Friday, April 29, 2005

Bush the Egghead

So trumpets liberal fanatic E.J. Dionne in today's Washington Post. Trouble is that he's short on proof of this. Nevermind, he essentially says. I'm a librule & I don't use logic or facts to accuse opponents.
Here's a couple samples of his mindlessness:

The president's proposal for private accounts in Social Security is Exhibit A for eggheadism. There was little popular demand for these accounts. Most Americans like Social Security as it is. The private accounts idea was nurtured primarily in libertarian &conservative research organizations such as the Cato Institute, the National Center for Policy Analysis & the Heritage Foundation.

E.J., Did it occur to you that most people don't have problems with 401 (k)'s? Did it ever occur to you that, even if you're right about what people want, the current system is fatally flawed & will leave younger workers in a world of hurt within 20 years? It never dawns on tired old E.J. that there's a serious structural problem that raising taxes & cutting benefits can't fix. That isn't surprising since that's the average liberal's approach.

To build support for privatization, backers of the idea couldn't rely on their popularity & they even had to abandon their treasured word "privatization." Instead, they spent years trying to convince Americans that Social Security faced some sort of "crisis" & that "personal" accounts were the answer.
E.J., Did it ever occur to you that there really is a coming crisis within the current system & that doing nothing innovative will doom younger workers with crushing debt & stifling taxes? As for the nonsense that they've abandoned "their treasured word 'privatization'", the current GOP hasn't used that word. This is another sign of the paranoia of the far, idiotic left. They deserve minority party status for ages.
Unlike conservative intellectuals, most Americans have a very practical view of Social Security. They want some insurance against the risks of old age & don't judge Social Security proposals by their theoretical elegance. Most citizens want to know how much money they'll have in their pockets when they're 65, 70 or 80. Because Bush spent the past four months pushing a bold idea rather than a specific plan, Americans have been unable to find an answer to this cash-on-the-barrelhead concern. No wonder Bush offered a few more details last night.
What do you care more about: "knowing how much money" you'll have in your pockets at "65, 70, 80" or knowing that PRA's will put alot more money in your pockets at "65,70, or 80"? Personally, that isn't even a question. It's only asked when you've been lied to by pundits who predict doom & gloom if even the slightest change to Social Security is proposed. Playing on peoples' fears based on lies & living in the past as opposed to making decisions based on real facts is morally reprehensible, too.
Now that Americans know the weapons were not there, support for the war has waned. Yes, most Americans would like Bush's grand democratic construct to be true. The Iraqi elections, a concrete sign of progress, temporarily increased support for the invasion. But new attacks in Iraq have led to a drop in support for the war. Again, Americans are, on the whole, pragmatists & not eggheads.
E.J.'s relying on another liberal standard. If the polls say that something's popular, then it's the right thing to do. If more people are against something, then it's a bad thing to do. It doesn't occur to wimps like E.J. that leadership matters, that sometimes bucking popular opinion is the smartest course & the best solution. No wonder E.J. fawns over Bill Clinton's poll driven policies. That's the sign of political cowardice & intellectual vacancy.
Notice, too, that E.J. didn't say anything about whether invading Iraq was a worthwhile thing or not, just that it's unpopular at the moment. What kind of logic is that in defending a policy?

It’s More Than Judges

It’s More Than Judges
Larry Kudlow
April 28, 2005

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t seem to get the fact that George W. Bush won the presidential election last November. He also doesn’t get that the Republicans picked up five seats in the Upper Chamber. That’s called a mandate. Despite this, Reid believes he can negotiate, or even dictate, which judicial appointments can be voted on in the Senate. That’s utterly preposterous & it’s one of the many reasons why Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist must put Reid & the rest of the filibustering Senate Democrats in their place once and for all.

That's the pesky thing about winning elections: the winner gets to make the nominations. Furthermore, it's the responsibility of the Senate to get off their collective backsides & vote on the nominees. Dusty Harry Reid thinks he can get away with being the Senate leader of the No Party. Come November, 2006, he'll find out that this was a stupid strategy. It couldn't happen to a more intellectually lazy party.

There’s no political or constitutional reason why every presidential judicial nomination should not be voted on. That includes nominees for the Supreme Court, the appellate courts, & on down the line. But the Senate Democrats are now standing in the way of near every nominee the president sends over, vowing even to re-filibuster many that the president nominated in his first term.

But before we get into what can be done about this, let’s take a careful look at the Democrats’ broader strategy, which is a carefully constructed plan to obstruct & undermine the conservative’s post-election reform agenda for both foreign & domestic policy. After blocking the judicial nominees, the Democrats will attempt to obstruct all pro-growth, pro-business legislation that makes it to the Senate. On the energy bill, they could attempt to filibuster any legislated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). They could hold up the budget because they don’t want to extend the president’s tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. If a good asbestos bill comes around, they could obstruct that too. CAFTA & other free-trade opening measures could also be stopped.

Part of the problem with the Democratic party is that, in "appealing to the base", they propose to do nothing outside of obstructing. They haven't had a serious proposal since President Bush was first inaugurated. The other problem with their appealing to the base is that, as times goes by, their issues get farther outside the mainstream & "the base" gets stripped of the moderates, thereby shrinking that base. It isn't accident that the GOP retained the White House while increasing their Senate & House majorities.

It’s already more than judges. Democratic Sen. Max Baucus has a hold on all Treasury Department nominations, including one deputy secretary, two undersecretaries & three assistant secretaries. One of these assistant positions oversees terrorist money flows. Why is Baucus doing this? Because he doesn’t agree with U.S. policy on Cuba. Instead of filling some important posts in an important government department, he’s aiding the Castro-Chavez axis. Make no mistake about it: The Democratic strategy is to attempt to encroach on presidential authority in every single area. Why do you think John Bolton is having such a tough time being affirmed for the U.N.? Judges, Treasury, Bolton, they’re all linked.

There’s a way around this, of course. It’s called the “nuclear option,” & it’s been used before, by Senate Democrats. In 1975, Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia introduced a bill that was co-sponsored by liberal Republicans Robert Griffin & Hugh Scott, along with old liberal Democratic warhorse, Mike Mansfield. The intent of this bill was to change the standing rules to permit “limitation of debate” (i.e., ending a filibuster) with a three-fifths vote of the whole Senate. The Byrd resolution was postponed indefinitely. But in March 1975 a bill sponsored by then Sen. Walter Mondale contained the same language as the Byrd bill, & it passed. Any change of the standing rules today is labeled the “nuclear option.” Back then a rule-change seemed only a small firecracker.

This is the typical tempest in a teapot. Changing the rules is only a big deal because the Harry Reid-led Dems think its their birthright to rule the landscape. Otherwise, this isn't a big deal.
According to reports, Byrd also changed Senate precedents with simple up-or-down majority votes in 1977, 1979, 1980, & 1987. In other words, there is a clear history of rule-changing by the very same “nuclear option” that Byrd vehemently objects to today.

But once the bomb, or firecracker, goes off in the Senate, the air is going to clear. With an end to judicial filibusters, judges William Pryor, Priscilla Owens, Richard Griffin, Henry Saad, & Susan Neilson will all get a fair shot at being confirmed. The business community, which has been opposed to the nuclear option, will also enjoy the filibuster-free air. Senate Democrats, playing by the new rules, will have a much tougher time standing in the way of tort reform, energy reform, & quite possibly Social Security reform & tax reform.
While there is a precedent for changing the rules in the Senate, there is none for the type of obstructionism we’re seeing from the modern Democratic party. As Hugh Hewitt & Duane Patterson point out, there was exactly 1 judicial nominee filibustered on the Senate floor in the 20th century, the ethically challenged judge Abe Fortas. There have already been 10 such filibustered nominees in the 21st century, & we’re only 5 years in. For Byrd, Reid & the rest of the Democrats to protest that the Senate rules are inviolable, when it’s clear that all they have in mind is their own political advantage, is the height of hypocrisy. It’s time for the Senate Republicans to go nuclear. It’s time for the president & the GOP to enjoy the mandate they earned in the voting booth last fall.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Democrats Still Don't 'Get It' On Religion

Now you might think that that's a quote from a Christian conservative. It isn't. It's the title of Mort Kondracke's column in RCP today. Here's a sampling of his writings.

