Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bob Geldof -- musician/activist who co-founded Band Aid and Live Aid and was a 2006 and 2008 Nobel Peace Prize nominee for humanitarian efforts -- recently spent time with President Bush on his trip to Africa, and was given full access to the president. He just published in Time Magazine his interview-editorial of his time with the Pres

This is an awesome interview-editorial of the president, written by Bob Geldof, and Geldof comes off much like his friend Bono -- a liberal, but a classic liberal. Respectful. Polite. Reasonable. True to his leftist principles without insulting those he disagrees with. He's not angry. Not enraged like so many of the left wing have become.

Geldof and Bush: Diary From the Road

By Bob Geldof

I gave the president my book. He raised an eyebrow. "Who wrote this for ya, Geldof?" he said without looking up from the cover. Very dry. "Who will you get to read it for you, Mr. President?" I replied. No response.

The Most Powerful Man in the World studied the front cover. Geldof in Africa — " 'The international best seller.' You write that bit yourself?"

"That's right. It's called marketing. Something you obviously have no clue about or else I wouldn't have to be here telling people your Africa story."

It is some story. And I have always wondered why it was never told properly to the American people, who were paying for it. It was, for example, Bush who initiated the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with cross-party support led by Senators John Kerry and Bill Frist. In 2003, only 50,000 Africans were on HIV antiretroviral drugs — and they had to pay for their own medicine. Today, 1.3 million are receiving medicines free of charge. The U.S. also contributes one-third of the money for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria — which treats another 1.5 million. It contributes 50% of all food aid (though some critics find the mechanism of contribution controversial). On a seven-day trip through Africa, Bush announced a fantastic new $350 million fund for other neglected tropical diseases that can be easily eradicated; a program to distribute 5.2 million mosquito nets to Tanzanian kids; and contracts worth around $1.2 billion in Tanzania and Ghana from the Millennium Challenge Account, another initiative of the Bush Administration.

So why doesn't America know about this? "I tried to tell them. But the press weren't much interested," says Bush. It's half true. There are always a couple of lines in the State of the Union, but not enough so that anyone noticed, and the press really isn't interested. For them, like America itself, Africa is a continent of which little is known save the odd horror.

We sat in the large, wood-paneled conference room of Air Force One as she cruised the skies of the immense African continent below us. Gathered around the great oval table, I wondered how changed was the man who said in 2000 that Africa "doesn't fit into the national strategic interests, as far as I can see them."

"Hold on a minute. I said that in response to a military question. Condi! Canya get in here," the President shouts out the open door, leaning back in his chair. The Secretary of State, looking glamorous and fresh despite having been diverted to Kenya to articulate the U.S.'s concern over matters there before jetting back to Rwanda to join her boss, sits down. "Hi, Bob." "Hi, Condi." It's like being inside a living TV screen.

Bush asks whether she remembers the context of the 2000 question. She confirms it was regarding the U.S.'s military strategies inside Africa, but then 2000 was so long ago. Another universe. I ask him if it is the same today. "Yes, sir," he says. "Well, if America has no military interest in Africa, then what is Africom for?" I ask.

People in Africa are worried about this new, seemingly military command. I thought it was an inappropriate and knee-jerk U.S. militaristic response to clumsy Chinese mercantilism that could only end in tears for everyone concerned. (And so did many Africans, if the local press was anything to go by.)

"That's ridiculous," says Bush. "We're still working on it. We're trying to build a humanitarian mission that would train up soldiers for peace and security so that African nations are more capable of dealing with Africa's conflicts. You agree with that dontcha?" Indeed I do. The British intervention in Sierra Leone stopped and prevented a catastrophe, as did U.S. action in Liberia. Later, in public, Bush says, "I want to dispel the notion that all of a sudden America is bringing all kinds of military to Africa. It's simply not true ... That's baloney, or as we say in Texas — that's bull!" Trouble is, it sounds to me a lot like what the U.S. did in the early Vietnam years with the advisers who became something else. Mission creep, I think it's called.

"No, that won't happen," Bush insists. "We're still working on what exactly it'll be, but it will be a humanitarian mission, training in peace and security, conflict resolution ... It's a new concept and we want to get it right." He muses for a while on the U.S. and China, and their policies on Africa — Africans are increasingly resentful that the Chinese bring their own labor force and supplies with them. Then, in what I took to be a reference to the supposed Chinese influence over the cynical Khartoum regime, Bush adds, "One thing I will say: Human suffering should preempt commercial interest."

It's a wonderful sentence, and it comes in the wake of a visit to Rwanda's Genocide Memorial Center. The museum is built on the site of a still-being-filled open grave.
There are 250,000 individuals in that hole, tumbled together in an undifferentiated tangle of humanity. The President and First Lady were visibly shocked by the museum. "Evil does exist," Bush says in reaction to the 1994 massacres. "And in such a brutal form." He is not speechifying; he is horror-struck by the reality of ethnic madness. "Babies had their skulls smashed," he says, his mind violently regurgitating an image he has just witnessed. The sentence peters out, emptied of words to describe the ultimately incomprehensible.

Rwanda brings him back again to Darfur. In an interview with African journalists, Bush explained the difficulties there now that the "rebels" had broken up into ever-smaller factions, no longer representing their own clans but their own warlord interests. What should we do in this very 21st century asymmetric situation? Impose a wall of peacekeepers first, stop the massacre and rape, and begin negotiating? "The U.N. is so slow, but we must act," Bush says.

Action may very well be his wish, but because of the U.S.'s intervention elsewhere and his own preemptive philosophy, it is now unacceptable for the U.S. to engage unilaterally. By his own deeds, he has rendered U.S. action in Darfur impossible. As for the rest of the world, for all their oft-spoken pieties, they seem to be able to agree on precisely nothing. Meanwhile, the rape and killing continue, Khartoum plays its game of murder and we won't even pay for the helicopters that the U.N. forces need to protect themselves. Pathetic.

The Presidential Gig

Earlier, in his private lounge, which is just behind the bedroom with the twin beds with blue blankets, complete with Presidential Seal, we'd talked of personal stuff.
I'd been asking about the laundry arrangements. How do they get the presidential shirts, socks, undies, etc., done on this thing? I'm used to rock-'n'-roll tours where there's a washing machine and dryers set up backstage, but this is gigging on a whole other level. At least 20 military transporters haul presidential necessities around the planet. At our hotel in Ghana, the porter carrying my bag said they had thrown out all the other guests because "the President of the World was coming."

"Laundry, huh?" the President mused. "Y'know, I've never asked that. I usually just wear the same thing all day, but if I need to change, there's always a room I can go to. Laundry, huh? Is this the interview, Geldof? It's certainly a different technique!" He's showing me around because I've asked if I can get Air Force One stuff to bring home to the kids. "Hey guys, get Geldof the links and pins and stuff.

And the M&M's. Didja know I got my own presidential M&M's?" Wow. "Yeah, cool, right? They'll love 'em." They did. They're in a presidential box with his autograph on them. The Queen doesn't have that. Or the Pope. And I muse later from Car 25 in the 33-car motorcade that there are probably only three people in the world who can bring crowds like this out onto the street — the Queen, the Pope and the President of the United States, and only one's a politician. "Jed," the President says to the man doing the ironing between the twin beds. "How do we do the laundry on this thing?" "We use hotels, sir." Ah.

Nobody else gets beds. The exhausted secret-service guys, the secretaries of state, the chief of staff, the assistants and advisers and the press pool attempt a fitful sleep in the gray-and-beige reclining seats. Some give up the unequal struggle and order dinner. Not fantastic food, with decentish wine served by nicely uniformed, friendly waiters.

Up front we're knocking back Cokes. The First Lady, elegant and composed, is reading with her legs tucked under her on the L-shaped sofa. The President throws himself into a chair in front of me and sprawls comfortably, Texas-style. He asks about growing up in Dublin. "Was it poor then?" Very. "Huh. What'd your dad do? Your mom?" We went through it. "How'd you and Bono meet up? You knew each other back then? What's his real name?"

I don't know how, but eventually we arrive at the great unspoken. "See, I believe we're in an ideological struggle with extremism," says the President. "These people prey on the hopeless. Hopelessness breeds terrorism. That's why this trip is a mission undertaken with the deepest sense of humanity, because those other folks will just use vulnerable people for evil. Like in Iraq."

I don't want to go there. I have my views and they're at odds with his, and I don't want to spoil the interview or be rude in the face of his hospitality. "Ah, look Mr. President. I don't want to do this really. We'll get distracted and I'm here to do Africa with you." "OK, but we got rid of tyranny." It sounded like the television Bush. It sounded too justificatory, and he doesn't ever have to justify his Africa policy. This is the person who has quadrupled aid to the poorest people on the planet. I was more comfortable with that. But his expression asked for agreement and sympathy, and I couldn't provide either.

"Mr. President, please. There are things you've done I could never possibly agree with and there are things I've done in my life that you would disapprove of, too. And that would make your hospitality awkward. The cost has been too much. History will play itself out." "I think history will prove me right," he shoots back. "Who knows," I say.

