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March 31, 2008

Obama Is Developing a Disturbing Pattern...

The Presidential campaign of Barack Obama again appears to be engaging in disappointing behavior. In recent weeks we've witnessed a disturbing pattern of Obama initially coming out with a statement denying knowledge of a particularly divisive issue, then being forced later to acknowledge that his original statement wasn't quite true.

Let's take a look at a few recent incidents. Barack Obama had claimed for years that Tony Rezko, his indicted political mentor from Chicago, did limited fund-raising for his campaigns. Two weeks ago, Barack Obama had to come out and say that he was mistaken, and that Rezko had actually raised more than $250k for him. In another instance, Obama very publicly claimed that he was never present to hear any of the more provocative statements made by his spiritual adviser and pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Then, in his media hailed speech on race two weeks ago, Obama admitted that he was present at church and heard some things being said by Wright that disturbed the candidate greatly. Last week Obama modified that stance even further, claiming to the ladies on The View that he would have left his church because of Wright's statements and views, had the pastor not retired first.

Now the Politico is reporting on another instance where Obama initially claimed no knowledge of a particularly inflammatory bit of information that could be damaging to his campaign. Will he have to come out once again and say that he was initially mistaken?

Last December, the Politico reported that when he first ran for public office in 1996, Barack Obama laid out some very liberal positions in a questionnaire from an Illinois voter group. As that information resurfaced, Obama claimed ignorance - stating that the forms must have been filled out without authorization by a campaign aide.

When Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was seeking state office a dozen years ago, he took unabashedly liberal positions: flatly opposed to capital punishment, in support of a federal single-payer health plan, against any restrictions on abortion, and in support of state laws to ban the manufacture, sale and even possession of handguns.

...A week after Politico provided the questionnaire to the Obama campaign for comment, an aide called Monday night to say that Obama had said he did not fill out the form, and provided a contact for his campaign manager at the time, who said she filled it out. It includes first-person comments such as: “I have not previously been a candidate.”

Following that story, the Politico reported that the campaign went even further in their denial of Obama's responsibility in filling out the questionnaire, claiming that whoever filled it out had mischaracterized Obama's positions at the time.

Aides to Barack Obama last week disavowed a 1996 questionnaire from a liberal Chicago group in which he appeared to take positions well to the left of his current stances on hot-button issues, telling Politico a staff member had filled it out incorrectly.

As we've unfortunately learned from the past few months, that position by Obama was bound to 'evolve'. And so we have another article from this morning's Politico, Obama had greater role on liberal survey.

But a Politico examination determined that Obama was actually interviewed about the issues on the questionnaire by the liberal Chicago non-profit group that issued it. And it found that Obama – the day after sitting for the interview – filed an amended version of the questionnaire, which appears to contain Obama’s own handwritten notes adding to one answer.

The two questionnaires, provided to Politico with assistance from political sources opposed to Obama’s presidential campaign, were later supplied directly from the group, Independent Voters of Illinois – Independent Precinct Organization. Obama and his then-campaign manager, who Obama’s campaign asserts filled out the questionnaires, were familiar with the group, its members and positions, since both were active in it before his 1996 state Senate run.

Through an aide, Obama, who won the group’s endorsement as well as the statehouse seat, did not dispute that the handwriting was his. But he contended it doesn’t prove he completed, approved – or even read – the latter questionnaire.

For the time being, the Obama campaign is sticking to their story that someone else filled out the questionnaire with positions that were not the candidates' own. Which means that the press will dig even deeper, much to the campaign's chagrin. If the previous incidents offer any indication, Obama will be forced to release some sort of a statement saying that those were his positions at the time, but are not now.

Changing one's positions over the course of a dozen years is not necessarily a problem. Politicians are people, and their views evolve on some issues, just like everyone else's. The problem with Obama, therefore, is not his changing positions or answers, but the fact that he has to come out and continually modify them. It's all about what Obama's first instincts are. Coupled with the candidate's Rezko and Wright issues, this shows the development of a very disturbing pattern, quite the opposite from Obama's claim that he is not just another politician.

March 30, 2008

The Media Embarasses Itself on Iraq, Again

Talk about the media showing its cards too soon...

