Eating our own *UPDATED*

I caught a minute of Mike Gallagher today, and he was talking about the fact that Republicans are more critical of Republican candidates than Democrats are critical of Democratic candidates. It occurred to me that, at least in this election cycle, that may be because there are real, substantive differences between the Republican candidates. We’ve got Ron Paul, who is a pure libertarian and possible white supremacist; John McCain, who is strong on defense, but weak on free speech, and spineless to environmental extremists; Mitt Romney, who has positioned himself as a traditional conservative who is for strong borders, a strong national defense, pro-life, etc., with a sound grasp of economic issues; Mike Huckabee, who is loudly Christian, a social conservative, and a big government liberal; and Rudy Giuliani, who is a social liberal and a hawk. With the exception of Ron Paul, all have had leadership experience, but of a very different type: McCain was in the military; Romney ran businesses and the Massachusetts government; Huckabee governed Arkansas; and Giuliani ran huge criminal prosecutions and New York. So, just as there are differences in their approach to conservative politics (and all are more conservative than not), there are also significant differences in their practical experience. Republicans have a real choice, and real choice begets real debate.

It’s different with the Dems. For one thing, none of them have any managerial experience. They’ve all been Senators, which means working with a group of 99 other people. None have them has taken the lead in the Senate, so they can’t even point to leadership experience in those august chambers. John Edwards has a bit more private sector experience than the other two but I can tell you that even the most successful lawyer cannot be compared to a manager. Managing a case is not the same as manager a system — whether that system is a business or a government. Obama was an academic, which is the antithesis of management, and Hillary was, well, Hillary managed Bill, I guess. They’re all good at manipulating people, Edwards because he’s a trial lawyer, and Obama and Hillary because they’re Alinsky disciples, but that’s not leadership or management. So, they’re pretty much the same looked at from that point of view.

In terms of politics, they’re peas in a pod: they want out of Iraq, they deny that Islamists pose a threat to America, they like open borders, and they want more government involvement in everything (parenting, health care, education, managing people’s money, controlling businesses, etc), which means more taxes on people they decide are “rich.”

The fact that Edwards, Obama and Hillary are virtually indistinguishable on paper may explain why identity politics has become so important. It’s not just Hillary’s dirty politics and it’s not just that the “identity politics” chickens are coming home to roost. The preeminence of racial or sexual identity in this race has become the only way you can tell one Democratic candidate from another. And poor Edwards, distinguished by being white and male, is precluded by political correctness from trumpeting that fact. In other words, identity, by being the only difference between the candidates, is also the only area of debate left for the Democrats. And it’s no surprise that it is in this area — the substance-free area that will have absolutely nothing to do with the way in which a Democrat, if victorious, will govern — that the Democratic debate has become most heated.

So, I guess I’m happy that Republicans are focused on substance, and using their free speech rights to hammer out important issues that will have a lasting effect on America (if a Republican wins). And I’m desperately sad that the cookie-cutter Democrats, in order to have a debate and distinguish themselves in the eyes of the voters, have almost completely backed off from any substantive issues (as to which they have no meaningful differences), and devolved into childish racial and gender name calling. If Americans elect one of them, the Country will deserve what it gets.

UPDATE: Regarding the enthusiasm gap the media professes to find between Dems and Republicans, if one does indeed exist, I suspect that has more to do with the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for a shot at the White House than with anything else. That is, I think that, even more than feeling excitement about their own candidates, Democrats are simply excited about a possible chance to defeat Republicans.

UPDATE II: For another reason why there might be an “enthusiasm gap,” keep in mind that, while Bush’s presidency is almost over, Bush Derangement Syndrome continues in full force. Indeed, with the inevitable end of his presidency drawing near, Bush haters seem to be drawing on after burners for some new energy.

Two views of Giuliani

Dennis Prager lauds Giuliani (and I think he’s right) and the Times attacks Giuliani (they’re their usual “he’s a meanie” attack). I like Giuliani and always have. I prefer the political positions Romney has taken, which is why I’ve endorsed him, but I would very, very happily cast my vote for Giuliani. I’d be delighted if his big gamble pays off and he pays no price for having ignored Iowa and New Hampshire. Considering how unstable the frontrunner field is going into Florida, maybe he did do the right thing — or, at least, maybe he didn’t do the horribly wrong thing.

UPDATE:  Thanks, BHG.  I’m good at grammar — and really bad at proofreading.

When it comes to war, everything old is new again

Danny Lemieux alerted me to a Jerusalem Post article that uses the Civil War as a prism through which to examine the upcoming elections. Max Singer, who wrote the article, points out that Lincoln was losing big time in the lead-up to the 1864 elections (with daily death tolls sometimes equal to or exceeding all the lives lost in four years in Iraq) and that Democrats were then, as they are now, insisting that all was lost and the President and his party should go:

But on September 1 the news reached Washington that Atlanta had fallen to the Union army, and on election day it appeared as if the North was on the way to victory. Lincoln was decisively reelected. And, according to historian Allan Nevins, “The damage done to the Democratic Party by the platform could not be undone. Its … stigmatization of the heroic war effort as worthless gave the Northern millions an image of the Democratic Party they could never forget….and would cost the party votes for a generation.”

FOR WELL over a year now most prominent Democrats have insisted that the Iraq war had been lost and that the US should get its troops home as quickly as possible. It was true that the US was losing the war in 2006. Two responses were possible. The Democrats response was, in effect, “the war is hopeless, we should give up.” The administration response was, “we have to do something different so that we can win.”

