Wednesday, May 31, 2006

NJ Senate: A "virtual debate" is no debate at all

Yes, there will be a "debate" in the New Jersey US Senate race -- but not the kind we're used to. This, from an Associated Press dispatch earlier today:
TRENTON, N.J. -- Candidate debates are standard fare in American politics.

But when the back-and-forth is confined to a Web site, it's called a virtual debate, a new political phenomenon that will be tried in New Jersey's U.S. Senate race beginning in July.

The Hall Institute of Public Policy, a nonpartisan policy think tank, plans to host the virtual debate on its Web site. The expected nominees in the race are Republican state Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. and Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

"The virtual debate will provide a platform to sort out ideas and work collectively toward solutions," Hall Institute founder George E. Hall said Wednesday.

The debate is expected to work like this: A question will be posed to each campaign every two weeks. Their responses will be posted and the campaigns can then respond to the opposing candidate. Viewers also will be able to post comments.

The Hall Institute expects to get through about eight questions before the November election.
This is silly.

This is not a "debate" between the two candidates, and it will not "provide a platform to sort out ideas and work collectively toward solutions."

This will be a test of the two candidates' communications gurus and their ability to skewer their opponents rhetorically, nothing more. The result will be poll-driven, focus-group-tested mush.

It is axiomatic that a "debate," in the modern American political context, is not really a "debate" at all -- at least not the kind of debate our high school civics teachers taught us about, where two candidates face off on the issues of the day, questioning each other and challenging one another's views; in the modern American political context, a "debate" is a joint press conference, where each candidate is tested on his ability to spew forth, in 60- and 90-second sound bites, the stock answers he's practiced until he's blue in the face.

Granted, our current model of "debates" leaves much to be desired -- like, say, spontaneity, for starters -- but at least they offer us some clue as to each candidate's ability to do the job to which they seek election: By putting the two candidates on display at the same time, in the same place, and in an environment where their control is minimized, current debates at least let viewers/voters see how comfortable each is in the glare of the spotlight; let viewers/voters see how well each candidate thinks on his feet; let viewers/voters see whether or not each candidate can make a coherent, if abbreviated, argument in defense of a position.

Now, with this "virtual debate," we are to be deprived even of this measly little bit.

It's not at all surprising that the two candidates in question would agree to this exercise; after all, each will be able to hone "his" "answers" to his heart's content, making sure to cross every T and dot every I before hitting the "send" key on his computer. What is surprising is that an academic institution should be the one sponsoring the "event" -- and that the academic institution should appear to be excited about it.

Embarrassing, if you ask me. On all counts.

NJ Senate: Score One for Menendez

Action in New Jersey today, as appointed US Senator Bob Menendez, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the general election, issued a challenge to his GOP rival, state senator Tom Kean, Jr., to debate before the end of June. Here's the wording of the challenge, issued by Menendez campaign director Steve DeMicco:
"Even in the absence of details about the Hall Institute's proposed virtual debate, the Menendez for Senate campaign is happy to endorse and participate in an on-line forum on the critical issues in this year's election. We want to emphasize, however, that an on-line forum is no substitute for live, televised, real-time debates between the two major party candidates. And in that spirit, given the urgency of the issues and the magnitude of the choice in this campaign, we issue a challenge today for Tom Kean, Jr., should he become his party's nominee, to meet Senator Menendez in a one-hour debate before a statewide television audience, and to do so before the end of June. Given its experience in conducting debates in every major recent statewide election, we would suggest that New Jersey Network serve as lead sponsor of this debate.

"The Menendez campaign believes that debates are a critical tool for voters to use in comparing the candidates. Campaign debates and forums should be sponsored by television, radio and newspaper organizations that command a statewide audience. They should offer various formats. And they should encourage citizen participation at the same time that they invite informed and probing questions from journalists.

"Both campaigns should sit down to discuss these principles and other ideas for elevating the campaign dialogue. But in the meantime, we hope Tom Kean, Jr. accepts the challenge to debate Senator Menendez before the end of June."
This is a killer challenge: Bob Menendez has been a Member of Congress for 14 years, is a skilled orator, and is well-versed in virtually every policy issue likely to be discussed in a US Senate debate. Kean, on the other hand, has been a member of the New Jersey legislature for just five years, and is not known for a particularly dynamic speaking style. Perhaps more importantly, he has had no experience, other than his current campaign, in speaking to federal issues, and reporters in the New Jersey press corps are, shall we say, waiting with bated breath for evidence that he can do so comfortably, competently, and comprehensively.

The Menendez campaign knows this, and is confident that a one-on-one debate will show Kean Jr. to be unready for prime time.

Hence, the debate challenge -- about which, two observations:

First, the real audience for the debate challenge isn't the viewing public. They'll see campaign debates when they regularly see campaign debates -- in the fall, after Labor Day. No, the first test posed by the Menendez challenge is to Team Kean, and the challenge is this: How will you respond to our debate challenge?

That is, the Menendez campaign is rolling a hand grenade into the Kean campaign's headquarters, to see how Team Kean will react -- and, more importantly, to make sure the New Jersey press corps sees how the Kean campaign reacts.

The New Jersey press corps is the prism through which the vast majority of New Jersey voters will get the information on which they will base their voting decisions in November.

Second, we'll find out tomorrow whether or not the Kean campaign passed the test -- when we read in the New Jersey newspapers how the story is played, if it is played at all. The Kean campaign's immediate dismissal of the debate challenge as a "lame stunt" could become the dominant theme in the media (even though it's not actually a lame stunt -- it's a fairly smart, if predictable, stunt), or the Kean campaign's dismissal of the debate challenge could be taken by the press corps as a sign of weakness.

We'll know in the morning.

But until we find out if the New Jersey press corps falls for Team Kean's spin, this exchange leans toward Menendez. Score one for him.

McCain cancels on Bilbray: another sign of impending GOP loss?

John McCain has cancelled his appearance at a fundraiser for CA-50 GOP candidate Brian Bilbray.

The reason, according to McCain's office, is that McCain and Bilbray disagree over immigration reform.

But the truth may be something more simple: McCain doesn't want to tarnish his credentials by showing up in a district where the Republican could lose the special election six days from now.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, McCain's office tried to get the Bilbray campaign to close the fundraising breakfast to the local media. McCain apparently didn't want his presence on Bilbray's behalf well-publicized -- even though it had only been added to the schedule recently.

Which is more believable: that McCain doesn't want to talk about immigration, or that McCain doesn't want to have his picture taken with a loser? McCain is the chief Senate sponsor of the immigration reform bill that the Senate just spent two weeks debating. Is it really possible that he would be bashful about that?

It's not like the Senate immigration debate happened suddenly. The Senate schedule was known a long time ago. McCain and Bilbray campaign officials knew when they scheduled the fundraiser for the last week of the special election campaign that the Senate would have just gotten done debating the legislation.

What they did not know when they scheduled the event was just how close this race would become -- so close, going into its final six days, that most local handicappers are calling it "pick 'em."

Term Limits. Please?

In this corner: US Senator Bill Frist, US Senator David Vitter, US Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite.

In that corner: House Speaker Denny Hastert, US Senator Trent Lott, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner.

Aside from the obvious difference between the two corners -- the Frist/Vitter/Brown-Waite corner all condemn Speaker Hastert's condemnation of the court-sanctioned FBI raid against the office of US Rep. William Jefferson, while the Hastert/Lott/Pelosi/Sensenbrenner corner all condemn the FBI and the Justice Department for the raid -- what is the other, not-so-obvious difference?

Term limits. Or, to be more precise, their individual length of service in the Congress.

To wit, in this case, at least, one can determine a player's likely view on the constitutionality of the FBI search of Mr. Jefferson's congressional office based on how long they've been serving in the Congress.

