Friday, May 2, 2003
THE PRESIDENT: "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on."- President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln.

That one sentence, more than anything else, is why President Bush will not suffer his father's fate in next year's election. At some point during the President's speech last night it occurred to me there is NO WAY this President will not win re-election.

Love him or hate him, the man is a leader. In the first Presidential election post-9/11 the American people, above all else, want a President who is a leader.

In many ways I am beginning to wonder whether the conventional wisdom regarding the economy and the President's political fortunes is at all accurate. With the constant backdrop of the War on Terror, if the economy continues to weaken the public's angst and concern will grow along with their desire to have a President who will LEAD.

What I'm trying to say is the worse the economy gets the more the electorate will demand a President who is a real leader, exactly President Bush's strong suit. Whether it is the cold reality of 9/11 or the ridiculousness of the late 90's with a self-indulgent President and a stock market gone mad, the American people do not seem to blame President Bush for our current economic situation.

How else do you explain last year's election where the President defied all historical trends and picked up seats in both the House and the Senate? Obviously I know there is a chance President Bush can lose the election next year. But if you're a betting person and anytime between now and next November you can get even odds or better on the President - I'd take em. Because I'm starting to think a good economy the President wins, a bad economy the President wins.

Bush's real vulnerability is a foreign policy debacle that would throw into question his status as leader and not the unemployment numbers being released this morning. It's NOT the economy stupid.

IRAQ, 9/11 AND THE LIBERAL ELITES: I was flipping around the channels after the President spoke and on NBC not more than 30 seconds after Bush finished Tom Brokaw was telling the American people that there was no connection between 9/11 and Iraq. This was a deliberate effort on his part to rebut the President's statement: "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11, 2001 -- and still goes on."

You see, Brokaw and the liberal elites know that the more Bush's actions are seen as response to what happened on 9/11 the more the American people will like him. And they don't want the American people to like the President.

THE WAR IS NOT OVER:

"Our war against terror is proceeding according to principles that I have made clear to all: Any person involved in committing or planning terrorist attacks against the American people becomes an enemy of this country, and a target of American justice. Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a grave danger to the civilized world -- and will be confronted."

"Will be confronted." I think that says it all. Iraq was one battle in the War on Terror and this President appears intent on leading the U.S. and the free world to victory in that war. Enemies of the United States should beware, this war is not over and this President is deadly serious. J. McIntyre 8:14 am

Thursday, May 1 2003
HAPPY MAY DAY: Welcome to another excuse for radical Marxists, anarchists and miscellaneous others on the left to burn, break, and loot (Thank goodness they've decided not to have a May Day celebration here).

And don't be fooled into thinking, as the antiwar groups would have you believe, that these demonstration represent massive public unrest over Iraq or anything else. Check out this line from Reuters:

"Other groups behind the May Day events included animal rights activists, students protesting against university fees and anti-pollution campaigners planning a mass cycle ride to block traffic in central London."

I'm sorry, but public demonstrations these days aren't much more than play-dates for lefty malcontents. They're what liberal activists do while the rest of us are out working.

THE DEM MESSAGE: I want to briefly revisit the point John made yesterday about judicial confirmations. It's an interesting question: all things being equal, would Democrats be filibustering Estrada if he were a white male?

The answer is most likely not - Estrada would probably get about the same treatment Jeffrey Sutton received. Which is to say he would have gotten roughed up a bit in committee, but confirmed by a full Senate vote.

So the broader question becomes: will moderate and independent voters recognize - and perhaps be turned off by - the fact that Dems are using the most powerful weapon in their political arsenal to prevent a extraordinarily well-qualified Hispanic from further high achievement? - T. Bevan 7:54 am

Wednesday, April 30 2003
JUDICIAL HARDBALL: Senate Democrats continue to play hardball with President Bush's judicial nominees, as Priscilla Owen became the second target to be hit by Democratic filibuster tactics.

On the surface it appears that the Democrats may be winning this war of judicial nominations in the Senate. I wonder whether they will win in the long run. There are only so many high profile nominations the Democrats can detonate with a filibuster nuclear bomb. For every Priscilla Owen who gets stopped two or three Jeffrey Sutton's get through.

The White House may be employing a sound strategy given their opponent. Both sides are playing hardball, but the Democrats are the ones who are being forced to pay a political price for their tactics. Denying well qualified conservative women and Hispanics even a vote on the Senate floor will start to extract a political cost for a party that portrays itself as the 'defenders' of women and minorities. While these tactics may seem just fine to Ralph Neas and Eleanor Smeal they will smack of extremism to Joe Q. public while providing cover for the White House to continue to flood the nomination process with blue chip conservatives.

