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Friday, December 31, 2010

RIGHT AND WRONG, ACCORDING TO OBAMA

President Obama, to use his own description of Hillary, is "likeable enough". He comes across (when he's not campaigning) as friendly, intelligent and possessed of a good sense of humor. But just when your feeling not so bad about him personally he wanders off the presidential reservation and gives up the chief executive persona in favor of being the nation's moral arbiter. It's perplexing, impolitic, and borderline obnoxious. No one likes a posture of moral superiority, especially in a president but Obama can't seem to help himself.

First it was the "beer summit" which was nothing more than an intrusion into a minor local law enforcement issue. Riding to the defense of his friend, Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates, and without knowing all the details of the incident, he pronounced the behavior of the Cambridge police officers who were answering a call to protect Gate's property "dumb". This in spite of the fact that Gates had gone off the edge, started hollering about race and refused to cooperate with the investigating officers. Elevating this local skirmish to a presidential peace summit was itself just plain "dumb".

Then came the issue of the "9-11 site" Islamic mosque. This again was, and is, a local issue. New Yorkers and residents of New Jersey who had lost friends and family members in the attack, were understandably offended by this particular choice of locations for this particular mosque. It was not a matter of the "right" of the developer to build a mosque, it was a matter of a lack of sensitivity and common sense. What it definitely was not, was an issue of federal public policy, yet Obama once again felt it necessary to instruct the citizens of New York, the families of the 9-11 victims and the nation in his version of religious tolerance and the "true" nature of Islam.

Now, in his latest effort to be the American Dalai Lama, Obama is publicly congratulating professional football player Michael Vick on his “self rehabilitation” after serving time for running a dog fighting operation. Vick was also guilty of torturing and killing dogs that didn't "perform" adequately in the fighting ring. Why is the President of the United States interjecting himself and the prestige of his office into an episode of such despicable nature ? Vick has made the mandatory and predictable apologies. He says he's sorry. Of course, but is he sorry for his horrendous and inhuman behavior or is he sorry he was caught and sentenced to prison?

 Obama is happy that the Philadelphia Eagles gave Vick a "second chance" and that Vick has chosen a path of moral redemption, a lesson of forgiveness that Obama apparently wants to teach to the American public. But how hard is it to rehabilitate oneself if you are being paid millions of dollars to play a professional sport. Is this really a genuine achievement on Vick's part or is he just extremely lucky that he has marketable skills and found a team that is willing to overlook serious character flaws to enhance their profit and loss statement? Only time will tell, but it's time for the moralizer in chief to give up the pulpit and get back to the serious problems that confront the nation.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

BEST AND WORST AND WHAT'S TO COME

As we enter the first week of 2012, pundits and editorialists seem stuck in the annual review of the past year i.e. the "ten most, worst, best" lists, which have occasional entertainment value but offer little substance. Hopefully, somewhere in the halls of Congress and in the conference rooms of the bureaucracy, elected and appointed officials are looking forward and setting agendas to deal with the most pressing problems the nation faces.
Acknowledging that the effort will be difficult in the face of divided government and the intransigence of competing interest groups, hopefully the mood of the general electorate with respect to government inaction as expressed in the November elections, will
stimulate some effort to solve problems which can no longer be ignored.
The public policy agenda should include:

1. Immigration Reform:
Violence on the border, legal battles between the states looking for solutions and the federal government unwilling to fully address the issues, are a national disgrace and inaction serves no one. The political battle lines appear set. Republicans want the borders secured first. Democrats want enhanced border security to be part of “comprehensive immigration reform” which will deal with the status of the 12-14 million illegals currently residing in the nation. Democrats fear that if border control is addressed first, conservatives will block any attempt to implement the “comprehensive” part.
It is not unreasonable to think that some kind of agreement between party leaders in the Congress and the White House with respect to a multiple step agenda could be agreed upon if the first step was vigorous border security to curtail the flow while the rest is being negotiated. The possible ingredients of reform legislation have long since been identified: guest worker permits, increased visa quotas for qualified applicants, and stiffer penalties and tougher enforcement on employers for hiring illegal immigrants. Instead of a “path to citizenship” for the millions already here, a policy which conservatives deride as “amnesty”, a path to legal residence based on a variety of conditions i.e. English language proficiency; high school graduation or equivalency, might be offered. Neither a haphazard collection of state laws nor the absurdity of the federal government suing individual states is productive. The ideologically based agendas of the open border advocates and the “round’um up and send’um home should be ignored and common sense applied.