Mr. Frist promised, when first campaigning for the US Senate in 1994, that he a) would vote for an amendment limiting the terms of Members of Congress, and b) would self-term-limit himself to just two terms in the Senate. He voted for the term limit constitutional amendment in 1995, in the first year of his first term. And he is retiring at the end of this, his second, term.

Mr. Vitter made his bones in the Louisiana legislature by mobilizing public pressure on the state legislature's leadership, and virtually single-handedly forced term limits down their throats. He is currently serving his first term in the US Senate, after having served two full terms in the US House.

Ms. Brown-Waite has only been in Congress since her first election in 2002.

Mr. Hastert, on the other hand, has been in Congress since first being elected in 1986 -- 20 years ago. He is running this year for reelection to his eleventh term.

Ms. Pelosi has been in Congress since first being elected in June 1987, and is now serving her ninth full term. She is running this year for reelection to her tenth full term.

Mr. Lott has been in Congress since first being elected to the US House in 1972, before being elected to the US Senate in 1988. That's 16 years in the House and 18 years in the Senate. And this year he's running for reelection to his fourth term in the Senate.

Mr. Sensenbrenner has been in Congress since first being elected in 1978 -- 28 years ago -- and is running for reelection to his 15th term.

Term limits, anyone?

More on Haditha ... from CNN?

CNN reporter Arwa Damon was in Haditha with the Marines now under investigation for the massacre that took place on November 19. Earlier this evening, she posted this story to the CNN website telling her tale of the gallantry of the Marines who protected her and her crew while she was out on maneuvers with them.

The entire piece is worth reading, but here are some particularly salient excerpts:
"I know the Marines that were operating in western al Anbar, from Husayba all the way to Haditha. I went on countless operations in 2005 up and down the Euphrates River Valley. I was pinned on rooftops with them in Ubeydi for hours taking incoming fire, and I've seen them not fire a shot back because they did not have positive identification on a target.

"I saw their horror when they thought that they finally had identified their target, fired a tank round that went through a wall and into a house filled with civilians. They then rushed to help the wounded -- remarkably no one was killed.

"I was with them in Husayba as they went house to house in an area where insurgents would booby-trap doors, or lie in wait behind closed doors with an AK-47, basically on suicide missions, just waiting for the Marines to come through and open fire. There were civilians in the city as well, and the Marines were always keenly aware of that fact. How they didn't fire at shadows, not knowing what was waiting in each house, I don't know. But they didn't.

"And I was with them in Haditha, a month before the alleged killings last November of some 24 Iraqi civilians.

"I'm told that investigators now strongly suspect a rampage by a small number of Marines who snapped after one of their own was killed by a roadside bomb.

"Haditha was full of IEDs. It seemed they were everywhere, like a minefield. In fact, the number of times that we were told that we were standing right on top of an IED minutes before it was found turned into a dark joke between my CNN team and me.

"In fact, when we initially left to link up with the company that we were meant to be embedded with, the Humvee that I was in was hit by an IED. Another 2 inches and we would have been killed. Thankfully, no one was injured."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You Don't KNOW, Jack.

US Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Cutandrun), the former Marine/34-year Congressman who famously called late last year for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, says he knows Marines operating in the Iraqi village of Haditha last November are guilty of a premeditated massacre of 24 innocent Iraqi civilians.

Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Mr. Murtha declared
"There’s no question in my mind what happened. It was an IED [that] went off. And you’ve got to put this in perspective. Every day they go out, an IED goes off. And when I sanitize it and say an 'IED,' I’m talking about an explosive device goes off. It hurts somebody one day, the next day it kills somebody, the next day it maims somebody, and I see those people in the hospital all the time. So the pressure builds every time they go out.

"So this particular case, an IED exploded, it killed one Marine, and then a taxi drives up, and when the taxi comes up, there’s four or five people in it, and they shoot those four or five people – unarmed. And then they go on a rampage throughout the houses, and kill people. One woman, as I understand it, from talking to the officials in the Marine Corps, was bending over her child, pleading for mercy, and they shot her in cold blood. That’s the thing that’s so disturbing ...

"I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened. There’s no question in my mind about it."
This, before a single Marine has been charged. This, before a single court-martial has been convened. This before a single Marine has been convicted.

"I will not excuse murder, and this is what happened. There's no question in my mind."

Question: If the events had actually transpired exactly as Mr. Murtha says he knows they did, where was al-Jazeera? Wouldn't al Qaeda's own CNN have been on the spot immediately to broadcast videotape of the dead bodies? Is it possible that the dead bodies found upon inspection a day later were caused by the actions of anyone other than the Marines who were on duty in Haditha last November 19?

I'm not saying a massacre didn't occur, and -- because I have no way of knowing -- I'm not even saying that Marines did not massacre innocent Iraqi civilians. But I'd like a court martial to take place before blame is assigned and declarations of guilt are meted out.

Oddly, Jack I'll-convict-before-a-court-martial-has-been-convened Murtha is silent on another rather egregious abuse much closer to home: the case of US Rep. (and fellow Democrat) William Jefferson of Louisiana, who was videotaped by the FBI taking $100,000 in cash, and then found with $90,000 of that loot tucked away in his freezer four days later.

A Google search of the terms "Murtha" and "Jefferson" together reveals ... not a single word uttered by Mr. Murtha in this seemingly open-and-shut case of corruption by a fellow Democrat.

Let's review: Haditha -- no videotape of the alleged crime. William Jefferson -- FBI videotape of the alleged crime. Murtha: Haditha was murder, "no question about it in my mind"; Jefferson -- nothing.

You don't KNOW, Jack.

Is Rahm Emanuel playing hardball in CA-50?

Somebody's trying to peel off Republican votes from Brian Bilbray, the former GOP Congressman running to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham in the CA-50 special election.

And the betting here is that it's the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins is on to something -- yesterday he published a piece on the special election in CA-50 that ought to set tongues to wagging at the headquarters of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

According to Jenkins' column, automated phone calls are pouring into the district -- on behalf of a third-party candidate on the right named William Griffith.
Out on the extreme far right of the political spectrum, the main draw should be William Griffith, the independent “republican” (note lower case) whose rock-ribbed conservatism has earned him the recent endorsements of the local Minutemen and the super-conservative American Independent Party, which has about 7,000 registered voters in the 50th Congressional District.

In the special primary in April, Griffith was eclipsed – he received only 1,100 votes – but in the runoff, he has the gun/gay/abortion axis to himself, free and clear ...

Like Libertarian Paul King, the fourth name on the runoff ballot, Griffith has less than zero chance of winning a ride to Washington. Still, Griffith could be the Ralph Nader or Ross Perot of this race. He could draw Bilbray blood in the zero-sum game of the runoff.

The political math is simple: True-blue conservatives don't much like Bilbray. It's the gay/gun/abortion thing. He's just too liberal, too GOP establishment, some conservatives believe. In the GOP primary, renegade candidate Bill Hauf is trumpeting that very message.

If Busby steals the safe Republican seat next week and finds herself on the front page of The New York Times as the Democratic It Girl, she could owe Mr. G. a case of champagne. (Then again, he doesn't drink. Maybe a case of Martinelli.)

On the other hand, if Griffith (and King) fade to a percent or two apiece, Bilbray's chances of winning the traditionally safe Republican seat – and then repeat in November – are much improved.

A mystery person(s) evidently has done the math and started dialing for political dividends.

Households in the 50th are receiving phone calls pumping up Griffith, but the candidate has no clue who has commissioned the automated messages.

“I don't know if they're doing it for me or as a tactic against Bilbray,” he admits.

On his Web site (, Griffith writes: “I do not know who's conducting the phone campaign on my behalf. I am grateful for the enthusiasm of those who know what I stand for, and want to promote my candidacy.”

Nice thought, but the mathematical probability is that a Busby supporter is pushing buttons on behalf of Griffith. It so adds up.
"A Busby supporter?" That would be the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Nice work, Mr. Emanuel.

