas are not based solely, or even primarily, on an oppositional agenda (no to spending, no to foreign commitments, no to immigrants). Rather it is the quintessential freedom agenda — free markets, pro-growth policies, a robust assertion of American power and interests oversees, a beacon for and defender of victims of despotism, and a big tent GOP. As the Republicans ready themselves for the 2012 primary, they should not forget that limited government is not an end unto itself, but rather a necessary condition for our freedom and prosperity. Whether on defense spending, immigration, or the war against Islamic terror, conservatives would do well to keep that in mind.

State of the Union has become the most interesting and best hosted Sunday talk show. Unlike ABC, CNN went for a down-the-middle, no-nonsense interviewer in Candy Crowley. Crowley is able to extract real news — in part because she listens to the answers and asks effective follow-ups. Sunday was no exception. She sat down with George W. Bush and then with Jeb Bush as well.

The newsiest tidbit was Jeb’s apparent openness to a presidential run — but not in 2012:

GEORGE W. BUSH: … I urged [Jeb] to seriously consider running for president, because I think he’d be a great president. But he’s chosen not to run this time, and I finally have believed him.

CROWLEY: See? So you’re getting some place. And you noticed “this time.”

JEB BUSH: You know what? You never say never about anything. I answer the questions forthrightly about 2012.

But just as interesting was the reminder that the so-called “freedom agenda” was central to Bush’s presidency (in obvious contrast to  Obama’s). Asked about the war in Afghanistan, Bush answered:

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, there’s — first of all, Afghanistan was the site where extremists were able to find a safe haven to attack.

CROWLEY: But they’re mostly gone at this point in Afghanistan.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I wouldn’t make that assumption. Oh, in Afghanistan, yes, but it’s not to say they couldn’t come back if a regime that was welcoming them would give them safe haven again.

I would say that, put yourself in the position of a young girl in Afghanistan, and realize that her life will be incredibly brutalized and/or thwarted by people like the Taliban. And the fundamental question, is it worth it? That’s the question we’ve got to ask. Does it matter to our own national security, or does it matter to our conscience that women will be mistreated? I argue it does. And I understand it’s difficult.

On Iraq he sounded a similar theme: “I think somebody’s going to look back some day and say thank goodness the United States believed in the universality of freedom and liberated 25 million and gave the Iraqis a chance to have their own free — free society.”

Also evident is the devotion of both the Bush brothers to immigration reform:

JEB BUSH: Rick Scott got a majority of the Hispanic vote in Florida. We elected two Hispanic governors, Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval. There were congressmen and women elected of Hispanic origin.

I think the problem is not just a West Coast problem, but it is a big-time California problem. And I think part of it relates to tone.

If you’re watching TV, and someone is kind of legitimately angry that we can’t control our border, and sending signals that it’s them and us, and, by the way, you’re not “us,” you’re “them,” it doesn’t matter what else people turn out. If they’re not — feel like they’re welcome, they’re not going to listen to the message.

CROWLEY: And how does the Republican Party sort of reach out on that? Because immigration reform, you tried.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I did. And I believe the best way to secure the border is to have a comprehensive approach, and said so during an Oval Office address.

The language got carried away though. I mean, people — the issue kind of spiraled out of control and sent bad signals.

I think the Republican Party can attract Latinos through good education policy, good small business policy, good policy toward our veterans. And there have been times when Latinos have voted Republican and times when they haven’t. And so we always need to learn from the past and be sensitive about the future. …

JEB BUSH: Yes. And at the same time, Latino, or Hispanic, as we call people of Hispanic origin in Florida, Hispanics want the border controlled. A great nation has to control its border for national security purposes, for all sorts of purposes. And so I don’t know anybody that says, yes, let’s just open up our border to create chaos.

So, once the border is controlled, and people view it that way, and there’s a perception, it’s benchmarked, and people say yes, then I think you’re going to find that there is common ground to change our immigration policy to help us grow faster as a nation and to welcome people that work hard and play by the rules to create prosperity for us.

None of the brothers got credit from the left for their efforts on immigration reform, while many on the right continue to savage the notion of comprehensive immigration reform — even the Bush formulation (border security first).