Most voters prefer the second response – especially when it is successful.

In November 2008 it is likely to be clear that if the US had followed the Democrats’ advice the US would have suffered an unnecessary defeat. Those voters who believe that the US is facing dangerous threats from jihadis may well feel that it is not safe to bring to power the party that would have brought defeat in Iraq.

It certainly would be nice if Singer was right. I’m not always sure that we Americans are the same people, though, as Americans of yore. I first had this feeling in a barren, hot, rock strewn, windswept canyon in the middle of nowhere Utah. What distinguished it from other, similar canyons is that it was a highway for the pioneers. The walls were filled with hundred year old graffiti from those who passed through: messages to loved ones, boasts of survival and, so often, death notices. It was quite moving because it was such a testament to the spirit of endurance that characterized that American generation.

As I stood there in the blistering heat, with no water to be seen, I couldn’t help contrasting those pioneers with modern Americans. We’re a people who drive a block to pick up a gallon of milk, who freely spill our sordid secrets on Talk TV, and who have raised a generation of children that has never heard a discouraging word, no matter how well-deserved it might be. I wonder, therefore, whether we as a nation still have the drive, the commitment, the stamina and the integrity to take on any long fight. I worry that, as with the Romans at the end of their Empire, we’ve become so effete we can no longer defend ourselves. It took the Romans 500 years or so to reach that pass. Have we, in the modern, accelerated age, managed to do the same in half that time?

UPDATE: Turns out that Rudy Giuliani has the same sense of modern American malaise as I have, but he’s much more optimistic. Over at BotW, I read this excerpt from a recent Giuliani speech:

I get very, very frustrated when I . . . hear certain Americans talk about how difficult the problems we face are, how overwhelming they are, what a dangerous era we live in. I think we’ve lost perspective. We’ve always had difficult problems, we’ve always had great challenges, and we’ve always lived in danger.

Do we think our parents and our grandparents and our great grandparents didn’t live in danger and didn’t have difficult problems? Do we think the Second World War was less difficult that our struggle with Islamic terrorism? Do we think that the Great Depression was a less difficult economic struggle for people to face than the struggles we’re facing now? Have we entirely lost perspective of the great challenges America has faced in the past and has been able to overcome and overcome brilliantly? I think sometimes we have lost that perspective.

Do you know what leadership is all about? Leadership is all about restoring that perspective that this country is truly an exceptional country that has great things that it is going to accomplish in the future that will be as great and maybe even greater than the ones we’ve accomplished in the past. If we can’t do that, shame on us.

And to this, James Taranto adds a little more:

This is exactly right, and we hope Giuliani keeps hammering home the point. In the conservative circles in which we usually travel, we hear far too much depressive, alarmist talk.

And the left is much worse. They are so scared of terrorism that they have constructed an elaborate system of denial. They lash out at anyone who takes the terror threat seriously (see Glenn Greenwald‘s silly attack on the Giuliani speech for an example), but their complacency is obviously phony, as evidenced by their lurid and obsessive fantasies about torture, tyranny, global warming and all other manner of unreal horrors.

In the same vein, as I wrote to a friend a week or so back, I think that Conservatives have one advantage in the upcoming election:  As is Giuliani, they’re all fundamentally optimistic.  I know that they recognize we’re engaged in a Titanic struggle between civilizations, a struggle that is depressing to think about, but their underlying optimism emerges in the fact that they believe America is a pretty great place.  Democrats, on the other hand, deny the struggle, but are happy to tell us how rotten with are, and how much we could be if we could just allow them to change everything about ourselves.  People don’t like hearing that kind of stuff in personal relationships, and may well dislike hearing it in political relationships too.

Just a reminder that Rudy’s marital history probably shouldn’t matter

If I didn’t say this would happen over and over again, I certainly hinted at it or, at least, laid the groundwork for its inevitability.

I’ll just add here that it’s the height of chutzpah that Hillary (by proxy) is leading the attack against Rudy Giuliani on marital grounds.  Unlike the other Demo candidates who appear to have pretty strong and apparently normal marriages, Hillary’s marriage with Bill, while it has lasted, falls a little too neatly into the traditional paradigm of the abused, weak women clinging desperately to her abusive, womanizing husband.  (This citation will lead you to the some of the worst that has been said about the marriage.  Even if some of it is false hearsay, Bill’s repeated, public sexual transgressions lead to the inevitably conclusion that at least some of it is true.)  Is Hillary really the candidate who wants to have marriage made fair game?

(And sorry for the light blogging today, but work called and I had to answer.)

The feeding fenzy that won’t happen **BUMPED**

Is it me, or is the political scene in our country getting stupider? In the last few days, I’ve read story after story where politics seems to be happening in an alternate reality where common sense and logic are entirely absent.

The most recent example is the plan in San Francisco to issue identity cards to illegal aliens, a plan apparently being contemplated in other major urban areas as well (such as New York). Of course, I find it disturbing that modern American civic “leaders” are cheerfully and publicly figuring out ways to aid and abet the violation of federal laws. However, I realized some time ago that, in our modern era, civil disobedience got turned upside down, with the martyrdom factor Thoreau envisioned entirely absent, and social lionization the norm instead.