Late this morning, after tending to my usual early Sunday routine, I sat down started to read the latest edition of the Providence Journal. The first thing I noticed was the lead story titled "Militias hold in fight for Basra". Nothing notable about the article itself - just your typical story highlighting our looming defeat in Iraq. As I had been reading and hearing something entirely different about how things were going in Basra, I went online to find the article in order to link to it in a post that I was going to compose. When I did, I was quite surprised to find that the article was missing from the ProJo website. Luckily, since it was just a reprint of a New York Times' article, we can still see it on their website: Shiite Militias Cling to Swaths of Basra and Stage Raids. Here's the first few paragraphs of the article - the text of which was the same in both the NYT and the Providence Journal:

BAGHDAD — Shiite militiamen in Basra openly controlled wide swaths of the city on Saturday and staged increasingly bold raids on Iraqi government forces sent five days ago to wrest control from the gunmen, witnesses said, as Iraqi political leaders grew increasingly critical of the stalled assault.

Witnesses in Basra said members of the most powerful militia in the city, the Mahdi Army, were setting up checkpoints and controlling traffic in many places ringing the central district controlled by some of the 30,000 Iraqi Army and police forces involved in the assault. Fighters were regularly attacking the government forces, then quickly retreating.

Senior members of several political parties said the operation, ordered by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, had been poorly planned. The growing discontent adds a new level of complication to the American-led effort to demonstrate that the Iraqi government had made strides toward being able to operate a functioning country and keep the peace without thousands of American troops.

Ironically, at about the same time I was looking up this article, Muqtada al-Sadr surrendered. The Iranian-backed cleric ordered his militia, the Mahdi Army, to drop its weapons and leave Basra. Something tells me that if the NYT story was true, and the Mahdi Army did control "wide swaths" of Basra, were setting up "checkpoints", and were accepting the surrender of members of the Iraqi security forces (as the obviously staged image below from the New York Times and Getty Images seems to indicate), Muqtada al-Sadr wouldn't be surrendering and giving up his weapons.


Luckily, anyone who is interested in what's really going on in Iraq has other resources that they can depend on. Here's the true story on what happened in Basra from Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal, Sadr orders followers to end fighting. An excerpt:

Six days after the Iraqi government launched Operation Knights’ Charge in Basrah against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed Shia terror groups, Muqtada al Sadr, the Leader of the Mahdi Army, has called for his fighters to lay down their weapons and cooperate with Iraqi security forces. Sadr’s call for an end to the fighting comes as his Mahdi Army has taken serious losses since the operation began.

"Sadr has sent a message to his loyalists urging them to end all armed activities," the Al Iraqiya television channel reported. Sadr "disowned anyone attacking the state institutions or parties' offices and headquarters."

"Based on responsibility towards Iraq and to stem Iraqi bloodshed and to preserve the country's unity and integrity as a prelude to its independence, I call on the people to be up to their responsibility and awareness in order to maintain Iraq's stability," according to a statement issued by Sadr and sent to Voices of Iraq. Sadr has called for the government to free members of the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist Movement captured during recent operations.

This must be so embarrassing for the media. They were hoping for a major US defeat...

March 28, 2008

Senator Nelson's Primary Plan - A Lot To Like

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is proposing a mammoth change to the Presidential primary process, which has turned this year's election into a bit of a farce. According to CNN, Nelson's proposal has two distinct parts. First is the change in how we conduct primaries, and the second is the elimination of the Electoral College. The first bears consideration, but the second should be dismissed out of hand. I hope he doesn't introduce them joined together in one bill.

I'll deal with the Electoral College issue first. Electors within the Electoral College are state-centric - each state gets two electors for their two Senators, plus one elector for each congressional seat in each state. While today it's not a perfect system, it was initially designed to prevent the domination of states with large voter populations from choosing the President. As the country grew, and the population in states such as Florida, Texas, and California grew (thus increasing 1. their congressional seats, and 2. their electors), larger states were given more clout in the Electoral College. But it's certainly not as large a discrepancy as it would be if the Presidential election was just by overall popular vote. In that case, candidates could essentially become President by overwhelmingly winning the popular vote in a few  large states, making Presidential votes in smaller states irrelevant. That idea, I believe, is dead on arrival.

I'm much more amenable to the idea of reforming the primary system, although doing so would violate just about every federalist bone in my body. Nelson's basic proposal is similar to a suggestion I made in a post on December 20th, 2007: We've Got to Change the Primary Process, but with larger regional primary groups. Here's the crux of Nelson's primary proposal:

Specifically, Nelson said he will propose six rotating interregional primaries that "will give large and small states a fair say in the nomination process." (pjc-see note below)

These primaries would be conducted on dates ranging from March to June, Nelson said, taking the place of the current early-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire -- which critics long have argued aren't representative of the American electorate.