Likewise, Bush’s foreign policy was vilified by the Democratic party, which from FDR through JFK was in favor of a freedom-promoting foreign policy. But that’s a faint memory now. Bush’s emphasis on democracy promotion and human rights was the subject of such disdain, that it has taken the current administration two years to drop its aversion to even discussing these topics.

The Crowley interview is a timely reminder that Republicans should be wary of a cramped, batten-down-the-hatches form of conservatism. The political saleability of modern conservatism and its success domestically and overseas are not based solely, or even primarily, on an oppositional agenda (no to spending, no to foreign commitments, no to immigrants). Rather it is the quintessential freedom agenda — free markets, pro-growth policies, a robust assertion of American power and interests oversees, a beacon for and defender of victims of despotism, and a big tent GOP. As the Republicans ready themselves for the 2012 primary, they should not forget that limited government is not an end unto itself, but rather a necessary condition for our freedom and prosperity. Whether on defense spending, immigration, or the war against Islamic terror, conservatives would do well to keep that in mind.

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Block This Sale

The bad ideas just keep coming. A few bloggers and news outlets picked up this week on the report that a Russian company wants to acquire a 51 percent stake in a U.S. uranium-mining operation. Four congressmen have written to Timothy Geithner asking him to block the sale, pointing out that if it goes through, a Russian corporation will control 20 percent of America’s uranium resources.

The sale should be blocked. The congressmen fear – with reason – that Russia could deliver uranium from the Wyoming mine to Iran, but that’s not the only consideration. Russia acquiring a 51 percent interest in a natural-resources operation creates unnecessary vulnerabilities for the nations involved. Multiple rounds of natural-gas extortion in Europe have made that clear. Russia behaves badly in its natural-resources dealings, using them alternately to build leverage with the wealthy and to strong-arm the struggling.

Russia and China are competing vigorously to acquire control of natural resources in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Besides its gas and oil investments in the Caribbean, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia, Russia has signed uranium-development agreements with Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Russians are also prospecting for oil and gas off Cuba’s West coast in the Gulf of Mexico, an enterprise unaffected by President Obama’s moratorium on U.S. drilling. (See here for an extended treatment of Russia’s oil and gas acquisitions.) Between them, Russia and China are gradually narrowing the resource options of the U.S., the EU, and Japan; if geopolitical shifts drive us to seek new suppliers, we will find, wherever we look, that the Asian giants are already there. We certainly don’t need to collude in their strategy by handing our own resources over to their companies.

In turning markedly against Japan last week over the Kuril Islands issue – which carries major implications for undersea resources – the Putin-Medvedev regime sent a very clear signal about where it is headed. If we invite Russia to control the commercial destiny of a significant amount of our natural resources, we will be buying political problems for the future. Our current ability to stand up to extortion is no excuse for courting it unnecessarily. The Russia factor makes this sale an issue of national security; it is inherently political and should be decided for political reasons. The sale should be blocked.

The bad ideas just keep coming. A few bloggers and news outlets picked up this week on the report that a Russian company wants to acquire a 51 percent stake in a U.S. uranium-mining operation. Four congressmen have written to Timothy Geithner asking him to block the sale, pointing out that if it goes through, a Russian corporation will control 20 percent of America’s uranium resources.

The sale should be blocked. The congressmen fear – with reason – that Russia could deliver uranium from the Wyoming mine to Iran, but that’s not the only consideration. Russia acquiring a 51 percent interest in a natural-resources operation creates unnecessary vulnerabilities for the nations involved. Multiple rounds of natural-gas extortion in Europe have made that clear. Russia behaves badly in its natural-resources dealings, using them alternately to build leverage with the wealthy and to strong-arm the struggling.

Russia and China are competing vigorously to acquire control of natural resources in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Besides its gas and oil investments in the Caribbean, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia, Russia has signed uranium-development agreements with Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. The Russians are also prospecting for oil and gas off Cuba’s West coast in the Gulf of Mexico, an enterprise unaffected by President Obama’s moratorium on U.S. drilling. (See here for an extended treatment of Russia’s oil and gas acquisitions.) Between them, Russia and China are gradually narrowing the resource options of the U.S., the EU, and Japan; if geopolitical shifts drive us to seek new suppliers, we will find, wherever we look, that the Asian giants are already there. We certainly don’t need to collude in their strategy by handing our own resources over to their companies.