After the 2004 election, many prominent Democrats agreed that they had to learn to talk the language of religion & show respect for religious voters if they were to broaden the party's appeal. But the minute Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) signed on to participate in a religious-right rally against the Senate filibuster, prominent Democrats such as Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) & Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) flew into a rage. Kerry declared before Frist said a word that he’d "appeal to religious division" & "invoke faith to rewrite Senate rules to put substandard, extremist judges on our bench."

This is utterly typical of the hysterics of liberal Democrats. They started criticizing Bill Frist before Sen. Frist said a word, predicting doom & gloom, stopping just short of saying that Sen. Frist's words would lead to death & destruction. If it weren't for the fact that this type of speech is dangerous, I'd offer Sens. Kerry & Reid a microhone & buy ad time on the networks to broadcast their rantings far & wide.
Reid said, also ahead of time, that Frist was a "radical" for agreeing to participate in the televised “Justice Sunday" rally, which billed the filibustering of President Bush's judicial nominees as "against people of faith." As it turned out, Frist didn't say a word about religion. He defended himself against the "radical" charge & promoted up-or-down Senate votes on judicial nominations.
There you've got it. Ironclad proof that Frist is a radical based on total paranoia. Brought to you by the idiot wing of the Democratic Party. As a sidenote, Reid is clearly part of what might be called the "Not Yet Ready for Primetime Leadership." He's clearly in way over his head in this leadership role.
But the level of outrage expressed by Democrats & various liberals over the rally could only lead religious conservatives to conclude that, despite their 2004 vows to respect people of faith, the Democrats still don't get it. Some liberal commentators, led by New York Times columnist Frank Rich, were contemptuous of the rally, its participants &, by implication, religious conservatives in general. Rich dubbed the rally "humbug," dismissed participants as a "mob" & likened Frist to Sinclair Lewis' 1920s evangelist phony, Elmer Gantry. Liberal religious groups, including the National Council of Churches, also protested the rally. At a counter-rally, liberal evangelical Jim Wallis called it "a declaration of religious war" & "an attempt to hijack religion."
When the National Council of Churches, Jim Wallis & Frank Rich are part of the frontline of this argument, you've been dealt a lousy hand. As the old cribbage line goes, the only right way to throw this hand is away.
Democrats have not just a right but an obligation to stand up for their beliefs when conservatives try to limit abortion rights, enact anti-gay legislation, limit stem-cell research or ban the teaching of evolution. And they should oppose federal judicial nominees they deem "extremist," although, instead of filibustering them on a routine basis, they should persuade a majority of the Senate to their side.
What a concept. The one thing that Dems haven't tried doing with judicial nominees is actually persuading people to their viewpoint. It seems to me that there's a number of moderate Republicans that they could persuade to voting against some of these nominees. It seems to me that if they can't persuade a Lincoln Chafee or a Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe to vote against a nominee, then these nominees aren't the extremists that Chuck Schumer, Ted Kennedy or John Kerry mischaracterize them as.
Whether they're right or wrong, Democrats have had considerable success in raising questions about the fitness of Undersecretary of State John Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N. If they defeat Bolton, it won't be by filibuster. The system will have worked. The best way to avoid the GOP-dictated "nuclear option" is for Senate Democrats to stand down from their own de facto rules change, their use of the filibuster, & fight Bush's judicial nominees with debate.
The best line in this paragraph is the last line about their "de facto rules change". That's calling it like it is.

A Real Filibuster

A Better Option on Judges: Bring on a Real Filibuster
By Dick Morris
April 28, 2005

The Republican leaders in the Senate don’t have to make the false choice between endless toleration of Democratic filibusters that enfeeble their majority & the so-called "nuclear option", a ruling that filibusters of judicial nominations are unconstitutional, which will set off partisan wrangling for the balance of the Bush tenure.
It’s absurd to try to tell the American people why filibusters of judicial nominations violate the Constitution while those of presidential nonjudicial appointments & of regular legislation don’t. The American people are going to see the denial of the right of unlimited debate as the equivalent of FDR's court-packing plan, which doomed the second term of his presidency to utter failure (he had a pretty good third term, winning the war). The better way to proceed is to make the filibuster radioactive politically by letting the Democrats talk themselves to death. Give them enough rope & they’ll hang themselves by their vocal cords.
Frist just needs to end the "virtual" filibuster & make the Democrats stage a real one, replete with quorum calls, 24/7 sessions & truly endless debate covered word for word by C-SPAN for all the nation to see, & ridicule.
Frist should bring up a judicial nomination of little consequence for the nation, say Charles Pickering, & let the Democrats explain, at tedious length, why they’re tying up the entire nation over a judgeship for Mississippi. While the public would possibly tolerate a filibuster over a Supreme Court nomination or over a particularly important piece of legislation with enormous consequence, they’d never allow a filibuster over so inconsequential an item, & the backlash would be fierce.
To force the Democrats to filibuster over such a matter would be akin to the way President Clinton forced the Republicans to shut down the government in the budget fight. In the era of 24-hour news & cable TV, the Democrats will find that they can’t stage a real, red-blooded filibuster without hurting themselves politically each day they talk.
A filibuster would attract wide notice. Bring the cots into the Democratic & Republican antechambers & stage quorum calls throughout the night, as in the old days of civil-rights legislation & the nation will notice. The Democrats will leave America to wonder why they’re spending all of their time debating a judgeship in Mississippi when they aren’t addressing the problems of healthcare, energy, gas prices, the economy, Social Security reform & the preservation & expansion of Medicare. The endless debate over so minor an item will make the country disgusted & will expose all to the true perils of unbridled partisanship in Washington.
When vote after vote for cloture fails, usually by the same deadening margin, the voters will increasingly see the case for squelching the filibuster & then the nuclear option would be welcome by the nation. The Republican leaders, & the Democratic majority leader before them, have allowed the filibuster to be rehabilitated in the public mind by agreeing not to stage one. The gentlemanly filibusters of the modern era, where each side concedes unless one has 60 votes, have permitted virtual filibusters that incur no public wrath.
But let's remember that it was the specter of the Senate's being tied in knots by Sen. Richard Russell (D-GA) & his gang that doomed the South to accepting civil-rights legislation. When Hubert Humphrey & his allies had to sleep in the Senate chamber so that minorities could get the right to vote, America saw the excesses to which the South would go to deny minorities their rights.
Frist & the GOP need to let the Democrats demonstrate how noxious the filibuster really is before they try to explain to America why they’re curtailing it. And the best way to do that is to let the Democrats deploy their weapon. Call their bluff. And let 'er rip!

Cover Up???

First of all, Welcome Back Tony Snow. I've missed your written & spoken observations. Tony's first column after time off to battle cancer is, as usual, spot on. It speaks for itself so here it is:

