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Posts Tagged ‘senate’

Timetables are bad

Posted by Richard on March 15, 2007

At least on one issue, one Republican leader is showing a bit of spine and spunk. Sen. Mitch McConnell, speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, forcefully rejected the Reid Resolution (which calls for troop withdrawals to begin in 4 months, with all combat troops out of Iraq within a year). McConnell reminded the Democrats that they once rejected as foolish the course they now want to impose (emphasis added):

"This is the memo our enemies have been waiting for.

"Osama Bin Laden and his followers have repeatedly said that the U.S. does not have the stomach for a long fight with the terrorists. Passage of the Reid Joint Resolution will be the first concrete sign since Sept. 11, 2001, that he was right on target.

"Timetables are bad. But don't just take my word for it.

"Speaking at the National Press Club in 2005, my good friend the Majority Leader himself said this: ‘As for setting a timeline, as we learned in the Balkans, that's not a wise decision, because it only empowers those who don't want us there, and it doesn't work well to do that.'

"Six months after that, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Biden, said this: ‘A deadline for pulling out … will only encourage our enemies to wait us out' … it would be ‘a Lebanon in 1985. And God knows where it goes from there.' That was our friend, Joe Biden, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"And three months later, Senator Clinton made the same point when she said, ‘I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal,' said Senator Clinton. ‘I don't think you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you.' "That's the Majority Leader, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and a prominent Democrat presidential candidate.

"Surely Senators Reid, Biden, and Clinton have not changed their minds about who would benefit the most if we set a date certain for withdrawal. They know just as well as I do that this is what the terrorists have been waiting for – and just what our allies in Iraq, and the entire region of the world have feared.

"Setting a date certain for withdrawal will send a chill up the spine of every Iraqi who has dared to stand with America. Millions of good men and women have helped us in this fight. Since we arrived in Iraq, nearly 120,000 Iraqis have volunteered to serve in their army. More than 8,000 Iraqis have died in uniform to defend the fledgling Democracy over there. And recently, in Anbar province, we're told that roughly 1,000 Sunnis volunteered for the police force over a period of a couple weeks.

"These brave men and women, Mr. President, are watching what we do here: They know, as we do, that chaos will engulf Iraq and the rest of the region on that day. They know they and their families will likely face a firing squad soon after we leave. And the message we send them with this resolution is this: good luck. 

Thank you, Sen. McConnell, for reminding your colleagues that there are many, many lives at stake.

If the Democrats have their way on Iraq, not only will U.S. interests and the long-term prospects for world peace be severely damaged, but — just in case it matters to the self-styled humanitarians on the left — there will likely be a bloodbath in Iraq to rival what happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

Of course, the left pretty much tried to ignore that one, too.

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Curious pledge demographics

Posted by Richard on January 30, 2007

Last Thursday, I wrote about The NRSC Pledge, a grass-roots online protest — with teeth! — against the vertebrae-challenged Senate Republicans. The pledge is a promise not to contribute to any Republican senator who votes for a resolution disapproving the Iraq "troop surge" plan and not to contribute to the NRSC if it supports such a senator. Over 30,000 people have electronically signed it in the past five days, and this nice map shows the number of signers in each state. I’m amazed by some of the numbers.

California (population 36 million*) has by far the largest number of signers — over 6,000. Second is Texas (pop. 23 million) with about 2,500. Colorado (pop. 4.5 million) takes third place with over 2,200. Arizona (6 million), Florida (18 million), and Minnesota (5 million) all have around 1,300 signers — and no other state has over 1,000!

Look at some of the other big states — Illinois (13 million) has under 1,000, New York (20 million) and Pennsylvania (12.5 million) have fewer than 800 each, and New Jersey (8.7 million) has just over 400.

It’s not just a red state / blue state thing, either. Alabama is a decidedly red state with about the same population as Colorado, but one-tenth as many signers. North Carolina has twice Colorado’s population, but one-fourth the signers. The numbers for the smaller-population western states are pitiful: Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas have about 50 signers each, Idaho about 100, and Utah about 200.