In turning markedly against Japan last week over the Kuril Islands issue – which carries major implications for undersea resources – the Putin-Medvedev regime sent a very clear signal about where it is headed. If we invite Russia to control the commercial destiny of a significant amount of our natural resources, we will be buying political problems for the future. Our current ability to stand up to extortion is no excuse for courting it unnecessarily. The Russia factor makes this sale an issue of national security; it is inherently political and should be decided for political reasons. The sale should be blocked.

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Dismantling Our NATO-Linked Infrastructure

The recent cost-cutting proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is followed by a report this week according to which the U.S. Second Fleet staff and headquarters are on the chopping block. Second Fleet operates out of Norfolk, Virginia and exercises command and control of U.S. naval operations in the North Atlantic. During the Cold War its level of operational tasking was staggering; in 2010, its main focus shifted to fleet training. Its maritime cognizance of Latin America and the Caribbean was transferred to the resurrected Fourth Fleet in 2008. Meanwhile, Second Fleet has been used since 9/11 to command homeland-defense activities off the East coast. Its Pacific counterpart, Third Fleet in San Diego, performs similar functions on the West coast.

Like JFCOM, however, Second Fleet has a unique role in our obligations with NATO, one that confers on it the densely packed title “Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence.” Wearing this hat, Second Fleet labors to improve Alliance interoperability and doctrine in naval and expeditionary operations. It performs as a naval arm of the Allied mission to which JFCOM contributes through its liaison with the Norfolk-based NATO command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

It may be considered a sign of sclerosis in an alliance — possibly even of senility — when the tasks assigned to its agencies can no longer be conveyed in sensible language. NATO has big plans for ACT, however, and expressed strong endorsement of its mission in May of this year. That alone ought to warrant more careful reflection over eliminating JFCOM and Second Fleet. But the proposal to gut the U.S. Navy’s command infrastructure in the Atlantic carries existential implications for our core alliance with Western Europe. The fresh perspective needed here is strategic, not budgetary.

In terms of military planning, getting rid of Second Fleet means no longer seeing the Atlantic as a threat axis or potential maritime battle space for which dedicated tactical preparation is required. Other commands can take over some of the grab-bag of functions Second Fleet has been assigned in recent years, but a numbered fleet is uniquely organized for an integrated approach to naval warfare.

Dispensing with Second Fleet appears out of step with Russian developments since 2007, when Vladimir Putin declared that he would resume the Soviet-era posture of forward operation and surveillance. Today, Russian bombers again operate close to North America and Western Europe. Russian submarines ply the Arctic, where Moscow’s claims of mineral rights conflict with those of NATO allies America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. A year ago, the Russian navy announced its resumption of a submarine presence off the U.S. East coast, deploying its most modern submarines equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles. An ambitious naval building program makes it clear that Russian leaders want to reestablish their maritime profile in multiple directions.

Under President Obama, however, the U.S. military is becoming less organized in secure the East coast and the Atlantic. The shift is not yet comprehensive, by any means, but the proposals to eliminate JFCOM and Second Fleet make it a trend. Obama’s decision last fall to abandon Bush’s missile-defense plan in Europe will leave the Eastern half of North America vulnerable — in a way the Western half is not — to ICBMs from the Eastern hemisphere. Now Obama’s Defense Department seems to be playing down the importance of training and developing joint naval tactics with NATO, at the same time it proposes to eliminate, in the Atlantic, the unique military role of the numbered fleet.

Neither alliances nor security conditions maintain themselves. It may be true that Second Fleet has been organized out of a job over the past decade, but it’s not clear that today’s geopolitical reality validates the decisions behind that transformation. An insecure Atlantic has never been a harbinger of peace. We may well come to regret having been so shortsighted — and sooner than we think.

The recent cost-cutting proposal to eliminate Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is followed by a report this week according to which the U.S. Second Fleet staff and headquarters are on the chopping block. Second Fleet operates out of Norfolk, Virginia and exercises command and control of U.S. naval operations in the North Atlantic. During the Cold War its level of operational tasking was staggering; in 2010, its main focus shifted to fleet training. Its maritime cognizance of Latin America and the Caribbean was transferred to the resurrected Fourth Fleet in 2008. Meanwhile, Second Fleet has been used since 9/11 to command homeland-defense activities off the East coast. Its Pacific counterpart, Third Fleet in San Diego, performs similar functions on the West coast.