2. The Federal Deficit:
The new Republican majority in the House has made much of this issue but the time for specifics has arrived. Simply put, the government spends more than it takes in. The recently passed federal income tax rate schedule fixes those rates until 2012. That limits the deficit options to other types of taxes and cuts in spending. Since the Congress is usually tax averse, spending cuts should not have to wait for a change in philosophy or political courage for something to be done. The size of government itself can be reduced by a hiring freeze. The scope and mission of the Defense Department which now spends over $700 billion annually must be updated. Large numbers of personnel and expensive bases in Western Europe should be justified by genuine threat assessments and cost benefit analyses. Political sacred cows like agriculture subsidies should be justified annually. Only ten percent of farmers received 74% of the $246.7 billion which has been handed out from 1995-2009. The tough work of entitlement reform based on economic realities which the President’s bipartisan commission has started must be continued. Sooner or later Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will have to be addressed and sooner is better.
 
3. Tax Reform:
The federal deficit is approximately $1.34 trillion. The federal debt is fast approaching 14 $ trillion. Clearly, spending cuts, while vital, will not be sufficient to deal with these huge numbers. New taxes will have to be considered but these are politically difficult to enact. In the mean time, reform of the ultra-complicated and inefficient tax code should be implemented. A flat tax or at least a reduction in the number of tax brackets along with elimination of most itemized deductions should be considered. The purpose of the federal tax code should primarily be to raise revenue for the federal government. What has evolved since its inception in 1913 is a system of politically inspired protections, efforts to manage the economy through tax preferences and loopholes and social goals. A simpler system of reduced rates and few deductions would be more efficient, easier to enforce and if properly designed, raise federal revenues.

4. Real Education Reform:
A recent survey of international student achievement presents a dismal picture of the U.S. public education system.
American students came in between 15th and 31st place in the three categories, math, science and reading comprehension
in spite of the much larger expenditures on U.S. education. It is not enough to simply throw more millions at the problem. Facilities, computers and laboratories are important but the culture of education in the U.S. is in decline. Parents and students complain about too much homework and less money for bands and sports. Tests used simply to evaluate student knowledge and progress are criticized for being “biased” or unable to measure “potential”. “Feel good” policies to ensure no one’s self esteem is damaged by failure result in “social promotions” which turn out students without the minimal knowledge and skills to compete in the modern technical work environment. Unions maintain a stranglehold on teacher competency and procedures to replace the least skilled. Federal government control of local school systems is not a good idea or even politically possible but financial incentives and tougher standards and a movement for education cultural reform for access to those funds are appropriate.
Of course there are many other areas of public policy that can’t wait for another two or four years. Infrastructure, the environment, enhanced anti-terrorists capabilities, are all important but the Congress cannot allow itself to get bogged down in partisan fights over every issue. Priorities must be established and progress made even where “perfection” isn’t possible.

It may be overly optimistic but hopefully next year’s “Best Ten” will significantly overshadow next year’s “Worst Ten on the public policy lists.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LAME DUCKS AND LEGISLATIVE AGENDAS

The current and thankfully soon to end "lame duck" session of Congress should have been the "dead duck" session. The idea of numerous defeated members of Congress and a soon to be minority party in the House of Representatives, pushing through legislation which by definition often does not command the support of the voters, is an affront to the democratic process. Somehow, either by ending the current session of Congress after the elections in November or starting the new one that reflects the newly elected membership soon after the election, this spectacle should be avoided in the future.