It wasn't awkward. It wasn't uncomfortable. He is convinced, like Tony Blair, that he made the right decision. "I'm comfortable with that decision," he says. But he can't be. The laws of unintended consequences would determine that. At one point I suggest that he will never be given credit for good policies, like those here in Africa, because many people view him "as a walking crime against humanity." He looks very hurt by that. And I'm sorry I said it, because he's a very likable fellow.

"C'mon, let's move next door and let Laura alone." "I spoke to Blair about you before I came on the plane." "Tony Blair? What'd he say?" "He said you don't see color. To remember that you employed the first black secretaries of state, that your worldview had changed since you began, and that Condi was a big influence with regard to Africa." "So you were a big influence on me," he says to Condi. "I don't think so ..." "Nah, I've always been like this." "But now you sound like a hippy, for God's sake," I say. He laughs.

An Emotional Man

At a lunch for Peace Corps volunteers in Ghana, the President introduces the First Lady and Condi. Then he introduces me. It turns into a very funny Geldof roast. Finally, he says, "Anyway, he doesn't look it, but he's all right. And I'm not saying that to blow smoke up his rear just because he's doing some piece on me."

Thanks for the compliment, Mr. President. He makes the volunteers relaxed and easy with him. They introduce themselves. One woman tells how six months previously, she was bitten by a cobra and rushed to hospital. As she was passing out, she tells the President, "that little voice whispered to me, 'You'll be all right,' and I was." She pauses, and says meaningfully to him: "You know that little voice, I think?" "Not really," Bush says drily. "I've never been bitten by a cobra." As they tell their stories he refers to them as being among the best of America. "I like courage and compassion. We are a courageous and compassionate people." A middle-aged couple say they gave up their careers and home to come to Africa. "It's important to take risks for the things you believe in," says Bush. Then disarmingly, he says to the man, who lives in a village, "What's social life like here?" "What's social life anywhere at 59?" the man asks his President, who is 61. "Tell me about it," says Bush. "Bed at 6:30!"

I have always heard that Bush mangles language and I've laughed at the satires of his diction. He shrugs them off, but I think he's sensitive about it. He has some verbal tics, but in public and with me he speaks fluently and in wonderful aphorisms, like:

"Stop coming to Africa feeling guilty. Come with love and feeling confident for its future."

"When we see hunger we feed them. Not to spread our influence, but because they're hungry."

"U.S. solutions should not be imposed on African leaders."

"Africa has changed since I've become President. Not because of me, but because of African leaders."

Some of these thoughts, were they applied to Iraq, would have profound implications on the man's understanding of how the world functions. ("U.S. solutions should not be imposed on African leaders!")

Of course, it would be ridiculous to be the President of the U.S. and not change as a person or evolve in your understanding of the world. I suggest that his commitment to Africa has been revolutionary in its interest curve. "That's not true," he says. "In my second debate with Al Gore, I came out for debt cancellation and AIDS relief. I called AIDS a genocide. I felt and still do that it was unacceptable to stand by and let a generation be eradicated."

You forget that Bush has an M.B.A. He thinks like a businessman in terms of the bottom line. Results. Profit and loss. There is an empiricism to a lot of his furthest-reaching policies on Africa. Correctly, he's big on trade. "A 1% increase in trade from Africa," he says, "will mean more money than all the aid put together annually." He's proud that he twice reauthorized the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a modestly revolutionary Clinton Administration initiative that enabled previously heavily taxed exports to enter the U.S. tax-free. Even though oil still accounts for the vast amount of African exports to the U.S., the beneficial impact of AGOA on such places as the tiny country of Lesotho, and its growing textile industry, has been startling.

AGOA represents precisely the sort of coherent thinking that will change things for Africa. But we talk of how the little that Africa does export to other parts of the world is still greater than the amount that it trades within the continent. I say that's because there are more landlocked countries in Africa than anywhere else in the world. "So they can't get their stuff to market?" he asks quickly. "Exactly," I say. "You have to pay so many tariffs at each border that by the time you get to the coast, you're overpriced." "You gotta dismantle borders, then." He's curious and quick.

He is also, I feel, an emotional man. But sometimes he's a sentimentalist, and that's different. He is in love with America. Not the idea of America, but rather an inchoate notion of a space — a glorious metaphysical entity. But it is clear that since its mendacious beginnings, this war has thrown up a series of abuses that disgrace the U.S.'s central proposition. In the need to find morally neutralizing euphemisms to describe torture and abuse, the language itself became tortured and abused. Rendition, waterboarding, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib — all are codes for what America is not. America has mortally compromised its own essential values of civil liberty while imposing its own idea of freedom on others who may not want it. The Bush regime has been divisive — but not in Africa. I read it has been incompetent — but not in Africa. It has created bitterness — but not here in Africa. Here, his administration has saved millions of lives.

"Guys like me always like to cut ribbons," Bush says mockingly at a ceremonial opening. But it's a dangerous modesty. Congress must still agree to fund the massive spending he's laid out for Africa, and most of it will come after he leaves the White House. It is vital that the new President continues with this policy. "Whoever is President," Bush says, "will understand Africa is in our nation's interest. They are wonderful people."

On Air Force One, Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Bobby Pittman, the National Security Council adviser for Africa, and I stayed awake as the pitch night engulfed us, only punctuated by the giant orange gas flares on the Gulf of Guinea. We ate our popcorn, drank our Cokes and watched Batman Begins as the airspace was cleared for miles around us. America was flying through the warm African night and I was hitching a ride on her.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A proposed "Patriot Business act," sponsored by Barack Obama, would have the US imitate double-digit unemployment rates that most of Europe has suffered for decades. The WSJ explains:

Mr. Obama's proposal would designate certain companies as "patriot employers" and favor them over other, presumably not so patriotic, businesses.

The legislation takes four pages to define "patriotic" companies as those that: "pay at least 60 percent of each employee's health care premiums"; have a position of "neutrality in employee [union] organizing drives"; "maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in the United States relative to the number of full-time workers outside of the United States"; pay a salary to each employee "not less than an amount equal to the federal poverty level"; and provide a pension plan.

In other words, a patriotic employer is one which fulfills the fondest Big Labor agenda, regardless of the competitive implications. The proposal ignores the marketplace reality that businesses hire a work force they can afford to pay and still make money. Coercing companies into raising wages and benefits above market rates may only lead to fewer workers getting hired in the first place.

This goes along with my post on the demonization of outsourcing -- corporate outsourcing is a direct result of our US government legislating such high tax rates (currently 2nd highest in the free world) that they've made it more profitable for companies to do business overseas.

Apparently, Mr. Obama isn't satisfied with the fact that the US business environment has gradually eliminated incentives of doing business in the states. One must further assume that he doesn't mind that the US dollar is only half of a Euro.

Apparently Mr. Obama believes that by making U.S. companies less profitable and less competitive world-wide, they will somehow be able to create more jobs in America.

He has it backwards: The offshore activities of U.S. companies tend to increase rather than reduce domestic business. A 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research study by economists from Harvard and the University of Michigan found that more foreign investment by U.S. companies leads to greater domestic investment, and that U.S. firms' hiring of more offshore workers is positively, not negatively, associated with the number of American workers they hire. That's in part because often what is produced overseas by subsidiaries are component parts to final, higher-value-added products manufactured here.

Mr. Obama is also proposing to raise tax rates on affluent individuals, as well as on capital gains and dividends. This would also lead to more capital and jobs leaving the U.S. The after-tax return on U.S. investment would fall appreciably if these tax hikes were adopted, and no amount of tax-credit subsidy will keep capital from fleeing to lower tax jurisdictions.

If the U.S. didn't impose the second highest corporate income tax rate in the world, companies would have less incentive to move jobs overseas. Rather than giving politically correct companies a 1% tax credit, it makes more sense to reduce the U.S. corporate tax rate for everyone -- by at least 10 percentage points to the global average.

Economists have long understood that companies don't really pay taxes; they merely collect them. A study by the American Enterprise Institute has shown that U.S. workers bear the cost of the corporate income tax in lower wages and salaries. To borrow Mr. Obama's language, what's really unpatriotic is the 35% U.S. corporate tax rate.

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[] Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on.

No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.

A compiled list of all the sources can be seen here. The total amount of cooling ranges from 0.65C up to 0.75C -- a value large enough to wipe out nearly all the warming recorded over the past 100 years. All in one year's time. For all four sources, it's the single fastest temperature change ever recorded, either up or down.

Scientists quoted in a past DailyTech article link the cooling to reduced solar activity which they claim is a much larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases. The dramatic cooling seen in just 12 months time seems to bear that out. While the data doesn't itself disprove that carbon dioxide is acting to warm the planet, it does demonstrate clearly that more powerful factors are now cooling it.

Let's hope those factors stop fast. Cold is more damaging than heat. The mean temperature of the planet is about 54 degrees. Humans -- and most of the crops and animals we depend on -- prefer a temperature closer to 70.

Historically, the warm periods such as the Medieval Climate Optimum were beneficial for civilization. Corresponding cooling events such as the Little Ice Age, though, were uniformly bad news.

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Finally, it sounds like the federal bureaucracy is taking illegal immigration more seriously.

I'm sure technology and processes have a lot to do with the increased statistics of deportation proceedings and convictions, but from reading this article one gets the feeling that sheer will-power has sparked the most change; i.e., now under intense scrutiny from the public and media, the Feds are finally doing their job.