What really bothers me with this most recent and blatant attack on federal law is the knowledge that the INS, which is about to receive as a huge gift a City’s work identifying all illegal aliens living within its borders, is not going to take advantage of that fact. I mean, logic would dictate that, if criminals line up to get a card saying “I am a criminal,” the policing agency tasked with apprehending those criminals would pick them off like sharks in a feeding frenzy. In our topsy turvy world, though, all that will happen is that San Francisco’s illegals will get themselves cards formally identifying them as federal law breakers, cards they’ll use to facilitate their ability to pick up taxpayer-funded welfare benefits, while our federal agents sit on the sidelines and watch.

UPDATE: Who knew? Giuliani says that getting illegals out of the country implicates civil, not criminal, federal jurisdiction. Because he’s a very experienced federal prosecutor, I’m going to assume he’s correct. That leads me to a couple of points. First, it doesn’t change the core issue in my post, which is that the City of San Francisco is still proposing to offer the Feds a gift of people lining up to identify themselves as criminals who can be subject to the civil process of deportation — and the Feds will still refuse that gift.

Second, I’m sure Giuliani’s going to be castigated as “soft on immigration” for stating this fact. If that’s the case, it’s just plain wrong. To recite legal consequences with accuracy is not to be “soft” on anything. It’s just being, well, accurate.

The other thing Giuliani is going to get heat for is for saying that he doesn’t believe the feds should be criminalizing illegal immigration, a position he makes on practical grounds:

Illegal immigration shouldn’t be a crime, either, Giuliani said: “No, it shouldn’t be because the government wouldn’t be able to prosecute it. We couldn’t prosecute 12 million people. We have only 2 million people in jail right now for all the crimes that are committed in the country, 2.5 million.”

As a practical matter, he’s correct, but it does sound as if he’s saying that, because deportation is hard to enforce, we shouldn’t bother. And simply to state, as he does, that “My solution is close the border to illegal immigration,” is only part of the answer. Of course we should close the border — but there is still the little matter of the millions of people here illegally. I don’t like the idea of saying that deportation is too much work, so we just shouldn’t bother. That smells of amnesty, and all amnesty does is remind everyone South of the Border that it’s always worth making the effort to come here because you might just be able to stick around for good.

Giuliani should also stop trying to justify and support New York’s amnesty policy which bars City employees from turning illegal immigrants over to the INS — making them complicit in their illegality:

The former New York mayor has been defending his city’s so-called sanctuary policy, which stopped city workers from reporting suspected illegal immigrants. The policy is intended to make illegal immigrants feel that they can report crimes, send their children to school or seek medical treatment without fear of being reported. It did require police to turn in illegal immigrants suspected of committing crimes.

If illegal immigrants are troubled by crimes, having problems getting their kids to school, and worried about getting medical treatment, perhaps those problems will make them reconsider their decision to be here illegally in the first place. And maybe, lacking incentives to stay, they’ll go home — a self-policing decision that will relieve the Feds of trying to engage in the civil tactic of deporting millions of immigrants in the first place.

I like Rudy, and he’s right to define properly the nature of the deportation process, but there is no defense for each City to create itself as a little amnesty haven, making a mockery of federal laws and turning the US into a honey pot for illegal conduct.

UPDATE II: And because I’m so not an immigration or crim law attorney, I’m grateful to Hot Air for more nuanced information about the civil vs. criminal jurisdiction issues associated with illegal immigrants. Again, it still doesn’t change my bottom line that, whether criminal or civil jurisdiction is involved, the Feds won’t even take self-identified illegal immigrants as a gift.

Papa Giuliani

A woman in New Hampshire, who’s been billed in the MSM as an ordinary Mom but is, in fact, someone with a long record of liberal political activism, has thrust Rudy Giuliani’s parenting into the spotlight by stating “”If a person is running for president, I would assume their children would be behind them. If they’re not, you’ve got to wonder.” What an utterly fatuous thing to say, and what a waste of time for Giuliani to have to defend against this type of touchy feely garbage. Let me take a moment here to reprint an American Thinker article I wrote some months ago when I foresaw that the MSM would work this issue. Although I predicted the attack would come based on the Republican candidates’ divorce records, rather than their parenting skills, I think the principles are the same.

Marriage and Politics (first run on April 30, 2007 at American Thinker)

It was only a matter of time before Democratic politicians (as opposed to just late night talk show hosts) began commenting on the fact that the leading Republican candidates have an awful lot of ex-wives floating around. Although he’s carefully vague, one has to assume that, when Howard Dean said of Rudy Giuliani that “His personal life is a serious problem for him,” he was talking about Giuliani’s two ex-wives (not to mention his sordid divorce so that he could marry his current wife), his third wife’s ex-husbands, and his son’s disdain for the whole marriage-go-round.

Many of the other Republican candidates don’t look so good either when it comes to managing their private lives. John McCain is on wife number two and may have started his relationship with her while still married to wife number one (although since his first wife and children have forgiven him, surely we should too). Fred Thompson is likewise on wife number two, and many people will either be envious of or put off by the fact that his second wife is significantly younger than he is. Newt Gingrich also boasts a spotty marital history, marred by the popular (but untrue) belief that he served divorce papers on his first wife while she was hospitalized for cancer treatments. And as with Thompson, Gingrich’s current wife (his third) is a much younger woman. Of the leading names on the Republican side, only Mitt Romney has a clean marital record, having been married to the same woman for 38 years (a commitment that may well have been helped by the fact that, just as he is an extremely handsome man, so too is his wife a very beautiful woman).