What we have seen is a rush to pass legislation on the Democrat agenda which, in the new Congress, would not have the same prospects for success. This is, in some cases, the result of the Democrat leadership delaying bringing the legislation to the floor of both houses while they looked for votes, but faced now with diminished prospects after January 4, they seek to bring these important pieces of legislation up without allowing the necessary time for analysis, debate or amendments.

A prime example of this was the Omnibus Spending bill which represented the $1.1 trillion dollar portion of the annual budget that doesn't include the entitlements, ( Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid). The 1,900 page bill was brought to the floor by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and included 8 billion dollars in "pork" projects, some of which bordered on the absurd. The bill was written by Democrat staff members and few, if any, of the members of the House or Senate had a chance to read it.
Thankfully, this typically bloated Democrat big government spending bill was denied a vote by Republicans, (some of whom had a similar history of irresponsibility) who actually got the message of the November mid-term elections. A far different spending bill will be crafted in the new Congress after January.
Reid also tried to push through his "Dream Act" which promises citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants who graduate from high school, attend two years of college or join the military. There are good arguments to be made for encouraging young immigrants to pursue education or take advantage of the discipline and training that military service provides, especially since there is no prospect of these millions of individuals ever being deported. However, there are other important implications to this bill that Reid would have not allowed time to assess or debate.

Concern from those not in the "illegal immigrant friendly" camp was that this was just the first step in a broader "amnesty" effort which ignored the basic issue of border enforcement. Additionally, the implication of millions of new citizens whose parents, siblings and other relatives are illegals and thus might be eligible for legalized status under current or subsequently liberalized “family reunification” regulations could be a an enormous unintended (depending on political motive) consequence and should be considered. The consideration of this bill was defeated and faces an uncertain future if reintroduced in the new congress.
The revocation of the 17 year policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” which denied military service to openly homosexual applicants was passed by a narrow margin made possible by the votes of several liberal leaning Republicans. The bill would not have passed in the more conservative Congress elected in November. While the current policy would in all likelihood have been eventually overturned by the federal courts, the full implications of a change of this magnitude were never fully discussed, despite efforts led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Proponet’s arguments were mostly broadly based and ideological in nature. Now the reality of implementation must be considered after, and not before the change is imposed, typical of a rush to judgment legislative process.

Fortunately the other items on the late session and last minute “progressive” legislative agenda succumbed to the reality of the current political climate in the U.S. which is decidedly center-right. Thus the union friendly “card check” bill that would have done away with secret ballot membership procedures; the inflation happy Cap and Trade bill which would have made everything associated with energy consumption more expensive, and so called “comprehensive” immigration reform which emphasizes “paths to citizenship” without addressing strict border enforcement first, have all been left on the progressive wish list.
President Obama should get credit for compromising on the extension of the ten year old tax structure that the far Left would have sacrificed over their class warfare zeal to punish the wealthy, and thus caused significant tax increases for everyone in January. However, this should have been done much earlier in the existing congressional session and would have been, had it not been for Harry Reid’s miscalculation about it’s eventual success.

The New START strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia, should, and probably will, pass in the “lame duck” session but again, important treaties deserve full analysis and debate. Republican concerns should get a full hearing and the newly elected congress should be allowed to participate.
The term “lame duck” is not without serious meaning and the reality it implies demands serious change.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

OBAMA THE "MODERATE" AND OTHER PROGRESSIVE FANTASIES

It is both an understatement and an overstatement to say that the far Left, i.e. self described "progressives", who used to be called "liberals", are extremely unhappy with President Obama. Looking first at the understatement, some on the far Left are close to hysteria. No doubt, they had convinced themselves that the first black president, the former community organizer, the income redistributionist from the 2008 campaign, would finally be the long sought liberal activist president they had been dreaming of for decades. Obama, facing political realities that progressives as ideological purists with no responsibility for governing commonly ignore, could hardly be described as a moderate, a term liberals disdain almost as much as the hated label "conservative”. But he has simply not had the votes in the Congress to move the far Left agenda. Still, the progressives are offended and cite the following heresies: failure to quickly end U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as implied in the 2008 campaign; acceding to General Petraeus’ strategy of a thirty thousand man deployment surge in Afghanistan; his willingness to abandon the effort to include a “government option” in the comprehensive health care reform bill; his inclusion of moderates and “Wall St. insiders” in his economic inner circle; his inability to close the Guantanamo terrorist detention center; his failure to forcefully and quickly push to revoke the military's ban on openly homosexual service members; his failure to get a carbon tax (climate change) bill passed; his failure to introduce or pass so called “comprehensive immigration reform“; the failure to pass the pro-union organizing tool, "card check".