Reid: "I think it was all one, the way I look at it."

Hypocrisy, thy name is Reid -- Harry M., to be specific.

Mr. Reid, the Minority Leader of the United States Senate, has been wailing for months now about the so-called Republican "culture of corruption." Despite evidence that he, too, regularly met with associates of the convicted felon lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and despite evidence that he, too, regularly took official actions that benefited Abramoff's clients, and despite evidence that he, too, was himself the beneficiary of fund-raising efforts on his behalf by Abramoff and his associates (including a fundraising event held at Abramoff's offices), Mr. Reid has continued to moralize against the Republicans, insisting that there is no connection between the favors he received from Abramoff et. al. and the official actions he undertook on behalf of Abramoff's clients.

Absent a smoking cancelled check, there is little that can be done, other than to raise an eyebrow in Mr. Reid's general direction.

But John Solomon's new piece for the Associated Press -- Reid accepted free boxing tickets while a related bill was pending -- may have just provided the smoking gun, in the form of a remarkable admission by Mr. Reid:

Reid had separate meetings in June 2003 in his Senate offices with two Abramoff tribal clients and Edward Ayoob, a former staff member who went to work with Abramoff.

The meetings occurred over a five-day span in which Ayoob also threw a fundraiser for Reid at the firm where Ayoob and Abramoff worked that netted numerous donations from Abramoff's partners, firm and clients.

Reid said he viewed the two official meetings and the fundraiser as a single event. "I think it all was one, the way I look at it," he said.

One of the tribes, the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, donated $9,000 to Reid at the fundraiser and the next morning tribal officials met briefly with Reid and Ayoob at Reid's office to discuss federal programs. Reid and the tribal chairman posed for a picture.

Five days earlier, Reid met with Ayoob and representatives of the Sac & Fox tribe of Iowa for about 15 minutes to discuss at least two legislative requests. Reid's office said the senator never acted on those requests.

So, to make the timeline clear:
  • Day One: Mr. Reid meets with a group representing an Indian tribe from Iowa. They seek legislative action. The group is led by Edward Ayoob, a former Reid staffer who had became a lobbyist for Team Abramoff.
  • Day Two: Mr. Reid busies himself with matters not related to taking cash from Indians in exchange for official action.
  • Day Three: Mr. Reid continues to busy himself with matters not related to taking cash from Indians in exchange for official action.
  • Day Four: Mr. Ayoob throws a fundraising reception for Mr. Reid at the offices Mr. Ayoob shares with Jack Abramoff. The fundraiser nets $26,000 for Mr. Reid's campaign fund, of which $9,000 is donated by the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, another Ayoob/Abramoff client.
  • Day Five: Mr. Reid meets in his office with a group representing the Sagina Chippewa tribe of Michigan. Naturally, they're all pretty chummy -- after all, it was just the night before, at Mr. Abramoff's offices, that Mr. Reid saw them at his fundraiser. Again, the group is led by his former staffer, Mr. Ayoob. The group discusses federal programs, and Mr. Reid poses for a photo with the tribal chief.
And Mr. Reid's Money Quote, when asked by a reporter for the Associated Press, is to say, "I think it all was one, the way I look at it."

This Money Quote is the key to the story -- for while the chain of events has long been known, Mr. Reid's rhetorical flourish has not.

Since when does a Member of Congress view official meetings in his office to discuss legislative action and his attendance at a fundraising reception hosted by a lobbyist (at which he accepted thousands of dollars in campaign cash from people seeking his official assistance) as "one?"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Global Warming: Post Two

Michael Crichton is a one-man media conglomerate:
  • Author of more than a dozen best-selling novels (including Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Disclosure, Congo, Sphere, The Andromeda Strain, Rising Sun, Timeline, The Terminal Man, The Great Train Robbery, Prey)
  • Hollywood screenwriter (Twister, Rising Sun, Jurassic Park, Runaway, Westworld)
  • Hollywood director (Westworld, Coma, The Great Train Robbery, Looker, Runaway, Physical Evidence)
  • Hollywood producer (Disclosure, Twister, Sphere, The 13th Warrior)
  • Hit TV series creator (ER)
His specialty is the science/medical/technology thriller.

His latest is State of Fear, a novel about the overblown claims of radical environmentalists -- and the lengths to which they will go to make others believe them -- landed, as usual, on top of the New York Times best-seller list when it was first published in December 2004.

As a fan of Crichton's, I got my hands on it and read it in two sittings. As a liberty-loving conservative, I was pleased that he so deftly punctured the global warming balloon.

About a year later, I was doing some of my regular blog-trolling, and I came across a speech Crichton had given to something called the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy (admittedly, a strangely-named organization -- makes it sound as if there are people in Washington rooting for more complexity!).

And I was awestruck.

Without further ado, here's the speech he gave on November 6, 2005, entitled

Fear, Complexity, and Environmental Management in the 21st Century

Global Warming: Post One

Does global warming exist? If so, is it caused by humans? If so, does it matter?

Al Gore has staked his political life on it. Others -- notably, author Michael Crichton -- aren't so sure.

Sunday's Washington Post Magazine features an extensive article on the skeptics:

Click here to read "The Tempest."

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dowd to House GOP: On Immigration, Comprehensive Reform Is Best

In the guise of one of his regular polling/strategy memos to the members of the Republican National Committee, Bush strategist Matthew Dowd offers advice to House Republicans preparing to deal a death blow to the "comprehensive" immigration reform bill that just passed the Senate:


TO: Republican National Committee Members

FROM: Matthew Dowd, RNC Senior Advisor

RE: Public Opinion On Immigration Reform

DATE: May 26, 2006

Given the ongoing public and legislative debate on immigration reform, I wanted to provide you with an overview and analysis of public opinion research on this important issue. A review and evaluation of both public and private polls reveals the following:

Americans believe illegal immigration is a serious problem that the government has failed to address in the past. Doing nothing on this issue is not a solution, as Americans want it fixed today.

The public wants a comprehensive solution that includes reform on three fronts: (i) strengthening border security/law enforcement to stem the flow of illegal immigration, (ii) enhancing the avenues through which immigrants can lawfully and safely enter the U.S. for work and (iii) creating a compassionate, practical and equitable way for those illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to legally enter the system.

On the other hand, proposals such as criminalizing illegal immigrants, have significantly less support among the American people.

The comprehensive approach that emphasizes both security and compassion is unifying, not polarizing – it is supported by Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. Furthermore, majorities of Hispanics back it. Therefore, it is imperative for the Republican Party to talk about immigration effectively and comprehensively and demonstrate leadership on this vital issue as we move toward the mid-term elections.

I. Public Polling Summary

Public polls show that Americans want the government to solve the immigration problem. The public strongly supports a comprehensive approach. For instance:

Expanding the Border Patrol. Eighty percent (80%) in the FOX News poll (4/4-4/5) support increasing the number of officers policing the border, and Gallup (4/6-4/7) shows 81% believe increasing the number of Border Patrol agents will be an effective way to reduce illegal immigration.

Creating a temporary worker program. More than two-thirds of voters – and equally large numbers of Republicans – support creating a temporary worker program. FOX News (5/16-5/18) found 63% of all voters support a temporary worker program and 63% of Republicans supporting it too. Similarly, CBS (5/16-5/17) found 61% of Americans and 62% of Republicans support a temporary worker program.

Strong Support For Temporary Worker Program From GOP Voters

Providing a way for illegal immigrants already here to obtain legal status. Proposals to allow illegal immigrants who have been in the country for at least five years and meet other requirements (pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line) to apply for legal status garner wide support. Close to 80% support such a proposal in the CNN poll (5/16-5/17) and 77% in the CBS News poll (5/16-5/17), including 76% of Republicans. And according to the NBC News/WSJ poll (4/21-4/24), more than two-thirds (68%) support the Hagel-Martinez approach that passed the Senate.