The dates initially would be set by a lottery system for the 2012 election and would rotate positions in successive elections.

The state party apparatuses will freak out, as they should. Up until now, the primary system is up to each individual state, even though it has to do, ultimately, with a federal election. But as the ultimate contest is a federal election, it could be argued that that a proposal such as Nelson's would be constitutional.

I don't see what other option we have. This year, setting up the primaries was like herding cats. It turned into a national embarrassment. I know that on the Republican side it gave the party a candidate that was chosen largely by independents and Democrats, not by the GOP base. As for the Democrats, this primary season could very well break up the modern Democratic Party as we know it.

Note: Nelson's aforementioned premise in the regional primaries giving "large and small states a fair say in the nomination process" seems to contradict his proposal to make the Presidential election popular vote only. Therefore, I don't think his Electoral College position is a make-or-break issue for the forthcoming bill.

Obama Now Says He "Might" Have Left His Church!

The Politico is reporting that Barack Obama is now publicly claiming that he "might" have left his church, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, if his friend Reverend Jeremiah Wright had not retired.

In appearance taped for airing this morning on "The View," Senator Obama makes news by saying he might have left Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ if the Rev. Jeremiah Wright had not retired.

In a clip posted by ABC, Obama says: 'Had the reverend not retired, and had he not acknowledged that what he had said had deeply offended people and were inappropriate and mischaracterized what I believe is the greatness of this country -- for all its flaws -- then I wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there at the church."

In Obama's speech in Philadelphia last week, he said: "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."

Good grief, it was only two weeks ago that Obama saw nothing wrong with his association with Wright and his well-known but unreported-in-the-mainstream-media views - even going as far as to claim that he had never heard anything offensive. Obama shifted his position last week, when he claimed that he had, in fact, heard some things that 'troubled' him. Now he expects us to believe that he was considering leaving his church because of those things that he initially claimed he never heard? Talk about a full 180°turn!

Obama has turned from political messiah to regular old politico rather quickly, don't you think?

Senator Patrick Leahy Orders Hillary To Leave Race!

As Barack Obama get yet another endorsement from a Democratic Senator (Bob Casey of Pennsylvania), another Obama supporter, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, is ordering Hillary Clinton to leave the nomination race:

Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a high-profile supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, has called for Obama's opponent to drop out of the race.

In an interview on Vermont Public Radio, said "There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama. Now, obviously that's a decision that only she can make frankly I feel that she would have a tremendous career in the Senate."

Leahy said he was fretting about the impact of the protracted Democratic race.

I like how Leahy framed it - first saying that Hillary has to get out because she can't win, followed by the old "of course it's her decision" line. Right. That's about as close to a public marching order from Leahy that we'll ever see, although I'm certain that he's using stronger and much more colorful words in the back-rooms of the Senate. Coward.

Oh, and for the record, there are few human beings, let alone Senators, that I have as much contempt for as I do Patrick Leahy. He's an embarrassment to the "Patrick" name. 

Why Take on Sadr and Iran in Basra Now?

There are many reasons for the Iraqi Government to take on the Iranian backed militants in southern Iraq at this particular time. First, since the British retreated into their compound outside of Basra several months ago, groups directed by Iran have basically taken over Basra and the surrounding region. Second, the Iranian-backed militants are essentially running southern Iraq as a criminal enterprise, stealing everything under the sun. The estimate of the proceeds from the hijacked oil alone is over $5 billion a year - money that should be going into the central government coffers to eventually be distributed throughout Iraq. Instead, that money is being used to fund terrorist attacks throughout Iraq. And third, this is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's time to show that he is an Iraqi, not a puppet of Iran and the Shiites. Iran broke their month-old promise to him that they would cease backing the militias and terrorists in Iraq, and al-Maliki finally sees the need for Iran's machinations to end. The best way of doing that is by destroying the militias. If successful, al-Maliki stands to be rewarded with re-election as Prime Minister of Iraq in the fall.

You wouldn't know any of the above if you read today's media reports on what's happening now in Iraq. The drive-by media has been so disappointed that the success of the surge has forced Iraq off the front pages, that they're going all out to spin this as a set-back, rather than a necessary and long overdue step that has to be taken. They're even claiming that the United States involvement in this particular offensive is a bad thing. Give me one reason why?

