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June 30, 2008

Pakistani Offensive a Success?

Fitting in nicely with my previous post on the NYT's article on Pakistan this morning is the following article from the Los Angeles Times, Pakistani operation against militants raises questions. I raise my point again - if we want Al Qaeda and the Taliban cleared from the tribal and northwest regions of Pakistan, we are going to have to do it ourselves. The terrorists have allies throughout the local level Pakistani military, and cannot be trusted to do the job.

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN -- When government troops pushed their way into a local warlord's stronghold just outside one of Pakistan's major cities over the weekend, what they found followed a familiar pattern.

With plenty of warning from officials that troops were coming, Islamic insurgents in the mountainous Bara district outside Peshawar, the provincial capital, had simply melted away, disappearing into a remote valley to the north.

Pakistani authorities declared Sunday that the district had been restored to their control. But residents said they expected the militants to return whenever it suited them.

The controlling forces within the regions on the Pakistan's border with Afghanistan are tribal, and respect force and power. The one thing we have going for us in these regions is that the Pakistani government doesn't control them - they're like fully independent little countries. Show the tribal leaders money, and tell them that they can have their territories, but they first need to give up the Taliban and Al Qaeda - or be destroyed in the process.

Pakistan will explode, but that's happened before. The true power in Pakistan is the military, and the military will have to take control once again. Hopefully, our allies in the military will see the light and 'take care of' those in the military that support the Taliban and Al Qaeda so that the nuclear weapons won't get in the wrong hands. But we must do what we must do, and let the chips fall where they may...

Time to stop fooling around.

Wes Clark's Repugnant (and Incorrect) Comments

I've been trying to figure out a way to coherently post on Wesley Clark's comments about John McCain from yesterday's Face the Nation without becoming as obscene and unhinged as the Left. I'm having a problem doing so, so I'm going to let Clark do all the talking - in this particular case, less of me makes for a more effective post. During the interview with Bob Scheiffer, Clark came out with some of the stupidest statements about John McCain that I've ever seen, heard or read. Reprehensible and repugnant are the cleanest words I can use to describe it. Roll the tape:

This is the type of thing that can singlehandedly turn me into a raging McCainiac. John McCain has the ability to come out and destroy Clark on this. He has yet to do so. Clark was clearly operating as a surrogate for Obama, who shows once again that he's just your run of the mill politician.

We're Fighting a War, Not Conducting a Diplomatic Excercise

There's a very interesting article in this morning's New York Times discussing the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the tribal region of Pakistan (Amid Policy Disputes, Qaeda Grows in Pakistan). It's a useful story, but also woefully (and intentionally) incomplete. One item that the Times conveniently ignores is that there is a new, US State Department sponsored government in office over there right now. That government will be at odds with any action that we take now in Pakistan.

The article talks of our engagement with Pakistan, and the undisputed fact that Al Qaeda has reconstituted it's forces in the largely ungoverned tribal and northwest regions. It has some very useful information about the disputes within our federal government as to the tactics and strategy we should be using with Pakistan.

But after going through the article, the question most readers will have is "What do we do different now?" That's an interesting question, as the article shows the absolute failure of the Times preferred method of engaging our enemies - diplomacy. The piece attempts to hide this, of course. It lets the State Department entirely off the hook, uses as one of its main sources the man who blew Valerie Plame's cover - Richard Armitage - and criticizes the military because of its reluctance to use force. By doing so, the authors fit themselves neatly into Barack Obama's narrative on the War on Terror.

The article also blames the Iraq War for all of the 'problems' in Pakistan. That's laughable on its face - we have the forces necessary to go after Al Qaeda and Bin Laden in Pakistan, as General Petraeus will show the country after he assumes control of Central Command and begins directing the war in Afghanistan.

What was (and is) wrong in Afghanistan and Pakistan is the same thing that was wrong in Iraq - we had the wrong military and civilian leadership, wedded to their own wrong strategy, in place for far too long. I'm not talking about domestic leadership necessarily, but more about in-theater leadership. After giving a strategy enough time to develop, if leadership sees that the strategy is not working, they are obligated to change it. That doesn't mean that you do what the Democrats want to do - surrender when things get tough. It means that you fight a war like a war, not like a diplomatic exercise.

Looking at the article, the first thing that comes to mind is the crippling effect of the military's bureaucracy. The military must have  a free hand in launching operations in-theater, without having to wait hours or days for approval from Washington. Next problem - we have lawyers directing warfare. That must stop, permanently. Use them as advisers, certainly, but make sure that a mission's "go" status is never dependent on an OK from a lawyer.