Sending the National Guard to help Border Patrol agents secure the border. Voters strongly support the President’s plan to deploy National Guard troops to the Mexican border. 74% support the plan in the ABC News/Washington Post poll (5/12-5/14), 64% support it in the CNN poll (5/16-5/17), and 62% support it in the CBS News poll. Moreover, the CBS poll shows 68% believe National Guard troops will be effective in reducing illegal immigration.

II. RNC Polling Summary

Examining RNC internal polling sheds even more light on the immigration debate. Our most recent poll (5/21-5/23) by Voter/Consumer Research finds:

Overwhelming support exists for a temporary worker program. 80% of all voters, 83% of Republicans, and 79% of self-identified conservatives support a temporary worker program as long as immigrants pay taxes and obey the law.

When voters are given the choice of other immigration proposals, strengthening enforcement with a tamper-proof identity card (89% among all voters, 93% among GOP), various wordings of a temporary worker program (the highest at 85% among all voters, 86% among GOP), and sending National Guard troops to the border (63% among all voters, 84% among GOP) score the highest among both all voters and Republican voters.

Immigration Proposals, Ranked By Overall Support

Voters don’t consider granting legal status to those already here amnesty. Seventy percent (70%) of voters say illegal immigrants who have put down roots in the U.S. should be granted legal status after they go to the back of the line, pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and have a clean criminal record; just 25% say that would be amnesty and we should instead impose criminal penalties on illegal immigrants in the U.S. Republican and conservative opinion is only slightly lower— 68% of conservatives and 64% of Republicans support granting legal status over criminal penalties.

Voters want comprehensive reform, including a temporary worker program and legal status, not inaction. When voters are given the choice between a comprehensive reform plan of getting tough on border security and a temporary worker program or no reform at all (below), 71% choose comprehensive reform and 19% choose no reform. Support for comprehensive reform is even higher among GOP base voters—80% of conservatives and 72% of church-going Protestants want comprehensive reform over no reform.

· “Getting tough on the border by building more fences, motion sensors, and cameras, and creating a temporary worker program where people can apply to work in this country for a limited period if they pay taxes and obey the law.”


· “Not reforming our immigration system or strengthening border security if it means letting more immigrants into the U.S. through a temporary worker program and failing to punish immigrants here now who came into the country illegally.”

Conservative Subgroup Support For Temporary Worker Over Inaction

Republican candidates succeed when they support taking action on immigration. Our poll tested a number of messages, and found candidates who talk about comprehensive reform are more successful than those who focus only on border security. For example, a candidate using comprehensive reform language wins 71%—including 52% of Republicans—when matched against a seal-the-border candidate.

Candidate A “who only supports sealing off the border, stopping illegal immigrants from entering the country, and imposing criminal penalties on immigrants already here”

25% are more likely to support Candidate A


Candidate B “who supports comprehensive immigration reform that would beef up border security, enforce laws against companies that hire illegals and creates a temporary worker program that would allow immigrants to work here for a set period of time so long as they register, pay taxes, obey the law, and return home when their permit expires.”

71% are more likely to support Candidate B

Finally, when discussing immigration reform, tone and language are extremely important. To continue to grow the party, we must conduct this debate with civility and respect for our nation’s heritage – as the President has said, we are both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. That is why the American people favor a balanced plan that secures the border, improves enforcement, enhances immigration avenues AND deals compassionately and equitably with those who are already here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bush orders seized documents sealed

FOX News just reported that President Bush has ordered the documents seized during Saturday evening's search of US Rep. William Jefferson's office to be sealed for 45 days.

This means the investigation of Mr. Jefferson, which has been ongoing for the past 14 months, just got put on hold for another month and a half. To what end?

Justice delayed is justice denied. The American people, and, more specifically, the residents of Louisiana's second congressional seat (who are represented by Mr. Jefferson), deserve to know in a timely fashion whether their Congressman is a crook.

It's bad enough that congressional leaders have been misquoting the Constitution for the last four days. Now the President has succumbed to their pressure.

Not good.

Enron execs convicted on all counts

Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, the two top executives of Enron, were found guilty on all counts in their conspiracy/bank fraud trial.

Political implications: Ken Lay, as Democrats were quick to point out when he was first indicted, was, through the course of his life, George W. Bush's single largest individual donor. That he has now been convicted will cut two ways:

Democrats will delight in using the episode as more proof positive that the GOP is wallowing in a "culture of corruption." "The President's single biggest donor just got convicted of massive fraud and conspiracy!" they will shout as loud as they can.

Republicans will counter with something along the lines of: "That the President's single biggest donor just got convicted in a prosecution brought by the Department of Justice proves what we have said all along -- that no man is above the law, and that nobody in this Administration allows political considerations to stand in the way of rendering justice where wrongdoing has occurred. Oh, and by the way, all the illegal activity for which Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were convicted took place during the Clinton Administration."

It will be interesting to see which spin wins in the battle for public opinion.

ABC News: The original broadcast report

Here's a link to a video clip of Brian Ross's report on last night's ABC World News Tonight -- the one that started the whole Hastert-"in-the-mix" ball of wax.

Click here to see it.

ACLU leader keeps "thick files" on his own board members!

From Wednesday's New York Times:

"The American Civil Liberties Union is weighing new standards that would discourage its board members from publicly criticizing the organization's policies and internal administration.

"'Where an individual director disagrees with a board position on matters of civil liberties policy, the director should refrain from publicly highlighting the fact of such disagreement,' the committee that compiled the standards wrote in its proposals.

"'Directors should remember that there is always a material prospect that public airing of the disagreement will affect the A.C.L.U. adversely in terms of public support and fund-raising,' the proposals state."

The American Civil Liberties Union is going to gag its own board members? Huh?

So the ACLU will go to court to defend the rights of American Nazis who want to march, but will seek to gag its own board members who might disagree with the rest of the organization's board on a matter of policy?

Why would the ACLU want to muzzle dissent, even among its own board members? Doesn't the ACLU pride itself on its reputation for being willing to stand up for the right to free expression, no matter how objectionable?

Here's where it gets interesting. As one reads further into the piece, one encounters this little tidbit:

"When the committee was formed last year, its mission was to set standards on when board members could be suspended or ousted.

"The board had just rejected a proposal to remove Ms. [Wendy] Kaminer and Michael Meyers, another board member, because the two had publicly criticized [ACLU Executive Director Anthony D.] Romero and the board for decisions that they contended violated A.C.L.U. principles and policies, including signing a grant agreement requiring the group to check its employees against government terrorist watch lists — a position it later reversed — and the use of sophisticated data-mining techniques to recruit members.

"Mr. Meyers lost his bid for re-election to the board last year, but Ms. Kaminer has continued to speak out. Last month, she was quoted in The New York Sun as criticizing the group's endorsement of legislation to regulate advertising done by counseling centers run by anti-abortion groups. The bill would prohibit such centers from running advertisements suggesting that they provide abortion services when they actually try to persuade women to continue their pregnancies."

So the first thing we learn here is that there's an internal power struggle going on, and the current Executive Director of the ACLU, one Anthony D. Romero, is involved in a spitting match with one of his board members -- Wendy Kaminer, a writer and social critic whose civil libertarian credentials are not suspect (she's a former lawyer for the New York Legal Aid Society, and formerly wrote for The American Prospect and served as a contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly, neither of which are known for harboring troglodytes).

Ms. Kaminer's first offense cited in the article is that she publicly disagreed with a decision by Mr. Romero and the rest of the ACLU board to agree to check its employees against government terrorist watch lists as a condition of receiving a grant. She also objected to the organization's use of data-mining techniques to help build its membership. Seems to me she's taking a somewhat hardline civil libertarian position in that dispute, while Mr. Romero and the rest of her compatriots appear to be willing to fudge their principles in pursuit of a larger -- and presumably more important -- goal: the greater political power that a larger budget and a larger membership list will bring it.