Cover Up???
By Tony Snow
April 28, 2005
Sens. Byron Dorgan, John Kerry & Richard Durbin pulled a fast one last week on their congressional colleagues. They tried to bury forever documents alleging that senior government officials tried to transform portions of the IRS & the Justice Department into a goon squad for attacking political enemies & aiding political friends. Naturally, they didn't declare their intentions openly. Instead, Dorgan attached an innocent looking amendment to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill that’ll fund government operations after September 30. The last-minute amendment read:
"At the end of the bill, add the following:
"SEC. — . (a) None of the funds appropriated or made available in this Act or any other ACT may be used to fund the independent counsel investigation of Henry Cisneros after June 1, 2005.
"(b) Not later than July 1, 2005, the Government Accountability Office (sic) shall provide the Committee on Appropriations of each House with a detailed accounting of the costs associated with the independent counsel investigation of Henry Cisneros."
Before detailing the sleight of hand, let's consider the background. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh insisted on the appointment of an Independent Counsel in 1995 after learning that then-Housing & Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros shuttled payments to his mistress without reporting them to the IRS. Once the news went public, Cisneros resigned from office, his previously promising political career in tatters. He later admitted to a misdemeanor and paid a fine of $10,000. President Clinton pardoned him in 2001.
Dorgan's bill would shut down the 10-year probe conducted by Independent Counsel David Barrett's investigation, but it’d add something unprecedented in the case of special or independent counsels: it’d prevent the publication of the counsel's report on the case. A decade's worth of investigations, sworn testimony, documentation of alleged abuses, grand-jury proceedings, etc., would vanish without a trace.
In this instance, that’d mean burying charges that key officials in the Justice Department & the IRS abused their power by going easy on Cisneros & targeting political opponents of Bill Clinton. Those charges, not the Cisneros case, have served as the focal point of Barrett's investigation for the last several years. While Sen. Dorgan & his colleagues may not know this, lawyers for Henry Cisneros & other Clinton-era public servants do. They also know that Barrett is the first man ever to receive grand-jury subpoena power to look at the inner workings of the IRS.
A Dorgan press release summarizes the senator's case for quashing the report: "The Independent Counsel was appointed ten years ago, but has failed to file a report & continues to spend millions of dollars, despite the fact that the subject long ago resigned from office, pled guilty to a misdemeanor, paid a $10,000 fine, & received a presidential pardon." The argument has unmistakable appeal, especially since Barrett has gotten less bang for the buck than any previous independent counsel (one conviction for $20 million dollars).
Nevertheless, the claim is misleading. Barrett isn't responsible for dragging out the investigation or adding to its cost. As the Wall Street Journal noted in an April 22 editorial, "any blame for this delay lies mainly with Mr. Cisneros' lawyers at Williams & Connolly, who’ve filed more than 190 motions & appeals.
One single appeal took some 18 months to deal with. The 400-page-plus report has been largely done since last August & awaits only a requisite period for review & response by those named in its pages. The only thing threatening a hold-up past June are further defense motions seeking still more delay."
Barrett also stands accused of wasting money, even though he’s claimed in a letter to members of Congress: "This Office undergoes a complete GAO audit not once, but twice a year, to which we provide full assistance & cooperation. I’ve never received a complaint from the GAO. To my knowledge, the only person to whom a GAO official expressed a concern was to a Washington Post reporter for a Washington Post article on April 1, 2005. The Washington Post article was relied upon by Sen. Dorgan in introducing SA 399."
Yet, even if Barrett were profligate, wouldn't the public have a right to know whether government officials abused the IRS & its extraordinary powers for political purposes? Why not insist on publishing the report, & conducting a GAO audit of the independent counsel, rather than singling out the counsel while burning his work?
This gets us to the heart of the issue: Sens. Dorgan, Kerry & Durbin have been lured into sponsoring a cover-up of what could be a hair-raising case of governmental malfeasance. As the Journal noted, "abuse of the taxing power is about as serious as corruption can get in our democracy." One would assume that senators of any party not only would want to know more about allegations of this sort, but would insist on going after agents responsible for such a breach of the public trust, especially if the bad actors worked for the IRS, the DOJ or the White House. After all, once a federal agency decides to engage in political chicanery, it isn't likely to stop just because an administration changes.
Whatever abuses Barrett may have found in the Clinton era very well could persist into this administration, only with a pro-Republican tilt. Yet, the sponsors of the midnight amendment have adopted the Sgt. Shultz defense: They know nothing, & they want the American public clothed in ignorance as well. (Compare this behavior to the alacrity with which Senate Democrats have retailed unsworn, over-the-transom complaints about John Bolton.)
The Dorgan-Kerry-Durbin amendment made it past Democratic & Republican senators because they had no idea the trio had added the cover-up language to a measure that, among other things, finances continuing military & humanitarian operations in Afghanistan & Iraq. Fortunately, Congress still has an opportunity to ensure that the Barrett report sees the light of day. Members of the House-Senate conference, which must produce a final version of the appropriations bill for the president's signature, still can strip out the report-killing amendment.
Here is a list of names & phone numbers for the Senate conferees:
Sen. Thad Cochran (202) 224-5054
Sen. Ted Stevens (202) 224-3004
Sen. Arlen Specter (202) 224-4254
Sen. Pete Domenici (202) 224-6621
Sen. Kit Bond (202) 224-5721
Sen. Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541
Sen. Conrad Burns (202) 224-2644
Sen. Richard Shelby (202) 224-5744
Sen. Judd Gregg (202) 224-3324
Sen. Robert Bennett (202) 224-5444
Sen. Larry Craig (202) 224-2752
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (202) 224-5922
Sen. Michael DeWine (202) 224-2315
Sen. Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
Sen. Wayne Allard (202) 224-5941
Sen. Robert Byrd (202) 224-3954
Sen. Daniel Inouye (202) 224-3934
Sen. Patrick Leahy (202) 224-4242
Sen. Tom Harkin (202) 224-3254
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (202) 224-4654
Sen. Harry Reid (202) 224-3542
Sen. Herb Kohl (202) 224-5653
Sen. Patty Murray (202) 224-2621
Sen. Byron Dorgan (202) 224-2551
Sen. Diane Feinstein (202) 224-3841
Sen. Richard Durbin (202) 224-2152
Sen. Tim Johnson (202) 224-5842
Sen. Mary Landrieu (202) 224-5824

Chavez in the Crosshairs

At least, that's what George Friedman of the Stratfor Intelligence Briefing is reporting. It's time to put pressure on Hugo Chavez, who's been on an anti-U.S. rant the past several months. According to the story, the pressure "which could include financing institutions & political groups that oppose Chavez."
Chavez controls the spigots to the oil that's exported to the U.S. At one time, Venezuela was the biggest exporter to the U.S. I don't know if that's still true but they're certainly important in the U.S.'s oil strategy.
Here's the story:

Bush Administration has Venezuela in its Crosshairs
By George Friedman
April 28, 2005
A few weeks ago, I noted in this space that the U.S. is beginning to shift its focus, away from al-Qaida & even from the ongoing violence in Iraq, back to pre-9/11 dynamics. This week, we’ve seen further evidence of this shift with a new response by Washington to an old bete-noir, Hugo Chavez.
Under normal circumstances, it’d be easy to dismiss the Venezuelan president's consistent anti-U.S. rhetoric, were it any less voluble or entertaining. For the past three years, since surviving a brief coup, Chavez has been claiming, first, that the U.S. was set on toppling his regime &, more recently, that U.S. leaders now seek his assassination. Meanwhile, he’s been pursuing some fairly provocative leftist policies, especially for the leader of a country the U.S. relies on as a significant source of oil supplies.
Whatever warmth there might’ve been in these chilly relations now appears to be dissipating altogether. In recent days, Chavez has scuttled a 35-year-old military exchange program with the U.S., claiming that U.S. soldiers were "waging a little campaign" that included bad-mouthing his presidency & otherwise slighting their host country. Meanwhile, he’s also charged that several Americans were caught taking pictures of such things as oil refineries & military facilities, saying this shows that Washington is stepping up its intelligence operations against his government.
Washington, which has categorically denied the claims that any Americans were arrested, would be much more likely to task satellites than human spies with such a mission, if there was much value in photographing oil refineries & military bases to begin with, which there isn't. All of which would again make Chavez's statements easy to dismiss, except for an April 26 story in the NYT. According to the story, which clearly was intentionally leaked to The Times by the Bush administration, the U.S. has concluded that there’s no way to improve relations with Chavez & that, in short, he must go. Washington is considering a program of destabilizing Venezuela, which could include financing institutions & political groups that oppose Chavez.
Since this has been a basic model for dealing with regimes in Washington's crosshairs for several years, the report can be taken seriously. Moreover, it was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's departure for a tour through Latin American states, where her agenda included discussions on Venezuela with other regional leaders. Any attempts to build a campaign against Chavez in Latin America likely will hit a wall, since doing so not only would involve giving governments in that region a reason to care about the Washington-Caracas rift, but reversing a growing trend of anti-American sentiment & leftist economic policies that have been taking root for several years already. Moreover, it’s difficult to overlook the fact that Chavez, former coup plotter & radical revolutionary though he may be, was democratically elected by the Venezuelans.
What is by far the most interesting aspect of this growing crisis is that it’s occurring to begin with. The threat from Chavez, whatever it is, was always there. What’s changed most perceptibly is the American view of the world. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. has been obsessed with its confrontation with the jihadists. The Bush administration not only had no time for Venezuela before, but the last thing it wanted on its plate was another crisis when it was having trouble dealing with the Muslim world.
Now, the Bush administration clearly feels it has that war under control & is now prepared to embark on other adventures. Just how much risk & how many resources the U.S. is prepared to put behind a push to oust Chavez is unclear. Some of this could be simply talk, intended to satisfy internal political constituencies in the administration. Nevertheless, that the Bush administration is prepared to confront Chavez now is a measure of its confidence concerning al-Qaida & the major war.
Washington now has bandwidth.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Up, Down or Out

