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« March 2008 | Main | May 2008 »

April 30, 2008

Howard Dean and McCain's "100 Days"

The Democratic National Committee is still promoting its intentional mischaracterization of John McCain's comment that the United States would stay in Iraq for "100 years". This, even after the left-of-center national news media mocked Barack Obama and his usage of McCain's quote. When it's apparent, even to the mainstream media, that McCain was talking about a presence in Iraq similar to the presence that we have today in Germany (62 years after World War 2) and South Korea (55 years after the Korean War), you know the Democrats have a problem. But the irrepressible Howard Dean still thinks he can con the American public on this issue. From John McCaslin over at Townhall.com:

While Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton continue to duke it out for the Democratic nomination for president, Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is trying to refocus some of his party's negative attention on Republican candidate Sen. John McCain.

"John McCain wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years. He's said it, and it's on tape," Mr. Dean recalled this week, although he opined that the McCain camp "viciously" attacks anyone who references the 100 years comment as "deliberately misleading voters."

So Mr. Dean has taken Mr. McCain's "own words" — video of him saying that 100 years would be "fine with me" — and made a TV ad for Americans to watch this week when they otherwise would be tuning in to the Obama-Clinton saga, which as the DNC chairman knows all too well is growing uglier by the day.

I know that Dean's trying to distract voters from Obama-Wright-Clinton, but I don't think he wants to do it in a way that he knows 1) will get slapped down by his very own friendly-to-the-Democrats drive-by media, and 2) will serve as a recruiting video for al-Qaeda.

Or, perhaps he does...

GDP Increases Slightly; We're Not in a Recession Yet

The advance GDP numbers are in for the first quarter of 2008, and it shows, somewhat surprisingly, that the economy is still growing, albeit at an anemic 0.6%:

Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2008, according to advance estimates released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP also increased 0.6 percent.

The Bureau emphasized that the first-quarter "advance" estimates are based on source data that are incomplete or subject to further revision by the source agency (see the box on page 3).  The first-quarter "preliminary" estimates, based on more comprehensive data, will be released on May 29, 2008.

The increase in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE) for services, private inventory investment, exports of goods and services, and federal government spending that were partly offset by negative contributions from residential fixed investment and PCE for durable goods.  Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.

The increase in real GDP is the same as in the fourth quarter, reflecting an upturn in inventory investment that was offset by an upturn in imports, and downturns in nonresidential structures, in PCE for durable goods, and in PCE for nondurable goods.

Final sales of computers contributed 0.12 percentage point to the first-quarter growth in real GDP after contributing 0.16 percentage point to the fourth-quarter growth.  Motor vehicle output subtracted 0.30 percentage point from the first-quarter growth in real GDP after subtracting 0.86 percentage point from the fourth-quarter growth.

I'm a little surprised, based upon the 'sub-prime' crisis, housing slowdown, and the huge rise in oil and gas prices that all kicked in hard during this period. (Remember, we're talking about "fiscal" 2008 which still begins in the second half of calendar year 2007.) As such, it also makes me wonder just how big an economic contraction we are going to have.

This does a few things - it cements in a further rate cut by the Feds at their next meeting, and it makes the possibility of anything other than a slight constriction of economic growth (a small recession) almost nill. Having said that, I'm still expecting a contraction of about a percentage point in both the second and third quarters of fiscal year 2008 - which would qualify as a recession. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so.

New Poll - Democrats Hate Each Other In Increasing Numbers

USA Today has an interesting article out this morning, Heated campaign souring Democrats on rivals, that shows how divisive this campaign is turning - within the Democratic Party!

Voters increasingly dislike the Democratic presidential candidate they are not supporting, according to a new survey and exit polls, raising questions about the party's White House chances as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama's contentious nomination battle drags on.

The Associated Press-Yahoo survey shows Obama supporters with negative views of the former first lady have grown from 35% in November to 44% this month — including one-quarter with very unfavorable feelings. Obama backers who do not like Clinton say they would vote for Republican candidate John McCain over her by a 2-to-1 ratio.

Among Clinton supporters, those with unfavorable views of Obama have risen from 26% to 42% during the same period — with negative opinions doubling to 20%. Those with unfavorable views say they would vote for McCain over Obama by a 3-to-1 ratio, though many have not made up their minds.

The nomination battle has dragged on for months, and is likely to continue at least through June, when the last of the primary contests will be held.