Her next offense, it seems, is that she more recently disagreed with Mr. Romero et. al. on whether or not the ACLU should endorse legislation regulating advertising -- in this particular case, advertising conducted by abortion counseling centers run by pro-life groups. For a consistent and principled civil libertarian, what matters isn't the content of the speech being regulated, it's the regulation itself that's offensive. So, again, it appears to an outside observer as if it's Ms. Kaminer who's on the consistent civil libertarian side, and Mr. Romero and the rest of her compatriots who are willing to fudge their principles in pursuit of a larger -- and presumably more important -- legislative/political goal: making sure that women who seek abortions don't fall for "fraudulent" advertising undertaken by pro-life abortion counseling centers.

But wait, there's more. Later in the article, we learn that:

"The uproar their comments produced at the April board meeting illustrates how contentious the issue of directors' publicly airing dissent with policies and procedures has become at the organization.

"Some directors lamented that Ms. Kaminer and Mr. Brittain had shared their disagreement with the paper, and Mr. Romero angrily denounced Ms. Kaminer. 'I got frustrated and lost my temper,' he said yesterday. 'In retrospect, that was a mistake.'

"At the meeting, Mr. Romero did not denounce Mr. Brittain. But board members said he had demanded that Ms. Steiner step outside the meeting room, where he chastised her for the look on her face when he was criticizing Ms. Kaminer.

"'Anthony went on to say that because I was Wendy's "friend" and did not appear ready to join him in "getting rid of her," (by, among other things, lobbying her affiliate to remove her as its representative) I was no better than she was, and then stormed off angrily,' Ms. Steiner wrote in an e-mail message to the board.

"Later in the meeting, Mr. Romero asked another board member, David F. Kennison, to step outside after Mr. Kennison apologized for failing to object to Mr. Romero's attack on Ms. Kaminer.

"Mr. Kennison reported in an e-mail message that Mr. Romero 'told me that he would "never" apologize to the target of his outburst and that his evaluation of her performance as a member of this board was justified by information he had been accumulating in a "thick file on her."'

"When Mr. Kennison asked whether Mr. Romero intended to start such a file on him, 'he asked me what made me think that he didn't already have a file on me,' Mr. Kennison wrote."




The Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union -- a man who serves at the pleasure of the ACLU Board of Directors -- is a) keeping "thick file[s]" on his own board members, and b) THREATENING his board members with them?

This, from the organization that just yesterday proudly launched a national public affairs campaign against the National Security Agency's data-mining program?

Crap. I buried the lead.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How Steven Jobs got me. Sorry, Marty.

Things are going well for Steven Jobs and Apple computers.

A little more than three years ago, I was asked to spend a week in Taiwan as a consultant for Taiwan Broadband Communications, a cable company owned by The Carlyle Group. They wanted me to advise them on whether they could move a bill through the Taiwanese legislature using an American-style public affairs campaign, complete with broadcast advertising, grassroots lobbying, and political campaigning -- the works. After spending a week there and talking to a bunch of people, I advised them that I thought they could, and I gave them a brief memo on how it could be done. They asked me if I would be willing to move to Taiwan for 6-12 months to oversee the execution of the plan I had written, and I said I would.

Nothing came of the TBC effort -- they couldn't get any of the other major players in the industry to go along with the idea, and in the end they decided it wouldn't be appropriate for them to go it alone.

But while I was waiting to hear back, I began to consider how would I live in Taiwan for as long as a year, living out of a hotel room? (Granted, it was a five-star hotel. Nothing but the best for a Carlyle Group consultant. But a hotel room is a hotel room. Confined. Small. Restrictive. And one without a widescreen TV with a good A/V system for my DVDs and CDs.)

The widescreen TV I could do without. My music collection -- lovingly assembled over the course of decades, with more than 2000 CDs -- I could not.

So I looked, for the first time, at MP3 players. After a few days' worth of market research, it became clear to me that my best choice would be this then-still-new Apple device called an "iPod."

I had initially been reluctant to even check out an Apple device. At the time, I used an IBM ThinkPad, and I adored it. It was easy to use, I had all the software I thought I needed, and it was reliable. And everyone knows IBMs and Apples don't get along.

I was wrong.

The second-generation iPod I bought -- the 30-gig model -- was formatted to work with either Windows or Mac OS X. Granted, the Windows version of the application required that I also purchase a separate Firewire adapter, which led to some interesting email exchanges with a techie who turned out to be in Greece, but once I got everything installed properly, it worked fine. It took me the better part of a week to rip my CD collection to my hard drive so I could then transfer the music files to the iPod. And once it worked, it ... worked. Really, really well.

So well that the moment Apple came out with a 40-gig version of the iPod, I bought one. And then replaced that with the 60-gig version as soon as THAT came out.

And something else was happening: Every time I walked into an Apple store (here in Chicago, on Michigan Avenue, in the heart of the Magnificent Mile; at the Short Hills Mall, in New Jersey; or at Clarendon, in Arlington, Virginia), I was floored by the designs I saw.

The designs of the computers on display -- sleek, functional, powerful. The designs of the peripheral devices on display -- small, functional, powerful. The design of the stores themselves -- easy to move around in, easy to find what you needed.

Meanwhile, I was having troubles with my ThinkPad. I crashed a hard drive around Thanksgiving 2003, and lost everything on it. Nope, no backup. Ouch. So I got a new hard drive installed and started from scratch, even reinstalling the music files that were on my iPod back onto the new hard drive. Things seemed to be fine, until I crashed the new hard drive almost exactly a year after I'd bought it. The good news was, I had learned my lesson -- I had an external drive to back up my data, so at least that wasn't lost.

But now I'd suffered two hard drive crashes on my ThinkPad. Even when it was working, the computer froze regularly, requiring reboots way too often for my taste. And I'd had to fight off all the various viruses that were out there. I spend so much time on the Internet it's the computer equivalent of walking naked through the labs at the Centers for Disease Control -- with honey smeared all over my body.

The overwhelming majority of the evil people who have nothing better to do with themselves than create computer viruses create computer viruses that attack Windows-based PCs, not Macs. Why? I have no idea. Because they hate Bill Gates? I don't know. I don't get that at all. Regardless, they do NOT create viruses to attack Macs. Hell, they're probably creating those viruses ON Macs!

So ... I scrunched up, and laid out a coupla grand for a Powerbook G-4 with a 15" screen, I GB RAM, and an 80-GB hard drive.

And I adore it.

Steven Jobs made a critical strategic decision when he decided to make the iPod available to Windows users. Up to that point, Apple made products for Apple users, period. If you wanted to run a particularly cool Apple software program, you had to buy an Apple computer. There was just no way around that problem. Most people aren't willing to ditch a several-thousand dollar investment in their computer and installed software just to get one new software application, so Apple was stuck.

But with the decision to make the iPod available to Windows users, they got me in the store. And once they did, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and fell for the advantages of the Mac.

Now Apple has gone even further, and crafted a deal with Intel, so Macs now use Intel chips. And they've got a new software/hardware fix called Boot Camp, to make it even easier for Windows users to make the transition.

The only person I know who doesn't like my Mac is Marty, the best computer guy I know. He was the one who first turned me on to the ThinkPad several years ago, and he walked me either in person or via phone through all my ThinkPad troubles.

Last year, I went back to New Jersey to work for Bret Schundler's 2005 gubernatorial campaign, and Marty was one of the first guys who greeted me in the new Schundler headquarters. We were happy to see each other -- in addition to being a great computer guy, he's also been a good friend.

But then his eyes fell upon my sleek new PowerBook, and he began cursing under his breath. I asked him why. He said that he used to sell them, but didn't any longer. Now fearful, I asked what was wrong with it.

"Wrong?" he replied. "Nothing's wrong with it. It's a great computer. But they don't break down, so there's no money in them for the retailers. What you want, if you're a retailer like me, you see, is a computer that works fine until it doesn't, and then you have to bring it back to me to fix it. That's where we make our money."