Up, Down or Out
April 27, 2005
IN the coming weeks, we may witness a vote in the U.S. Senate that’ll define the 109th Congress for the ages. This vote won’t be about war & peace, the economy or the threat from terrorism. It’ll focus instead on procedure: whether the Senate should amend its own rules to ensure that nominees to the federal bench can be confirmed by a simple majority vote.
I’ve publicly urged caution in this matter. Amending the Senate rules over the objection of a substantial minority should be the option of last resort. I still hold out hope that the two Senate leaders will find a way to ensure that senators have the opportunity to fulfill their constitutional duty to offer "advice & consent" on the president's judicial nominees while protecting minority rights. Time hasn't yet run out.
But let's be honest: By creating a new threshold for the confirmation of judicial nominees, the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint that’s long allowed the Senate to function as an institution. This tradition has a bipartisan pedigree. When I was the Senate Republican leader, President Bill Clinton nominated two judges to the federal bench, H. Lee Sarokin & Rosemary Barkett, whose records, especially in criminal law, were particularly troubling to me & my Republican colleagues. Despite my misgivings, both received an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor & were confirmed. In fact, joined by 32 other Republicans, I voted to end debate on the nomination of Judge Sarokin. Then, in the very next roll call, I exercised my constitutional duty to offer "advice & consent" by voting against his nomination.
This is how simple it'd be for Democrats. They could fulfill their constitutional duty by voting against President Bush's nominees if they felt any weren't qualified. That isn't their goal, though. Their goal is to prevent President Bush from appointing & confirming judges with whom the ultraliberal senators (like Schumer, Kennedy, Byrd & Leahy, just to name a few) vehemently disagree with but can't defeat.
When I was a leader in the Senate, a judicial filibuster wasn’t part of my procedural playbook. Asking a senator to filibuster a judicial nomination was considered an abrogation of some 200 years of Senate tradition. To be fair, the Democrats have previously refrained from resorting to the filibuster even when confronted with controversial judicial nominees like Robert Bork & Clarence Thomas. Although these men were treated poorly, they were at least given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
At the time, filibustering their nominations wasn’t considered a legitimate option by my Democratic colleagues, if it had been, Justice Thomas might not be on the Supreme Court today, since his nomination was approved with only 52 votes, eight short of the 60 votes needed to close debate.

That's why the current obstruction effort of the Democratic leadership is so extraordinary. President Bush has the lowest appellate-court confirmation rate of any modern president. Each of the 10 filibuster victims has been rated "qualified" or "well qualified" by the American Bar Association. Each has the support of a majority in the Senate. And each would now be serving on the federal bench if his or her nomination were subject to the traditional majority-vote standard.

I'm glad that Sen. Dole pointed out the confirmation rate of appellate court judges, rather than just repeating the Democratic talking point of confirming 205 judges. Democrats couldn't care less about trial court judges. They're focused on the appellate court judges that have the power to legislate from the bench.

This 60-vote standard for judicial nominees has the effect of arrogating power from the president to the Senate. Future presidents must now ask themselves whether their judicial nominees can secure the supermajority needed to break a potential filibuster. Political considerations will now become even more central to the judicial selection process. Is this what the framers intended?
The Framers knew what worked best & they spelled it out as to which branch of government is responsible for what functions. Democrats are now attempting to appropriate power, not just from the executive branch but also from a majority of senators. That's the epitome of hubris & it must end ASAP.

If the majority leader, Bill Frist, is unable to persuade the Democratic leadership to end its obstruction, he may move to change the Senate rules through majority vote. By doing so, he’ll be acting in accordance with Article I of the Constitution (which gives Congress the power to set its own rules) & consistently with the tradition of altering these rules by establishing new precedents. Sen. Frist was right this past weekend when he observed there’s nothing "radical" about a procedural technique that gives senators the opportunity to vote on a nominee.
Although the Democrats don't like to admit it, in the past they’ve voted to end delaying tactics previously allowed under Senate rules or precedents. In fact, one of today's leading opponents of changing the Senate's rules, Sen. Robert Byrd, was once a proponent of doing so, & on several occasions altered Senate rules through majoritarian means. I have great respect for Sen. Byrd, but Senate Republicans are simply exploring the procedural road map that he himself helped create.
In the coming days, I hope changing the Senate's rules won't be necessary, but Sen. Frist will be fully justified in doing so if he believes he’s exhausted every effort at compromise. Of course, there is an easier solution to the impasse: Democrats can stop playing their obstruction game & let President Bush's judicial nominees receive what they’re entitled to: an up-or-down vote on the floor of the world's greatest deliberative body.
This trainwreck is inevitable. When the minority attempts to jam up the deliberative process for purely ideological motives, they should get swatted down. Let's hope that the Senate Republicans give them what they deserve. This is no time to "go wobbly", as Maggie Thatcher once told George H.W. Bush.
Bob Dole, the author of "One Soldier's Story," is a former majority leader of the Senate.

Get It Moving

The U.S. hasn't built a new refinery since the 70's. Ditto with nuclear power plants. In the meantime, France has built 58 nuclear power plants in that time. This situation screams one message "Get it done ASAP."
Here's how the AP frames it:

Speaking to small business leaders, Bush lamented that he was powerless to cut gas prices. "I wish I could," he said. "If I could, I would. This problem didn’t develop overnight & it isn’t going to be fixed overnight. But it's now time to fix it," he said. Bush said the problem is that energy supplies aren’t growing fast enough to meet the growing demand in the U.S. & in other countries. "See, we've got a fundamental question we got to face here in America," Bush said. "Do we want to continue to grow more dependent on other nations to meet our energy needs? Or, do we need to do what’s necessary to achieve greater control of our economic destiny?"

The fact is that environmental extremists have used everything at their disposal to prevent the use of nuclear power & to allow us to refine oil in an attempt to create their utopia of a crude oil free world. I doubt that they expect 100% success but they're doing everything they can to get as close to that conclusion as possible.
America hasn’t ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s. Bush said that France has built 58 plants in the same period & today France gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. "It's time for America to start building again," he said.
Last time I checked, France was pretty hospitable to environmentally causes & they now get almost 80% of their electricity from nuclear power plants. That's a pretty telling statistic. It's time.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called Bush's initiatives "little more than half measures & wrongheaded policies that will do nothing to address the current energy crisis or break the stranglehold that foreign oil has on our nation."
Blah, blah, blah. We stay in lockstep in saying no to everything. Nothing new here. I didn't expect there would be, either.
Bush also called on Congress to provide a "risk insurance" plan to insulate the nuclear industry against regulatory delays if it builds new nuclear power plants. And he endorsed giving federal regulators final say over the location of liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals. LNG terminal projects have been stymied in some regions by local opposition, even though the need for more LNG imports has been widely accepted. As he did last week, he called on Congress to give him an energy bill by this summer.
At a time when we need more capacity all throughout the system these things make sense, insuring that the Democratic leadership will be diametrically opposed to these measures.
The president also wants the Energy Department to discuss with local communities the possibility of building refineries on closed military sites. A shortage of U.S. refining capacity has been blamed in part for the high gasoline prices, most recently by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah at a meeting this week with Bush.
We've seen the need for new refineries since the late 80's. Nothing's been done to improve our capacity. What's new? Environmental extremists have been smiling about their 'progress' too long. Now it's time to get them angry. VERY ANGRY. Get it done. ASAP.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Constitutional Travesty