Like JFCOM, however, Second Fleet has a unique role in our obligations with NATO, one that confers on it the densely packed title “Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Centre of Excellence.” Wearing this hat, Second Fleet labors to improve Alliance interoperability and doctrine in naval and expeditionary operations. It performs as a naval arm of the Allied mission to which JFCOM contributes through its liaison with the Norfolk-based NATO command, Allied Command Transformation (ACT).

It may be considered a sign of sclerosis in an alliance — possibly even of senility — when the tasks assigned to its agencies can no longer be conveyed in sensible language. NATO has big plans for ACT, however, and expressed strong endorsement of its mission in May of this year. That alone ought to warrant more careful reflection over eliminating JFCOM and Second Fleet. But the proposal to gut the U.S. Navy’s command infrastructure in the Atlantic carries existential implications for our core alliance with Western Europe. The fresh perspective needed here is strategic, not budgetary.

In terms of military planning, getting rid of Second Fleet means no longer seeing the Atlantic as a threat axis or potential maritime battle space for which dedicated tactical preparation is required. Other commands can take over some of the grab-bag of functions Second Fleet has been assigned in recent years, but a numbered fleet is uniquely organized for an integrated approach to naval warfare.

Dispensing with Second Fleet appears out of step with Russian developments since 2007, when Vladimir Putin declared that he would resume the Soviet-era posture of forward operation and surveillance. Today, Russian bombers again operate close to North America and Western Europe. Russian submarines ply the Arctic, where Moscow’s claims of mineral rights conflict with those of NATO allies America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark. A year ago, the Russian navy announced its resumption of a submarine presence off the U.S. East coast, deploying its most modern submarines equipped with long-range, land-attack cruise missiles. An ambitious naval building program makes it clear that Russian leaders want to reestablish their maritime profile in multiple directions.

Under President Obama, however, the U.S. military is becoming less organized in secure the East coast and the Atlantic. The shift is not yet comprehensive, by any means, but the proposals to eliminate JFCOM and Second Fleet make it a trend. Obama’s decision last fall to abandon Bush’s missile-defense plan in Europe will leave the Eastern half of North America vulnerable — in a way the Western half is not — to ICBMs from the Eastern hemisphere. Now Obama’s Defense Department seems to be playing down the importance of training and developing joint naval tactics with NATO, at the same time it proposes to eliminate, in the Atlantic, the unique military role of the numbered fleet.

Neither alliances nor security conditions maintain themselves. It may be true that Second Fleet has been organized out of a job over the past decade, but it’s not clear that today’s geopolitical reality validates the decisions behind that transformation. An insecure Atlantic has never been a harbinger of peace. We may well come to regret having been so shortsighted — and sooner than we think.

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Re: “Dang”

Jen, you’re right. The McCain ad on the border fence is some kind of new low in the annals of political cynicism, but the thing is, maybe when you’re being cynical, you’re best to do it whole hog. In this regard, John McCain might be following in the footsteps of my old friend Arianna Huffington. When she moved to Hollywood and realized that the position of Conservative on the West Coast was taken by David Horowitz, she just…Went Left. Instantly. No painful journey. No tortured realization that some of the things she had believed she no longer did. She seen her opportunity and she took it, and now she is a leading light on the port side of the political ship. By jumping in whole hog with the very people he attacked only three years ago, McCain is trying to save himself from an unprecedented political fate — from presidential nomination to primary ouster in less than two years. Understandable that he’d go to extreme lengths to avoid that. But really, did he have to use the weird invocation of the phrase from the early horror movie Freaks (“one of us…one of us”) to do it?

Jen, you’re right. The McCain ad on the border fence is some kind of new low in the annals of political cynicism, but the thing is, maybe when you’re being cynical, you’re best to do it whole hog. In this regard, John McCain might be following in the footsteps of my old friend Arianna Huffington. When she moved to Hollywood and realized that the position of Conservative on the West Coast was taken by David Horowitz, she just…Went Left. Instantly. No painful journey. No tortured realization that some of the things she had believed she no longer did. She seen her opportunity and she took it, and now she is a leading light on the port side of the political ship. By jumping in whole hog with the very people he attacked only three years ago, McCain is trying to save himself from an unprecedented political fate — from presidential nomination to primary ouster in less than two years. Understandable that he’d go to extreme lengths to avoid that. But really, did he have to use the weird invocation of the phrase from the early horror movie Freaks (“one of us…one of us”) to do it?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But it was supposed to help the Democrats: “Gallup’s most recent polling of the generic ballot shows a net five-point bounce for the Republicans, post-health care passage. The poll of registered voters now shows a lead of 47%-44%; Republicans had trailed by a similar 47%-44% margin in the first and second weeks of March, and by a 47%-45% margin in last week’s tracking results.  The loss for the Democrats comes mostly from independent voters; the gain for Republicans comes from Republican and Democratic voters turning toward the GOP.”