This pent up anger and frustration seems to have reached a tipping point with Obama's recently announced compromise on the extension of the Bush era tax cuts to include keeping the reduced tax rates for the highest brackets, the so called "tax cuts for the rich". In truth, Obama got as much or more than he gave in terms of reduced taxes for the middle class and a number of special programs for college applicants, children and the poor, and an extension of unemployment benefits. But the "rich" represent a symbolic bete noir for the far Left’s redistributionists and conceding any tax benefits to them is an unacceptable liberal apostasy. Liberals reserve particular animosity for lowering estate taxes, which conservatives have labeled "death taxes". This was part of the Obama-Republican "compromise" Republicans point out that the assets of the deceased have already been taxed, often more than once; first as income and then often as capital gains or as dividends. Liberals simply want to tax estates because they exist and represent their disdain for the accumulation of wealth.

In truth, the compromise is not about tax "cuts". It is about extension of existing tax rates that have been part of the code since 2001. Democrat complaints that they will substantially contribute to the federal deficit ring hollow. Democrats steadfastly refuse to cut any federal spending except for the Defense budget. Even Obama's announced "freeze" on pay "increases" for federal workers has stimulated cries of outrage from the Left. Liberal economic guru Paul Krugman has for months criticized the earlier multi-billion dollar stimulus bill as inadequate and has called for another such bill, claiming that dealing with the deficit should come after an economic recovery. In essence, keeping private money in private hands is the same thing as confiscating it through taxes and putting it back into the economy through government programs after government takes its cut for administrative overhead.

The outrage on the part of the Left is just part of the long history of ideologically based class warfare. It is true that "millionaires and billionaires" could easily afford to pay taxes at the old rates but the class based bar has been set to low. Married couples making $250,000 a year are well off but hardly millionaires and billionaires and claims by the Left that they do not spend their money makes no sense. Few wealthy people keep their money in their mattresses, they spend or invest it. Typical investments are in municipal bonds which finance state and local infrastructure, thus creating jobs, or corporate stocks which finance business expansion which also creates jobs. Liberal Senator Charles Schumer of New York recognized this when he suggested that the tax rate increase start at one million dollars instead of $250,000.

Nonetheless, so intense is the feeling of ideological betrayal by Obama to these doctrinaire progressives that there are now those suggesting that the Left wing of the Democrat Party should mount a drive to challenge Obama for the 2012 nomination of his party.
The proposed strategy has two possible goals: one is to actually take the nomination away from Obama and produce a far Left nominee who would then somehow actually win the national election and become the President. The second goal acknowledges the improbability of the leftist candidate either winning the nomination or in the unlikely result of denying Obama a second nomination, actually winning the general election. Thus the goal of this strategy is to push Obama to the Left in order for him to win the nomination .

These scenarios have been touted by reliably liberal political pundits in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere. They range in content from angry diatribes to completely nutty fantasies. A striking example of the latter is the recent commentary in the Washington Post by Michael Lerner. Lerner is neither a politician nor a political analyst (pundit). He is a rabbi, and like many of his brethren in the professional faith community of the religious Left, he exhibits a sophomoric and simplistic idealism. Also demonstrating a strangely inverse reading of the public mood, Lerner ignores the actual message sent by the November elections:
"With his base deeply disillusioned, many progressives are starting to believe that Obama has little chance of winning reelection unless he enthusiastically embraces a populist agenda and worldview - soon. Yet there is little chance that will happen without a massive public revolt by his constituency that goes beyond rallies, snide remarks from television personalities or indignant op-eds."