In striking contrast to the Republicans, the Democratic frontrunners can boast that they have many fewer marriages between them. Hillary Clinton’s marriage, despite its manifest peculiarities, has lasted 32 years. One can wonder what kept her with a compulsive womanizer for so long, but the fact is that she took her marriage vows seriously, and she and Bill are still together. Barack Obama also has a good track record (aided perhaps by the fact that he’s younger than the other candidates, so hasn’t had as much time to get into trouble). He and his wife have been together 15 years. John Edwards, he of the beautiful hair, has been married to Elizabeth for 30 years. Al Gore and Tipper have been married 37 years.

Usually, when faced with these numbers (both years of marriage and number of spouses), the discussion wanders off into rants about hypocrisy. As in “It’s hypocritical for conservatives to divorce.” Or, “It’s hypocritical for a feminist such as Hillary to put up with a rampant womanizer.” As for the first argument, I don’t know that any of these much-married conservative candidates have ever advocated the end of divorce, and I’m sure all would agree, with themselves as terrible examples, that stable family relationships are good things. As for the second argument, Hillary’s private decisions about love, family and (one assumes) political expediency are hers alone, and should not be used against her in a hypocrisy argument. As the Victorians used to say, “Who knows the mysteries of the human heart?”

I actually would approach this whole marriage thing another way, and (unsurprisingly to those who know my biases) it’s a way that favors the Democrats as spouses, and the Republicans as leaders. I have no doubt but that the Democrats – by which I really mean the male Democratic candidates – are much nicer husbands than the caddish Republicans. I’m sure that, in dealing with their beloved wives, they’re sensitive and thoughtful. They like to talk about their feelings and, in turn, they’re willing to listen when their wives talk about their own feelings. When there’s a big decision to be made in the family, these men make sure that their wives are full partners in the decision-making. They’re probably just dreamy husbands.

The question, though, is whether those dreamy spousal qualities are what we want in a President. That is, do we really want a President who will sit for hours listening to people in the Oval Office, whether employees, Congress people, or foreign leaders, sharing their feelings, while periodically chiming in with his own recitation of emotional moments? Do we want someone who would never be rude enough to end a discussion and simply make a judgment call? Is it appropriate for the leader of the most powerful nation in the world always to take feelings into account when he makes a decision?

I get uncomfortable when I think of our Commander-in-Chief sensitively opining that “I’m worried that it will hurt Kim Jong-Il feelings if we increase sanctions against him for going ahead with his weapon’s program.” Equally awful would be our emotionally open leader reminding his Cabinet team that “You have to understand that Ahmadinejad is throwing out these nuclear threats against Israel because he feels humiliated by their technological sophistication, despite their nation’s small size. And he’s short. We should cut him a lot of slack because it’s understandable that his psyche responds negatively to these wounds.”

You can see why, when I think of an ideal personality for an American president, I don’t think of a New Age sensitive man. Instead, I think of someone who has strong political principles; who is willing to make tough calls (“the buck stops here“); and who does what he thinks is right, not what will make people like him.

These same leadership qualities, of course, tend to make for lousy modern-day husbands. They might have worked in a pre-modern era, when the husband was the head of his home, just as the President is the executive in charge of his country, but they work very badly in today’s world, where husbands and wives are expected to be partners.

No modern woman worth her salt is going to be happy in a relationship with someone who is pretty darn sure he knows what’s right; who is more interested in the big picture (his ideas about family economics, personal job security, etc.) than in what makes her happy; and who doesn’t care if his decisions ultimately rub her, and everyone in the neighborhood or family, the wrong way, as long as he thinks they’re the right decisions. In other words, partnership and leadership are not the same things, and they call for very different qualities. Someone who succeeds in the first arena may be precisely what we don’t need in the second one.

So feel free to consider the candidates’ personal lives when you’re contemplating casting your vote for one or another, whether in the primaries or in the Presidential election itself. Just remember that, merely because one candidate is a devoted husband may not make him a powerful leader (and Americans wisely like strong leaders during times of crisis), while the fact that another candidate is a difficult spouse, although not indicative of his ability to partner sensitively (which is a luxury for peace time), may nevertheless prove the more important fact that he can lead well during a crisis.

(If you think this post deserves prominence on Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Presidential Wire, please click **here**.)

UPDATE: It occurred to me that Romney’s enduring marriage may not be out of synch with the other Republicans when it comes to leadership abilities. My understanding is that, in a traditional Mormon marriage, the man is very much the old fashioned pater familias. If that is indeed the expectation with which the Romneys went into their marriage, and that is the dominant theme for their marriage, there needn’t be much contrast between Romney’s style and home and his style in politics — nor would there be friction in the marriage about the absence of such contrast.

What the Surge is really about (with a little Rudy thrown in for good measure)

Clifford May has an excellent article about the Surge. It begins with the doomsday scenarios the anti-War people in politics and the press spelled out before the Surge happened, and then points that the more honest amongst them are admitting that the Surge is working. What makes May’s article very good is that it explains why the Surge is working. It’s not just more bodies being thrown at a failed military tactic. Instead, under General Petraeus’ skilled leadership, it’s an entirely new approach, bolstered by more military personnel:

Because of scant media interest, most Americans don’t even realize that the so-called surge is a new and different strategy, implemented by General Petraeus because the approach of his predecessors — not least former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield — failed.