[Washington Post] Long accused of failing to do enough to deport illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, federal authorities have recently strengthened partnerships with local corrections systems and taken other steps to monitor immigrants facing charges, officials said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that in the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, it placed 164,000 criminals in deportation proceedings, a sharp increase from the 64,000 the agency said it identified and placed in proceedings the year before. The agency estimates that the number will rise to 200,000 this year.

The heightened scrutiny, fueled by post-9/11 national security concerns and the growing debate over illegal immigration, has introduced a major element to the practice of criminal law in the Washington region and other parts of the country with large immigrant populations.

"It used to be two parties in the courtroom: the state and the defense," said Mariana C. Cordier, a Rockville defense lawyer. "Now you know immigration is waiting in the wings."

Two groups of people are now more likely to be placed in deportation proceedings: illegal immigrants who might once have been criminally prosecuted without coming to the attention of immigration authorities, and legal immigrants whose visas and residency permits are being revoked because of criminal convictions.

The number of deported immigrants with criminal convictions has increased steadily this decade, from about 73,000 in 2001 to more than 91,000 in 2007, according to ICE.

Julie L. Myers, the assistant secretary of homeland security who heads ICE, said in a recent interview that she has strived to use technology and improved relationships among local and federal law enforcement officials to multiply her agency's eyes and ears in all levels of the criminal justice system.

"It's such a high priority of mine to make sure that people are not released from criminal institutions onto the street," said Myers, noting that when she took the helm of the agency in January 2006, ICE did not check all federal detention facilities for immigration violators.

Since then, she said, the agency has studied the demographics of correctional facilities across the country and has assigned more agents to check facilities with higher numbers of foreign-born offenders. ICE's Criminal Alien Program created partnerships between immigration officials and jailers at nearly 4,500 detention facilities. Federal agents now frequently visit courthouses and jails to comb through court files. In 2006, the agency opened a division in Chicago that is responsible for screening federal inmates nationwide for deportation.

Additionally, a growing number of police departments -- including those in Frederick and Prince William counties and the city of Manassas -- have enrolled in an ICE training program that deputizes officers to enforce immigration law.

Probation and police officers are also tipping off federal authorities to cases involving suspected illegal immigrants, defense lawyers say.




I liked this letter to the Washington Post editors, regarding marriage.

I wish Nancy D. Polikoff had studied history instead of law before suggesting we start calling marriages "domestic partnerships" instead of marriages ["Let's Leave Marriage at the Altar," Close to Home, Feb. 24]. Yes, slaves and interracial couples were once denied the chance to marry, but that doesn't make marriage a racist institution. The men who controlled the laws used marriage as a weapon against powerless minorities, so blame them, not marriage.

To suggest that marriage is just a religious institution ignores both history and biology. Long before organized religion, there was marriage. Christianity has been around for 2,000 years and Islam for almost 1,500. Yet, ancient cultures in China, India and the Middle East practiced marriage thousands of years ago. We mammals survived and evolved because our pair-bonding and parenting instincts helped us create families in order to reproduce as safely as possible. Marriage was instinctive long before it was religious.

Ms. Polikoff is right that the state should not police people's vocabularies. So let's call a marriage a marriage and start policing our own behavior in a reproductive relationship that humans have been entering into for millennia.

-- David Code, an Episcopal priest, and founder of the nonprofit Center for Staying Married & Raising Great Kids

State College, Pa.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Below is an op-ed from Congressmen Kid Bond (vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence), Pete Hoekstra (ranking Republican on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) and Lamar Smith (ranking Republican on the House Committee on the Judiciary), rebutting an anti-eavesdropping opinion written by key Democrats yesterday in the Washington Post.

We are less safe today and will remain so until Congress clears up the legal uncertainty for companies that assist in collecting intelligence for the government -- and until it gives explicit permission to our intelligence agencies to intercept, without a warrant, foreign communications that pass through the U.S. Here's why:

- Intercepting terrorist communications requires the cooperation of our telecommunications companies. They're already being sued for having cooperated with the government after 9/11. So without explicit protection for future actions (and civil liability protection for the help they provided in the past), those companies critical to collecting actionable intelligence could be sidelined in the fight.

It has already happened, briefly. "[W]e have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress' failure to act," Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in a letter dated Feb. 22 to Mr. Reyes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

- The old FISA law does not adequately protect the U.S., which is why it was revised by the Protect America Act last summer. The problem is that, although it has a few work-around-provisions, such as allowing intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance for up to 72 hours without a warrant, FISA ultimately requires those agencies to jump through too many legal hurdles. Those include the Fourth Amendment's "probable cause" requirements, protections never intended for suspected terrorists' communications that are routed through the U.S.

It is true that the FISA Court approves the vast majority of warrants sought by intelligence agencies. This demonstrates that our intelligence agencies are professional and painstakingly provide all of the necessary evidence to establish probable cause to the Court. But in the fast-paced intelligence world, and when dealing with foreign communications, we need our agencies to be able to intercept a far greater number of communications -- notably those of foreign terrorists -- than can be justified under the Fourth Amendment.

- Telecommunications companies are for now, after intense negotiations, cooperating with the government under the assumption that protections granted to them under the Protect America Act will be upheld in court, even though the law is now defunct. But there is no guarantee that the courts will do any such thing. There is also no guarantee that corporate executives, under pressure from their legal counsels and shareholders to limit liabilities, will continue to cooperate.

- The cooperation of the telecommunications companies is limited to intercepting communications of terrorists identified before the Protect America Act lapsed. Until intelligence agencies can chase leads involving foreign communications, the U.S. will not be as safe as it was just a few weeks ago.

Further extending the Protect America Act is no way to fight a war against a determined enemy that uses our infrastructure against us. We need a long-term fix for FISA; and that is what a bipartisan majority in the Senate tried to accomplish earlier this month when it passed its FISA modernization bill by a 68-29 margin.

The problem is in the House, where Democratic leaders prefer to play an obstructionist role instead of constructing the architecture we need to fight an intelligence-driven war. Instead of voting on the Senate bill, even though a majority of House members stand ready to pass it, Mrs. Pelosi is still sitting on it. She is now pushing for a "compromise" that would gut many of the provisions that secure the cooperation of telecommunications companies.

Our troops collect intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan on a daily basis. We must exploit quickly the leads they turn up. Court orders should not be necessary to engage foreign targets in foreign countries. The Senate bill must be allowed to come to a vote in the House of Representatives without further delay.

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McCain is already aping Hillary Clinton's (unsuccessful) attacks on Barack Obama's speechifying over substance. He'd be wise to read this editorial by Stephen Hayes, who warns, we've seen this before:

These are words that move and uplift, that give hope to the hopeless. These words inspired millions of voters nationwide to join the grand experiment called democracy, casting votes for their candidate, their country, their destiny:

"More than anything else, I want my candidacy to unify our country, to renew the American spirit and sense of purpose. I want to carry our message to every American, regardless of party affiliation, who is a member of this community of shared values . . . For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"

So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.

Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"

Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."

Conservatives understood that this Reagan-as-a-simpleton view was a caricature (something made even clearer in several recent books, particularly Reagan's own diaries). That his opponents never got this is what led to their undoing. Those critics who giggled about his turn alongside a chimp were considerably less delighted when Reagan won 44 states and 489 electoral votes in November.

One Reagan adviser had predicted such a win shortly after Reagan had become the de facto nominee the previous spring. In a memo about the coming general election contest with Jimmy Carter, Richard Whalen wrote Reagan's "secret weapon" was that "Democrats fail to take him very seriously."

Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?

Read the rest.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Did you know that the United States now has the 2nd highest corporate tax rate -- a whopping 39.3 percent -- in all of the free world? We're second only to Japan (39.5%). And that's just federal; states tax an additional 1 to 12 percent on top of that!

Ireland, at just 12.5 percent, now has the most business-friendly economic environment in the world. No wonder Ireland's gross domestic product has been averaging about 10 percent growth each year, they have the 2nd highest per capita income in Europe, or 4th in the world! (Compare that the the US; we get excited when we break 3 percent GDP growth. Whoopee). The Irish have the highest rate of home ownership in all of Europe, where renting is the norm. "Ireland's GNI [gross national income] per head [is] at $41,140 - the seventh highest in the world, sixth highest in Western Europe, and the third highest of any EU member state." That's amazing given their population is a paltry 4.1 million people.

Indeed, even former Soviet bloc states are getting in the act of creating business-friendly tax rates: Hungary, the Slovak Republic, and Poland have corporate tax rates of 16, 19 and 19 percent, respectively.

So the next time you hear some misinformed corporation basher shriking about job outsourcing, you should remind them that the taxation policies of our government simply makes it more profitable for businesses -- and thus "their" jobs -- to locate elsewhere.

You want outsourcing to stop? Make the United States competitive again by lowering the tax rates.

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The NY Times has published an article alleging that Sen. John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, in the late 1990s.

The NY Times alleges corruption without using the word. The story is short on new facts and old news to those who have been following politics. The Keating Five scandal is far dead and buried and everyone who has paid even a little attention to the subject understands that McCain's self-imposed penance for his involvement in that warped into a severe over-reactive legislative attempt to "reform" money in politics via the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law. McCain-Feingold, in turn, became nothing more than an obscene infringement of the First Amendment.