So, how does Colorado end up hot on the heels of Texas, which has over five times our population, and far ahead of any comparable-population state? Are we that much more internet-oriented? That much more politically aware? That much less tolerant of hypocrisy and self-serving posturing? You got me.

And, yes, I most certainly do think these resolutions are self-serving posturing. The Senate just unanimously approved Gen. Petraeus. That so many senators are eager to go on record against what ought to be called the Petraeus Plan (he helped formulate it and strongly endorsed it in his Senate testimony) is an indication of how unserious and inconsistent they are. That they’re ignoring warnings by Petraeus and others about the harm their posturing does is an indication of how craven and contemptible they are.

So, have you signed the pledge yet? Why not do it right now? Oh, and if you have any theories about the participation rate differences, especially Colorado’s stand-out performance, drop them in the comments.

* All population numbers are rounded off from the 2005 figures at

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A sorry spectacle

Posted by Richard on January 27, 2007

Yesterday, as I skimmed through the posts at Hugh Hewitt’s blog looking for updates on The NRSC Pledge, I skipped Dean Barnett’s post, Being Norm. That was a mistake I’ve since rectified — it’s a must-read. Barnett wrote about Sen. Norm Coleman, a solid conservative Republican whom Barnett really, really liked. Coleman, apparently with one eye on his 2008 re-election campaign, is supporting the Warner resolution.

Barnett expressed his displeasure and described how a politician who aspires to be a statesman ought to behave — and how he ought not:

Winston Churchill, after seeing to Great Britain’s survival, was unceremoniously dumped by the British electorate in favor of the supremely mediocre Clement Atlee in July of 1945. Lord knows I’m not comparing Coleman to Churchill; my point is sometimes outstanding public service is not rewarded at the ballot box.

If you enter the political arena, perhaps an understanding of that fact should be a personal prerequisite. At some point, in the course of doing what’s right, the voters may reject you. And lord knows if Great Britain could survive in 1945 without Churchill at the helm, the United States could weather the absence of Norm Coleman in the Senate.

Yesterday saw the sorry spectacle of John Kerry tearing up on the floor of the Senate as he announced he would not seek the presidency in 2008. As Roger Simon pointed out, it’s worth asking who the tears were for. Certainly Kerry wasn’t crying about the death of a Kerry agenda. Beyond his personal ambitions, there has never been a Kerry agenda.

John Kerry was crying for himself and the dashing of those ambitions. What a pathetic display. …

The fact that he chose to cry tears of self-pity from the Senate floor because he would not achieve his dreams speaks eloquently to what drove him, what consumed him and where his priorities have always been.

Contact Sen. Coleman and ask him if he wants to emulate Winston Churchill or John Kerry.

You have signed the pledge, haven’t you? Over 20,000 25,000 people have.

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Take the pledge

Posted by Richard on January 26, 2007

On Tuesday, Gen. Petraeus testified that the Biden-Warner resolution opposing the Bush plan for Iraq, or any other similar resolution, would encourage the enemy and demoralize our troops. By all accounts, Gen. Petraeus is a highly competent, honorable, and intelligent military leader, and his opinion on this subject should carry considerable weight.

But it doesn’t take an expert in military strategy and tactics to understand the consequences of the cowardliness in the Capitol. The Islamofascists have long maintained that the West lacks the will for a sustained fight, and will run away when things get too difficult or bloody. And we already know from seized al Qaeda in Iraq documents that if we abandon Iraq, our enemies will eagerly follow us back here.

Iraq is not an isolated war, it’s one front in a much larger war. At this moment, Lebanon is on the brink of civil war, and an emboldened Hezbollah seems to be preparing to seize control. Do you suppose this is unrelated to the growing evidence of America’s wavering resolve?

ln the long run, retreat from Iraq will likely lead to at least hundreds of thousands and probably millions of deaths in Iraq, and to thousands or tens of thousands of deaths in the United States — maybe more. Who knows how many more will die at the hands of emboldened and strengthened Islamofascists in Lebanon, Israel, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Britain, France, the Netherlands, …

The more that spineless Republicans and Democrats appear eager to run away from Iraq, the more al Qaeda in Iraq and Iran’s proxies must think that they’re just a few horrific IED blasts and another handful of American deaths from achieving politically what they can’t achieve militarily. Set aside for the moment the terrible long-term consequences of retreat — right now, today, this very moment, the Biden and Warner resolutions and their colleagues’ related hand-wringing and posturing are directly responsible for encouraging more violence and killing more Americans and Iraqis. It’s disgusting and contemptible and unforgivable.