Rumsfeld wanted a “light footprint” in Iraq, not an intrusive military occupation. He thought more troops would mean more targets for our enemies. He pushed hard for Iraqis to provide their own security as quickly as possible.

Under the Rumsfeld strategy, most American forces spent most of their time in Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). Cut off from the local population, they received little intelligence. And since they were providing security for themselves but not for Iraqis, Iraqis turned to sectarian militias which grew larger, stronger, and more violent.

Meanwhile, al Qaeda in Iraq deployed suicide-bombers to mass-murder civilians as a way to stoke sectarian violence. Al Qaeda calculated — not unreasonably — that Americans would withdraw rather than remain in the crossfire of a civil war.

General Petraeus, the Army’s top counterinsurgency expert, decided it was time for a different approach. He moved troops out of the FOBs and put them into Iraqi cities and villages where they have been providing security for Iraqis — who have shown their appreciation by providing intelligence that spy satellites can’t retrieve.

He is targeting al Qaeda, as well as the Shia militias trained, funded and equipped by Tehran — their cells, strongholds, and bomb factories. And with added troop strength, he has been able to hold the neighborhoods he has cleared.

It also is true that most traditional Iraqi leaders have been repelled by al Qaeda’s brutality and extremism. Americans, by contrast, have shown the local sheiks respect, while training and partnering with Iraqis — making it clear they would like nothing better than to see Iraqis take charge of their own security as soon as they are ready.

On top of all that, U.S. soldiers have been doubling as diplomats: helping to reconcile Sunni and Shia tribal groups, and even bringing insurgents — those not affiliated with al Qaeda or Tehran — into line with the Iraqi government.

Petraeus’ leadership genius, which the media refuses to acknowledge, is that he’s not insane. And by insane I mean the definition attributed to Einstein that views insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Petraeus is doing something new, and he’s getting new results — and good ones too.

It helps, of course, that General Petraeus is a counterinsurgency expert. As an aside, that’s why I’m pleased about Bibi Netanyahu’s resurgent political career. Whether people like him or hate him, he’s long been understood to be Israel’s top counter terrorist thinker.

Rudy Giuliani is also showing signs of that same clear eyed realism in dealing with terrorists, a realism untainted by the multiculturists’ bizarre and dangerous mix of romanticism, condescension and self-loathing when it comes to viewing Islamists. Here’s Caroline Glick, that astute observer of Islamist terrorism, talking about Giuliani’s latest foreign policy pronouncement:

The strongest voices calling for the US to apply the same policies toward the Palestinians that it applies to terror forces throughout the world are heard in President George W. Bush’s own Republican Party. Former New York mayor and Republican presidential frontrunner Rudolph Giuliani has been the strongest Republican voice calling for change.

In an article published this week in Foreign Affairs, Giuliani supported Bush’s view that the aim of the US war is to destroy both the global terrorist movement and its radical Islamic-fascist ideology. But Giuliani expressed deep misgivings regarding Bush’s actual policies, which he believes have been inconsistent and insufficiently strong.

Giuliani makes his call for consistency most clearly in his discussion of the Palestinians and Israel. In his words: “Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians – negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism.”

He added, “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.”

By so couching his argument, Giuliani made clear that, from his perspective, there is no difference between the jihad against Israel and the jihad throughout the world. As a result, in his view, the US should align its policy toward the Palestinians with its policy against jihad everywhere in the world.

Glick’s praise for Giuliani, who is the Republican candidate who has been most recent and most explicit in his foreign policy stance should not be understood to cut out the other Republican candidates. As far as Glick is concerned, Romney and Thompson get it too:

While Giuliani has been the most candid in his critique of Bush’s policy toward the Palestinians, his views are not out of sync with the general tenor of the Republican presidential debate. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former senator Fred Thompson have similarly made clear that they believe the US must be more forthright and consistent in fighting the war.

Overall, as the Islamists continue to overreach themselves, getting by force what they could simply have had handed to them in time through demographic growth and Western cultural suicide, it seems as if leaders are emerging who understand the issues and who have reasonable tactics and strategies for addressing a problem long present and finally recognized.

(If you think this post is worthy of greater airplay on Patrick Ruffini’s 2008 Wire, please click here.) 

Thinking ahead to 2008

Cliff Thier is looking ahead to the possibility that the 2008 election will see Hillary and Rudy competing against each other in the White House.  With that in mind, he’s come up with a great idea for a campaign commercial.

Aside from liking the idea, I think it’s incredibly important to start thinking about political commercials as soon as possible.  Republicans and others have some great old media moments that live on in Democratic memory as moments of infamy:  Morning in America, Willie Horton, Harry and Louise, etc. I think, however, that the Democrats have a stronger grasp of the new media, coming up with funny, catchy internet/YouTube style political ads that easily go viral.  The Republicans seem mired in the “sit in a golden glow with family” ad, which is very static.  I don’t believe we should jettison these ads, because they are important to appeal to a demographic that doesn’t belong to the “short attention span theater” generation, but Republicans need to move beyond that and make hard hitting, fast paced, visceral, viral ads.