The outbreak of violence throughout Iraq since the beginning of the southern offensive merely shows us that there's more work to be done. Iran's influence in Iraq runs wide and deep, and must be crushed. This should have been done at the very least in southern Iraq two years ago, but the British were more than happy to trade their own safety for tacit approval of Iranian influence within the region that the Brits 'controlled'. I seem to recall that it was hailed at the time as an example of how we should have done things in the rest of Iraq - now we see the result of the British having essentially ceded control of the region to Iran. That's not what the Brits were supposed to do.

The Democrats are going to pounce on this as proving that Iraq is lost. Nonsense. This shows that Iraq is finally willing to take the lead in the many steps it will take to become a truly independent state, even if we have to help them out militarily. And we will continue to have to help them out, since the Democrat's expectation that the Iraqi military can be trained in just a few years to be our equal on the battlefield is a bit silly and a lot unrealistic.   

March 27, 2008

Hillary On Bosnia Story: I Must Have Been Channeling Olympia Snowe

The Washington Post has a fun article up this morning, Well, It Did Happen to Somebody, on the fact that there actually was an incident similar to Hillary's 'Tall Tales of Bosnia' that happened to a female US Senator. It's just that the lead character wasn't Hillary, it was Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine!

In October 1995, six months before then-first lady Clinton led a delegation to Tuzla, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and six other senators went on a fact-finding mission through war-torn Sarajevo, just before the Dayton accords resulted in a U.S. military presence on the ground in Bosnia.

Snowe's congressional delegation had an experience remarkably similar to the one Sen. Clinton (D-N.Y.) described in a speech delivered on St. Patrick's Day. Clinton has since said that she "misspoke" when she recalled arriving in Tuzla under sniper fire.

Unlike Clinton's version, Snowe's story was backed up news accounts. Clinton's story has been debunked by sources including television news accounts and the memories of the comedian Sinbad.

The seven senators flew into the host city of the 1984 Olympics on a military C-130 that, in addition to its senatorial payload, was carrying 20,000 pounds of peas to the starved city. A States News Service dispatch from Oct. 20, 1995, provided a portion of Snowe's Bosnia account:

"It's really sad. People are basically just living there and trying to survive," the Maine Republican said. "They're constantly living under threat of shelling or sniper fire." . . . As the plane landed she took note of the fortified bunkers surrounding Sarajevo's airport. . . . She glanced at the wall of firetrucks lined up along the airport tarmac, acting as shields from any Serb gunman looking to make a name for himself. She dashed across the runway to an armored vehicle waiting to whisk the senators to the city center. She glared at the hollowed-out remains of buildings along the city's main highway, better known as "Sniper Alley."

And here's Clinton's description of her landing in Tuzla in 1996, with an entourage that included Sinbad and singer Sheryl Crow:

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

That was Clinton's March 17 recounting of the '96 trip, coming six days after Sinbad had already publicly refuted Clinton's prior versions of the trip. In other accounts, Clinton had said there was a "threat of sniper fire," so they ran across the tarmac into an awaiting military vehicle.

This article actually raises more questions - namely, did Hillary Clinton plagiarize Olympia Snowe? Not that anyone is going to follow up on that angle, but it's fun to dream.

Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls, It Tolls For Spitzer

There's a very short and concise editorial in the Wall Street Journal this morning on the continuing revelations about Eliot Spitzer and his non-sexual conduct, The Other Spitzer Scandal. Now that Governor "#$@%ing Steamroller" is gone, his fellow Democrats are starting to leak out information like a sieve. This particular item concerns the whitewashed investigations into Spitzer's involvement in smearing Joe Bruno last year. Apparently, Spitzer's political allies feared him so much that they managed to leave out some key information about Spitzer's involvement - like the fact that he micromanaged the whole thing!

Cultural sophisticates lament that Eliot Spitzer was driven from office this month by a mere sex scandal. Yet now that he's gone, we're learning that he also had far more to do than he's admitted with a scheme to smear Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Prior to the revelations about the Democratic ex-Governor's assignations with prostitutes, it appeared that Mr. Spitzer had stonewalled everyone on the scandal known in New York as "Troopergate." Albany County District Attorney David Soares exonerated Mr. Spitzer last year after an initial investigation of the scheme to get state troopers to track his political opponent. But inconsistencies in the testimony of long-time Spitzer enforcer Darren Dopp sent Mr. Soares back to revisit his earlier whitewash.