This morning I joined 6100 other people (that number has since more than doubled tripled quadrupled) in signing The NRSC Pledge, which says:

If the United States Senate passes a resolution, non-binding or otherwise, that criticizes the commitment of additional troops to Iraq that General Petraeus has asked for and that the president has pledged, and if the Senate does so after the testimony of General Petraeus on January 23 that such a resolution will be an encouragement to the enemy, I will not contribute to any Republican senator who voted for the resolution. Further, if any Republican senator who votes for such a resolution is a candidate for re-election in 2008, I will not contribute to the National Republican Senatorial Committee unless the Chairman of that Committee, Senator Ensign, commits in writing that none of the funds of the NRSC will go to support the re-election of any senator supporting the non-binding resolution.

Hugh Hewitt, the quintessential Republican Party loyalist, helped start this effort, and he explained why tonight with four little words: "The war trumps party." I couldn’t agree more.

I also won’t contribute to any organization or PAC — such as the Club for Growth or the GOA PVF — that funnels money to any such senator. Gaius of Blue Crab Boulevard, who has a son serving in Iraq, made this additional promise:

I’ll go one better on the pledge. I WILL actively work against any Republican up for reelection who votes for a resolution – like Chucky "Dead to me" Hagel did. If our politicians are too stupid to see what kind of message they are sending to the world with their grandstanding, then they do not have the best interests of this country in mind and do not deserve to stay in office.

Good idea. I’m not a big-bucks contributor — I’m guessing all my campaign contributions last year amounted to not much over two grand. But I will be contributing to the primary opponents of Republicans who don’t stand with their president on this issue — and I’ll start with a contribution to anyone who challenges Sen. Warner. I’ll give a pass to a few GOP representatives (Ron Paul comes to mind) who opposed the war on principle from the beginning — they’ve followed their conscience all along.

But these gutless GOP wonders with their fingers in the wind who pander to a fickle public on this life-or-death matter (but don’t have the integrity or fortitude to actually prohibit appropriations from being used to increase troop levels)? They deserve to be punished. Please join me — sign the pledge. Then contact senators on Hewitt’s hit list and tell them to grow a spine or else.

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Bravo, Senator Allard!

Posted by Richard on January 16, 2007

Colorado’s Senator Wayne Allard yesterday did something all too rare among politicians — he announced that he was going to keep a promise he’d made to the voters. In both his 1996 election campaign and his 2002 re-election battle, Allard pledged to serve only two terms. Unlike many other term-limit pledgers, Allard kept his word:

Appearing with his wife, Joan, at a press conference at the state Capitol, Allard said, "The people of Colorado placed their trust in me based on a promise I made to them and I am honoring that promise. In an age when promises are cast away as quickly as yesterday’s newspaper, I believe a promise made should be a promise kept."

The term limits pledge was a relic of the so-called "Republican Revolution" of the 1994 election, when the GOP swept to power promising to change the ways of Washington.

As time passed, some one-time leaders of the movement, including Rep. Tom Tancredo, and others who signed pledges, such as former Rep. Scott McInnis, abandoned their promises in the name of continuing public service. Others, such as former Rep. Bob Schaffer, lived up to their pledge and went home.

Time magazine once described Sen. Allard as one of the worst senators. Consider the source. Allard has been a low-profile senator, not given to bombast or currying favor with the media. He’s focused on matters of importance to his constituents, not to the movers and shakers in Washington and New York. Someone once said that as a Senator, Wayne Allard is a pretty good veterinarian.