That's the title of Chuck Colson's article in Sunday night's edition of Here's a few key statements:
Over two hundred years ago, a man who wrote under the name of Publius was hunched over his desk one evening. He was attempting to convince New Yorkers to ratify the proposed U.S. Constitution. After a moment of thought, he dipped his quill into the ink & wrote the following: The President “is to nominate, & by & with the advice & consent of the Senate, to appoint...judges of the Supreme Court.”
Publius, of course, was the pen name used by three of our nation’s founders when they wrote the eighty-five newspaper essays now known as the
FEDERALIST PAPERS. Among the authors was Alexander Hamilton, who wrote essay number 76, from which I just quoted. These fading words on a yellowed document reveal that what a handful of U.S. senators are doing today is a constitutional travesty.
Alexander Hamilton couldn't have been clearer on the intent of the Founding Fathers. The President nominates candidates for federal judicial positions & the Senate either ratifies or votes down these candidates. Notice, too, that they didn't mention needing a supermajority to confirm these nominees.
Democratic senators have for months been filibustering judges chosen by President Bush to serve on the federal courts. If the full Senate were allowed to vote on these fine judges, they’d easily be confirmed. But a hostile minority is using the filibuster tactic to prevent such a vote, purely for ideological reasons. In so doing, they’re behaving as if the Senate is supposed to have equal say with the president in deciding who sits on the court. That’s nonsense.
How this "hostile minority" can get away with this tactic (Al Gore might call it a risky judicial scheme) is testament to the MSM's willing collaboration with the 'Party of No'. I hope this scheme will be used in the midterm elections against Democratic senators running in red states.
The Constitution couldn’t be clearer. The nomination is made by the president alone. The Senate is to give its advice & consent, not demand ideological purity. Alexander Hamilton explained the intent in his essay number 76. “It isn’t likely,” he wrote, “that [the Senate’s] sanction would often be refused where there weren’t special & strong reasons for the refusal.” The advice & consent clause, Hamilton continued, was intended to provide a check upon a president who would, say, appoint his brother, or engage in favoritism, or reward family connections or personal benefactors, nothing more.
What are the supposed "special & strong reasons for the refusal" part of the advice & consent clause? That Democrats don't agree with the views of the judges? If that's the basis, then Republicans should vote down more judicial nominees if & when a Democrat occupies the White House. I'm not really advocating that on a whim but rather by imposing a litmus test like whether a judicial nominee would theoretically consult foreign laws in making rulings. It seems to me that that's a totally justifiable reason for voting a nominee down.

And yet, today a Senate minority is using the filibuster to prevent a vote on highly qualified judges, like Bill Pryor or Miguel Estrada, an able Hispanic lawyer who was nominated & had to be withdrawn, & Janice Brown, an African-American judge from California. And the grounds for opposition isn’t what the constitutional framers intended; it’s ideological. They just don’t like what these judges believe.
That isn't just unjustifiable, it's onconscienable.

Bush Gestures Support for DeLay

Bush Gestures Support for DeLay
By James G. Lakely & Joseph Curl
President Bush will travel on Air Force One today with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a public show of support for the Texas Republican whom Democrats are accusing of ethics violations. "Yes, he’s planning to return with us," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who was with the president in Waco, Texas. "We typically invite members to fly with the president when going to an event or returning from one in their area," Mr. McClellan told The Washington Times.
Mr. DeLay, who lives in the Houston area, will participate in a Social Security reform event with Mr. Bush in Galveston, Texas, today & fly back to Washington on Air Force One. Other Texas lawmakers joining the president are Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Gov. Rick Perry & Rep. Ron Paul, whose district borders Mr. DeLay's & includes Galveston. "We’re glad to have Leader DeLay flying back with us from Galveston," Mr. McClellan said. "He, like other congressional leaders, is someone the president works closely with to accomplish our shared priorities."
The trip, however, is seen by many as a clear message to Republicans on Capitol Hill that Mr. Bush is standing firmly behind the House majority leader & is responding to a chorus of requests that he get behind Mr. DeLay more publicly. In press coverage of today's events, the president inevitably will appear in photographs & video clips with Mr. DeLay &, if typical form holds, Mr. Bush will shower him with compliments in his opening remarks.
"The majority leader looks forward to being on hand at the event in Galveston & then traveling back with the president," DeLay spokesman Dan Allen said. Mr. DeLay has been accused of letting lobbyists illegally pay for several overseas trips, including a golf trip to Scotland to play at St. Andrew's. Mr. DeLay has denied any wrongdoing & says Democrats are targeting him because they can’t defeat the Republicans' agenda.
"I know I’ve been watched & investigated probably more than even Bill Clinton," he told The Times two weeks ago. "They can't find anything, so they're going back to my childhood, going to my family, going to things that happened eight years ago. There's nothing there." Few high-profile Republicans have staunchly defended Mr. DeLay in public, leaving him to fight the accusations virtually alone as they became a political distraction. The high-profile exceptions include House Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia; Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, a former Senate majority leader; & senior White House adviser Karl Rove.
"They’re just desperate," Mr. Rove told CNN's "Inside Politics" last week. "We strongly support Tom DeLay. He's a good man, a close ally of this administration." Even after Mr. Rove's comments, many conservatives & DeLay confidants in Congress complained privately that the White House seemed to be keeping the Texan at arm's length lest the scandals deepen.
Mr. Bush, asked earlier this month about the furor surrounding Mr. DeLay, said he was "looking forward to working with Tom. He's been a very effective leader," Mr. Bush said. "We've gotten a lot done in the legislature, & I'm convinced we'll get more done in the legislature." Mr. Lott was not impressed by that particular vote of confidence. "I wish it had been more, frankly," Mr. Lott told ABC's "This Week." "I do think the White House needs to remember that people who fight hard for you as a candidate & for your issues as a president deserve your support." Mr. Lott knows how important that support, or its absence, can be to one's political career.
He created his own political furor by praising the 1948 segregationist presidential candidacy of Strom Thurmond, later a U.S. senator from South Carolina, at his 100th birthday party in December 2002. Mr. Lott lost his Senate leadership post one week after Mr. Bush took a public stand against Mr. Lott's words that included naming the Mississippi senator. Joseph Curl reported from Waco, Texas. Stephen Dinan also contributed to this report from Washington.

Is Bad Polling Driving an Issue?

It appears so. John Hinderaker at Powerlineblog posts this take on a WaPo article:
More Bad Poll Data
This morning's ABC News/Washington Post poll is getting a lot of press, with its apparently bad news for Republicans. The
Post itself headlines its story "Filibuster Rule Change Opposed," and begins its coverage of the poll with that issue:
As the Senate moves toward a major confrontation over judicial appointments, a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush's court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
[B]y a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees.Sounds bad. But here's the question the pollsters asked: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" That's an absurd question, to which I'd probably answer "No," too. The way the question is framed, it makes it sound like a one-way street, as though the Republicans wanted to change the rules to benefit only Republican nominees. If they asked a question like, "Do you think that if a majority of Senators support confirmation of a particular nominee, that nominee should be confirmed?" the percentages would probably reverse.

I'd think that the results would dramatically change, too. This is further proof that statistics can be used to mischaracterize any issue, if that's what's wanted. Unfortunately, that's what the Democratic Party & it's media wing (AKA the MSM) has devolved to.

Of course, the poll contains bad news for Republicans across a broad range of issues, including Social Security. Which raises, as always, the question of the poll's internals. Sure enough: they over-sampled Democrats. If you look at page 16 of the poll data, which can be downloaded from the Post's article, it discloses that 35% of the poll's respondents were Democrats, while only 28% were Republicans. Given that slightly more self-identified Republicans than Democrats voted in last November's election, this represents an egregious, seven-point over-sampling of Democrats. No wonder the poll data are bad for Republicans.
Imagine that. The polling doesn't show an accurate representation of the country's makeup. It's pretty pathetic when a news organization misrepresents the data that badly. Thank God for the blogosphere for putting this information in the right perspective.

Democratic Challenger to DeLay Bows Out

Democratic Challenger to DeLay Bows Out
By Wendy Benjaminson, AP Writer
HOUSTON - A Democratic challenger who won 41 percent of the vote against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2004 said Monday he won't make a second attempt to unseat the incumbent.
Richard Morrison cited family & financial obligations. "Over the weekend, I had to put pen to paper on how to support my family during a campaign," Morrison said. "To have to begin campaigning now (for the March 2006 primary), I just don't have the money to put aside my law practice long enough to do this."
Late Friday, Morrison said he met with other leading Democrats to plan for a 2006 primary that’d leave one of the party's candidates with enough political power to challenge DeLay, renowned for his fundraising ability. Former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson has announced that he'll run in the Democratic primary while Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan has said he is considering it. The night before, Morrison said he learned his mother had pancreatic cancer. Morrison & his wife are also expecting a fifth child in August.
Morrison's strong showing in 2004 & DeLay's involvement in an ethics controversy over the source of funding for some of his foreign travels have emboldened Democrats to consider targeting the 22nd Congressional District.
DeLay has represented the district since 1984.
Don't you just love the wording of this story? Morrison garners 41% of the vote & that's considered substantial? I think not. It isn't as big a margin as some incumbents get but it isn't like DeLay's under 50% either. Unless & until a representative is consistently polling in the forties do I consider the possibility of him not winning.