Sorry, Marty.

By the way, if you haven't been near a television in a couple of months, you've missed the new Apple ad campaign. Click here to see them.

"Our" economic plan?

"His leadership was critical to the development and passage of our economic plan, and he deserves much credit for the prosperity, fiscal responsibility and poverty reduction it produced."

-- joint statement from Bill and Hillary Clinton, on the passing of former Clinton Treasury Secretary/1988 Democratic VP nominee/TX Senator Lloyd Bentsen


"Our" economic plan? Hillary had an economic plan?

Hillary's plan was to nationalize health care. Bentsen's plan -- later, for the most part, adopted by President Clinton -- was for massive tax increases and somewhat moderated spending, so that the Administration could claim a $140 billion cut in the deficit in its first year. Bentsen was all about convincing Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan that the Clinton Administration was serious about deficit reduction, in hopes that the Fed would respond in kind and begin lowering interest rates.

Bentsen's deficit reduction plan and Hillary's health care plan were, to say the least, at odds. For her now to make a joint statement with her husband, calling it "our" plan, is ... odd, to say the least.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

This post has nothing to do with politics

But it's really cool.

Click here and follow the directions.

I have never in my life seen such an interesting proof that our eyes can be deceived.

Studying existentialism at 15?

"The first was when I was fifteen years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists -- Sartre, Camus ... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!"

-- Al Gore in Cannes, explaining that his current visit is the second time he has visited Cannes

Which leads one to wonder: who the hell studies existentialists when they're fifteen years old?

Jefferson and Adams ... Carter and Mondale?

From this morning's "The Note":

"Today is a red-letter day for former President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale. They have lived one day longer after leaving office than any other pair. Today marks 25 years and 123 days since Carter and Mondale left office. The only other president/vice president team to last more than 25 years were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson."

Of course, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the nation's second and third Presidents, respectively, were not allied in the public mind the way Carter and Mondale were. Though they had served their new nation ably as two of the key leaders of the American revolution -- Adams as one of its earliest and craftiest political operators, and Jefferson as the author of the Declaration of Independence -- they had split following Independence.

Adams had served the new nation as its first Vice President from 1789-1797 -- a job he disliked so much that he famously wrote his wife Abigail, "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Jefferson served during the same time frame as the new nation's Minister to France.

In 1796, Adams ran for President as a Federalist. His opponent: Thomas Jefferson, the Republican. Adams won -- by a margin of 71 electoral votes to 68 (69 votes were needed to win an outright majority) -- and Jefferson served a term as his Vice President. (In those days, the Vice Presidency went to the candidate who polled the second-highest number of votes in the Electoral College. The concept of a Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidate running together as a "ticket" didn't emerge until several elections later.)

But in 1800, the tables were turned, and Jefferson again competed for the Presidency against Adams. This time, the two tied in the Electoral College, with 73 votes each; the election went to the House of Representatives, which chose Jefferson.

So on March 4, 1801, the post-White House clock started ticking on the Adams-Jefferson pairing. The two began a correspondence which survives to this day as an example of brilliant nation-building and commentary on political philosophy.

That the two remained rivals, even in retirement and right up to the very moment of death, was never in doubt -- and was proven when, with his dying breath, Adams uttered his famous lament: "Thomas Jefferson survives."

But Adams was wrong: Unbeknownst to him, Jefferson had died earlier that very day.

The date? July 4, 1826 -- exactly fifty years to the day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Top THAT, Messrs. Carter and Mondale.

Sometimes you just can't spin it

In the wake of last week's primary elections in Pennsylvania -- in which a dozen incumbent Republican legislators were defeated, many by novices, because they had run smack up against a tidal wave of voter anger over a pay-raise vote last year -- PA GOP chair Eileen Melvin announced she wouldn't be running for a full term.

To anyone who picked up a newspaper last week, the cause of her decision was obvious: she was the sitting party chairwoman when way too many incumbents went down to defeat. One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to make the connection.

Unless one is the PA GOP spokesman designated to explain her decision.

Here's how the Tribune-Democrat carried the story:

"SOMERSET — Just days after a dozen GOP legislators were defeated in the primary, state Republican Party Chairwoman Eileen Melvin of Somerset announced she will not seek a new term.

"Scott Migli, the executive director of the state Republican Party, said Melvin’s decision to step down had nothing to do with last week’s primary in which two high-ranking state senators and several Republican state representatives were defeated.

“'It was something she had been thinking about and decided this was the right time for her and the party,' Migli said."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Viguerie: Right Diagnosis, Wrong Prescription

My friend of two decades, Richard Viguerie, published a provocative piece in yesterday's Washington Post "Outlook" section. There, on page B1, under the headline Bush's Base Betrayal,Richard argues that perhaps conservatives should stay home in November to punish President Bush and the GOP for its apostasy. And just for good measure, perhaps conservatives should be prepared to have the GOP lose control of the White House in 2008, too.

Let us hope that's Richard's musings are nothing more than that -- musings. Because were conservatives to follow his advice and stay home in November, it would be as egregious an example of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face as ever has been witnessed in American politics.

Are conservatives happy with the GOP? No, they are not. In recent months, as Richard correctly notes, the President's approval ratings have been diving -- largely driven by the increasing disaffection of base GOP voters. In the span of just one month, he notes, disapproval of the President's job performance among Republican voters virtually doubled, from 16 to 30 percent.

Richard's list of the President's "betrayals" is long and varied, and is not, to be sure, without merit. Conservative Republicans who voted for George W. Bush for President in 2000 certainly had no reason to expect that his Administration would lead the charge for a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that will be the largest expansion of the welfare state since the days of LBJ and the Great Society; nor did they have reason to believe he would sign the McCain-Feingold/Shays-Meehan Incumbent Protection Act (referred to by the mainstream media as "campaign finance reform"); nor did they have reason to believe he would increase federal spending so much that he made Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter look like pikers.

But I believe Richard goes too far when he cites the President's No Child Left Behind act and the President's failure to veto a single bill as "betrayals" by the President. Anyone who paid attention during the campaign of 2000 could have reasonably surmised that a President Bush would work to enact a major federal education reform -- and that this, in his eyes, would mean working with Ted Kennedy. And why would any Republican voter in 2000 have had the reasonable expectation that he should veto bills coming to him from a House and Senate controlled by fellow Republicans?

Then there are the twin prizes totally unmentioned by Richard: to wit, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito, the President has placed on the Supreme Court of the United States two solidly conservative legal intellects, who can be counted on to influence American jurisprudence for the next quarter century. No small feat, that.

And don't forget the tax cuts passed in 2001, 2003, and just last week. By enacting tax cuts on a "temporary" basis, there's a built-in guarantee for the future -- for what President and Congress in 2010 or later wants to be responsible for letting them phase out, and foist another massive tax increase on the American public?

But I quibble. On the larger point -- that many conservatives feel disappointed and even betrayed -- Richard is quite correct. They feel embarrassed by their support for an Administration that so seriously screwed up the response to a hurricane that they found themselves longing for the days of Bill Clinton's FEMA director; they feel let down by the President's failure, so far, to push for a constitutional amendment defending traditional marriage; they were shocked when the President nominated his personal lawyer for a seat on the Supreme Court, despite her obvious lack of qualification; they feel just as confused about what's going on in Iraq as do their liberal friends.

Suggesting Richard has the diagnosis right, however, is not the same as saying Richard has the prescription right. Sometimes, the proposed cure is worse than the disease.

Suppose millions of conservatives were to follow Richard's proposed prescription, and stayed home in November: the result could well be GOP losses so great that Democrats retake control of either the House or the Senate or both. Of course, this is precisely the effect Richard desires.

But note the first problem with this "solution": If President Bush is the "problem," shouldn't it be President Bush who pays the price? Why should the political retribution be aimed at anywhere other than at President Bush?