But it hasn’t, explains Jeffrey Anderson: “The Democrats had optimistically claimed that turning a deaf ear to the American people and passing their unpopular bill would make it popular. But Scott Rasmussen observes that ‘the overriding tone of the data is that passage of the legislation has not changed anything. Those who opposed it before now want to repeal it. Those who supported the legislation oppose repealing it.’ Unfortunately for the Democrats, the former number is a lot bigger than the latter one.”

But Obama said voters would learn to love it once it passed: “In addition to sharing Republicans’ and Democrats’ concerns about the bill’s failure to address healthcare costs, and sharing Republicans’ concerns about government intervention and costs, the majority of independents agree with Democrats that the bill doesn’t do enough to regulate the healthcare industry. As a result, independents concur with four of the five critiques tested, one more than members of either political party do.”

But Obama said voters didn’t care about “process”: Gallup asked “whether Americans believe the methods Democratic leaders used to secure passage of the bill represented ‘an abuse of power’ or ‘an appropriate use’ of the majority party’s power in Congress. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans see it as abuse of power, whereas a smaller majority of Democrats (70%) call it an appropriate use of power. The majority of independents agree with most Republicans on this question.”

But the Republican insiders told us that Charlie Crist was the “safe” choice: “Former FL GOP chair Jim Greer is the subject of a criminal investigation after an audit showed he may have profited from party activity, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. … Under pressure from major donors and party elders, Greer announced in early Jan. he would resign in Feb. Donors had been upset with his stewardship of party finances, and with spending many saw as beneficial to Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Greer’s major backer when he became chair. Greer is supporting Crist in the primary against ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), which did not sit well with the state’s activist base.”

But don’t they know that Henry Waxman will haul them in front of his committee to read them the riot act? “Boeing Co. will take a charge of $150 million due to the recent health care overhaul legislation, the aircraft maker said Wednesday. The charge will hurt earnings by 20 cents per share in the first quarter of 2010. In 2013 Boeing will no longer be able to claim an income tax deduction related to certain prescription drug benefits for retirees. Accounting rules require that the company take the charge during the period the legislation is enacted. Several other companies have said they will take accounting charges due to the health care reform bill including AT&T, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and 3M Co.”

But what about the rest of the country? “The top House Republican says the White House’s decision to begin offshore drilling across huge expanses of ocean is a ‘positive step,’ but he’s still blasting the Obama administration for keeping areas on the West Coast closed to such exploration. House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said that the administration ‘continues to defy the will of the American people,’ who he says supported a 2008 congressional decision to allow oil exploration off the Pacific Coast and Alaska.”

But Obama was going to keep unemployment at 8 percent and “pivot” from ObamaCare to job creation: “Private-sector employers unexpectedly shed 23,000 jobs in March, according to a measure of private-sector employment released this morning, reminding us of the very choppy nature of this recovery.”

But it was supposed to help the Democrats: “Gallup’s most recent polling of the generic ballot shows a net five-point bounce for the Republicans, post-health care passage. The poll of registered voters now shows a lead of 47%-44%; Republicans had trailed by a similar 47%-44% margin in the first and second weeks of March, and by a 47%-45% margin in last week’s tracking results.  The loss for the Democrats comes mostly from independent voters; the gain for Republicans comes from Republican and Democratic voters turning toward the GOP.”

But it hasn’t, explains Jeffrey Anderson: “The Democrats had optimistically claimed that turning a deaf ear to the American people and passing their unpopular bill would make it popular. But Scott Rasmussen observes that ‘the overriding tone of the data is that passage of the legislation has not changed anything. Those who opposed it before now want to repeal it. Those who supported the legislation oppose repealing it.’ Unfortunately for the Democrats, the former number is a lot bigger than the latter one.”