And last, recognize who your friends are, and who are not. With Pakistan, it's easy. We are allies (more "unfortunate bedfellows") with Pervez Musharraf. We are not allies with a significant portion of his country. The fundamentalist Pakistani public, the Pakistani intelligence services (especially the ISI), US State Department supported political elites, and many in the military are not our friends and are actively working against us. We can draw two conclusions from that upon which we must base our strategy. The first being that joint operations will not work unless you're a fan of fratricide. The second is that when the decision is finally made to clean up (to the extent possible) FATA and NWFP, it will have huge repercussions within Pakistan. Any action is going to involve attacking the territory of a country that we are not currently at war with. We must make certain that Musharraf and his allies are prepared, once again, to take military control of his country in order to prevent it from becoming fully Islamist. We shouldn't fool ourselves - it's not going to be pretty.

One of the few good things Colin Powell did when he was Secretary of State was have his "heart to heart" (or, as reported, his "general to general") talk with Musharraf after 9/11. At that time, Powell indicated to the General that "You're either with us, or against us". Powell's usefulness to winning the War on Terror ended with those words, as he consequently turned into a State Department flunky. Goals should have been established, and we should have informed Pakistan that we reserved the right to take military action against targets within Pakistan if those targets are using Pakistan's territory as a staging ground for attacks against us. Instead, we've allowed Musharraf to do things at his pace, and treated Pakistan as primarily a diplomatic issue.

When we do take action, we are criticized by the same geniuses in the media and on the Left who are now complaining that we aren't doing enough. A prime example of this happened just a few weeks ago, when it was reported in the media that US forces struck and killed 11 Pakistani troops. One problem with that story - there hasn't been any independent confirmation that the wrong people were killed. Sweetness & Light has photos showing those killed, and they don't include any obvious military personnel. Furthermore, the US Military came out and has said that it was a justified attack, even releasing drone videotape showing that there was no military outpost in the area, as was claimed by Pakistan. And what was the Pakistani military doing in an area where terrorists were staging attacks? Certainly not their job - or were they? The absolute lack of any stories on this subject after the initial hand-wringing on June 11th and 12th makes me think that Pakistan, and the media, doth protest too much. 

In addition, the dirty little secret behind this NYT article on Pakistan is that the State Department has been undermining Musharraf and pushing for elections in Pakistan for years, instead of insisting on progress against Al Qaeda first. State did this knowing that such elections would result in Musharraf's weakening. The State Department succeeded - they got their elections (getting their favored candidate killed in the process), the new government is extremely anti-US, and Musharraf is a figurehead, no longer even the official head of the military.

So, after years of doing things the NYT's way, the Times is now critical of our efforts in Pakistan - citing lost opportunities. It's true, there were lost opportunities, but it has nothing to with Iraq, as the NYT would lead you to believe. It has to do with clinging to diplomacy even when military strength is called for.

Having the President yell at Musharraf isn't going to solve the problem in Pakistan. Having the President order strikes against the terrorists will.

June 27, 2008

Gallup: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Conservative Economic Policies

As the GOP in Congress appears about to be taking an "every man for himself" strategy for the fall elections, Gallup has just given the Republicans another gift (Americans Oppose Income Redistribution to Fix Economy). The results of this poll show that if the GOP ever gets back to preaching and adhering to the simple message that they used to have - one that they've previously ridden to victory on - they'd be shoe-ins in 2008. Whether or not the Republicans have cleaned their own house enough to take advantage of something like this remains to be seen.

Barack Obama is running on an economic platform that promises to "restore fairness to the tax code". On the same page of his campaign website that that quote came from, Obama also refers to Bush's "Tax Cuts for Wealthy Instead of Middle Class". Put the two of them together and the message that Obama is sending to the public is that he wants to take money from the wealthy and give to the middle class - the very definition of the "Income Redistribution" that this Gallup poll measures public opinion on. Obama doesn't even have to actively do much for this redistribution to happen - all he has to do is let the Bush tax cuts expire.

The numbers in this poll are staggering. Overall, Americans are against the core principle behind Barack Obama's domestic economic policy - income redistribution - by an astounding 84% to 13%. Republicans oppose it 90%-9%, Independents oppose it 85% to 13%, and even Democrats oppose it 77% to 19%.

Gallup has been the gold standard of polling for Democrats for decades. These days, the media is continually promoting Obama's theory of "bringing back fairness" to the tax code. In fact, the "tax fairness" war-cry has been at the core of the Democrats' message machine, and has been endlessly promoted by their minions in the media, since 2000. With those facts in mind, these particular poll results are breathtaking. To give you an idea of how important even Gallup thinks this poll is, the explanatory narrative that goes along with the results were written by Dennis Jacobe, Gallup's Chief Economist:

PRINCETON, NJ -- When given a choice about how government should address the numerous economic difficulties facing today's consumer, Americans overwhelmingly -- by 84% to 13% -- prefer that the government focus on improving overall economic conditions and the jobs situation in the United States as opposed to taking steps to distribute wealth more evenly among Americans.