Rudy’s brave stand on Israel (and other clear thinking)

Islamists have, for a long time, been singing a Siren song to Europe: “If you stop support for Israel, we’ll leave you alone and make nice with everyone.” (Tra la la!) A lot of people have actually be seduced into believing that, if they abandon Israel to the Muslim countries surrounding her (a people who have made no secret about their desire to slaughter all of Israel’s inhabitants), every grievance in the Muslim world will magically be resolved, oil will flow cheaply, and peace and light will descend on the world. This belief is so deeply entrenched that people are willing to believe it despite the fact that Islamists are increasingly abandoning the pretense that the takeover of Israel is the sum total of their desires, and are demanding worldwide a Caliphate and spilling blood in places that are themselves hostile to Israel.

Sadly, as Americans find themselves in the Islamists’ sights, the Muslim induced fantasy of “just let us kill a few million Jews and then we’ll leave you alone” is finding more traction at home too, at places ranging from the extremist (Kos) to what used to be mainstream (Harvard).

In light of this canard’s strength, I can’t give enough credit to Rudy Giuliani for looking at the core issue, which is “Islamists versus the West,” rather than the smoke screen, which is “Israel, the greedy trouble maker.” In a much touted article in Foreign Affairs, Rudy has this to say:

The first step toward a realistic peace is to be realistic about our enemies. They follow a violent ideology: radical Islamic fascism, which uses the mask of religion to further totalitarian goals and aims to destroy the existing international system. These enemies wear no uniform. They have no traditional military assets. They rule no states but can hide and operate in virtually any of them and are supported by some.

Above all, we must understand that our enemies are emboldened by signs of weakness. Radical Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, the Khobar Towers facility in Saudi Arabia in 1996, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole in 2000. In some instances, we responded inadequately. In others, we failed to respond at all. Our retreat from Lebanon in 1983 and from Somalia in 1993 convinced them that our will was weak.

***

America has a clear interest in helping to establish good governance throughout the world. Democracy is a noble ideal, and promoting it abroad is the right long-term goal of U.S. policy. But democracy cannot be achieved rapidly or sustained unless it is built on sound legal, institutional, and cultural foundations. It can only work if people have a reasonable degree of safety and security. Elections are necessary but not sufficient to establish genuine democracy. Aspiring dictators sometimes win elections, and elected leaders sometimes govern badly and threaten their neighbors. History demonstrates that democracy usually follows good governance, not the reverse. U.S. assistance can do much to set nations on the road to democracy, but we must be realistic about how much we can accomplish alone and how long it will take to achieve lasting progress.

The election of Hamas in the Palestinian-controlled territories is a case in point. The problem there is not the lack of statehood but corrupt and unaccountable governance. The Palestinian people need decent governance first, as a prerequisite for statehood. Too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians — negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again. It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism. Palestinian statehood will have to be earned through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel. America’s commitment to Israel’s security is a permanent feature of our foreign policy.

Because I think Israel is the canary in the coal mine, and because I think the Islamists have skillfully used Israel’s existence to flimflam the West about their real agenda, I’ve made the top focus of my post Rudy’s willingness to say that conceding all to the Palestinians, which will merely create another terrorist state, is not the answer. My narrow focus shouldn’t give you the impression that Rudy has comments only about the Palestinian question. Instead, he’s written a very far reaching article that has an almost Rooseveltian quality to it: Teddy, not FDR. That is, he would have us speak softly and carry a big stick. He is also unusually willing to identify real friends and false:

Finally, we need to look realistically at America’s relationship with the United Nations. The organization can be useful for some humanitarian and peacekeeping functions, but we should not expect much more of it. The UN has proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years. Worse, it has failed to combat terrorism and human rights abuses. It has not lived up to the great hopes that inspired its creation. Too often, it has been weak, indecisive, and outright corrupt. The UN’s charter and the speeches of its members’ leaders have meant little because its members’ deeds have frequently fallen short. International law and institutions exist to serve peoples and nations, but many leaders act as if the reverse were true — that is, as if institutions, not the ends to be achieved, were the important thing.

Despite the UN’s flaws, however, the great objectives of humanity would become even more difficult to achieve without mechanisms for international discussion. History has shown that such institutions work best when the United States leads them. Yet we cannot take for granted that they will work forever and must be prepared to look to other tools.

And yes, I know that the last paragraph sounds weasley, but he’s right. At all times in history, world powers have been forced to create mechanisms for communication and, right now, the UN is it. At least Rudy doesn’t think the UN is a good thing, with useful objectives. He recognizes it for the functional tool it could be.

Rudy also attacks the “realist” school for foreign policy, rightly pointing out that it basically announces our weaknesses to the world (and we do have them), and then says “the Hell with it; take advantage of those weaknesses.”

Idealism should define our ultimate goals; realism must help us recognize the road we must travel to achieve them. The world is a dangerous place. We cannot afford to indulge any illusions about the enemies we face. The Terrorists’ War on Us was encouraged by unrealistic and inconsistent actions taken in response to terrorist attacks in the past. A realistic peace can only be achieved through strength.

A realistic peace is not a peace to be achieved by embracing the “realist” school of foreign policy thought. That doctrine defines America’s interests too narrowly and avoids attempts to reform the international system according to our values. To rely solely on this type of realism would be to cede the advantage to our enemies in the complex war of ideas and ideals. It would also place too great a hope in the potential for diplomatic accommodation with hostile states. And it would exaggerate America’s weaknesses and downplay America’s strengths. Our economy is the strongest in the developed world. Our political system is far more stable than those of the world’s rising economic giants. And the United States is the world’s premier magnet for global talent and capital.