The article itself is fairly confusing. For instance, I can't find a link to the poll or survey that the above info is taken from; later on the article states that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama still have leads over John McCain based upon an AP-Ipsos poll that also isn't linked; the article closes by saying that poll respondents were "863 Democrats"; and when I independently go to the AP-Yahoo "Political Pulse" page where all of the poll (including raw data) are usually cross-posted, it doesn't have any poll results dated within the last 9 days.

As a result, I take this article as a warning shot from the AP, a reliable Democratic ally - get your act together Dems, you're hurting us all!

As Montgomery Burns would say, "Excellent!"

Mr_burns

Gas Prices - Dems Are Getting Exactly What They Wanted, And Fought For, For Years

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has a wonderful little snippet up at The Hill's Congress Blog, As Gas Prices Rose, Democrats Ignored Opportunities to Help Production:

Gasoline today at the pump is $1.25 more, on average, than it was when the Democrats took over Congress. Why is that a good place to measure?  Because during that period, we’ve had an opportunity to build more refineries, and the Democratic majority voted it down.  We’ve had an opportunity to open up additional parts of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Democratic majority voted it down. It’s clear that on the production side of the equation, this new majority is not interested in doing anything.

He's right. In addition, what we have today is exactly what the Democrats and the environmentalists have wanted for years - high gas prices that should, by their very nature, reduce demand. The only thing that the Democrats would like more is if a few U.S. oil companies were going bankrupt at the same time, but unfortunately for them you can't have both things at the same time.

Remember, it was just last July that Democratic Representative John Dingell of Michigan announced that he wanted to increase the gas tax by 50 cents, as a punitive measure that he believed would cause consumers to drive less, thus reducing 'greenhouse gases'. You'd think that the recent rise in gas prices, and the subsequent howling from the Democrats about how awful the rise is for the average voter (err, consumer), would cause the Democrats to reconsider any increase in the gas tax. On the contrary, Dingell is still pushing the issue, even though polls are showing that Americans are against such a move.

There are many issues affecting the rise in oil and gasoline prices, not the least of which is open-market speculation by entities unrelated to the oil companies. But you have to look at the underlying fact that is part of the basis for such speculation - the oil producing countries have the United States by the short hairs.

The world knows that with the power structure in Congress that's been in place since long before the Democrats took over the majority, the Dem will fight against and, in fact, will not allow 1) any more domestic oil production; 2) any more domestic refining capacity; and 3) the further development of any existing technology, such as nuclear, that could have an immediate and significant impact on our domestic energy production. Couple that with domestic policy thrusts that are designed to increase the price of gasoline at the pump...you get the picture.

Imagine sitting at a negotiation table, and you already know that your opponent will not take any positive steps to help him or herself out. They've also been upfront and open about the fact that they have no secrets up their sleeve. Your opponent is just going to sit there and wait for you to dictate to them your terms - terms that they will have to accept.

That's the position that oil-producing nations have us in. And that's the position that the Democrats want us to be in, and are doing everything in their power to make sure we will always be in.

How does it feel?

Dems: Live by the Rhetoric, Die by the Rhetoric

There's a great little piece up at MSNBC's First Read by Mike Viqueira, A Do-Nothing Congress?. Readers will remember that "A do-nothing Congress" is what the Democrats labeled the Republican-led Congress in 2006, and that slogan worked very well for them during the elections. It seems that the Democrat-led Congress is doing even worse this election year, and NBC has finally noticed it:

Do-nothing Congress? Well, not quite.

On this very day your US House will vote to express its "sense" that "there should be established a National Watermelon Month." Later this afternoon, the people's House will move to consider whether to similarly express themselves over "National Funeral Director and Mortician Recognition Day." And then, in a separate bill, it will weigh in on setting aside a day of recognition for this nation's letter carriers.

So when the president and Republicans say that this Congress isn't doing much this year, they may have ground to stand on. But that isn't necessarily at variance with what usually happens in an election year -- especially a presidential election cycle where, no matter what, there will be a new administration come January.

So far this year, the stimulus package has passed, and that's about it. It has been slow going, no question. Behind the scenes, the Democratic leaders are still wrestling with the question of how to handle the president's latest request for war funding, this time for $108 billion. They are looking at legislation to ease the housing crunch. The farm bill has been on the verge of closure for weeks, if not months. And Democrats are clamoring for a second stimulus package for the economy, this time focused on extending unemployment insurance, infrastructure spending, and other items that they failed to pass in the first version.