Indeed, were McCain corrupt he's a cheap date. According to the Washington Post, "Iseman clients have given nearly $85,000 to McCain campaigns since 2000, according to records at the Federal Election Commission." Best put (via David Freddoso): "Eighty-five grand? Over eight years? That's it? He was the chairman of the [Senate Commerce] committee! If McCain is an extortionist, he's a pathetic excuse for one."

McCain's legal council, Bob Bennett (brother of Bill Bennet, by the way), pointed out to the NBC today show that the Times (nor the Wa. Post for that matter) didn't bother adding facts that support McCain's defense:

A Washington attorney representing Mr. McCain, Robert Bennett, told NBC's "Today" show that Mr. McCain's staff provided the Times with "approximately 12 instances where Senator McCain took positions adverse to this lobbyist's clients and her public relations firm's clients," but none of the examples were included in the paper's story.
We'll see where this all goes, but so far, it could actually work to McCain's advantage. After all, this digging up of old bones is the best gift that the NY Times could have given to McCain -- for nothing can rally conservatives to McCain harder or faster than a traditional slimy and slanted NY Times hit piece!

Meanwhile, Gabriel Sherman of The New Republic (warning: the same magazine who tried to sell Beauchamp) has an interesting report on the internal politics at the NY Times and their decision to run the story:

The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn't. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable.
Read the rest.

Beyond all this is some notable commentary regarding McCain's apparent "disappointment" that the NY Times - which had often published positive views on McCain - would turn on him.

Andrew McCarthy summarized thusly:

Senator McCain appears to have been smeared by the Times. I'm sorry that happened, but if indignation is the order of the day, count me out. You see, I also feel sorry — really sorry — for the intelligence officers who've been maligned as torturers, for those who want the immigration laws enforced and are libeled as racists, for those who doubt the wisdom of campaign finance reform and are glibly scandalized as promoters of public corruption, and so on. Each of these Gray Lady smears has a common thread: John McCain has been only too happy to help, and to bask in the resulting glow: the Times' very own favorite Republican.

The Senator's reaction says it all: he's "disappointed in the New York Times." Of course, we can only be disappointed by those from whom we expect better. McCain expects better from the Times because he's accustomed to getting it, and he's accustomed to getting it because he's been very good about holding up his end of the bargain — especially when it comes to demagoguing the Right. The Times is a politicized rag and no one should take satisfaction in seeing McCain subjected to its journalistic version of waterboarding. I only wish I were convinced the Senator would learn the right lesson from this experience. I'm not.

Well, okay, so it appears that McCain will still have to do some wooing before conservatives rally to McCain, NY Times hitpiece or not.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

[Der Speigel] Draw a picture offensive to Muslim extremists, and you might find yourself without a roof. Ask Kurt Westergaard, one of the twelve Danish cartoonists whose autumn 2005 Muhammad caricatures lead to violent protests throughout the Muslim world. He was booted from his police-protected hotel room on Feb. 15 for being "too much of a security risk." And now the 73-year-old cartoonist and his wife are without a place to live.
Read the rest.

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'Tis sad but true. Liberal constitutional democracies are self-imposing policies against free speech and decreeing other restrictions on unalienable rights which were practices otherwise previously reserved to illiberal unconstitutional non-democracies from Bejing to Rayadh to Havana.

Mark Steyn comments from a personal level: recently the Canadian human rights system decided to judge whether to ban the magazine Maclean's from publishing excerpts of his latest book, America Alone. (Background here)

Since Maclean's got into a spot of bother with Canada's "human rights" pseudo-courts, I've been pleasantly surprised by the number of our media confreres who don't think it should be a "crime" for magazines to publish excerpts from books by yours truly. Nevertheless, in defending free speech in general, they usually feel obliged to deplore my exercise of it in particular:

"Maclean's published an alarmist screed by Mr. Steyn . . ." (The Economist)

"While the book may be alarmist . . ." (CFRB)

"Steyn's argument is indeed alarmist . . ." (The Guardian)

And, oh dear, even:

"The fear of 'a Muslim tide' was alarmist . . ." (Tarek Fatah and Farzana Hassan in Maclean's)

Okay, enough already. I get the picture: alarmist, alarmist, alarmist. My book's thesis — that most of the Western world is on course to become at least semi-Islamic in its political and cultural disposition within a very short time — is "alarmist."

The question then arises: fair enough, guys, what would it take to alarm you? The other day, in a characteristically clotted speech followed by a rather more careless BBC interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that it was dangerous to have one law for everyone and that the introduction of sharia — Islamic law — to the United Kingdom was "inevitable." No alarm bells going off yet? Can't say I blame you. After all, de facto creeping sharia is well established in the Western world. Last week, the British and Ontario governments confirmed within days of each other that thousands of polygamous men in their jurisdictions receive welfare payments for each of their wives. Still no alarm bells? I see female Muslim medical students in British hospitals are refusing to comply with hygiene procedures on the grounds that scrubbing requires them to bare their arms, which is un-Islamic. Would it be alarmist to bring that up — say, the day before your operation?

...Whether or not it's "alarmist" to ponder what those consequences might be, under Canada's "human rights" kangaroo courts it might soon be illegal. All Section 13 cases brought to the federal Human Rights Commission end in defeat for the defendant, so, if Maclean's fails to buck the 100 per cent conviction rate, it would be enjoined from publishing anything that might relate to the "hate speech" in question — in other words, we would be legally prevented from writing about Islam and the West, demographic trends in Canada, and many other topics.

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See the vid interviewing Popular Mechanics Deputy Editor, Jerry Beilinson. To whit, the US manufacturing sales reached a record $5 trillion in 2006.




Columnist Michelle Malkin -- self-described as also a mother of two, also a "woman of color" -- justifiably lambastes Michelle Obama for quipping earlier this week after her husband's Wisconsin primary victory that "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country..." Self-loathing, self-flagellating liberals are, of course, nothing new to politics. Winning an election by at least partially touting that campaign plank, however, would be new. Will it fly?

Such the contrast -- the apparently ungrateful Obamas who only have this opportunity to "change" America (through bashing it) because they were lucky enough to be Americans, versus Sen. John McCain, who actually bled in combat and captivity so that the Obamas of this world could become the ungrateful liberals they are.

I'm just seven years younger than Mrs. Obama. We've grown up and lived in the same era. And yet, her self-absorbed attitude is completely foreign to me. What planet is she living on? Since when was now the only time the American people have ever been "hungry for change"? Michelle, ma belle, Barack is not the center of the universe. Newsflash: The Obamas did not invent "change" any more than Hillary invented "leadership" or John McCain invented "straight talk."

We were both adults when the Berlin Wall fell, Michelle. That was earth-shattering change.

We've lived through two decades' worth of peaceful, if contentious, election cycles under the rule of law, which have brought about "change" and upheaval, both good and bad.

We were adults through several launches of the space shuttle, in case you were snoozing. And as adults, we've witnessed and benefited from dizzyingly rapid advances in technology, communications, science, and medicine pioneered by American entrepreneurs who yearned to change the world and succeeded. You want "change?" Go ask the patients whose lives have been improved and extended by American pharmaceutical companies that have flourished under the best economic system in the world.

If American ingenuity, a robust constitutional republic, and the fall of communism don't do it for you, hon, then how about American heroism and sacrifice?

How about every Memorial Day? Every Veterans Day? Every Independence Day? Every Medal of Honor ceremony? Has she never attended a welcome-home ceremony for the troops?

For me, there's the thrill of the Blue Angels roaring over cloudless skies. And the somber awe felt amid the hallowed waters that surround the sunken U.S.S. Arizona at the Pearl Harbor memorial.

Every naturalization ceremony I've attended, where hundreds of new Americans raised their hands to swear an oath of allegiance to this land of liberty, has been a moment of pride for me. So have the awesome displays of American compassion at home and around the world. When millions of Americans rallied to help victims of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia — including members of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group that sped from Hong Kong to assist survivors — my heart filled with pride. It did again when the citizens of Houston opened their arms to Hurricane Katrina victims and folks across the country rushed to their churches, and Salvation Army and Red Cross offices to volunteer.

How about American resilience? Does that not make you proud? Only a heart of stone could be unmoved by the strength, valor, and determination displayed in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., on September 11, 2001.

I believe it was Michael Kinsley who quipped that a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. In this case, it's what happens when an elite Democratic politician's wife says what a significant portion of the party's base really believes to be the truth: America is more a source of shame than pride.

Michelle Obama has achieved enormous professional success, political influence, and personal acclaim in America. Ivy League-educated, she's been lauded by Essence magazine as one of the 25 World's Most Inspiring Women; by Vanity Fair as one of the ten World's Best-Dressed Women; and named one of "The Harvard 100" most influential alumni. She has had an amazingly blessed life. But you wouldn't know it from her campaign rhetoric and her griping about her and her husband's student loans.

For years, we've heard liberals get offended at any challenge to their patriotism. And so they are again aggrieved and rising to explain away Mrs. Obama's remarks.

Like Lady Macbeth, Lady Michelle and her defenders protest too much.




[ABC News] BAGHDAD, Feb. 14, 2008—

If you're looking for one measure of the impact of last year's troop surge in Iraq, look at Gen. David Petraeus as he walks through a Baghdad neighborhood, with no body armor, and no helmet.