In other words, Lerner is saying Obama isn't Left enough to win in 2012. The trouble with this analysis is that there aren't that "many progressives", thus the "overstatement" in terms ofthe importance of the Progressive anger. A recent Gallup poll finds that only 20 percent of Americans self-identity as "liberals". It can safely be assumed that the angry "progressive", far Left portion of this group is an even smaller percentage. A late November Associated Press poll supports this.
With Obama's approval rating down to 48% overall, his approval rating among self-describedliberals was still a whopping 80%. Clearly the progressive fringe is out of touch with the Democrat base. Indeed, the alternate universe in which the Leftist fringe resides is both amusing and astounding. Consider the platform on which Lerner would have his Obama challenger run in order to "save" Obama from himself in the 2012 election.
Immediately withdraw all U.S. military from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and "replace the "war on terror" with a "global Marshall Plan that roots homeland security in a strategy of generosity and concern for the well-being of everyone on the planet."
Hey this might just work. Al Qaeda terrorists would be so busy printing up "Kum Bay Yah"song sheets and gathering wood and marshmallows for the campfires that they would abandon their quest to violently impose 7th century Islamic culture on the West. Of course a "global Marshall Plan" might be a bit expensive and consign the U.S. to permanent economic dependency on China but Obama would get enthusiastic crowds for visits in Africa and Latin America (except maybe Cuba, Venezuela, Somalia, and . . . .)
Once getting his utopian juices flowing, Lerner doesn't leave much out of his prescription for Obama's political renewal.
A "massive jobs program"; a "freeze on mortgage foreclosures"; "a national bank would offer interest free" small business loans; expansion of ObamaCare; a "strong tax on carbon emissions"; "prosecution of those (Bush Administration officials) accused of "torture or cover-ups" leading to the invasion of Iraq; "free equal (media) time for all candidates for national office"; "constitutional amendments requiring only public financing in elections" AND "a jury trial every five years in which corporations would have to prove that they have 'a satisfactory history of environmental responsibility' ".

OK, so Lerner is at best a "special needs" student in the area of political reality and common sense but he made it into the commentary section of the Washington Post, and others on the Left with a bit more credibility are also suggesting the basic idea of a Democrat primary challenge without the wacko window dressing.
So are there individuals with the backgrounds necessary to be serious, although symbolic candidates, that would be willing to take up the Don Quixote like challenge to a sitting President with only the support of the small progressive base? Lerner provides a short list of commonly suggested but almost universally politically flawed possibilities, but he also continues to show his inner Comedy Central child (except he's serious) with a list of residents of the angry fringe.
Former Democrat presidential candidate Howard Dean is often mentioned but he had his shot in 2004 and was soundly rejected by Democrat voters in the primaries. Senator Russ Feingold, a reliable liberal, will be in need of a job after January first but he finds himself in that predicament because he was defeated in November by the Republican candidate in what used to be liberal leaning Wisconsin. After that Lerner goes completely off the end of the pier with; Bernie Sanders, the Senate's only self described "socialist"; Al Franken, quasi-socialist, career Saturday Night Live comedian and commentator on the far Left and now defunct Air America radio program who was elected to the Senate in 2008 on Obama's coattails by a scant 312 votes; Rachel Maddow and Bill Moyers, whose "presidential qualifications" are respectively derived from MSNBC and PBS and actress Susan Sarandon?

Progressive Democrats who aren't quite ready for ideological group therapy would prefer to stick with Howard Dean but ultimately reality will sink in and finding a candidate willing to sacrifice eighteen months of his life in an endless and hopeless schedule of travel and fundraising will fall victim to the additional historical reality of presidents weakened by divisive primary challenges which is defeat in the general election.