When Fact is Stranger than Fiction

The last thing I expected to read in the NYT is an article spouting the virtues of PRA's but that's what I read. What makes it more surprising is that the author offers specific proof to support his points.
The Proof's in the Pension
By John Tierney
April 26, 2005
I made a pilgrimage to Santiago seeking to resolve the Social Security debate with a simple question: What would Pablo Serra do?
I wanted to compare our pensions to see the results of an accidental experiment that began in 1961, when he & I were friends in second grade at a school in Chile. He remained in Chile & became the test subject; I returned to America as the control group.

By the time we finished college, both of our countries' pension systems were going broke. Chile responded by pioneering a system of private accounts in 1981. America rescued its traditional system in the early 1980's by cutting benefits & raising taxes, with the promise that the extra money would go into a trust to finance the baby boomers' retirement.

Notice the phrasing of this paragraph. "Chile responded by pioneering a syste of PRA's. America "rescued its traditional cutting benefits & raising taxes." That's a pretty stark contrast. The logical next question is "How did the 2 'solutions' work?

As it happened, our countries have required our employers to set aside roughly the same portion of our income, a little over 12 percent, which pays for disability insurance as well as the pension program. It also covers, in Pablo's case, the fees charged by the mutual-fund company managing his money.
I visited Pablo, who grew up to become an economist, at his office at the University of Chile & showed him my most recent letter from the Social Security Administration listing my history of earnings & projected pension. Pablo called up his account on his computer & studied the projected retirement options for him, which assume that he'll keep working until age 65 & that the fund will get an annual return of 5 percent (which is lower than its historical average.
After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would've happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:
(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That'd be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.
(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That'd be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.
(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 & a one-time cash payment of $223,000.
The difference in the 2 pensions is stark. It also makes for a compelling set of campaign commercials if reform legislation isn't passed. I'd run that commercial against every Democratic senatorial candidate, whether they're incumbants or challengers.
You may suspect that Pablo has prospered only because he's a sophisticated investor, but he simply put his money into one of the most popular mutual funds. He has more money in it than most Chileans because his salary is above average, but lower-paid workers who contributed to that fund for the same period of time would be in relatively good shape, too, because their projected pension would amount to more than 90 percent of their salaries.
I'm guessing that most people would be very comfortable retiring on 90% of their salary. I would be.

By contrast, Social Security replaces less than 60 percent of your salary, & that's only if you were a low-income worker. Typical recipients get back less than half of their salaries.
I'm guessing that the average worker would have serious questions about living on an annual salary that's half his/her salary. Then factor in the guaranteed fact that the current system can't be sustained & that Alan Greenspan has testified that there will be a need to cut benefits by 25% in 2041. The net effect that cut would have is that the average worker would retire on 35-45% of their last salary. Anyone care to take a shot at that? No thanks.
The biggest problem in Chile is that many workers don't contribute regularly to their pensions because they're unemployed or working off the books. That's a common situation in the developing world, no matter what the pension system is. But if you contribute for at least 20 years, Chile guarantees you a minimum pension that, relative to the median salary, is actually more generous than the median Social Security check.

Still, you may argue, Chileans may someday long for a system like Social Security if the stock market crashes & takes their pensions down with it. The relative risks of the Chilean & American systems are a question for another column. But I can tell you that Pablo is an economist who appreciates the risks of stocks & has no doubt about where he wants to keep putting his money.

If an economist says that he's confident about the plan with PRA's, then I'm comfortable with it.

"I'm very happy with my account," he said to me after comparing our pensions. He was kind enough not to gloat. When I enviously suggested that he could expect not only a much heftier pension than mine, but also enough cash to buy himself a vacation home at the shore or in the country, he reassured me that it would pay for only a modest place.

How awful. He could only retire & afford a "modest place" in the country. Don't you feel sorry for Pablo?
I'm not sure how much consolation that is, but I'm trying to look at the bright side. Maybe my Social Security check will cover the airfare to visit him.

That's a sarcastic comment on our current Social Security system & I resent the fact that he beat me to it.

To contact Mr. Tierney, e-mail him at

Republicans & the Filibuster

Hugh Hewitt's column in today's Daily Standard is must reading. He makes the point again & again that a vote on all judicial nominees is required. He also makes the point that if they don't win on this issue, then the people who voted them into the majority will stand by & let them become the minority party in the Senate. I concur with that. The fact is that senators like McCain, Snowe, Chafee & Voinovich shouldn't be given a pass on this issue just because they're so-called moderates.
This is the defining issue of the day. This isn't some subtle, nuanced issue. It's more of an in-your-face, whatcha gonna do about me type of issue that deserves serious consideration instead of the demagogic nonsense that passes for the Democratic position on this issue.
Here's the story:

Now, More than Ever
What someone in the GOP Senate
caucus needs to tell Republicans about the filibuster vote. by Hugh Hewitt
April 26, 2005
A speech I hope a Republican senator from the classes of 2002 or 2004 makes at the next gathering of the GOP Senate caucus:
Thank you,
Leader Frist, for giving me the floor. I realize it isn't usual for members here less than three years to make long speeches, but there are a number of us who have a unique, & I think valuable, perspective on the issue of the president's judicial nominees. Look around the room & you’ll see a lot heads nodding, I think, as I run down these points. Those of us who fought & won races over the 2002 & 2004 cycles, in places as different as Florida & Minnesota, Texas & South Dakota, Missouri & South Carolina, we’ve all been down that familiar road of a two-year campaign. John Thune's actually been down a four year road. But we have all, every one of us, appeared in literally thousands of living rooms & board rooms, hotel lobbies & open air rallies. We’ve been out there asking for the $10 donation & the $2,000 donation. All of us, every one of us, have been helped into office by George W. Bush. We’ve all done interview after interview, have appeared on a thousand radio talk shows & sent a million pieces of mail.
In short, we know
something that a lot of you might not, especially those members gearing up for the 2006 elections. Or at least we know it in a real, first-person way, whereas those of you who haven't been part of the last two cycles only know it in a theoretical way. That something is that the judges really matter. They really, really matter. This is something you have to hear, & hear in a way that maybe you haven't before because you either haven't been out there since the issue arose or because you had a comfortable reelection campaign. Because I don't know all of you very well, please allow me to address you as senator today, but please know I’m saying this as a friend.
Senators, the issue of judges matters more than you can imagine. More than it’s probably ever mattered in the 217 years of our country's political history. So much does it matter, Senators Snowe & Chaffee, & I say this as a friend, that if we refuse or lose this battle, I think you’ll lose your seats. Please understand that I’m not trying to threaten members of the body who’ve been here longer than I have, I’m just trying to tell you what it’s like out there in the states, where our party gathers momentum & ideas & votes & yes, contributions. Nothing except the defense of this country matters more than judges. That's what our party's millions of members believe & that's what is the background for our talks today.
I want to early on in my remarks to thank Sen. Voinovich. Senator, you may not have intended to do so, but with your comments in the Foreign Relations Committee last week, you opened the door. After you said you needed time to think about the Bolton nomination, well, every network couldn't rush an expert out quick enough to praise you for your integrity. Over at CNN, I thought Bill Schneider was going to canonize you. Sen. Chaffee also was on a lot of broadcasts saluting your willingness to rethink your position.
made the same point that it takes courage to change your mind in D.C. I thought
then, & I emphasize now, senators can change their mind on big issues, especially when it’s because you’ve thought long & hard on the subject. I’m hoping that Sens. Chaffee & McCain, who’ve announced their intention to vote with the Democrats on the issue of the filibuster, that they use the opportunity that Sen. Voinovich has given them to rethink their position & rejoin the caucus. I think it’s much more important than saving Sen. Chaffee's seat, though I’m fairly certain he’ll lose it if we lose this vote. It’s more important than
Sen. Snowe's seat, though I think we’ll lose that one as well if we lose this vote. I think we could lose the Senate majority in 2006 if we lose this vote on ending the filibuster. It’s that crucial. It’s that significant. Let me tell you why I think this way.
Like I said, I appeared at thousands of gatherings over the nearly two years of my campaign. Nothing special there. We’ve all done it & we all know it’s necessary. And on top of that the phone calls & the interviews. No complaints, just part of the job. Those of us who’ve been out on the trail in a contested race, sometimes an uphill race, & who’ve succeeded in the past three years, know there are two issues on the minds of Republicans & a lot of independents: Will you support the president & will you get the judges confirmed. It’s that simple. Over & over again. Will you support the president & will you get the judges confirmed?
The folks who sent us here aren't the fancy lobbyists from the Chamber or the agri-business or the oil industry. They’ve never been on K Street, much less officed there. They aren't the big media commentators or the editorialists. They’re ordinary, mainstream Americans, & they don't like what’s going on in this town, & they especially don't like the nonsense over the judges. They know it isn't fair & they resent deeply being told these judges are quote, out of the mainstream, which makes them, ordinary tax-paying, church-and-Rotary-attending Americans, out of the mainstream. They’re hot about this. They want it to end. You know that & I know that.
These people aren’t radicals. They aren't wild-eyed fanatics. They don't want impeachment or censure or anything like that at all. But they do believe that laws should be made by legislatures & Congress, & they believe George Bush has been a good & courageous president. And they think it's fair for people to get up or down votes. And they’re very, very well informed on this subject of judges.
They’re watching. They’re waiting for us to do what we promised. They expect us to confirm these judges because it is the right thing to do. They expect us to do it as well because we owe George Bush.