But none of this is going to be easy. And on the fundamental job of Congress -- to pass spending bills to keep the government functioning -- it is quite possible, if not likely, that Democrats will simply punt it all into next year, thereby giving the new president, who they obviously hope will be one of their own, a clean slate on which to enact new policies and priorities.

If the Democrats do "punt" everything to next year, that fact alone will turn into a potent election issue for the GOP. If they take advantage of it, of course - and that's not a given.

April 29, 2008

Was the Reverend Wright Speech at the NPC a Setup?

Errol Lewis has an interesting column up at the New York Daily News, Is Jeremiah Wright a colossal disaster for Barack Obama or a press trick? It seems that one of the organizers of the event is a big Hillary Clinton supporter, and has written critically of Barack Obama:

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright couldn't have done more damage to Barack Obama's campaign if he had tried. And you have to wonder if that's just what one friend of Wright wanted.

Shortly before he rose to deliver his rambling, angry, sarcastic remarks at the National Press Club Monday, Wright sat next to, and chatted with, Barbara Reynolds.

A former editorial board member at USA Today, she runs something called Reynolds News Services and teaches ministry at the Howard University School of Divinity. (She is an ordained minister).

It also turns out that Reynolds - introduced Monday as a member of the National Press Club "who organized" the event - is an enthusiastic Hillary Clinton supporter.

On a blog linked to her Web site- www.reynoldsnews.com- Reynolds said in a February post: "My vote for Hillary in the Maryland primary was my way of saying thank you" to Clinton and her husband for the successes of Bill Clinton's presidency.

The same post criticized Obama's "Audacity of Hope" theme: "Hope by definition is not based on facts," wrote Reynolds. It is an emotional expectation. Things hoped for may or may not come. But help based on experience trumps hope every time."

In another blog entry, Reynolds gives an ever-sharper critique of Obama: "It is a sad testimony that to protect his credentials as a unifier above the fray, the senator is fueling the media characterization that Rev. Dr. Wright is some retiring old uncle in the church basement."

I don't know if Reynolds' eagerness to help Wright stage a disastrous news conference with the national media was a way of trying to help Clinton - my queries to Reynolds by phone and e-mail weren't returned yesterday - but it's safe to say she didn't see any conflict between promoting Wright and supporting Clinton.

Remember, the Reverend Wright holds himself out to be representative of what he calls "the black church". That, I believe, includes Barbara Reynolds (an ordained minister). I wonder how she feels about that right now?

Hillary, Queen of Earmarks

The Hill has an article out this morning on Hillary Clinton's requests for earmarks for fiscal year 2009, which starts in about a month. She's always been a big earmarker, using those directed funds to purchase support for her Senate and Presidential run. This year, during the final stretch to the convention, and later the election, she's requested...$2.3 billion dollars! That's only about $2 billion (and 7 times) more than the $324 million she requested last year (fiscal year 2008).

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has requested nearly $2.3 billion in federal earmarks for 2009, almost three times the largest amount received by a single senator this year.

The Democratic presidential candidate’s staggering request comes at a time when Congress remains engaged in a heated debate over spending federal dollars on parochial projects.

It also has gained traction on the campaign trail. Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a longtime foe of earmarks, has called for eliminating what he dubs “wasteful Washington spending.” Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has spurned earmarks, seeking no funds for pet projects in the upcoming fiscal year.

Yet Clinton is continuing to request billions for earmarks, most of which will go to her home state.

The money is needed for homeland security, emergency response and health projects throughout New York, according to documents provided by her office.

The total amount Clinton requested greatly surpasses the $837 million secured last year by Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee who took home the largest dollar amount of earmarks in the current fiscal year’s spending bills. In those bills, Clinton secured $342 million in earmarks. 

Clinton’s huge earmark requests have some speculating that the former first lady is preparing for a soft landing should she lose the Democratic primary to Obama and refocus her energy on winning a third Senate term.

The Democrats and the media successfully tied earmarks, pork, and corruption together against the Republicans to become the Majority party in both the Senate and the House in 2006. Since then, the Dems have gone back to embracing earmarks as the surest way to build up political support back home.

You'd think that the GOP would have learned from their defeat and try to use the pork spending against the Democrats in 2008, especially in light of the Democrats reversal on the issue. But no - when the issue was brought up in GOP conference in January, Republicans in the House caved and decided not to seek a one-year moratorium on earmarks.