Too bad. Presidential candidate Rachel Maddow is probably on every Republicans Christmas wish list.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

PALIN 2012: CELEBRITY VS. CREDIBILITY

It's like a rash in a place that's not convenient to scratch in public. You can try to ignore it but it just won't go away and the prospects for a much worse case loom on the horizon. The McCain campaign in 2008, in an example of crass political cynicism and unrealistic expectations, gave the country a wet kiss we still can’t wipe away. Like a sexually transmitted disease, "It's the gift that keeps on giving." It's the prospect of the least qualified candidate for President of the United States in modern history winning the Republican nomination in 2012; it's Sarah Palin.


Palin is the political creature of the modern era of electronic access to information and entertainment. Unfortunately, for the serious policy debate which this country needs, her preferred "modus operandi" is entertainment. Writing books about herself, giving speeches full of smirky sarcasm, platitudes and simple minded attacks, the Twitter Queen entertains to carefully chosen crowds who enthusiastically buy into her simplistic version of conservative ideology. Here are several of her more "thoughtful policy prescriptions":

"How's that hopey-changey stuff working out for you?"

"We need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern,"

Congresses top three priorities should be: "stop spending" (on what?), " energy policy"(what kind?) and this;

"I think, kind of tougher to put our arms around, but allowing America's spirit to rise again by not being afraid to kind of go back to some of our roots as a God fearing nation where we're not afraid to say especially in times of potential trouble in the future here, where we're not afraid to say, you know, we don't have all the answers as fallible men and women so it would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country, so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren't afraid to go that route, not so afraid of the political correctness that you know – they have to be afraid of what the media said about them if they were to proclaim their alliance to our creator."

This remarkable head shaker is just another example of Palin's lack of focus, lack of depth and inability to articulate a coherent thought.

Several more thoughtful conservative analysts know this and are warning that the current celebrity fan-like infatuation with Palin is a recipe for political failure for the Republican Party. Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan, rightfully offended when Palin compared herself to the former president by describing him simply as an “actor”, offered this: "The point is not 'He was a great man and you are a nincompoop,' though that is true." Conservative columnist David Brookes described Palin not as serious presidential material but as a potential “talk show host”. Palin’s contract as a “Fox News contributor” and her temporary foray into a reality/travel log format come close to affirming this evaluation. Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough has taken Palin to task for her dismissive comments about former Republican President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara as “blue bloods”. It is probably understandable that Palin would continuously disparage politicians, both Democrat and Republican who have real experience, quality education and real ideas, since in all of these categories she has none. Here is a potential presidential candidate who took five years and four colleges (Hawaii Pacific U. 1982; Northern Idaho College 1983; U. of Idaho 1984-85; Matanuska-Susitan College 1985, U. of Idaho 1986-87) to obtain a degree in. . communications? . Her political experience is six years as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 7,028; and after winning the election for governor of a state with the approximate population of Memphis, in a race with three major candidates with 48.3% of the vote, resigning after two and a half years. That's it. But whether offending Republican admirers of Presidents Bush and Reagan is a tactic, or simply another example of mouth outrunning brain, it will cost her electoral support.

Nonetheless, a December, 2010 poll gives an early indication of the larger problem. While 79% of Republicans said they "like" Palin, only 46% of Americans as a whole have a "favorable" view of her while 49% view her "unfavorably". The overall numbers have great significance since they are dragged down not only by overwhelming negative Democrat opinion but more importantly by the negative views of self described Independents who make up over 20% of the electorate and whose votes are essential in presidential elections. A late October, 2010 poll also showed a large majority in the general population (67%) who believe that Palin is not qualified to be President whether they have a favorable view of her or not.

So how to explain the enthusiasm for Palin among the most conservative Republicans especially the Tea Party group. Essentially, Palin provides a voice to social conservatives who feel alienated, and powerless in the face of a socially changing and economically deteriorating America. Palin offers profiles of the "guilty": intellectuals and "elitists", social engineers and disconnected Washington insiders. Female conservatives are especially attracted to a powerful voice and role model that liberal feminism hasn't provided. But Palin's standard polemical fare is too simplistic for a serious presidential candidate. She simply runs "against" while offering nothing specific. Her speeches fall somewhere between theatrics and demagoguery, a format that betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the complexity of the issues facing the nation.