The second -- and larger -- problem with Richard's proposed solution, of course, is that the REAL pain of the "solution" would be inflicted on Americans of all shapes and sizes -- and, most especially, on conservatives themselves.

In the last 26 years, Democrats have had control of the White House and the House and the Senate for precisely two years -- from January 1993 through January 1995. During that short two-year period, they: foisted on the nation the largest tax increase in American history; tried to nationalize the world's best health care system, and turn it into an American version of Britain's National Health Service; enacted a "crime bill" that had the government spending money on midnight basketball and dance classes for criminals; banned so-called "assault weapons" that were defined by nothing more than cosmetics, and enacted other "gun control" restrictions so severe even the Democrats who still hold office don't any longer discuss; overturned the Reagan "Mexico City" policy; implemented the infamous "don't ask, don't tell" policy overturning centuries of tradition in the armed forces; allowed women into combat units for the first time; gutted the Beck decision protecting workers' rights to control the use of their own union dues; and implemented Executive Orders that had conservatives wailing and gnashing their teeth. I'm sure I've left out a laundry list of other liberal policies, but I'm getting on in years, and memory no longer serves as it once did.

Of course, the nation's response was to throw the bums out the first chance they got. There can be no doubt that Republicans never would have taken control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four decades if Democrats hadn't had the chance to over-reach during those crucial two years.

Not coincidentally, it was during those two years that the conservative movement -- decimated at the grass-roots level by 12 years of GOP control of the White House -- was able to rebuild and reassert itself.

(The movement's response to Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 was, "Thank God! Now that we've finally got a true conservative in the White House, I don't need to write a check any longer to the American Conservative Union!" And the movement's response to George H.W. Bush's presidency was "No, thank you." To use the American Conservative Union as an example, on the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, ACU had some 1.5 million donors; by the time George H.W. Bush left office twelve years later, that number was down to 30,000. But within two years of Bill Clinton's inauguration, ACU donor rolls were surging back to the million-plus level. Coincidence? I think not.)

Isn't there another way to square the circle? Must conservatives be willing to tolerate at least two years of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel, Education Chairman George Miller, Energy and Commerce Chairman Dingell (again!), and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman? Must we be willing to give up conservative leaders like Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, Jim Talent in Missouri, and George Allen in Virginia, just to prove a point?

Like C.S. Lewis's insight that every choice made represents movement either one step closer to or one step further away from God, I view individual election contests as bringing the nation one step closer to or one step further from conservative governance.

A perfect example can be found in the contest for the U.S. Senate currently being waged in New Jersey between Republican Tom Kean Jr. and Democrat Bob Menendez. Is Kean as conservative as I? Of course not. Few political leaders are. And fewer still are the political leaders in New Jersey who are as conservative as I. But is Tom Kean Jr. more conservative than Bob Menendez? Of course he is. If for no other reason than the certainty of my belief that Kean will vote for Republican Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader, I strongly back him over Menendez.

Some conservatives in New Jersey disagree. These are the same people who, last year, denied their support to Bret Schundler, ostensibly based on their belief that he wasn't conservative "enough" for them. They cast their primary ballots instead for Steve Lonegan, a man who never had any chance of winning a statewide general election, to prove a point. In so doing, they denied themselves the best chance they've had in decades to have a conservative take the Governor's Mansion. And now they are paying the price: New Democrat Governor Jon Corzine is proposing massive tax increases to the Democrat-controlled legislature.

Perhaps national conservatives should look at what's happening in New Jersey right now if they want a preview of what could happen to the nation in 2007 if they follow Richard's prescription.

Teddy Roosevelt, meet Bob Menendez

One week ago tonight, President Bush gave a prime-time address on immigration reform. Buried 22 paragraphs into that 26-paragraph speech, the President finally found the magic word: "assimilate." It is here, on the question of assimilation, that the immigration reform debate will be decided.

Am I offended that more than a million people seek entry into the United States every year? No, not at all. I'm proud that the country into which I was lucky enough to be born is still seen around the world as a place of hope and opportunity.

Am I scared that hundreds of thousands of them enter illegally? No, I'm not scared. And I'm not threatened. At least not by the hundreds of thousands who come here illegally for the right to pick lettuce or bus tables on their way to a better life. Because if they do it right, one day soon they won't be picking lettuce and busing tables, they'll be farming their own land or owning their own restaurant.

(Granted, I wish the border were more secure for more mundane reasons -- to wit, the threat that terrorists could find easy entry, and we could be looking at another World Trade Center attack right here in Chicago, or Los Angeles, or another major American city.)

If I'm not offended, and I'm not threatened, what is it about the current immigration debate that gets under my skin?

One word: assimilation.

Actually, it's a few words more -- it's the fact that too many of the new immigrants do NOT want to assimilate. And actually, to get even MORE specific, it's the fact that too many of the leftists who still wield power in the media and political establishment don't want new immigrants to assimilate.

Used to be, you came to America, first thing you did was learn English. Every child of an immigrant from a non-English speaking background knows how hard his/her mother or father pushed him/her to learn to speak and write English properly. Those immigrants came here to build a better life for themselves and their children, and they knew that being able to communicate effectively in America was one of the keys to climbing the socioeconomic ladder. So they pushed their kids hard, in the hopes that their children would have a better life.

Learning English was one of the essential elements of the American melting pot -- a notion of ourselves inscribed on our currency, in the Latin phrase "E pluribus unum" ("Out of many, one").

But somewhere along the way that changed. The melting pot is no longer the metaphor of choice for the left's description of America. Now the preferred metaphor is something they like to call "the cultural mosaic." Apparently, the left likes this metaphor better than the melting pot because the idea of a melting pot presupposes the idea of superiority -- the idea that a whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, which apparently is an idea offensive to the left.

America, "better" than other nations? Harumph, says the left. We've got 40 million plus without health care (yes, they say "without health care," when they ought to say "without health insurance," as if not recognizing that there's a big difference between health care and health insurance), too many children are hungry, we work harder and longer than our compatriots in other nations, yada yada yada. America, they believe, is no "better" than anyplace else.


America IS "better" than just about any place I can think of. More importantly for THIS particular discussion, America is better than just about anyplace any immigrant wants to go. How do I know? BECAUSE THEY KEEP COMING HERE. They're not flooding Sweden. They're not going to Egypt. They're certainly not going to Russia. Nope, they keep coming here, and it's a bit more than a tad ironic that their very insistence on coming to America disproves everything the left thinks about America.

In a recent Pew poll, 85 percent of Americans surveyed said they thought English should be recognized as our national language. In that same poll, 77 percent of Hispanics surveyed said ... the same thing, that English should be recognized as the national leanguage of the United States.

But don't tell that to the left, which clings to its moral superiority the way Mike Wallace clings to "60 Minutes" -- as if without it, they'd die.

When, last week, a simple English language amendment was offered to the immigration reform bill now before the Senate, 34 Senate Democrats voted "no."

Bob Menendez of New Jersey was one of those "no" votes.

Bob Menendez of New Jersey is the child of immigrants who came to America from a Spanish-speaking country.

Isn't that a bit odd? Here's a man whose own parents came to America for a better life. Here's a man whose parents, no doubt, pushed him to learn to speak a tongue that was not native to them. He was probably speaking better English by the time he was four than did his parents.

But now, faced with the task of determining for his fellow Americans what will be the best course of action on the question of designating English as the national language of his own country of birth, he votes "no."

It's a shame we can't arrange for time travel. Because I would LOVE to introduce Bob Menendez to Teddy Roosevelt, who said it best:

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against such men because of creed or birthplace origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American."

The FBI's search warrant affidavit re: US Rep. William Jefferson

New Orleans: 17,000 missing

New Orleans just took another big hit.

No, I'm not referring to the somewhat surprising reelection of Mayor Ray Nagin in Saturday's runoff election.