It's been one year since the beginning of what's known here as Operation Fardh Al Qadnoon. According to the U.S. military, violence is down 60 percent. One key to the success is reconciliation.

"A big part of the effort, over the last year, has been to determine who is reconcilable, who, literally, is willing to put down his rifle and talk, who is willing to shout, instead of shoot." Petraeus said.

I spent the day with Petraeus, touring Jihad, a predominantly Shiite area in western Baghdad. This place was formerly ravaged by sectarian violence, and militiamen wreaked havoc on the streets. In the last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops moved into the neighborhood, set up joint security stations, earned the trust of local people, and found those men willing to put down their guns and work with them.

The results of the last year can be seen on the streets. A soccer team practices on the local pitch. The stalls in the market buzz with customers. I stop to talk to local residents, and ask if they feel a difference. Overwhelmingly, the answer is a resounding yes.

"The situation in Jihad is certainly better than before," a mechanic named Ali said. "Work is constant, shops are reopening, and people are coming back to their homes."

Notwithstanding significant progress, much work clearly remains. The Iraqi government has yet to capitalize on the relative peace and improve the local infrastructure. Sewage and trash fester in the streets.

"We have very little electricity," Ali said.

The hope is, that with the passing of a budget this week, that will change.

"That unlocks a substantial amount of money for the ministries of Iraq, so that they can start going about the jobs that are so essential, like patching roads that we bounced down today; over long term, improving electricity, fixing water systems, sewer systems," Petraeus said.

Normally very guarded in his assessments of the surge, Petraeus now expresses cautious optimism.

"I have to tell you that, having been here for a number of years, this is very encouraging, actually. I mean, this is, this is potentially a big moment." he said.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I guess the Pelosi's of the world forget that Flight United 93 was headed for the capital building... Meanwhile, even the most liberal justices on the Supreme Court understand what's at stake, and understand that a call originating in Peshawar, terminating in Hamburg, but happening to go through an American telecomm switch, does not make the transaction "domestic." Unanimously, the SCOTUS declined the ACLU's attempts to deny Americans the ability to protect themselves.

But, as the WSJ editors below remark, that won't stop the Bush Derangement Syndrome-afflicted in Congress. Ironic -- those accusing the president of "breaking law" don't follow law of their own.

Pelosi's Wiretap Offensive
February 19, 2008; Page A18

For the next 9/11 Commission, we nominate the first witness: Silvestre Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He's the man now telling everyone to chill out, take it easy, there's nothing to worry about, after his fellow Democrats last week scuttled a bipartisan compromise on warrantless wiretapping of al Qaeda.

"It is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to say that we will be vulnerable unless we grant immunity for actions that happened years ago," Mr. Reyes wrote in a letter to President Bush. By "actions" he means the cooperation with U.S. intelligence by private telecom companies after 9/11, for which the companies now face more than 40 lawsuits.

Mr. Reyes's letter is a political keeper -- all the more so because it is so divorced from intelligence reality. Nearly every other professional says that Friday night's expiration of the wiretap law will do significant security harm.

Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, on the Senate floor last week: "What people have to understand around here is that the quality of the intelligence we are going to be receiving is going to be degraded. It is going to be degraded. It is already going to be degraded as telecommunications companies lose interest."

Or Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell on Fox News Sunday: "If something new comes along, we have to have a directive for a new private sector company -- now that's in question. So [the expiration of the law] introduces a level of uncertainty that is going to be very difficult for us."

Intelligence-gathering has changed since the end of the Cold War. We live in a world of fiber optics and packet switching. The National Security Agency can't get what it needs merely by scanning the airwaves for telephone calls and code words. Terrorists communicate through the Internet. To eavesdrop on those communications, the NSA needs the help of private companies, which voluntarily cooperated after 9/11 when Mr. Bush and the Attorney General asked them to do so.

And what did they get for their trouble? As Mr. Rockefeller put it last week, "What is the big payoff for the telephone companies? They get paid a lot of money? No. They get paid nothing. What do they get for this? They get $40 billion worth of suits, grief, trashing, but they do it. But they don't have to do it, because they do have shareholders to respond to, to answer to."

We've long held that a President doesn't need a court order under the Constitution to order such wiretaps. But the reality is that, because of these lawsuits, the telephone companies now won't cooperate without the legal protection of a court order. That's how pernicious these lawsuits are.

We asked one phone company executive what he'd do, after Friday's expiration, in response to a government request for cooperation. His answer was blunt: "I'm not doing it. If I don't have compulsion, I can't get out of court [and those lawsuits]. . . . I'm not going to do something voluntarily." Having talked to telecom executives, we can tell you this view is well-nigh universal.

Mr. Reyes claims that existing wiretap orders can stay in place for a year. But that doesn't account for new targets, which may require new kinds of telecom cooperation and thus a new court order. Mr. Reyes can make all the assertions he wants about immunity, but they are no defense against a lawsuit. For that matter, without a statute in place, even a renewed order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is likely to be challenged as illegitimate. A telecom CEO who cooperates without a court order is all but guaranteed to get not merely a wiretap lawsuit, but also a shareholder suit for putting the company at legal risk.

Our guess is that Mr. Reyes knows all of this, but is trying to provide cover for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who decided last week to block the bipartisan bill that had already passed the Senate 68-29. The bill also has majority backing in the House, with 21 Democrats having publicly pledged support and another 20 or so privately on board. Ms. Pelosi tried to dodge the issue by passing another short-term extension of wiretap authority, but opposition was so strong that the GOP defeated her on the House floor.

What we have here is a remarkable display of the anti-antiterror minority at work. Democrats could vote directly to restrict wiretapping by the executive branch, but they lack the votes. So instead they're trying to do it through the backdoor by unleashing the trial bar to punish the telephone companies. Then if there is another terror attack, they'll blame the phone companies for not cooperating.

Mr. Bush has been doing his part in this debate, but his political capital is waning. The Republican who needs to make himself heard now is John McCain. The Arizona Senator is voting the right way, but he seems curiously disengaged from a debate that plays to his national security strengths. The time to speak up is before the next 9/11 Commission.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The reported killing of master-terrorist Imad Mugniyah is a very big deal -- much bigger than being reported -- even bigger than the capture of 9-11 mastermind Khalid Mohammed.

Mugniyah was one of the torch bearers for the original fathers of Islamic terrorism, was fully supported by the Iranian government, and had a web of connections to other terror masters including Osama bin Laden (as early as 1994, showing OBL the ropes a bit).

That last bit is of course being completely downplayed by our media.

You remember that film Syriana - the lead character George Clooney played was Bob Baer, a CIA agent who became obsessed with Mugniyah and the embassy/barracks bombing in Lebanon (his book, See No Evil, cited by the movie as its basis disappointingly had nothing to do with the movie [instead was an anti-oil screed].) Anyway, Baer called him "the master terrorist, the grail that we have been after since 1983."

Israel's denying the hit on "the grail." I hope that means our SpecOps got him. Be nice to have some confidence in our spy abilities -- for a change.

Thomas Joscelyn summarizes what he likewise notes is the lack of coverage on Mugniyah's connections to al Qaeda:

But here is something that none of the press accounts I've read today have reported: Imad Mugniyah played an instrumental role in al Qaeda's rise. I detailed Mugniyah's role in al Qaeda's terror in Iran's Proxy War Against America, a short book published by the Claremont Institute last year. I won't go into all of the details again in this post, but here is a quick summary of the relationship:

• Mugniyah met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan in the early 1990's. The two agreed to work together against their common enemies, including America. Al Qaeda operatives were then trained by Mugniyah and other Hezbollah trainers, as well as Iranian personnel, in Sudan, Lebanon, and Iran. Both the Clinton administration, in its first two indictments of al Qaeda and bin Laden, and the 9/11 Commission found significant evidence of this early collaboration.

• According to Bob Baer, a long-time CIA operative who tracked Mugniyah for years, one of Mugniyah's goons facilitated the travel of an al Qaeda operative en route to the November 19, 1995, bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The bombing was among al Qaeda's earliest operations.

• There is no real doubt that Iran and Mugniyah's Hezbollah were primarily responsible for the June 1996 Khobar Towers bombing. But the 9/11 Commission also found evidence that al Qaeda may have played some role. Intelligence indicates that al Qaeda was planning a similar operation in the months prior. And afterwards, in telephone conversations that were evidently intercepted, Osama bin Laden received congratulations from his fellow terrorists, including Ayman al Zawahiri.

• Al Qaeda's August 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were modeled after Mugniyah's bombings in Lebanon in 1983. According to the 9/11 Commission, bin Laden asked Mugniyah for help in executing such attacks and Mugniyah agreed to provide his assistance. Thereafter, al Qaeda adopted Hezbollah's modus operandi: simultaneous attacks by suicide bombers. Al Qaeda's August 7, 1998, bombings directly mirrored Hezbollah's simultaneous strike against the U.S. Marine barracks and a headquarters for French paratroopers on October 23, 1983. In fact, the 9/11 Commission found that some of the terrorists responsible for the embassy bombings were trained by Hezbollah. This is a crucial point: al Qaeda's most successful attack prior to 9/11--the August 7, 1998, embassy bombings--was modeled after Hezbollah's operations.