Americans' lack of support for redistributing wealth to fix the economy spans political parties: Republicans (by 90% to 9%) prefer that the government focus on improving the economy, as do independents (by 85% to 13%) and Democrats (by 77% to 19%). This sentiment also extends across income groups: upper-income Americans prefer that the government focus on improving the economy and jobs by 88% to 10%, concurring with middle-income (83% to 16%) and lower-income (78% to 17%) Americans.

In this poll, Gallup also asked another question - is the government, in general, doing too much or too little? While the results on this question aren't quite as dramatic as the results on the income distribution question, the poll still shows that a majority of Americans believe that the government is doing too much (read: screwing it up) as opposed to too little.

A separate question finds Americans more likely to believe government is doing too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses (50%) as opposed to saying government should do more to solve the country's problems (43%). This broad question is not directed specifically at the economy, but reinforces the general idea that many Americans are leery of too much direct government intervention in fixing the country's problems.

Americans of all incomes, social strata, and political affiliations get it - we can't tax our way out of this, and the government isn't the right entity to save us. The Republican message to Americans - before the Congressional GOP became the party of pork, earmarks, and corruption - was to keep taxes low and focus on improving both the economy and job creation by encouraging business to do what they are designed to do and do best - employ people and make money. As for the old "limited government" question - a subject of heated debate even within the ranks of conservatives today - this poll shows that the public clearly thinks that less government is better government.

Unless I'm mistaken, all of these results show support for - dare I say it - Reagan-brand conservatism. Even after all this time - after all the liberal garbage that the Democrats and the media relentlessly shove in our faces - when the public is faced with an economic crisis, Reagan's conservative message of low taxes and limited government still wins.

This poll clearly shows that the conservative message, especially on the economy, has gotten through. What's still unclear, however, is if the current group of Republicans are the right ones to take the GOP back to majority status. The Republicans in Congress have to be united and show some guts, something that they seem reluctant to do. For instance, the report in today's New York Times on the expansion of earmarks (Earmarks Persist in Spending Bills for 2009), especially coming after the Democrats rode to victory in 2006 promising to end them, is particularly embarrassing for the GOP. A true no-brainer, an earmark moratorium by the Republicans would send out a signal of fiscal responsibility to the public during a time of economic crisis that the Democrats would never be able to match, and the media would never be able to cover up. Coupling that with a promise to submit requests for funding all future non-emergency local projects to the appropriate committees to be inserted into the appropriate bills - where they can be seen and debated by all, including the public - is a political winner. Why the Republicans haven't taken these simple steps this year is beyond my comprehension.

I don't know what else can be said to convince the GOP to take such logical actions and re-embrace their conservative values, other than to point out the fact that if this bunch of Republican Senators and Congressmen don't get it, perhaps the next bunch will...

Drive-By Media: Obama is "Clintonian"!

As we read in this morning's Politico (McCain, GOP unleash anti-Obama plan) that the Right is coalescing around a unified message against Barack Obama, we simultaneously find that Obama is handing the "I'm just another politician from Chicago" issue to John McCain and the Republicans on a silver platter.

In this morning's edition of ABC News' "The Note", Rick Klein has the following to say about Barack Obama and his "evolving" positions:

Thursday's landmark Supreme Court may or may not have plopped gun control into the campaign. But it does place Sen. Barack Obama's careful, cautious, sometimes contradictory (and dare we say Clintonian?) approach to tricky policy positions squarely in the center of the race.

...Name your issue -- on trade, taxes, guns, the death penalty, campaign finance reform, FISA -- Obama may well be taking the politically smart position for a Democrat in these early days of the general election.

But the point is that he's taking positions that are at least shaded differently than those he's taken in the past, if not outright flip-flops. These are political calculations that make a dangerous assumption for Obama: that he's willing to risk being called a "politician" at all.

Obama's switch from being an "agent of change" to being an "agent of party politics and the status quo" really is remarkable. The one thing that Barack Obama has going in his favor is that as the primary season ended, most of the American public (aside from the media, political types, and their groupies) have pretty much tuned out for the summer (Gallup: Election Enthusiasm Dips After Primaries). So right now, there a better than even chance that large numbers of voters aren't aware that Obama has been flip-flopping on issues more than John Kerry ever dreamed of.