Her devoted followers are undeterred. When asked what it is that sparks their enthusiasm, the more obvious responses are missing. Nowhere does one hear "I like her: position on dealing with Iran or North Korea"; "her plan to deal with the federal deficit or exploding healthcare costs"; "her position on free trade agreements or how to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq". Few even dare to mention her experience in government or her educational background. What you hear are these actual reasons why Palin supporters believe she is qualified to be President of the United States.

"I'm rooting for Palin because she's tough".

"She loves guns, babies, Jesus and America."

"She is an attractive woman with an upbeat personality; a wife & mother with a charming family."

She has "major experience" as a governor, and negotiating a pipe line."

"She is "an extremely likeable woman, great mother, devoted Christian, pretty smart and well spoken."

She "connects with people".

"She is a mom. She has five kids".

She is just like "one of us."

While these are the attributes one might like to see in your kid's  high school principal, they fall far short of the desired traits one would like to see in the most powerful political official in the world. Thus she is commonly introduced as "the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee", as if this was an achievement instead of an appointment.

There is no certainty that Palin will choose to run. She has made enough money to have a happy life kayaking and watching dance contests, where her real expertise lies, but adoring crowds can have a narcotic effect . A few thousand screaming fans can seem like "everyone" and induce ego enlargement to dangerous proportions

American conservatives are in desperate need of a wake up call. Allowing Palin to become the face and voice of the Republican Party, to the delight of the far Left, is a serious mistake. Succumbing to an "American Idol" mentality for a walking, talking anti-Obama bumper sticker could sacrifice a historic opportunity for Republicans to gain control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency in 2012.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

STRATEGIC ARMS REDUCTION: TIME TO SET KNEE JERK IDEOLOGY ASIDE

The current debate over the ratification of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) unfortunately has fallen victim to the divisive politics that characterized the November mid-term elections. Advocacy groups and some members of the Senate on both the Left and the Right have staked out positions that in some cases defy common sense and in others, contradict the actual provisions of the Treaty. Some of the claims of those opposed to ratification are as follows:

1. "The Russians remain free to upgrade and replace" their strategic arms with more advanced and capable systems."

Under the terms of the Treaty (Art. V, Paragraph 1) both parties are free to "modernize " or replace" strategic systems. This in fact is one of the conditions cited by Republican Senator John Kyle (R-AZ) as necessary to overcome his opposition to the treaty. President Obama has committed to a several billion dollar expenditure for this purpose.

2. " Russia's inventory of tactical (battlefield) nuclear warheads are not restricted."

True but the U.S. and NATO inventory is not restricted either. The treaty is a "Strategic Arms" reduction treaty and stands on its own. Tactical nuclear weapons remain a subject for future treaties.

3. "The treaty hamstrings U.S. efforts to build a comprehensive missile defense."

Not true. Art. III, Paragraph 7 clearly states that "Interceptor missiles ( for defensive purposes) are not considered missiles subject to the treaty." Claims that treaty provisions restricting the use of strategic launch vehicles for defensive systems somehow restricts the development of defensive systems themselves is tortured logic. At the November, 2010 NATO meeting in Lisbon, the member states unanimously approved plans to implement a European missile defense system.

On the other side, the "disarmament community" on the Left exaggerates the consequences of a failure to ratify the treaty in terms of the international nuclear proliferation problem. James Carroll's column in the Boston Globe is typical.

     The failure to ratify the treaty would represent ". . . a final defeat of the hard-won international consensus that nuclear weapons are in a category apart, requiring a steady movement, however incremental, from limitation to reduction to an ultimate abolition. "


The fact that "nuclear weapons are in a category apart" has been accepted since their first
and only use against Japan in 1945. The Cold War deterrence concept of Mutually Assured
Destruction (MAD) made this starkly clear. Nuclear weapons have been the subject of
numerous treaties from Nixon era SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty) I and II to START
which expired in December 2009 and which NEW START is intended to replace. While
a failure to ratify New START would be a set back, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT) remains in effect and is routinely extended.