• After the 9/11 attacks, Bob Baer immediately suspected that Mugniyah and his masters had played some role. (I also discussed this in a previous article, "Sy Hersh's Overactive Imagination".) Amazingly, the 9/11 Commission found that senior Hezbollah operatives were aware of and facilitated the travel of many of the 9/11 hijackers. This evidence was so "disturbing" that the Commission called for a further investigation into the matter. Although he was not named by the Commission directly, Mugniyah was reportedly one of the senior Hezbollah terrorists involved.

• There are reports, although unconfirmed, that Mugniyah may have helped senior al Qaeda operatives flee Afghanistan in late 2001.

There is much more to this story, which can be found in my short book on the topic: Iran's Proxy War Against America.

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I don't know if it's for real or if he's just swinging right for the rest of the primary race, but John McCain had some encouraging words regarding today's remarkably bi-partisan 68 to 29 vote to reauthorize the warrantless international wiretap laws and protections for companies that assisted the government in that surveillance. In a blog-call, McCain also commented on recent news that six 9-11 conspirators would be tried by military tribunal at Guantanamo.

Jennifer Rubin asked about Obama's vote against telecom immunity in the FISA bill, specifically whether this raised doubts about Obama's judgment. McCain said he wouldn't judge Obama's judgment, and then pointed out all the things he'd been wrong about, with specific attention to Iraq:

I don't know if he has the judgment or not, but I can tell you that he was wrong. He was wrong when he called for immediate timetables and withdrawal from Iraq. He was wrong when he said we couldn't win militarily, he was wrong when he said the Iraqi government couldn't function politically, which they are beginning to do. I won't make a comment as to whether he has the judgment, all I can say is we will all be responsible for our record, particularly on national security issues.
On telecom immunity he said simply, "look, when the federal government goes to a corporation or an enterprise and says 'we want you to help us in the war on terror'...should it astonish anyone that they cooperated?"

Ed Morrissey got a good laugh out of McCain by suggesting George Romero--the man responsible for Night of the Living Dead--should do the documentary on McCain's campaign. He also asked if McCain had met with Governor Romney, to which McCain responded that the two staffs were trying to coordinate a meeting. Further, McCain said he believes he is "gradually improving" his ties with the party's conservative base, that he wants a united party, and that everyone will have a seat at the table in a McCain administration.

I asked the Senator whether he would have any reservations about the execution of the six detainees on trial at Guantanamo Bay for their role in the 9/11 attacks, whether he is comfortable with the current legal regime for trying detainees, and whether the interrogation techniques used there cast doubt on the fairness of the trials. His response:

No. I would not have concerns. I rely to a large degree on my friend Lindsey Graham, who is a JAG lawyer and who has been intimately involved in this whole process. These are not individuals who deserve the protections of the kind of judicial process that a citizen of the United States would have. We did not give those rights and privileges in the Nuremberg tribunals...these tribunals as far as I can tell...are appropriate and they are the way to address these particular cases...and there's nothing in the Geneva Conventions or any other rule of law that I've ever seen that said that the same rights and privileges apply to them as apply to American citizens.
That will be music to conservatives ears.

This is encouraging. My only warning is that previously McCain has made comments that seemed to imply that he did believe that Geneva Conventions could apply to illegal combatants (i.e., terrorists).

But we'll see if the music is consistant assuming he's the nominee.

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Now and then sanity prevails, even in Washington. So it did yesterday as the Senate passed a warrantless wiretap bill for overseas terrorists while killing most of the Lilliputian attempts to tie down our war fighters.

"We lost every single battle we had on this bill," conceded Chris Dodd, which ought to tell the Connecticut Senator something about the logic of what he was proposing. His own amendment -- to deny immunity from lawsuits to telecom companies that cooperated with the government after 9/11 -- didn't even get a third of the Senate. It lost 67-31, though notably among the 31 was possible Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama. (Hillary Clinton was absent, while John McCain voted in favor.)

It says something about his national security world view, or his callowness, that Mr. Obama would vote to punish private companies that even the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee said had "acted in good faith." Had Senator Obama prevailed, a President Obama might well have been told "no way" when he asked private Americans to help his Administration fight terrorists. Mr. Obama also voted against the overall bill, putting him in territory.

The defeat of these antiwar amendments means the legislation now moves to the House in a strong position. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the Dodd-Obama camp, but 21 Blue Dog Democrats have sent her a letter saying they are happy with the Senate bill. She may try to pass the restrictions that failed in the Senate, and Republicans should tell her to make their day. This is a fight Senator McCain should want to have right up through Election Day, with Democrats having to explain why they want to hamstring the best weapon -- real-time surveillance -- we have against al Qaeda.

-- Wall Street Journal

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Debra Burlingame is the sister of Charles Burlingame, pilot of American Airlines flight 77, whose flight was hijacked and flown into the WTC. Ms. Burlingame is also director of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation.

What she's written below -- and you'll want to read the whole thing -- is an absolutely damning reminder of the Clinton's attitude towards terrorism. The sixth from the last paragraph is nothing short of the single most brilliant reason why the premise of a Hillary Clinton presidency is frightening. (Regarding that, I wrote something similar a few years ago.)

The Clintons' Terror Pardons
Wall Street Journal
February 12, 2008; Page A17

It was nearly 10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, 1982. Two officers on New York Police Department's elite bomb squad rushed to headquarters at One Police Plaza, where minutes earlier an explosion had destroyed the entrance to the building. Lying amid the carnage was Police Officer Rocco Pascarella, his lower leg blasted off.

"He was ripped up like someone took a box cutter and shredded his face," remembered Detective Anthony Senft, one of the bomb-squad officers who answered the call 25 years ago. "We really didn't even know that he was a uniformed man until we found his weapon, that's how badly he was injured."

About 20 minutes later, Mr. Senft and his partner, Richard Pastorella, were blown 15 feet in the air as they knelt in protective gear to defuse another bomb. Detective Senft was blinded in one eye, his facial bones shattered, his hip severely fractured. Mr. Pastorella was blinded in both eyes and lost all the fingers of his right hand. A total of four bombs exploded in a single hour on that night, including at FBI headquarters in Manhattan and the federal courthouse in Brooklyn.

The perpetrators were members of Armed Forces of National Liberation, FALN (the Spanish acronym), a clandestine terrorist group devoted to bringing about independence for Puerto Rico through violent means. Its members waged war on America with bombings, arson, kidnappings, prison escapes, threats and intimidation. The most gruesome attack was the 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing in Lower Manhattan. Timed to go off during the lunch-hour rush, the explosion decapitated one of the four people killed and injured another 60.

FALN bragged about the bloodbath, calling the victims "reactionary corporate executives" and threatening: "You have unleashed a storm from which you comfortable Yankees can't escape." By 1996, the FBI had linked FALN to 146 bombings and a string of armed robberies -- a reign of terror that resulted in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims.

On Aug. 7, 1999, the one-year anniversary of the U.S. African embassy bombings that killed 257 people and injured 5,000, President Bill Clinton reaffirmed his commitment to the victims of terrorism, vowing that he "will not rest until justice is done." Four days later, while Congress was on summer recess, the White House quietly issued a press release announcing that the president was granting clemency to 16 imprisoned members of FALN. What began as a simple paragraph on the AP wire exploded into a major controversy.

Mr. Clinton justified the clemencies by asserting that the sentences were disproportionate to the crimes. None of the petitioners, he stated, had been directly involved in crimes that caused bodily harm to anyone. "For me," the president concluded, "the question, therefore, was whether their continuing incarceration served any meaningful purpose."

His comments, including the astonishing claim that the FALN prisoners were being unfairly punished because of "guilt by association," were widely condemned as a concession to terrorists. Further, they were seen as an outrageous slap in the face of the victims and a bitter betrayal of the cops and federal law enforcement officers who had put their lives on the line to protect the public and who had invested years of their careers to put these people behind bars. The U.S. Sentencing Commission affirmed a pre-existing Justice Department assessment that the sentences, ranging from 30 to 90 years, were "in line with sentences imposed in other cases for similar terrorist activity."

The prisoners were convicted on a variety of charges that included conspiracy, sedition, violation of the Hobbes Act (extortion by force, violence or fear), armed robbery and illegal possession of weapons and explosives -- including large quantities of C-4 plastic explosive, dynamite and huge caches of ammunition. Mr. Clinton's action was opposed by the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. attorney offices that prosecuted the cases and the victims whose lives had been shattered. In contravention of standard procedures, none of these agencies, victims or families of victims were consulted or notified prior to the president's announcement.

"I know the chilling evidence that convicted the petitioners," wrote Deborah Devaney, one of the federal prosecutors who spent years on the cases. "The conspirators made every effort to murder and maim. . . . A few dedicated federal agents are the only people who stood in their way."

Observed Judge George Layton, who sentenced four FALN defendants for their conspiracy to use military-grade explosives to break an FALN leader from Ft. Leavenworth Penitentiary and detonate bombs at other public buildings, "[T]his case . . . represents one of the finest examples of preventive law enforcement that has ever come to this court's attention in the 20-odd years it has been a judge and in the 20 years before that as a practicing lawyer in criminal cases."