The Senate GOP was no better. John McCain, who has requested zero dollars in earmarks, brought an earmark moratorium bill to the floor of the Senate in March. He couldn't even get a majority of Republicans to back it, and it was defeated 71-29.

An interesting side note about that vote - Hillary voted for the earmark ban, while at the same time requesting the aforementioned $2.3 billion in earmarks for that same fiscal year.

Ah Hillary, a hypocrite until the bitter end...

Common Sense Wins - Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Laws

In a not so surprising victory for supporters of common sense everywhere, the Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday upholding Voter ID laws. As it's practically impossible for anyone to get anything done in the modern United States without some form of photo ID, including cashing welfare checks, the argument that Voter ID Laws were discriminatory against the poor or minorities rightfully fell on deaf ears. The decision was 6-3, with Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito in the majority and the usual suspects Ginsberg, Souter and Breyer dissenting.

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld Indiana's law requiring voters to present government-issued picture identification at the polls, validating Republican efforts to impose a law they say will cut down on voter fraud.

Its the highest-profile Republican v. Democrat case to reach the high court since the 2000 Bush v. Gore lawsuit that effectively decided that year's presidential race. This case doesn't have as much at stake but has still managed to inflame the passions of political partisans even during this primary season.

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the 6-3 opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Antonin Scalia filed a concurring opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice David Souter wrote the dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Stephen Breyer filed his own dissent.

"There is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the state's interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters," Stevens wrote, noting that the law doesn't impose "excessively burdensome requirements."

"Moreover, the interest in orderly administration and accurate recordkeeping provides a sufficient justification for carefully identifying all voters participating in the election process. While the most effective method of preventing election fraud may well be debatable, the propriety of doing so is perfectly clear," he wrote.

While Democrats will continue to attempt to file suit against Voter ID laws, this decision is fairly definitive - and lower courts will recognize it as such.

I Wonder What Kim Jong-Il Is Planning?

Let's see, last week it was revealed that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor - the same type of reactor that North Korea used to illegally enrich uranium.

This week it's revealed in the Times of London that North Korea has built a 6000ft runway beneath a mountain only minutes from the DMZ:

North Korean military engineers are completing an underground runway beneath a mountain that can protect fighter aircraft from attack until they take off at high speed through the mouth of a tunnel.

The 6,000ft runway is a few minutes’ flying time from the tense front line where the Korean People’s Army faces soldiers from the United States and South Korea.

The project was identified by an air force defector from North Korea and captured on a satellite image by Google Earth, according to reports in the South Korean press last week.

It is one of three underground fighter bases among an elaborate subterranean military infrastructure built to withstand a “shock and awe” assault in the first moments of a war, the defector said.

The runway, reminiscent of the Thunderbirds television series, highlights the strange and secretive nature of the regime that provided the expertise for a partially built nuclear reactor in Syria, film of which was released by the CIA last week.

I wonder what North Korea is up to?

Obama's Problems With Seniors Could Be Electoraly Fatal

Over the weekend, the Politico had an article up on Obama's problem in attracting the senior vote. The candidate has no problems attracting the young, but those old-timers are a different breed:

Barack Obama’s difficulty attracting older voters now far exceeds Hillary Rodham Clinton’s own weaknesses with youth.

Repeatedly during the tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama, who’s been defined in part by his popularity among young voters, has seen that strength undercut by his failings with seniors.

In the Pennsylvania and Ohio primaries, Obama lost older whites by 30 percentage points, while Clinton split white voters under age 30 in both critical contests. Obama’s senior problem is even greater among Hispanics. The Illinois senator lost older Latinos by 40 to 60 percentage points in Texas, New Mexico and California.

Obama has acknowledged the issue, telling reporters on Wednesday that “older voters are very loyal to Senator Clinton” and citing it as “the problem” underlying his loss in Pennsylvania.

Why is this a problem? Historically, it's been the seniors who have been the most reliable voters - they actually come out and vote when they say they're going to! The country has been waiting for the younger voters to do the same for quite a few election cycles. In 2004, it was the younger vote that was supposed to take Howard Dean all the way to the Presidency.

If Obama gets past Clinton, this could be a huge issue when he goes up against John McCain in the fall. Especially if the Democrats continue with their attacks on McCain because of his age. Older voters don't like that!

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