As Rudy notes, realism is useful in assessing any given situation, but that does not mean that it should be used to confine our nation in a box, usually a box defined by nations that do not share our interests.

Anyway, I think Rudy (and his advisors, of course) have come up with a very impressive piece of thinking and I urge you to read the whole thing and draw your own conclusions about Rudy’s formally announced approach to foreign policy. While you may not agree with him on all points, we could certainly do a lot worse. And as I keep saying, he has a singular advantage: alone amongst the Republican contenders, I think he has the best chance of beating the feminist identity politics that might otherwise see Hillary return to the White House.

UPDATE: Jonathan Schanzer shows us what the newest Islamic state (that would be Hamasitan) looks like and it’s hideously ugly, anti-Democratic, violent, and repressive.

(If you think this was a good post, please click here, which will increase its standing on Patrick Ruffini’s wire.)

Betting on the races

The astute and prescient Richard Baehr is taking a look down the road at the shape of the 2008 election — an election he sees between Clinton and Giuliani:

The 2008 Presidential contest is shaping up to be similar to the 2000 and 2004 races. Those two races had very similar red – blue maps. In 2000, Bush won 30 states (including all the states in the South), and in 2004 Bush won 31 states. He picked up Iowa and New Mexico in 2004, in each case winning by less than 10,000 votes, after losing both states by similar narrow margins in 2000, and Bush lost New Hampshire in 2004, after narrowly winning the state in 2000. This was similar to the pattern in the 1992 and 1996 races, when but 5 states changed from one election to the next (Clinton gaining Florida and Arizona in 1996, and losing Colorado, Montana and Georgia that year). Clinton won 32 states in 1992 and 31 in 1996. The big shift was from 1996 to 2000, when the GOP picked up 11 states it had lost in 1996: Ohio, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Nevada and Arizona.

Looking at the map for 2008, Giuliani would bring strength to the GOP in the northeast (where it is now weakest), and maybe the Midwest region among suburban voters, and would likely run weaker than Bush did in the South (where the Party has been the strongest) and Southwest. In 2004, Bush won Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Ohio by less than 3%, and Florida and Colorado by 5%. All six states will be very competitive in 2008. John Kerry won New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less than 3%, and Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon by 3 to 4%. All six states are likely to be competitive, with the possible exception of New Hampshire, which is trending Democratic. Giuliani probably puts New Jersey and its 15 Electoral votes in play. On the other side, Virginia (13) and Arkansas (6) are the most winnable Southern states for the Democrats (other than Florida), and Missouri will likely be a close race as well (Bush won by 7% in 2004).

Baehr also takes on the question of possible VPs.  In a race that’s inevitably going to be close, selecting the right VP may be the difference between victory and defeat.

Always look on the bright side of life

As you know, I don’t have much bad to say about the leading Republican candidates, all of whom I think are qualified to take the White House (including my least favorite of the bunch, John McCain).  They’re certainly more qualified than their closest, and sometimes very scary, competitors.

With that in mind, a couple of months ago I wrote a very commented upon post examining whether Romney’s Mormonism should get in the way of the White House. With few exceptions, even those least enthusiastic about his Mormonism were willing to concede that Mitt would be a better alternative than the Democratic candidate, whoever that candidate was.

Drawing back from Mitt specifically, and looking at the Republican field as a whole, I wrote an article for American Thinker in which I argued that each of the leading Republican candidates (McCain included), stands head and shoulders above the Democratic leaders, if one is looking at maturity and a willingness to take on responsibility (and to do so successfully):

If you look at the leading Republican candidates, you’ll see that all of them have held positions of real responsibility at one time or another in their lives. Rudy Giuliani was a federal prosecutor who took on the truly dangerous job of bringing down some of New York’s most powerful crime families; although a Republican he was one of the most successful mayors in Democratic New York’s history (and New York has a larger population than Howard Dean’s Vermont); and he handled the 9/11 crisis with almost unparalleled grace and strength.

Mitt Romney has been successful at everything he’s touched: he was a top Harvard Business School graduate; he went on to be an unusually successful investment banker, who managed to prevent Bain & Company from going into economic freefall; continuing his knack for business turnarounds, he also kept the beleaguered Salt Lake City Olympics from turning into an economic and ethical disaster; and he was a singularly successful conservative governor in that bluest of blue states, Massachusetts.

The coy Fred Thompson, whom the media likes to identify as a TV actor, was in fact a major player in Watergate, when he was co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee that was investigating the scandal. He was also a Senator, which I hold against him, but more about that later.

John McCain, while carrying around that same Senatorial taint, also proved himself early in life. In keeping with his family’s Naval tradition, he was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and became a Navy flier. Although he’s remembered most for the five and a half brutal years he spent as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, many people ignore the fact that he flew twenty-three missions in Vietnam before he was finally shot down and captured.

In other words, all four of these men, the men I believe are going to hold front runner status throughout the Republican primaries, have at all times in their lives embraced responsibility in one form or another. These men are not behind the scenes players. They are, and always have been, grown-ups who are willing to step up to the plate and act. Truman-esque, each could have on his desk a plaque stating, “The buck stops here.”

I don’t think one can say the same for leading Democratic contenders. The most testosterone rich contender, Hillary Clinton, positioned herself firmly behind her man for most of her career and sniped from there. When she tried to carry out a project on her own, as she did with 1994′s Hillarycare, the result was a debacle. She swiftly slunk back into the shadows. Only after her husband’s career peaked, did she decide to take an active role in politics, and that role she selected was that of Senator.