With the war in Iraq dying down and after the President gets some type of tax relief package through the Congress, the White House can then ratchet up the pressure in regard to the Estrada and Owen nominations. The only way to break the Democratic filibuster is to cause political pain to the Democratic Party, Democratic Senators in particular. The way to cause that pain is to publicly portray the Democratic obstructionism as extreme and utterly unprecedented.

With the Iraq situation clearly on the front burner for the last several months it made no sense for the President to put on the full court press on behalf of the Estrada nomination. But as these other news stories die down the White House can make Estrada (and Owen to a lesser degree) a Page 1 issue at a time and place of their choosing.

At that time Senate Democrats may begin to second guess their scorched earth tactics when a very popular President publicly exposes Miquel Estrada to be a victim of left wing extremism in the United States Senate.

As long as Bush fights hard in public for Estrada it becomes a win win situation for the White House. Either, the Dems cave, the filibuster breaks and Estrada gets confirmed (Owen is less important here in the big picture) or the Democrats take down in a very public way an extremely well-qualifed young man, for one reason and one reason only - he is Hispanic. (For those of you who think that is a little harsh, explain to me why Democrats let white nominees with the exact same qualifications and circumstances move through without a filibuster. What scares Democrats is not that Estrada is conservative, they understand Bush is going to nominate conservatives, the danger to the left is he is an Hispanic conservative.)

Heading into Election 2004 do you think this will bother Karl Rove? J. McIntyre 8:13 am

Tuesday, April 29 2003
HOWARD DEAN, SHAMELESS BASE MONGER: He made himself a darling of the Democratic base and a plausible threat to win the nomination by opposing the war. But now that the war is over Dean is starting to look, well, a bit comical. And he's starting to take fire from some of his fellow competitors.

It all started with Dean's infamous comment about Saddam Hussein:

"We've gotten rid of him, and I suppose that's a good thing."

That was followed by this little episode reported in The Washington Post:

Last week on CNN, Dean was pressed about the war's impact on the Iraqi people: Were they better off with Hussein gone?

"We don't know yet," Dean said.

Now Dean is drawing fire for these comments appearing in the current issue of Time Magazine:

And two weeks ago, while campaigning at a Stonyfield yogurt factory in New Hampshire, the would-be Commander-in-Chief [Dean] suggested that America should be planning for a time when it is not the world's greatest superpower : "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."

John Kerry, who apparently feels his own waffle strategy on the war has now been vindicated, dispatched rent-a-hack Chris Lehane yesterday to rip Dean over his comments and question his fitness to be the Leader of the Free World.

The problem for Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt and Lieberman is that there is still a seizable McGovernite portion of the Democratic base who don't think Dean's comments are comical at all and agree with them wholeheartedly. It's going to be a difficult tightrope for these men to walk during the primaries, but one that will be fascinating to watch.

NEWTUS REDUX: I've gotten a number of emails regarding my comments on Newt Gingrich's recent diatribe against the State Department. It's somewhat of a mixed bag: some people agree with me that Newt's criticisms were poorly delivered, and others felt Newt was fully justified in making a very public and aggressive push for reforming the State Department.

Let me just reiterate for posterity that I agree with the general idea of reforming State. It should be done. My qualm is less with the substance of Gingrich's criticism (although as previously mentioned I think a couple of the examples he cited as proof of "failure" on the part of State were bogus) but with the way it was done. Newt & Co. orchestrated the event to ensure maximum publicity and delivered the speech with extraordinarily pointed and harsh language.

This is my point. If Newt wants to help engineer constructive reform of the State Department, that's fine. Take your case up to the hill and push privately for hearings and urge the President to put pressure on Powell to make serious, accountable reform at State a top priority.

But if you just want to stand up days after an historic victory in Iraq and start throwing grenades and fragging your comrades for other reasons then I'm going to have a problem - and I do.

If you're one of the people who happen to disagree with me, you can take comfort in Frank Gaffney's piece this morning. I can't help but point out that Gaffney's argument about the level of vitriol aimed at Gingrich proves the validity of his critique of the State Department is overblown at best. I doubt Gaffney would argue that because the Dixie Chicks were recently overwhelmed by public vitriol it proves they were "right on target" in their comments about President Bush.

And if I haven't completed worn you out on the subject, there's more on The Washington Times editorial page.