It’s amazing how sophisticated the electorate has become on this issue. Sure, ten years ago, or even five years ago, no one much cared about what happened to judicial nominations unless it was a big showdown over the Supreme Court. That's different now. The courts have been deciding some very big issues, & not just gay marriage & Terri Schiavo. Hardly a day goes by that courts here & there aren't in the headlines. Voters watch & they know this, & they also know that George Bush is supposed to be able to nominate people he likes & that we’re supposed to vote on them.
Remember the round-the-clock debate we had about the judges last year? Huge attention for that & the Leader deserves credit for using that technique to get the filibuster the attention it deserved. We all can remember the mail & the calls. So we went to the people on that issue and got behind the president. And we won. We won big, in fact. Now our people want results. They won’t accept excuses & they won't accept some half-measure called a compromise. They want votes on nominees.
Let me be clear. I don't believe any member of this caucus is obliged to vote for any nominee they don't think should be confirmed. That's a matter for every member to decide. But I do think we owe it to the people who sent us here, to the president, & especially to the Constitution that we end this disfigurement of the filibuster.
Everyone in this room knows this is a new thing. We don't have to explain to the media, we don't have to debate the Democrats' talking points here. When they started filibustering on ideology in 2003, they changed this body's traditions & in a radical way. We never thought they’d take it this far, but they have. And now we have to end it.
If we fail, I think we’ll be understood, whether or not correctly, but inevitably, understood to lack the organization & skill & resolve to deserve the majority we’ve won. And I think the people will take it back. I think many of our colleagues on the ballot will suffer in 2006. Not just those who vote with the Dems on the filibuster, but even leaders of the effort to end the abuse, like Sen. Santorum.
I think Sen. Specter would be the first to tell you how hard Sen. Santorum & the
president worked for him last year, especially in the primary. They believed in the idea of a majority in the Senate & they did what they needed to do to keep that majority, & more importantly, to deserve the majority. Now we have to display whether we deserve the majority & that means ending this abuse of nominees. They deserve an up-or-down vote. I say that now & if we lose the majority & the presidency in the future, I will say it then. It’s the principled thing to do, & it does nothing to dilute our institution's deliberate approach to legislation or blue slips or the committee's power.
It’s simply this: Judicial nominees who reach the floor deserve an up-or-down vote after an extensive debate. After the disfigured filibuster is broken, we can suggest a new, specific rule on how to deal with judicial nominees that assures plenty of time for debate, but we need to negotiate that rule with the assumption being that minorities can’t forever defeat the will of majorities on judicial nominees.
I've gone on at length because I think the stakes are high. I keep thinking about meeting after meeting when a hand would go up, all sorts of people asking the same question month after month: What about the judges? If we get this wrong, we won't have to worry about it for a long, long time, because we’ll be sending many of the people in this room to an early retirement & ourselves back into the minority. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.
One final note: I want to be clear. I don't want any surprises or anyone to be misled. I won’t find it possible to support any of my colleagues for reelection if they’re on the other side of this issue. I’ve always been willing in the past to put aside differences on various issues, but on this one, I won't be able to. The folks who sent me here wouldn't stand for it & I couldn't fairly ask them to. It’s that important an issue.
I’m asking all of us to consider how terrible that result will be for everything we need to get done, & to vote accordingly. I hope as a result we have at least 55 votes to support the Chair's ruling & I hope we get to it this week.
Thank you.

Syria Exits Lebanon

Sam Ghattas of the AP reports that "Syria's 29-year military presence in Lebanon ended Tuesday when Syrian soldiers flashing victory signs crossed back over the border, completing a withdrawal brought about by international pressure & massive Lebanese street protests."
Good riddance. Don't let the proverbial door hit your backside on the way out either.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Another Clinton Scandal???

Dick Morris has been talking about that subject for awhile & it appears he's got the goods on Hillary. Will it matter? Time will tell but the Clintons seem to have 9 lives when it comes to scandals. Then again, Hillary isn't Bill. l'll keep you posted as this progresses.
David Rosen, the national finance Director for Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate campaign, goes on trial May 3 on charges of breaking federal campaign law. The senator's spokespeople insist that she didn't gain from the alleged crime, that the campaign realized no financial benefit from Rosen's understating the costs of a gala Clinton Hollywood fund-raiser. Not true. Hillary's campaign realized not just a huge benefit, but one critical to her election chances.
"The senator's spokespeople" aren't credible. What choice do they have in the matter? It isn't like they can just admit that their boss broke the law.

Under the arcane rules of the FEC at the time, campaigns could use soft money to pay for fund-raising events, provided the gathering's costs came to 40 percent or less of the total of hard money raised. (Soft money was far easier to raise: Donors could give up to $25,000 of soft money, but only $1,000 of hard money). Hillary's Hollywood gala that raised $1 million in hard money that August. This meant that the campaign could use soft money to pay for all costs up to $400,000. David Rosen conveniently reported to the campaign treasurer that the
event did, indeed, cost $400,000, avoiding the necessity of spending any hard money on the affair.
But the federal indictment of Rosen, FBI affidavits & the testimony of the event organizers, Peter Paul & Aaron Tonkin, all confirm that the extravaganza's true cost was at least $1.2 million. Press leaks suggests that the feds may have Rosen on tape acknowledging that he understated the cost of the event on purpose. Here's why he would’ve done it: If the real cost of the event were $1.2 million instead of $400,000, the campaign would’ve had to use hard money to make up the difference. The Hillary Clinton campaign would’ve had $800,000 less of hard money to spend running TV ads & funding get-out-the-vote operations.
David Rosen reporting the costs at $400,000 was huge. If Mssrs. Paul & Tonkin are right & that the Hollywood fundraiser actually cost $1.2 million, then Hillary's hard money account would've taken a hit of over $800,000 in the final month of the campaign. Would she have still gotten elected? Quite possibly. Would it have been a dicier road? Definitely.
And, at the time of that fund-raiser, Rick Lazio, the GOP candidate, had challenged Hillary to refuse to accept soft money. He found himself awash in hard money, small checks from Hillary haters across the country. But First Lady Hillary Clinton was heavily dependent on large checks from fat-cat donors whom she & the president wined, dined, photographed & hosted at the White House. And these folks gave a lot more than $1,000 each. Hillary temporized & delayed, but the handwriting was on the wall. On Sept. 24, the candidates agreed on a soft-money ban. Now she had to pay for it all with hard money. And she was hard up for hard money. So if Rosen had owned up to the full cost of the fundraiser, the campaign would’ve had to cough up $800,000 of hard money at exactly the time that it needed the funds the most.
Hillary's decisionmaking tells us alot of how she prioritizes things. In short, this shows that she's just as likely to get caught up in scandals as Bill was. Does America want a rerun of the scandal-a-day Bill administration? I'm betting that'll be one of the talking points in 08, should Hillary run.