Carroll's doomsday hand wringing continues:

"Once nuclear weapons are accepted as normal armaments, their accumulation will skyrocket everywhere. Once the international covenant toward abolition is abandoned, dozens of nations will join the nuclear club. Inter-state war will be inevitably genocidal, and outbreaks of non-state mass violence will invariably launch irrational escalations. Once more, the self-extinction of the human species will be at issue."


The New START agreement is not about "abolition", it is about inventory reduction. The
objections raised are not specifically concerned with reduction of delivery systems and
warheads but because of differences in current inventories the formula is somehow more
advantageous to Russia.

The idea that nuclear weapons will ever be "accepted as normal armaments" or that the
failure of this particular treaty would create such an outcome defies reason. The Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty is virtually universal. Four nuclear weapons states are not
signatories but the idea that "dozens" of the 189 member states would abandon
their commitment to not seek nuclear weapons because this treaty failed is unrealistic.

Other rogue states like Iran and North Korea might seek nuclear weapons capability
but few would have the technological or financial resources. Even Iran and North
Korea are seeking first to guarantee their security from real or imagined non-nuclear
security threats and to enhance their ability to influence regional politics. North Korea is
also attempting to use its nuclear status to offset its domestic economic crisis. These
states know that the first use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance would bring about
annihilation.

Also the idea that New START is vital to the progress towards a nuclear free world is
mostly wishful thinking. The simple fact is that there can be no progress towards such a
goal within the current and foreseeable future international political context.

Until the issue of the status of Kashmir between India and Pakistan is resolved , these
nuclear weapons states are not going to give up their weapons. Israel, which has fought
four wars for its very existence and faces the possibility of a nuclear armed Iran cannot
give up its nuclear arms. China, ever wary of Russia and eager to attain military parity
with the U.S. remains outside the nuclear weapons reduction regimes past and present
and has shown little interest in participating.

Nuclear weapons have been a fact of life for sixty-five years and the recognition that
their use is unacceptable has survived several major wars (Korea, Viet Nam, Arab-Israeli, Afghanistan -Soviet Union, Afghanistan-U.S.). The major nuclear issues now are nuclear proliferation to additional rogue states and the possibility of nuclear weapons or materials in some form falling into the hands of terrorists. These possibilities have nothing to do with the START agreement between Russia and the U.S.
whose weapons inventories are secure.

NEW START essentially reduces U.S. and Russian nuclear inventories to 700 delivery
vehicles, 800 launchers and 1550 warheads; more than enough to overwhelm any
nuclear attacker. The treaty also is an extension of the previous START ratified in 1991
and which expired in 2009. As such it continues the regime of mutual inspections and
verifications which are essential to mitigating any serious future tensions between the
two parties. The evaluation of the treaty should be made in the context of post Cold-
War reality. Russia is not the former Soviet Union. While it is far from a U.S. style
democracy and seeks to politically dominate the region of the former USSR, it lacks the
competitive and hostile ideology which characterized the socialist/capitalist eighty year
conflict. Russian President Medvedev attended the recent NATO meeting and was
willing to cooperate on a number of security issues. NATO’s General Secretary Anders
Fogh Rasmussen said; “We have agreed together on which security challenges NATO
nations and Russia actually face today. What’s most significant is what’s not on the list:
each other.”

Ratifying START is consistent with NPT obligations to reduce nuclear armaments and
thus enhances the credibility of that regime. NATO members are unanimous in their
support of the treaty. It is their hope that cooperation with Russia in this instance will
lead to progress on reduction of tactical nuclear weapons currently deployed in or near
NATO countries. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and all the U.S. uniformed military
leadership support the treaty as well as former Secretaries of State from Democrat and
Republican administrations. The treaty provides no major break throughs in terms of
international or U.S. nuclear security nor does it adversely affect that security. It is an
incremental step in a decades long effort to reduce and control nuclear weapons.
However not ratifying would create a host of other political problems that complicate the
U.S./Russia relationship and would detract from U.S. credibility and leadership in
international nuclear issues.