As you may recall, when I spoke of McCain and Thompson, I held against them their Senatorial careers. There’s nothing wrong with being a Senator – they’re very useful — but it’s not a role of primary responsibility. It’s a pack role. Whether you’re for or against something, you move with the pack. Also, as Kerry memorably discovered with his voting for a bill before he voted against it, the nature of Legislative packages means that it’s impossible for the voters, and often for the Senators themselves, to have any notion of what they stand for. Being a Senator means never having to take responsibility. Indeed, I think the American people have always intuitively grasped this point, which is why only two Senators have gone directly from the Senate to the White House.

Barack Obama, of course, is a Senator squared. This is a man who has never taken on solo responsibility (although I’ll agree that he had a charmingly eclectic childhood). After a short career as a junior associate at a law firm (a position singularly devoid of primary responsibility), he went on to become a lecturer (an important job, but not a particularly brave or patriarchal one), then an Illinois State Senator and for the past two and half years, he’s been a United States Senator. This is a Peter Pan career, one in which Obama has managed to garner a lot of face time without ever actually assuming responsibility for anything or anybody.

John Edwards is another perpetual Peter Pan, channeling babies’ voices, fomenting junk science, paying a lot of attention to personal grooming, and assiduously avoiding a situation in which he has primary responsibility for anything meaningful. In this regard, his Senatorial career also stands as an indictment of his perpetual immaturity. The same immaturity – an immaturity that is the polar opposite of responsible manliness — can be seen in the staggering divide between Edward’s stated principles (he’s the defender of the dispossessed in the “two Americas”) and his actual lifestyle (which is one few can imagine and even fewer can experience). I see that same type of reality disconnect on a daily basis when my elementary school age son and his friends gaze down the lengths of their skinny little boy bodies and are firmly convinced that they could be mistaken for G.I. Joe.

In other words, I don’t believe the Republican candidates are perfect — but unlike prospective voters, I don’t expect them to be. I’m a big believer in the saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good. If we keep looking for the perfect Republican candidate, one who appeals to every single demographic within the conservative political spectrum, we’ll end up with no one at all, and then we can sit back and watch as the Democrats waltz their way to victory.

I didn’t realize when I took this optimistic view of the available Republican candidates that I’m in good company historically. Quin Hillyer writes about the fact that, in 1960, Barry Goldwater also scolded Conservatives to “stop their whining.” History shows that the Republicans were unable to take this advice, with the result that the Democrats won (with the Presidency going to a man whose politics, ironically, would probably make him a Republican today). I’m not trying to re-argue the 1960 election, but I am going to urge you to take to heart Hillyer’s reminder about Goldwater as well as the praise Hillyer heaps on the candidates now before us:

At the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Barry Goldwater famously told conservatives to “grow up.” It’s time we hear that message again.

As in 1960, the conservative movement seems grumbling, disaffected, even downright angry — and, most importantly, it sometimes seems more interested in complaining and moaning than in uniting, constructively, to achieve political success.

What’s worse is that we seem to be fighting among ourselves. Every chance we get, we take shots at other conservatives. Nobody, it seems, is good enough. We moan that nobody is another Reagan. Nobody is another Churchill. Nobody is another Washington.

To which we ought to say, so what? There’s only one Second Coming, and He isn’t running for anything.

It’s time we look at the good things we’ve got — and the good people, and the good times. Take stock of those goods, and celebrate them, and consolidate them in an attractive way, and build, build, build upon them.

Before going further with this argument, let’s try a little exercise. Let’s consider the major Republican presidential candidates, and recognize just how solid they are by saying something good about each of them:

Fred Thompson
has built a career as a reformer with a solidly mainstream-conservative record. He did the legal work that helped imprison Ray Blanton, a corrupt, Democratic governor of Tennessee. And Thompson is a very good communicator.

Rudy Giuliani
was quite arguably the best big-city mayor in the history of mankind. And his record in New York was conservative on just about every count.

Mitt Romney is a superb businessman; he rescued the Winter Olympics in Utah; and he figured out how to get elected statewide as a Republican in Massachusetts and, once there, governed more conservatively than he campaigned.

John McCain
is an American hero. And he has the political courage to stick to his guns in foul weather. He’s terrific in support of the military, and against wasteful spending.

Not to belabor the point, but the same could be said for some of the lesser-known GOP presidential contenders. For instance, Duncan Hunter has spent 25 years as a wise, stalwart and effective supporter of our military, and he is a kind and palpably decent human being who sticks with friends through thick and thin.

And Tommy Thompson, in his three-plus terms as Wisconsin’s chief executive, easily proved he ranks with Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, Florida’s Jeb Bush, and Alabama’s Bob Riley as the best governors of the past half-century.

And so on.

Read the rest here.  Looking over Hillyer’s words, maybe I like them because they perfectly echo what I wrote a month ago:  we’ve got good guys from whom to choose.  We’d do well to focus on their respective strengths, rather than to obsess about their weaknesses — especially because those obsessions leak into the larger public mind and will affect the paradigms in place when the elections roll around.

There is no one out there who is perfect.  I’ll repeat what I said before, however, that, in politics as in all things, the perfect is the enemy of the good.  And if you’re the persnickety kind who thinks the good just isn’t good enough, please don’t forget that, when it comes to two party elections, the opposite of the good is likely to be the bad and the very bad.