The FBI cracked the cases with the discovery of an FALN safe house and bomb factory. Video surveillance showed two of those on the clemency list firing weapons and building bombs intended for an imminent attack at a U.S. military installation. FBI agents obtained a warrant and entered the premises, surreptitiously disarming the bombs whose components bore the unmistakable FALN signature. They found 24 pounds of dynamite, 24 blasting caps, weapons, disguises, false IDs and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

A total of six safe houses were ultimately uncovered. Seven hundred hours of surveillance video were recorded, resulting in a mountain of evidence connecting the 16 prisoners to multiple FALN operations past and present.

Federal law enforcement agencies considered these individuals so dangerous, extraordinary security precautions were taken at their numerous trials. Courthouse elevators were restricted and no one, including the court officers, was permitted to carry a firearm in the courtroom.

Given all this, why would Bill Clinton, who had ignored the 3,226 clemency petitions that had piled up on his desk over the years, suddenly reach into the stack and pluck out these 16 meritless cases? (The New York Times ran a column with the headline, "Bill's Little Gift.")

Hillary Rodham Clinton was in the midst of her state-wide "listening tour" in anticipation of her run for the U.S. Senate in New York, a state which included 1.3 million Hispanics. Three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- Luis V. Gutierrez (D., Ill.), Jose E. Serrano, (D., N.Y.) and Nydia M. Velazquez, (D., N.Y.) -- along with local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights advocates, had been agitating for years on behalf of the FALN cases directly to the White House and first lady.

Initial reports stated that Mrs. Clinton supported the clemencies, but when public reaction went negative she changed course, issuing a short statement three weeks after the clemencies were announced. The prisoners' delay in refusing to renounce violence "speaks volumes," she said.

The Clintons were caught in an awkward predicament of their own making. The president had ignored federal guidelines for commutation of sentences, including the most fundamental: The prisoners hadn't actually asked for clemency.

To push the deal through, signed statements renouncing violence and expressing remorse were required by the Justice Department. The FALN prisoners, surely relishing the embarrassment and discomfiture they were causing the president and his wife, had previously declined to accept these conditions. Committed and unrepentant militants who did not accept the authority of the United States, they refused to apologize for activities they were proud of in order to obtain a clemency they never requested.

So desperate was the White House to get the deal finalized and out of the news, an unprecedented 16-way conference call was set up for the "petitioners" who were locked up in 11 different federal facilities so that they could strategize a response to the president's offer. Two eventually refused to renounce their cause, preferring to serve out their lengthy sentences rather than follow the White House script.

Mr. Clinton's fecklessness in the handling of these cases was demonstrated by the fact that none of the prisoners were required, as a standard condition of release, to cooperate in ongoing investigations of countless unsolved FALN bombing cases and other crimes. Mrs. Clinton's so-called disagreement with her husband on the matter made no mention of that fact. The risk of demanding such a requirement, of course, was that the prisoners might have proudly implicated themselves, causing the entire enterprise to implode, with maximum damage to the president and potentially sinking Hillary Clinton's Senate chances.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rican politicians in New York who'd been crowing to their constituents about the impending release of these "freedom fighters" were enraged and insulted at Hillary Clinton's withdrawal of support. "It was a horrible blunder," said State Sen. Olga A. Mendez. "She needs to learn the rules."

The first lady called her failure to consult the Puerto Rican political establishment before assessing the entire issue a mistake "that will never happen again" -- even as the cops who had been maimed and disfigured by FALN operations continued to be ignored. Tom and Joe Connor, two brothers who were little boys when their 33-year-old father, Frank, was killed in the Fraunces Tavern attack, were dumbstruck to learn that White House staffers referred to the FALN militants as "political prisoners" and were planning a meeting with their children to humanize their plight.

Members of Congress viewed the clemencies as a dangerous abuse of presidential power that could not go unchallenged. Resolutions condemning the president's action were passed with a vote of 95-2 in the Senate, 311-41 in the House. It was the most they could do; the president's pardon power, conferred by the Constitution, is absolute. The House launched an investigation, subpoenaing records from the White House and Justice in an effort to determine whether proper procedure had been followed. President Clinton promptly invoked executive privilege, putting Justice Department lawyers in the impossible position of admitting that they had sent the White House a recommendation on the issue, but barred from disclosing what it was.

Twenty-four hours before a scheduled Senate committee hearing, the DOJ withheld the FBI's written statement about the history of the FALN and an assessment of its current terrorist capability. "They pulled the plug on us," said an unnamed FBI official in a news report, referring to the Justice Department decision to prevent FBI testimony.

The investigation revealed that the White House was driving the effort to release the prisoners, rather than the other way around. White House aides created talking points and strategies for a public campaign on the prisoners' behalf included asking prominent individuals for letters supporting clemency.

Jeffrey Farrow, a key adviser on the White House Interagency Working Group for Puerto Rico recommended meetings with the president and the three leading members of Congressional Hispanic Caucus who were pushing the effort, stating in a March 6, 1999 email, "This is Gutierrez's [sic] top priority as well as of high constituent importance to Serrano and Velazquez." The next day, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste sent an email to White House Counsel Charles Ruff, who was handling the clemency issue, supporting Mr. Farrow's view, saying, "Chuck -- Jeff's right about this -- very hot issue." Another adviser in the Working Group, Mayra Martinez-Fernandez, noted that releasing the prisoners would be "fairly easy to accomplish and will have a positive impact among strategic communities in the U.S. (read, voters)."

And there you have it. Votes.

While the pardon scandals that marked Bill and Hillary Clinton's final days in office are remembered as transactions involving cronies, criminals and campaign contributors, the FALN clemencies of 1999 should be remembered in the context of the increasing threat of domestic and transnational terrorism that was ramping up during the Clinton years of alleged peace and prosperity. To wit, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 Tokyo subway Sarin attack, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1995 "Bojinka" conspiracy to hijack airplanes and crash them into buildings, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing, Osama bin Laden's 1996 and 1998 "Declarations of War" on America, the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2000 USS Sullivans bombing attempt, the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the 2000 Millennium bombing plot.

It was within that context that the FBI gave its position on the FALN clemencies -- which the White House succeeded in keeping out of news coverage but ultimately failed to suppress -- stating that "the release of these individuals will psychologically and operationally enhance the ongoing violent and criminal activities of terrorist groups, not only in Puerto Rico, but throughout the world." The White House spun the clemencies as a sign of the president's universal commitment to "peace and reconciliation" just one year after Osama bin Laden told his followers that the United States is a "paper tiger" that can be attacked with impunity.

It would be a mistake to dismiss as "old news" the story of how and why these terrorists were released in light of the fact that it took place during the precise period when Bill Clinton now claims he was avidly engaged, even "obsessed," with efforts to protect the public from clandestine terrorist attacks. If Bill and Hillary Clinton were willing to pander to the demands of local Hispanic politicians and leftist human-rights activists defending bomb-makers convicted of seditious conspiracy, how might they stand up to pressure from other interest groups working in less obvious ways against U.S. interests in a post-9/11 world?

Radical Islamists are a sophisticated and determined enemy who understand that violence alone will not achieve their goals. Islamist front groups, representing themselves as rights organizations, are attempting to get a foothold here as they have already in parts of Western Europe by deftly exploiting ethnic and racial politics, agitating under the banner of civil liberties even as they are clamoring for the imposition of special Shariah law privileges in the public domain. They believe that the road to America's ultimate defeat is through the back door of policy and law and they are aggressively using money, influence and retail politics to achieve their goal.

On the campaign trail, the Clintons like to say that Bill is merely supportive and enthusiastic, "just like all the other candidates' spouses." Nothing could be further from the truth. Returning Bill and Hillary Clinton to the White House would present the country with the unprecedented situation of a former and current president simultaneously occupying the White House, the practical implications of which have yet to be fully explored.

The FALN clemencies provide a disturbing example of how the abuse or misuse of presidential prerogative, under the guise of policy, can be put in service of the personal and private activities of the president's spouse -- and beyond the reach of meaningful congressional oversight.

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Our friends on the left say Americans are willing to pay more taxes to get better government services, but their migration patterns reveal the opposite.
That's from a Wall Street Journal editorial comparing the immigration/emigration patterns between states with high taxes to states with low taxes.

While hardly surprising, the results are a notible reminder how taxation affects behavior -- to the tune of 20,000 people every day, or 8 million Americans annually from the North and Midwest to the South and West.

But one reason to conclude that taxes are also a motivator is because the eight states without an income tax are stealing talent from other states. They are Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, and each one gained in net domestic migrants. Each one except Florida -- which has sky-high property taxes on new homesteaders -- also ranked in the top 12 of destination states. The nearby table ranks the top five destination and departure states.

Politicians who think taxes don't matter might want to explain the Dakotas. North Dakota ranked second worst in out-migration last year, while South Dakota ranked in the top 10 as a destination. The two are similar in most regards, with one large difference: North Dakota has an income tax and South Dakota doesn't.