On the other hand, there's a risk for Obama if many of his supporters, especially those independents on the fence, start paying attention again to the campaign in late August only to find that the Obama of August 2008 is not the same as the Obama they thought they knew - that being the Obama of January - April 2008.

Look for the Obama campaign to work hard over the summer to cement the conventional wisdom and media meme that the Obama of "today" - on FISA, gun control, campaign finance reform, and several other issues that are popping up - is the same Obama that "we all" fell in love with over the winter.

An excellent example of certain parts of the media's complicity with Obama's plan is found in this morning's New York Times' article on the Supreme Court's Heller decision. In the 27th paragraph, Linda Greenhouse (didn't she retire?) states "Mr. Obama, who like Mr. McCain has been on record as supporting the individual-rights view, said the ruling would “provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.”". As anyone who is familiar with Obama's previous claim that the DC ban was "constitutional", this is a transparent and subtle attempt by Greenhouse to whitewash Obama's changing positions. This is how Obama and his supporters are going to try to change the public record - by injecting Obama's new positions frequently into public discussion as long-time established fact, thus creating a substantial paper trail for the "change agent" to point to as proof of his unwavering commitment to static positions on various issues.

It will be up to the Republicans and the McCain campaign to continually offer proof otherwise, creating a substantial, alternate and more accurate conventional wisdom.

Obama Is Just Another Chicago Politician

The Politico is another one of those "must reads" for political groupies and pundits, remaining remarkably non-partisan and fair. The journalists at Politico call them as they see them, and it's quite refreshing.

Along those lines, they have two interesting articles up this morning - the first is by Jonathan Martin, McCain, GOP unleash anti-Obama plan. Martin reports on the Right's strategy against Barack Obama that's emerged over the past few weeks (months, actually), namely:

...Paint Obama as conventional politician who always takes the safe and easy political road, then amplify the distinction by framing McCain as a patriot, somebody who has put sacrifice above self.

It's not difficult to determine why John McCain and the GOP has decided on this strategy - Obama handed it to them on a silver platter. And that's the premise behind the next article in Politico by Kenneth Vogel, Obama: Change agent goes conventional:

Barack Obama has crafted an image as an unconventional candidate, a change agent and a post-partisan politician who represents a dramatic break from the status quo. But since securing the Democratic presidential nomination, when confronted with a series of thorny issues the Illinois senator has pursued a conspicuously conventional path, one that falls far short of his soaring rhetoric.

Faced with tough choices on fronts ranging from public financing and town hall meetings to warrantless surveillance and the Second Amendment, Obama passed up opportunities to take bold stands and make striking departures from customary politics. Instead, he has followed a familiar tack, straddling controversial issues and choosing politically advantageous routes that will ensure his campaign a cash edge and minimize damaging blowback on several highly sensitive issues.

We were all taken in (at least I was) by Barack Obama's early portrayal of himself as a different kind of politician - the first post-partisan post-racial candidate. But as the months went along, it became painfully apparent that it was only a highly crafted image that we saw and heard, not the real thing.

The longer the campaign goes on, the more Obama looks like any other Chicago politician, with all the attendant baggage. And that is the saddest development of this campaign season so far.

June 26, 2008

Finally: Supreme Court States That Second Amendment Means What It Says

Finally, a win for those bitter people who cling to their guns. The Supreme Court issued its much anticipated Heller ruling this morning, and stated clearly - for the first time in history - that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to own guns for self-defense and hunting.

Here's the SCOTUS Blog post on the decision, and here's an excerpt from their excerpt from the majority opinion:

“Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command.”

“We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”

“the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.”

“The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity.”

“Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.”

The ruling is not an unlimited license to carry handguns. The majority opinion states clearly that laws prohibiting weapons in highly sensitive areas, and restrictions to gun ownership by the mentally ill and felons (along with regulations on the commercial sales of guns) are, and continue to be, valid.

This is a huge win for proponents of the "original meaning" school of jurisprudence.

Supreme Court Inserts Itself Into The Fall Election

It's no secret that conservative Republicans, and even many moderates and independent voters, are not thrilled about John McCain being the GOP Presidential nominee. For some, this election will ultimately boil down to the old "lesser of two evils" argument. For many of those, the defining factors include national security during a time of war, tax and economic policies, and judges. Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed one of those issues to John McCain.

In a truly absurd ruling, again written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the death penalty for child rapists is unconstitutional. While reasonable people can debate this issue - and debate the issue of capital punishment in general - the arguments made by the majority in their ruling have no basis in anything granted by the Constitution that I know of -  Kennedy's "disproportionate" argument used as derived from the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause in the Eighth Amendment is something that was invented by Justice Brennen in Furman v. Georgia.