But Obama said voters would learn to love it once it passed: “In addition to sharing Republicans’ and Democrats’ concerns about the bill’s failure to address healthcare costs, and sharing Republicans’ concerns about government intervention and costs, the majority of independents agree with Democrats that the bill doesn’t do enough to regulate the healthcare industry. As a result, independents concur with four of the five critiques tested, one more than members of either political party do.”

But Obama said voters didn’t care about “process”: Gallup asked “whether Americans believe the methods Democratic leaders used to secure passage of the bill represented ‘an abuse of power’ or ‘an appropriate use’ of the majority party’s power in Congress. Nearly 9 in 10 Republicans see it as abuse of power, whereas a smaller majority of Democrats (70%) call it an appropriate use of power. The majority of independents agree with most Republicans on this question.”

But the Republican insiders told us that Charlie Crist was the “safe” choice: “Former FL GOP chair Jim Greer is the subject of a criminal investigation after an audit showed he may have profited from party activity, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. … Under pressure from major donors and party elders, Greer announced in early Jan. he would resign in Feb. Donors had been upset with his stewardship of party finances, and with spending many saw as beneficial to Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Greer’s major backer when he became chair. Greer is supporting Crist in the primary against ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), which did not sit well with the state’s activist base.”

But don’t they know that Henry Waxman will haul them in front of his committee to read them the riot act? “Boeing Co. will take a charge of $150 million due to the recent health care overhaul legislation, the aircraft maker said Wednesday. The charge will hurt earnings by 20 cents per share in the first quarter of 2010. In 2013 Boeing will no longer be able to claim an income tax deduction related to certain prescription drug benefits for retirees. Accounting rules require that the company take the charge during the period the legislation is enacted. Several other companies have said they will take accounting charges due to the health care reform bill including AT&T, AK Steel Corp., Caterpillar Inc. and 3M Co.”

But what about the rest of the country? “The top House Republican says the White House’s decision to begin offshore drilling across huge expanses of ocean is a ‘positive step,’ but he’s still blasting the Obama administration for keeping areas on the West Coast closed to such exploration. House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said that the administration ‘continues to defy the will of the American people,’ who he says supported a 2008 congressional decision to allow oil exploration off the Pacific Coast and Alaska.”

But Obama was going to keep unemployment at 8 percent and “pivot” from ObamaCare to job creation: “Private-sector employers unexpectedly shed 23,000 jobs in March, according to a measure of private-sector employment released this morning, reminding us of the very choppy nature of this recovery.”

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The Dangers of Patience

On Tuesday, referring to North Korea’s failure to live up to its pledge to shut down and seal the nuclear reactor in Yongbyon by April 14, Condoleezza Rice remarked that “we don’t have endless patience.” North Korea made its promise to shut down the reactor in February at six-party disarmament talks as a part of a two-step plan to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. The talks were sponsored by Kim Jong Il’s only ally, China, which pressured the United States to accept the deal.

Secretary Rice was repeating comments made last Friday by President Bush, who declared that “Our patience is not unlimited” as he stood next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Camp David. (To their credit, Abe and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, have been pushing the United States to adopt a stiffer policy toward Kim Jong Il.)

These latest statements add to the collection of similar warnings that Kim has collected over the past two weeks. “Our patience is not infinite,” Reuters reported a senior U.S. official as saying on April 14. On that day the State Department’s Christopher Hill, the chief American negotiator at the talks, said, “We are not indifferent to missing a deadline.”

Maybe the Bush administration is not indifferent, but it has been very tolerant. The same unidentified American official said that Washington was willing to give Pyongyang “a few more days.” In fact, the U.S. has given the North Koreans a few more weeks.

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On Tuesday, referring to North Korea’s failure to live up to its pledge to shut down and seal the nuclear reactor in Yongbyon by April 14, Condoleezza Rice remarked that “we don’t have endless patience.” North Korea made its promise to shut down the reactor in February at six-party disarmament talks as a part of a two-step plan to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program. The talks were sponsored by Kim Jong Il’s only ally, China, which pressured the United States to accept the deal.

Secretary Rice was repeating comments made last Friday by President Bush, who declared that “Our patience is not unlimited” as he stood next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Camp David. (To their credit, Abe and his predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, have been pushing the United States to adopt a stiffer policy toward Kim Jong Il.)