But Allard’s been one of the most fiscally conservative senators, consistently getting high marks from the Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union. Thus his announcement is bittersweet news. I’m glad he’s keeping his promise. But I’d hate to see him replaced by the promise-breaking, deal-making Republican Scott McInnis. And I’d really hate to see him replaced by the Democratic representative from the People’s Republic of Boulder, Mark Udall.

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Cheerfully ceding control

Posted by Richard on January 5, 2007

Just as there are some women who find it "liberating" to be subservient and confined to a burqa, there are some Republicans who are much more comfortable with the Democrats in charge and their own party in the minority. For the past umpteen years, many Republicans have acted as if they were still the minority, preferring to let the Democrats set the agenda and define the terms of debate. Now, they’re acting as if they’re relieved that the Democrats are back in charge:

“The place is like a bubbling bottle of Champagne, overflowing with joy and hope and civility,” said Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia. And to think, this guy is in the minority now.

“People want us to stop acting like kindergarten kids,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee.

The Warners, Alexanders, and Snowes of the Republican Party have been "liberated" from the burdens of governing, effectively promoting "core beliefs" they only pretend to have, and opposing ideas they don’t really oppose. Now they can go back to being the "loyal opposition," politely but ineffectually mouthing platitudes about limited government, fiscal responsibility, and all that other nonsense that they never really believed and didn’t want to implement. And they can go back to doing what they like best — schmoozing and compromising and back-scratching.

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Not a Lott to cheer about

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2006

Senate Republicans chose Trent Lott over Lamar Alexander as the minority whip. That’s choosing awful over terrible. Or maybe terrible over dreadful. It’s hard for me to keep the fine gradations of undesirability among these guys straight.

Dean Barnett pegged the sarcasm meter when he hailed the Senate Republicans for so quickly heeding the electorate’s plea for more Trent Lott. He continued:

Is it just me, or is it becoming increasingly apparent that the Republicans and Democrats are determined to engage in a two year dumb-off? If it weren’t for the fact that there are some very determined lunatics out there trying to kill us, this would be funny.

But they are out there, so it isn’t.

In the dumb-off scoring, the Dems can retake the lead by going with Rep. Murtha as House majority leader. But I suspect there will be plenty of lead changes in the next couple of years. The stupidity competition between the two parties is at the same time funny, sad, and infuriating. It’s also the cause of growing cynicism among the electorate, and I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing from a libertarian perspective.

It does disturb me that I have to depend on this collection of clueless chumps to make the right decisions regarding those very determined lunatics.

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The dinosaurs are still powerful

Posted by Richard on November 13, 2006

There’s been no shortage of analyses and finger-pointing to explain the GOP’s "thumpin’" this year. It was Iraq. No, it was corruption. They were too extreme. No, they abandoned their conservative principles. Immigrant-bashing hurt. No, failure to close the borders hurt. And on and on… I think one of the primary causes is something almost no one’s discussed — and some, like Dean Barnett, explicitly rejected. 

Hugh Hewitt, lots of bloggers, and other voices of the "new media" like to disparage the "dinosaur media" and point to declining ratings for network news, falling readership and revenue for the big liberal papers, and other signs of the declining influence of the mainstream media. They exaggerate the truth. The dinosaurs may be in decline, but they’re still immensely powerful and can crush you when they make the effort. And, boy, did they make the effort this time!

Yes, it’s the same media as in 2002 and 2004, as Barnett noted. But, (a) they really pulled out all the stops this time, and (b) their relentless propaganda campaign against Bush and the Republicans had a cumulative effect.

Lenin said, "A lie told often enough becomes the truth." After hearing it repeated as fact a bazillion times, most Americans believe that Bush lied about Iraq’s WMD threat and Saddam’s support of terrorists. After three years of negative stories from Iraq outnumbering positive ones by approximately ten thousand to one, most Americans believe the situation is hopeless.

Story after story about DeLay, Cunningham, Foley, and Ney hammered into the American consciousness the Democratic talking points about the "Republican culture of corruption." But there’s nary a media mention of more than 70 Democrats with ethical or legal problems, including Reps. Jefferson, Murtha, Rangel, Mollohan, Conyers, and Schakowsky, Sens. Boxer and Reid, and Govs. Blagojevich and Corzine.