The question of capital punishment in general is a legitimate Supreme Court issue - either it's constitutional or not. And the Supreme Court has ruled that it is. Anything else is on dangerous ground and can be seen as the Supreme Court micromanaging - usurping the role that the states and legislative bodies have in crafting their own laws and punishments. And it is those legislative bodies that are supposed to be the ones that 'evolve' their laws due to changing social norms and acceptabilities, not Justices like Kennedy, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. That Kennedy was forced to use as a rational the supposed "national consensus" against death for a child rapist gives you an idea as to just how specious and empty his arguments are. If anything, the "national consensus" is for putting child rapists to death, and again - it's the legislative branch that is supposed to deal with issues of "national consensus", not the courts.

As an indication as to just how problematic this ruling is, both John McCain and Barack Obama came out and strongly condemned it. Here's Obama:

“I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes,” Obama said at a news conference. “I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable that that does not violate our Constitution.”

Well, guess what. It wasn't the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court that issued this decision - it was the liberal bloc. And those are the types of judges that Barack Obama has promised to appoint. And with a Democratic Senate, they will swiftly be approved.

Run with it, Senator McCain...

Rove on Obama: The Ultimate "Me" Candidate

Karl Rove has another wonderful column up this morning in the Wall Street Journal on Barack Obama: It's All About Obama. It's about the arrogance of Obama, which seems to be unusually high even for a Presidential candidate.

Obama is praying that the press will deal with him in the same manner that they dealt with Bill Clinton in 1992. That is, protect and comfort him. Rove spells out several things that Obama has done or said over the past few months that would warrant significant negative coverage if it were a Republican who was the subject, rather than the Senator from Illinois. They include some things that the press was forced to cover, reluctantly, and have attempted to bury since - such as the Reverend Wright fiasco. In all cases, Obama's reaction has been predicated on the amount of damage that said subjects and/or incidents were doing to his ambitions. Once they started to negatively affect the polls, he scurried away. So much for the courage of his convictions.

Rove also mentions something that I had missed, even though I scour political websites (especially NRO) on a daily basis:

My former White House colleague Yuval Levin pointed out that Mr. Obama, in his first national TV ad rolled out Friday, claims credit for having "extended health care for wounded troops," citing the 2008 defense authorization. That bill passed 91-3 – but Mr. Obama was one of only six senators who didn't show up to vote. This brazen claim underscores the candidate's thin résumé and, again, his chutzpah.

Rove also acknowledges that it has been Barack Obama who has played the race card preemptively twice so far against the Republicans just in the past few weeks, in an attempt to protect himself from criticism. Obama's hope - that any criticism of him will be portrayed in the press as racism.

It's a great column, and I suggest you read it. I also make the following observation - for years Karl Rove purposely stayed out of the spotlight in the background, and was portrayed by the press as arrogant, petty, and supremely self-centered. Now that he is again in public view, he's being praises by everyone as being friendly, open, and insightful. Obama, on the other hand, had a reputation for being open and insightful before he assumed his spot on the national stage. Now that he's in full view, he's seen as being self-centered, arrogant, and petty. Interesting...

June 25, 2008

Gallup Poll 6/25/08: Obama 45% - McCain 45%

First, a word on the Newsweek and LA Times polls that are showing huge Obama leads over McCain - read the methodology and poll questions. Also, check out Mark Blumenthal's, along with his blog posts on methodology and weighting. While I still prefer Rasmussen, due to the fact that Scott has been the most accurate pollster since 2000, Gallup is also a polling company that I respect. A quick caveat and a quick kudo on Gallup, however. The caveat is that they tend to skew Democrat, especially in the questioning. But a kudo because they also are the kings of political identification - they are the ones who everyone turns to on current party ID figures. And they take that into account when they weigh their polls. Now, on to the subject of this post.

Barack Obama and John McCain are tied in the latest daily Presidential tracking poll from Gallup, 45%-45%. There's also a very interesting result in Gallup's poll on which of the candidates would be a better Commander in Chief of our military:

PRINCETON, NJ -- John McCain's life experience has earned him a solid national reputation as someone who can serve as the nation's commander in chief, with 80% saying he can handle the responsibilities of this important role. Barack Obama lags well behind on the same measure, but does pass the 50% public confidence threshold.

Very, very interesting numbers. I really wish that McCain was better on the economy. That's why his choice of VP is going to be so important. With the economy as big an issue as it's going to be in the fall, I hope he chooses Mitt Romney. He has better economic and business creds than anyone else in either party.