Did Hillary know? Paul & Tonken say she did & it seems obvious that she must’ve: Hillary followed every dime in her campaign, personally calling donors for most of it. How could she possibly not have known of a decision that saved her $800,000? But the person who knows if she knew is David Rosen.
A control freak like Hillary would've known the account balance down to almost a dime. The notion that she wasn't all over this isn't just laughable, it's insulting for her to assert.
If found guilty, he faces a potential sentence of 15 years. If the feds threaten him with jail, & it's hard to see how they wouldn't, Rosen faces a choice: Tell the truth or go to prison. Rosen is no long-term Clinton loyalist like Webb Hubbell, nor did he have an affair with a Clinton (as Bill implied to me that Susan McDougal did).
Avoiding spending fifteen years in prison is a heckuva incentive to cut a deal with prosecutors. If that happens, then Hillary's political future gets alot dicier. Would that be enough to stunt her political career? I doubt that it'd end it but it might put a ceiling on her options.
And there’s no Clinton in the White House to pardon him if he goes to prison. David Rosen is a young man in his late 30s, with a life ahead of him. He’d be a fool to go to jail to protect Hillary. If he did, she wouldn't even visit him.
Bill talked about the politics of personal destruction & Hillary talked about the politics of meaning. In the end, though, Billary are only about themselves. If others get thrown to the wolves in the advancement of their agendas, then that's fine & they wouldn't blink an eyelash about it. That type of thinking won't win you many friends.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Desparation Spreading

Amongst middle eastern terrorists, according to Ralph Peters.
Terrorist & insurgent activity is down by half, free elections succeeded & a multi-ethnic government has been formed in Baghdad. The enemies of the new Iraq have failed to achieve a single one of their goals. They must be shocked & embittered. Not one extremist strategy worked.
That's a pretty dismal picture for the insurgents/terrorists. They thought that they could bully the American military. As Ronald Reagan said after bombing Libya "Today, they figured wrong."
The Coalition couldn't be dislodged, voting couldn't be stopped & the terrorists have had to watch supportive regimes in the neighborhood totter. All that our enemies have left is the dwindling hope that they can outlast America, that we'll succumb to impatience, our greatest national weakness.
The chances of the terrorists outlasting President Bush are between slim & none & slim left town ages ago. The military took awhile to get things under control but they've steadily changed the landscape.
Consider the many unsuccessful strategies the terrorists & insurgents have tried: After the old regime's fall, Islamist terrorists rushed to Iraq, confident that Osama bin Laden had been correct when he cited Mogadishu & declared that, if you kill a few Americans, the rest run away. But the master of terror was wrong: The Americans & other Coalition forces remained steadfast. And engaging U.S. troops head-on cost the terrorists & their allies severe losses.
Americans under Bill Clinton ran. The American military under George W. Bush won't run because they understand the massive impact their running would have on national security.
Nor could they muster international support any longer. Their campaign of videotaped beheadings had alienated Muslim moderates not only in Iraq but throughout the Islamic world. One of the greatest unremarked developments of 2004 was that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who’d appointed himself as his god's executioner, came to seem more threatening to Islam than the American "infidels" did. Deprived of their Fallujah haven, the extremists tried to seize control of other Sunni Arab cities. Each time, they were repelled. The best they could do was to disrupt the business of everyday life for Iraqis of every ethnic group & faith. That strategy backfired, too.
This is one place where the impact of the elections are seen. No longer could Zarqawi say that he was waging war against the American/Zionist infidels. The average Iraqi sees that he's Zarqawi's target. That changes all the dynamics. FAST.
The MSM didn't say many positive things following the second Fallujah offensive right after the presidential election but that's done alot to take away the safe haven that the terrorists needed to plan attacks & store munitions. Once that fell, things changed in a hurry.
In a clan & tribal society, the murder of one innocent schoolteacher or municipal worker makes you hundreds of enemies. Iraq's "occupiers" looked pretty good in comparison.
Suddenly, Americans weren't seen as occupiers. Zarqawi's minions were suddenly seen as terrorists. That's a fundamental that Zarqawi won't overcome.
Meanwhile, there's been a dramatic increase in citizen cooperation with the new Iraqi authorities & a crucial rise in tip-offs about terrorist & insurgent activities. With their mad pursuit of carnage, our enemies, & Iraq's, are winning the battle for us. Every day, they alienate more Iraqis, even as Baghdad's improving security forces assume ever-greater responsibility for their own country. We just need to stay the course.
We'd do well in giving the heroic Iraqi people for changing the facts on the ground. It's obvious that they're now determined to take control of their own destiny. The Iraqi people reached a turning point when their inkstained fingers were broadcast across the region.
Iraq may prove to be the defeat that destroyed the allure of terrorism for hundreds of millions of discontented Muslims. Terrorists won't disappear, but the spotlight of Iraq has revealed them as savage, indiscriminate, blasphemous &, worst of all, incapable.
Above all else, the Arab people respect power. The reality is that the American military has proven who the power is in the region.

It's 1974 Forever

That's David Gelernter's assertion. He provides a compelling argument in defense of his claim, too.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced recently that he’s worried about the "hard, hard right" of the Republican Party, people whose goal is to turn "the clock back to the 1930s or the 1890s." I've never met one myself. There’s no such Republican in the president's Cabinet, none in the Senate & Schumer’s talking nonsense. He wants to conceal the Big Switch that’s transformed American politics. Today the Democrats are the party of reactionary liberalism. Republicans are the true progressives.

This goes back, I believe, to Pat Moynihan's claim in 1978 that the GOP had become the party of ideas. That continues to this day. Schumer is one of the faces of the obstructionist wing of the Senate Democrats. They're identified by a bitterness, a total lack of ideas & a disposition that'd make Howard Dean look like an optimist.
The filibuster scheme perfectly epitomizes modern Democrats. Republicans want to move forward, confirm some judges. The Democrats' response: Freeze! Or we talk you to death. Democrats are the Stand Still party. They adore the status quo. Conservatives won't settle for the status quo. They want this nation to champion justice, humanity, democracy.
Nevermind the fact that Americans want progress. Schumer, Reid & Co. stubbornly cling to the status quo. If they continue this tack through 2006, the fillibuster won't be possible because the GOP will have the 60 senators it takes to break a fillibuster.
Democrats want America to tip-toe around the globe minding its own business, upsetting no one, venerating the Earth, etc. Why did Democrats leap to label Afghanistan & Iraq "new Vietnams"? Vietnam was 30-plus years ago! But for Democrats it is always 1974. Things change, but Democrats don't.
Forget the musclebound idealism of FDR, Truman & JFK. They wouldn't recognize this year's version of the Democratic Party. Essentially, their view of human rights is purely theoretical, not practical. They'll decry human rights violations at the U.N. but won't lift a military finger to route out tyrants who destabilize entire regions of the world via terrorism & mass murders.
Republicans want better schools: Why not try vouchers on a serious scale? Democrats' response: Hands off! Republicans want to knock the chip off the U.N.'s shoulder & retune Social Security so that even the poor can leave assets to their children. Democrats' response: Hands off! Conservatives wonder, why not let the people's representatives in state legislatures determine the nation's abortion policy? Democrats' response: Are you crazy? The smelly masses? Why is it their business?
The incoherence of the Democratic 'beliefs' is frequently on display. This paragraph is a good summarization of their reactionary beliefs.
Today's Democrats dislike democracy on principle, like Russian nobility circa 1905. Should Bush be allowed to pick federal judges merely because Republicans won the presidency, the Senate, the House, the country? No way! And why let the people decide about homosexual marriage when left-wing judges can make the law?
Just because Bush & the GOP won decisively doesn't mean the people are behind them, according to Schumer's thinking. According to this logic, the Democratic Party should never be able to get their judicial picks approved.
Connecticut's governor just signed a law approving civil unions for gays & also
stipulating that "marriage" means a man & a woman. Whatever you think of the
outcome, this is democracy, Schumerite Democrats should check it out.
The notion that 'Schumerite Democrats' would trust is absurd. They wouldn't do that. They don't trust the people. Further, they haven't persuaded people into joining them in ages.
I don't normally do this but the best thing that the Dems could do is start listening to their governors, like Bill Richardson. It'd be a breath of fresh air if they started listening to people living on the eastern seaboard & actually started paying attention to the rest of the nation. They won't do that, of course, but that's what they should do.