For sure, the Republicans’ wounds were largely self-inflicted. After 2002, Hastert dismantled the Contract with America’s ethics and accountability rules, and the Republicans became arrogant, fat, and lazy. They governed like Democrats, and the American people rejected that, as they usually do. Meanwhile, the Democrats recruited a bunch of candidates who sounded like Republicans, and the American people elected them.

If they’re going to turn things around in 2008, the Republicans need to clean house. They need new leaders like Reps. Pence and Shadegg, and Sens. Kyle and DeMint. They need to embrace the primary candidates backed by the Club for Growth — 7out of 8 were elected this year.

But they need one more thing: an effective strategy for countering the power of those media dinosaurs, because they’re not dead yet.

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Did the NSA save the New York subways?

Posted by Richard on June 21, 2006

Here’s another belated observation about a Sunday news show. On CNN Late Edition, Wolf Blitzer interviewed Senators Pat Roberts and Dianne Feinstein, the chair and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he asked them about the story of an aborted 2003 al Qaeda plot to attack New York’s subways. Both senators were circumspect, as you’d expect. But Roberts suggested something — and Feinstein appeared to back him up — that I found remarkable. Blitzer starts off (emphasis added):

Senator Roberts, the chairman, let me start with you and read to you from the new edition of Time Magazine, our sister publication, an excerpt from the book, "The One Percent Doctrine" by Ron Suskind.

In it, this paragraph: "There would be several placed in subway cars and other strategic locations and activated remotely. This was well past conception and early planning. The group was operational. They were 45 days from zero hour. Then Ali told his handlers something that left intelligence officials speechless and vexed. Al- Zawahiri had called off the attacks," referring to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two Al Qaida leader behind Osama bin Laden.

A report that there were cyanide gas attacks planned for the New York subway system that were inexplicably called off. What can you tell our viewers about this?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, not very much, except to say the Intelligence Committee is briefed on these kinds of threats. I would simply say that we’ve had a briefing.

It points up, once again, the value of the terrorist surveillance program, the NSA program that’s been in the news so much. We are able to detect and deter and stop such attacks. And we were very fortunate that that did not happen.

BLITZER: But can you confirm that there was such a plot in the works?

ROBERTS: I can’t either confirm or deny, but I can just simply repeat that we are briefed on these kind of threats. And, as I say again, I’m very happy we have the capability to do what we do to stop these attacks. And that goes back to the statement you’ve heard a lot that, you know, thank goodness we’ve not had an attack of that nature since 9/11. But that’s not by accident.

BLITZER: Senator Feinstein, I know you’re restricted on what you can say about these kinds of sensitive intelligence-related matters.

Two former intelligence officials have told CNN there was such a plot in the works. We have not been able to confirm that they were only 45 days off of actually launching it. But go ahead and add whatever you want.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I think the chairman said what could be said about it. I don’t think that anybody doubts that there are people that want to do us harm, that there are those that want to launch these attacks. They will if they can.

And so, you know, there’s the need for eternal vigilance. And I think Senator Roberts is correct. The terrorist surveillance program is an important tool in this area.

And there’s only one defense and that is good intelligence. And there is a very real need for us to do everything we can on the Intelligence Committee to see that the intelligence community, all 16 agencies, have really recovered from what led to the Iraq adventure, which was mistaken information, and that we get it correct.

And in fact, good intelligence has stopped what were real threats. And I think that’s important for the American people to know.

Sen. Feinstein is not exactly a shill for the Bush administration. I interpret those statements as strong hints — quite strong, within the constraints of the "we can’t confirm or deny specifics, we can only speak in generalities" paradigm — that the NSA’s international communications surveillance program played a critical role in learning about — and perhaps deterring the execution of — an attack on New York subways.

That seems pretty significant to me. I suspect that it’s as close to confirmation of a direct benefit from the NSA program as we’re likely to get — until the historians get their hands on the relevant documents about 50 years from now.

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