...We invite readers to visit the U-Haul Moving Company Web site (, where you can type in a pair of U.S. cities to learn what it costs to move from point A to B. If you want to move, say, from Austin, Texas to Southern California, the moving van will cost you $407 to rent. But if you want to move out of California to Austin, the same van costs $1,831. A move from Dallas to Philadelphia costs $663, versus $2,433 to swap homes in the other direction. The biggest discrepancy we could find was $557 from Nashville, Tennessee to Los Angeles, but the trip costs nearly eight times more, or $4,285, to move to Nashville from L.A.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

More egg on your face, Ms. Pelosi? Reasonable people can reasonably debate long-term worth and efforts, but to call the surge a "failure" requires a willing suspension of disbelief. Or is that defeatism just wishful thinking by the House speaker?

[UK Times] Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year's mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group's security structure suffered “total collapse”.

These are the words not of al-Qaeda's enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group's stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November.

The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling.

That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Okay, so, it appears done. Romney has dropped out of the race and it's now McCain's to lose. I've been very critical of McCain for years and I believe for good reason.

However, I absolutely do not understand the destructive meltdown by members of the right, such as Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and company, who have gone so far as to urge "suicide voters" -- Republicans who vow to pull the lever for Democrat Hillary or Obama -- on the theory that 4-8 years of extreme liberalism will create an environment whereby voters see the light on liberalism and usher in the next Reagan.

This is pure juvenile fantasy. Were another party or movement to suggest it it would be legitimately berated by conservatives.

Eight years of liberalism will no more cause Republicans to find the next Reagan any more than 8 years of Bush's fightless moderate compromise (aka Compassionate Conservativism) and Rove's triangulation did. All we'll get is higher taxes, activist liberal supreme court judges, and an easier time for Islamic extremists to bomb things.

Don't fool yourself that common Americans won't buy into liberal socialism. Too many already are. While true that Socialism makes everyone equal - equally miserable -- it's usually too late by the time the masses figure that out. McCain may be yet another moderate Republican who will too often compromise, but at least he could delay the socialist onslaught while we did try to find the next true conservative leader.

And as Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn argue, McCain's getting a bad rap.

Besides, looking for the next Reagan is too often defined by standards so high that even Ronald Reagan himself would never have attained them.

The meltdown conservatives better get their heads out of their behinds.

Conservative Sense & Sensibility
The Right's choices right now.
Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn

Today, many in the Republican party and the conservative movement are saying some strange things about the prospect of our very likely nominee, Senator John McCain, and his ascent to the GOP nomination. Many think he will destroy the conservative movement if not the Republican party, and many have even said they simply will not vote for him in a general election if he heads the GOP ticket. Moreover, others have even said they would consider voting for Senator Hillary Clinton or that there is simply no difference between Senators Clinton and Barack Obama on the one hand, and Senator John McCain on the other. Some who have said the foregoing are our dear and close friends, allies, and callers.

This sense and sensibility is simply wrong.

We know the conservative indictment against Senator McCain — we hear it every day, and even recite some of it ourselves some days. We concede much of it. There is a great deal on which the senator and we do not agree. And yet there is another brief that needs to be submitted in light of some of the latest things we've heard from friends, callers, and others. Namely, that it will not matter to them whether Senators McCain or Clinton or Obama are elected if that is their ultimate choice.

There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Obama), and those records become important as we recognize a few simple facts: We are in an existential war against Islamic terrorists throughout the world. This very week, Senator Clinton was asked what her first act in office would be. She stated that first act would be the beginning of the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq within 60 days. Her first act. That is a surrender to the enemy — there is no other way to portray such a withdrawal and there is no other way it will be portrayed by our enemies and other observers around the world.

Some will say, "She can't mean it, she's stronger and more sensible than that." Caution: Recall that Senator Clinton will be our commander-in-chief from a party that also runs the Senate and House — and the leadership in the Senate and House, not to mention the most active members in them, want us out of Iraq. Even on her most "sensible" day do we think she can be relieved of that pressure? The Democrats on the Hill have been chomping at the bit to make good on their 2006 promises; will she really turn on them? Can she?

Second, we come to the realization that at least one Supreme Court justice is about to retire, and several others will be over age 70 come January 2009. Do we really think the nominees Senator McCain or Clinton (or Obama ) would appoint will be no different?

Let's go to their records, to the very time-period opponents of Senator McCain cite in their indictment of him.

McCain voted to defund Planned Parenthood last year, Clinton didn't and would likely expand Planned Parenthood's taxpayer funding.

McCain voted to ban partial-birth abortion, Clinton didn't and would likely reverse the partial-birth abortion ban.

McCain voted for Roberts and Alito and made the case for them in the media, Clinton didn't.

McCain has never voted for a tax increase, Clinton will increase taxes.

McCain will continue the Bush tax cuts, Clinton will end them.

McCain will end pork-barrel spending, Clinton supports the endowment of projects like the Woodstock Museum with taxpayer funding.

McCain will not cut and run in Iraq, Clinton will work with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid to do just that.

McCain sponsored legislation to keep the Fairness Doctrine from rearing its head again, Clinton has not and has signaled moves to revive it.

McCain supports school choice, Clinton does not.

Clinton will mandate health insurance, McCain will not.

McCain voted to convict Bill Clinton on impeachment, Clinton was a witting accomplice in President Bill Clinton's scandals.

McCain has an ACU (American Conservative Union) rating of 82.3; Clinton has a rating of 9.

McCain has 0-percent rating from NARAL; Clinton has 100 percent.

McCain is endorsed by Tom Coburn, Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, Sam Brownback, Tim Pawlenty, Phil Gramm, Jeff Flake, Jon Kyl, and Ted Olson. Hillary's endorsers? Barbra Streisand, Maxine Waters, Gray Davis, Robert Kennedy Jr., Jennifer Granholm, and she will have the endorsements of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Harry Reid if and when she becomes the Democratic nominee for President.

As for those who have taken to labeling Senator McCain a liberal, we reject that.

A liberal does not have a zero rating from NARAL and a 17-percent voting record with the AFL-CIO (the same rating as Sen. Jim DeMint, by way of comparison).

A liberal does not have this written about him by Sen. Jon Kyl: "On the ever-important issue of life, Senator McCain has a record of voting for pro-life legislation: He has voted for bans on partial birth abortion; he has supported Unborn Victims of Violence Act and parental notification for minors; and he has voted against using federal money to distribute morning-after contraception in schools. He has repeatedly cosponsored the Child Custody Protection Act, which prohibits the transportation of minors across state lines in order to circumvent state laws, requiring instead the involvement of parents in abortion decisions."

A liberal does not vote to defund Planned Parenthood.

A liberal does not go on television and radio to defend Sam Alito and John Roberts.

A liberal does not go on the road to campaign for Social Security retirement accounts.

A liberal does not support the surge or the stay in Iraq.

A liberal does not support extending Bush's tax cuts.

A liberal does not get the endorsements of Tom Coburn, Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes, Rudy Giuliani, Sam Brownback, Tim Pawlenty, Phil Gramm, Jeff Flake, Jon Kyl, and Ted Olson.

Senator McCain may have some liberal positions, but he is not a liberal. He is a conservative with some liberal positions. But on life, taxes, and national defense, his record is, in fact, very strong.

Let us repeat. We know the "yes, but," argument against Senator McCain — and agree with some of it. But let us not fool ourselves that there is no difference between Senator McCain and whomever the Democrats nominate. (What we have written above about Senator Clinton holds true of Senator Barack Obama as well).

Over the past two years, the conservative movement has lifted Senator Joe Lieberman onto their shoulders higher and higher (rightly, in our view), and yet many of the same people who have done that have sworn off of Senator McCain. Notwithstanding much of our praise for Senator Lieberman, he is far to the left of Senator McCain — with a lifetime ACU rating of 17 percent and an ADA (Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal counter-part to the ACU ratings), in 2006, of 75 percent.

Senator Clinton's respective ratings? Nine percent from the ACU and 95 percent from the ADA.

Senator Obama's respective ratings? Eight percent from the ACU and 95 percent from the ADA.

Senator McCain's respective ratings? 82.3 percent from the ACU and 15 percent from the ADA.

We do not have perfect nominees and never have. As John Hinderaker pointed out recently, since Calvin Coolidge, we haven't even had a pure "conservative ideologue" in our party elected president. And even that one "purist" was not free of blemishes and criticism, much as we rightly venerate him.

Let's admit the concern: Some people predict that a President McCain will open the borders, close Guantanamo, and tie our policies to some false premises related to global warming. We hope he doesn't, but even critics must admit it is just as likely — if not more so — that his legacy will be the following: He pursued al-Qaeda to the ends of the Earth and vanquished them; he cut deficit spending and vetoed pork-barrel spending over and over again; he appointed four good justices to the Supreme Court; and he reinvigorated a sense of thoughtful patriotism, citizenship, and unselfish devotion to the Republic.

Senator John McCain has a great deal to recommend him. He has a great deal more to offer the country, and it is our sincere hope that, as we move toward the general election, more and more people will see that. In the interim, it is our equal hope that Senator McCain will take the next several months to build his support among conservative doubters within our party. We deserve that, too, so that — come September — we will all be confident we have nominated the right man.

We have endorsed no candidate in our party as of yet, but we wholeheartedly unendorse any notion that either Senator John McCain or Governor Mitt Romney will ruin the party, the movement, or, for that matter, the election. They are both heads and shoulders above would-be presidents Senator Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, and once we see the whole record, and these men in the totality of their careers and records, we will, we pray, realize that.

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