And now that Governor Steamroller is Private Citizen Spitzer, leaks from the DA's office are making clear that Mr. Spitzer was deeply involved in the smear campaign, even repeatedly calling Mr. Dopp at home to ensure that the leaks would produce a damaging story. Mr. Soares got Mr. Dopp to talk by offering him immunity from prosecution. But there's no question that every public employee in the state -- from Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to the Public Integrity Commission to Mr. Soares himself -- was, at a minimum, treating the question of Mr. Spitzer's involvement with kid gloves as long as he remained Governor.

That the truth is only coming out now underscores how corrupt the political culture of Albany is, and how reluctant the political class was to question the malfeasance of a powerful and vindictive Governor. Now that he's out, we may finally learn the truth. But New York voters can consider themselves fortunate that a sex scandal ended Mr. Spitzer's career before his sense of righteous entitlement did far more harm to their state.

At this rate, Spitzer will be lucky if he's offered a job as an ambulance chaser after all is said and done. That is, if he still has a law license.

International Law Does Not Supersede US Law, Amigo

Two days ago, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that should settle, once and for all, the far-left idea that international laws and treaties automatically make binding domestic law. The case (Medellin v. Texas) involved a Mexican national who was convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a woman in Texas. The Vienna Convention states that any foreign national arrested must be advised that they can call their embassy. The individual in question, Ernesto Medellin, was not advised of that international right. Subsequent to Mendellin's trial and conviction, the International Court of Justice ruled that Texas had violated the convention, and that the United States and any state that lies within was required to "comply with the decision of the International Court of Justice in any case to which it is a party" under Article 94(1) of the United Nations Charter.

Astoundingly, the Bush Administration took the position that the brutal murderer be allowed a new hearing because of the fact that Medellin wasn't told of his right to contact the embassy, even though there was no comparable domestic law requiring that he be notified of that right. Texas strongly disagreed, and so did the Supreme Court. Basically, the Justices ruled (6-3) that for any international law or treaty to be considered binding law within the United States there has to be additional Congressional action. The ratification of the treaty alone doesn't make it domestically binding - Congress has to take the additional step of making a law ordering domestic compliance.

In addition to siding with international law over domestic law, President Bush also attempted to issue an Executive Order that compelled Texas to grant a new hearing. He attempted to do via Presidential Authority what only Congress has the authority to do - make an international law a domestic law. The Supreme Court shut that down as well, which is why the media is spinning this as a setback for Bush's "extra-constitutional" expansion of Executive Authority. In my mind, that's the minor issue. This is a huge victory for those of us who believe that domestic law supersedes any possible international law, unless explicitly agreed to. Take that, Justice Breyer.

Hillary Seems To Lie An Awful Lot

I guess the question of who lies more, Hillary or Bill is sort of like a liberal version of the chicken or the egg question. As former Democratic Senator Bob Kerry once said, Bill "is an uncommonly good liar" - but that's probably because he didn't get caught too often and he made you feel good about yourself when he did. Hillary, having none of her husband's charm, just grates. And it's far too easy to see through her lies.

Old friend of Bill (and current enemy of Bill and Hillary) Dick Morris has been keeping a scorecard of sorts, listing lies that Hillary has told during her campaign in two categories - admitted lies and whoppers she won't admit to, at least not yet.

Admitted Lies

• Chelsea was jogging around the Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (She was in bed watching it on TV.)
• Hillary was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. (She admitted she was wrong. He climbed Mt. Everest five years after her birth.)
• She was under sniper fire in Bosnia. (A girl presented her with flowers at the foot of the ramp.)
• She learned in The Wall Street Journal how to make a killing in the futures market. (It didn't cover the market back then.)

Whoppers She Won't Confess To

• She didn't know about the FALN pardons.
• She didn't know that her brothers were being paid to get pardons that Clinton granted.
• Taking the White House gifts was a clerical error.
• She didn't know that her staff would fire the travel office staff after she told them to do so.
• She didn't know that the Peter Paul fundraiser in Hollywood in 2000 cost $700,000 more than she reported it had.
• She opposed NAFTA at the time.
• She was instrumental in the Irish peace process.
• She urged Bill to intervene in Rwanda.
• She played a role in the '90s economic recovery.
• The billing records showed up on their own.
• She thought Bill was innocent when the Monica scandal broke.
• She was always a Yankees fan.
• She had nothing to do with the New Square Hasidic pardons (after they voted for her 1,400-12 and she attended a meeting at the White House about the pardons).
• She negotiated for the release of refugees in Macedonia (who were released the day before she got there).

This Democratic Presidential nomination contest is so much fun.