THE MUSEUM: I'll admit I've been a bit conflicted over the looting of the Baghdad Museum. Part of me thinks the Pentagon could have, and perhaps should have done more to try and protect its contents. But when you hear reports that it was an inside job and read stories like this, it makes you wonder whether the looting was at all preventable in the first place. Not to mention that Rumsfeld's prediction on the Meet The Press a few weeks back is beginning to come true. In the end I think there will be a fairly happy ending to this story and the museum will be restored with nearly all of its original contents in tact. - T. Bevan 8:22 am

Monday, April 28 2003
GRAHAM: What to make of Senator Bob Graham's appearance on ABC's This Week yesterday? To be honest, I wasn't that impressed. Perhaps this is because my expectations were too high, but I just didn't think he was very sharp. Not to mention, I just don't think his policy mix will give him a realistic shot at the nomination: staying to the right of Gephardt on health care and trying to get to the right of Bush on the War on Terror probably isn't going to inspire the base enough in the primaries or wash with the public in the general.

In truth, Graham is more of a darkhorse than a serious candidate (think Orrin Hatch in 2000). He's not going to be competitive in either Iowa or New Hampshire (he just took his first visit to NH the other day) and if he battles to a draw or worse with Edwards in South Carolina the game could be over before it begins. For Graham, the more likely road to the Presidency (as some astute political pundits have noted) lies in his potential value as a VP candidate for one of the true contenders. But if Graham wants a chance to be taken seriously, it's critical that he has a good showing at the upcoming debate in South Carolina.

And for those who saw the program on Sunday, can we stop for a moment to mention the fact (which I can't find a trace of anywhere this morning) that a sitting US Senator and Democratic Presidential aspirant repeatedly mispronounced the name of the deadly virus currently streaking around the globe? This didn't seem like a simple slip of the tongue - Graham was totally oblivious to the fact he kept referring to SARS as "SCARS." It's not like this hasn't been in the news recently and you'd expect someone in his position not to make that kind of mistake.

BONUS QUESTION: How quickly would the leftist pseudo-intellectual elite (yes, Eric Alterman, I'm talking about you) have sneered over our current President's monumental stupidity had he made the same error?

LE AFFAIRE SANTORUM: Although we've been posting news and opinion articles on the Santorum affair since the beginning, we haven't commented on it personally in the blog.

But let me just make a quick, general observation. If you stipulate, as most in America would, that no one is interested in criminalizing homosexual behavior, one of the fundamental questions at issue here is tolerance. Just how tolerant are we and must we be of homosexuality in our society?

Put another way, is the idea that one can, to use Santorum's words, "have no problem with homosexuality" but "have a problem with homosexual acts" a tolerant or intolerant statement? This is, after all, another way of articulating the "don't ask, don't tell" position of the Catholic church, the U.S. Military, and the vast majority of the American public. Most people have no problem with people engaging in homosexual behavior in the privacy of their own homes, even if they don't agree with it, can't understand it, or consider it to be sinful behavior.

What we've seen as this debate has played out over the past week, however, is that to those on the left the idea of "don't ask, don't tell" is bigoted and disgraceful. Anyone who is unwilling to accept the full panoply of items on the gay lobby agenda (civil union rights, hate crime statutes, teaching of homosexuality in schools, etc...) is ipso facto a homophobe and a bigot. Once again, there is a profound irony in the fact that many of the "champions of tolerance" on the left are absolutely intolerant toward anyone who doesn't actively embrace their vision of how America should be.

SADDAM: Evidence continues to mount that Hussein survived. USA Today carries this front page story in which the recently captured Tariq Aziz claims he saw Saddam alive after the second air strike against him on April 7.

Ahmed Chalabi, appearing on Fox News Sunday yesterday, said:

"Saddam is still alive. We have a pretty good idea of how they are moving and where they were, and we've tried to again focus on how we can know where they will be, so that they can be apprehended, he and his sons, Saddam and his sons, Qusay and Uday."

Chalabi also suggested in the interview that Saddam procured "bomb belts" and might be inclined to blow himself up rather than be captured. And there's also this tidbit tucked in this week's mammoth New Yorker feature of one of Saddam's personal doctors by Jon Lee Anderson:

"Both he and Bashir said they believed that Saddam was also alive. Bashir pointed out that the Adamiya mosque, where Saddam had been sighted on Wednesday, April 9th, was not far from Saddamís secret clinic. They were both situated along the river, which offered an avenue of escape. Upriver, in the country outside Baghdad, there was an area that was the fiefdom of a tribal leader who was a close ally of Saddam Husseinís."

If Saddam is alive, our ability to capture him in the not-too-distant future sets up a very intriguing prospect: a public trial run by the fledgling Iraqi interim authority to bring the hated former dictator to justice. Covered by a free Iraqi press, to boot. It could represent the sort of monumental event that helps inspire and solidify the presence of a better system of governance in Iraq. - T. Bevan 8:27 am

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