These latest statements add to the collection of similar warnings that Kim has collected over the past two weeks. “Our patience is not infinite,” Reuters reported a senior U.S. official as saying on April 14. On that day the State Department’s Christopher Hill, the chief American negotiator at the talks, said, “We are not indifferent to missing a deadline.”

Maybe the Bush administration is not indifferent, but it has been very tolerant. The same unidentified American official said that Washington was willing to give Pyongyang “a few more days.” In fact, the U.S. has given the North Koreans a few more weeks.

What’s next? Well, American policymakers will undoubtedly confront Kim Jong Il with . . . more patience. For his part, Kim seems to have a more robust strategy for dealing with us. Last week, for the first time in fifteen years, he showed off missile systems in a military parade. There were three new systems, but what caught analysts’ attention was a new intermediate-range ballistic missile with a maximum range of 4,000 kilometers. It can reach the American territory of Guam. Kim’s Taepodong-2 missile—though not yet deployed—will be able to reach America’s West Coast with a nuclear payload.

So perhaps it would be a good time to start paying attention to Pyongyang’s leader. As Kim Myong Chol, often described as North Korea’s “unofficial spokesman,” wrote at the beginning of this year, “Kim is now one click away from torching the skyscrapers of New York.” This is an exaggeration: at this particular moment, the worst the North Korean leader could do is to incinerate Anchorage or Honolulu. But if North Korea’s arms development continues at this pace, in five to seven years, Kim’s technicians will be able to miniaturize nuclear weapons, mate them to missiles, and deploy them in a launch vehicle that can reach any point in North America.

Perhaps we should move the White House to Bermuda.

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America’s Favorite Buildings

The architecture of California, to the chagrin of the Los Angeles Times, is uninspiring. Or so one might conclude from a poll of America’s 150 favorite buildings, put together by the American Institute of Architects to mark its 150th anniversary. It shows that the country’s most beloved buildings are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Northeast, including the Empire State Building (1), the White House (2), the U.S. Capitol (6), the Chrysler Building (9), and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (10). In fact, of the top twenty, a full sixteen are in either New York or Washington, D.C. And California’s most impressive showing is not for a building at all but for an engineering marvel, the Golden Gate Bridge (5).

Of particular distress to the Times were the lackluster ratings given those much-acclaimed Los Angeles gems, the Getty Museum (95) and the Disney Concert Hall (99). The paper offers no explanation for these low rankings, but it may be on to something. How is it that the center of the entertainment industry, which creates the imagery that comprises American popular culture, has been so lackluster in creating memorable architecture? The relative newness of the West Coast is only a partial answer, since the public clearly feels deep affection for a recent monument like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (10).

Read More

The architecture of California, to the chagrin of the Los Angeles Times, is uninspiring. Or so one might conclude from a poll of America’s 150 favorite buildings, put together by the American Institute of Architects to mark its 150th anniversary. It shows that the country’s most beloved buildings are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Northeast, including the Empire State Building (1), the White House (2), the U.S. Capitol (6), the Chrysler Building (9), and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (10). In fact, of the top twenty, a full sixteen are in either New York or Washington, D.C. And California’s most impressive showing is not for a building at all but for an engineering marvel, the Golden Gate Bridge (5).

Of particular distress to the Times were the lackluster ratings given those much-acclaimed Los Angeles gems, the Getty Museum (95) and the Disney Concert Hall (99). The paper offers no explanation for these low rankings, but it may be on to something. How is it that the center of the entertainment industry, which creates the imagery that comprises American popular culture, has been so lackluster in creating memorable architecture? The relative newness of the West Coast is only a partial answer, since the public clearly feels deep affection for a recent monument like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (10).

In fact, what is most impressive about the poll is how impervious it is to hype and publicity. The list is heavy on public monuments, museums, and buildings of state, and in that sense is deeply conservative. Perhaps it reflects a widespread affection for America’s symbolic architecture in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center (19). It is difficult to imagine that a list of popular buildings compiled before 9/11 would have been so steeped in tradition.

My main quibble with the poll is different from that of the Times. How is it that Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (27) and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater (29)—America’s two greatest houses, and two of the world’s greatest houses—are ranked below the Bellagio Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas (22)?

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