That result was only somewhat surprising to those who hadn't been following the Mayoral race. In the last 7-10 days of the runoff, it was clear that Nagin was peaking at just the right time -- he picked up the endorsements of five of the six Mayoral candidates who failed to make the runoff, while his opponent, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, failed to make good use of the lone endorsement from a former Mayoral rival he received; and Nagin received a blessing in disguise when he lost the endorsement of the Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Establishment's newspaper of record; the lost endorsement gave Nagin a backhanded seal of approval in the black community ("If Mitch got the T-P's endorsement, he can't really be on our side, can he?" was the thinking in at least a good number of black households in New Orleans).

(Nagin's depth of support in the black community was one of the wild cards in the campaign. Running four years ago, Nagin had the support of the white business community in his campaign against Richard Pennington, another black Democrat. And just a year after his 2002 victory, in 2003 he endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate -- now U.S. Rep. -- Bobby Jindal against Democrat Kathleen Blanco, a move that caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the New Orleans black community.)

Nor am I talking about the possibility that it may be the case that Howard Dean and his Democratic National Committee were actively aiding Landrieu -- which possibility ran as the banner headline on the Drudge Report on Sunday night. Landrieu is the sitting Lt. Governor, the brother of the state's senior U.S. Senator, and the son of the last white Mayor of New Orleans, so a DNC decision to actively support Landrieu wouldn't really be all that surprising.

No, when I say New Orleans just took another big hit, what I'm talking about is missing voters: roughly 17,000 or so.

In New Orleans' last Mayoral election, four years ago, 130,475 voters cast ballots in the runoff election. On Saturday, just 113,591 voters cast a ballot -- many, after taking a five-hour bus ride from Houston just so they could cast their votes.

In other words, in Saturday's Mayoral runoff election -- an election where the stakes for New Orleans' future were so high that it can be reasonably presumed that voter interest was as high it's likely ever going to be -- not only did New Orleans not exceed the voter turnout from the previous election, they actually fell 13 percent short.

FBI+Nigeria+Ritz Carlton+Katrina=William Jefferson

An old political axiom defines an honest politician as one who, when he's bought, he stays bought.

How, then, to classify U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, Democrat of Louisiana, whose Capitol Hill office was searched Saturday night, and again Sunday, by FBI agents serving a warrant?

According to documents released Sunday afternoon to support the search, Mr. Jefferson took $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant at the Ritz-Carlton hotel at Pentagon City last July 30. The money was allegedly to be used to bribe a Nigerian official whose connivance was deemed necessary for a corrupt business deal to work.

Two days later, on August 1, the FBI informant called Mr. Jefferson to ask about "the package" -- i.e., to find out if the money had been delivered as promised. "I gave him the African art that you gave me, and he was very pleased," responded Mr. Jefferson.

But on August 3, FBI agents raided Mr. Jefferson's home in Washington, and found $90,000 in his freezer. The cash was wrapped in foil and stuffed into food containers in packages of $10,000.

The bills found in Mr. Jefferson's freezer matched the serial numbers of the bills given to him at the Ritz-Carlton.

Which leads to more questions, and more observations:

First, what happened to the missing $10,000? On July 30, Mr. Jefferson was given $100,000; just four days later, the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer. $10,000 in cash is a fair amount to move in just a few days.

Second, for Mr. Jefferson, at least, it appears there is no honor among thieves. If an honest politician is one who, when bought, stays bought, how would one define Mr. Jefferson -- a man who apparently tried to con even those corrupt people with whom he was doing a corrupt deal?

Third, one can't help but laugh at the fact that of all the places this corrupt business deal could have been taking place, it just happened to be Nigeria. Nigeria, as anyone with an email account knows, is the home of the modern-day version of a con game called "The Spanish Prisoner," in which an intended victim receives a spam email offering millions of dollars in recovered assets, if the victim will first part with ten or twenty thousand to get the process started. According to the U.S. Government, there may be as many as a quarter million people in Nigeria -- including corrupt government officials -- who are engaged in this massive international fraud scheme.

A fourth and final note about Mr. Jefferson: He is the very same U.S. Rep. William Jefferson who, in the wake of hurricane Katrina, used the National Guard to drive him to his house in New Orleans so he could retrieve personal effects, while other New Orleanians were still stranded on top of their homes.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Stephen Colbert is no Jim McQueeny

Once a year, politicians and the press who cover them lay down the rhetorical cudgels they use to beat on each other, and gather for a "See-we're-really-all-friends-...-REALLY!" dinner. At the national level, this event is known as the White House Correspondents Association dinner, and the highlight of the evening is the President's riff, usually followed by the Comic It Girl (actually, Boy -- I can't remember when, if ever, there was a female comic given the honor) of the moment, skewering the President.

This year's WHCA dinner, held three weeks ago, featured Stephen Colbert taking on the President. In a 25-minute bit, Colbert spoke truth to power in such a brutally head-on manner that nary a laugh was heard in the hall. That is, if you believe what the left-wing blogosphere says. From my point of view, nary a laugh was heard in the hall because Colbert was decidely unfunny. His timing was off, and the jokes weren't that funny to begin with.

The night was a huge disappointment for the legions of Colbert fans (among which I count myself -- Colbert is, in my mind, the funniest comic working today, and his nightly "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central is must-TiVo television). Being given the honor of roasting the President at the WHCA dinner is the Washington Establishment's ultimate seal of approval; I, for one, was pleased when I learned Colbert would be doing the honors. So when I tuned in to C-SPAN on a Saturday night, ready to laugh as hard as I do during the 22 minutes each week night when I'm watching his regular show, it was extraordinarily disappointing not to be compelled to laugh more than a few times during the whole bit.

Nevertheless, I've included a link here so you can see for yourself, in case you missed it:

  • Stephen Colbert roasts President Bush and the media

  • In New Jersey, the event is called the Legislative Correspondents Association dinner. The evening's funnies begin when various members of the press corps do skits and sing song parodies lampooning the state's political leaders; but the real highlights of the evening invariably follow the press's turn at bat, when the former Governors (each of whom is offered rebuttal time at the microphone) let loose with their own observations on the state's politics and political leaders.

    This year's dinner featured an added special: a video prepared by Jim McQueeny of News Channel 12. Jim is a public affairs professional by day, and has a long and successful history in Garden State politics (including stints at the Star-Ledger and as a key member of Team Lautenberg).

    McQueeny's bit is much, much funnier.

    Granted, because many of the players involved in the making of the video are recognizable only to true New Jersey political insiders, many of you who might watch this bit might not get it. But humor only works in context -- and in the context of a video prepared for a dinner where 800 or so of the men and women who rule New Jersey gather to take a load off, this bit is truly funny: the peeks inside the Assembly Democratic caucus, the Assembly Republican caucus, and the Senate Democratic caucus stand out as the best laughs of the bit.

    Until, that is, the end of the video, when a New Jersey spectre from the past strides into the picture, complete with Clint Eastwood spaghetti western soundtrack for effect. Now THAT is FUNNY.

  • Jim McQueeny's idea of a humorous take on New Jersey politics

  • Given that spectre's return to the front pages of New Jersey newspapers in a decidely unamusing context, one can only wonder if he would have been as willing to help McQueeny if his news had broken two weeks before the dinner, instead of two days after.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    El Senor Harry Reid es idiota

    Yesterday, the US Senate, in working through the dozens of amendments introduced to the immigration reform bill now before the body, took up for consideration Amendment 4064, offered by Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. The amendment, commonly referred to as the English Language amendment, would state as the policy of the United States Government that English is the national language.

    Mr. Reid took to the floor and, speaking of the proposed amendment's effect, said, "I really believe this amendment is racist." Which, to a number of observers of the Senate floor, sounded as if Mr. Reid were suggesting that Mr. Inhofe was a racist.

    Luckily for Mr. Reid, one of those observers was one of his own staffers, who immediately passed him a note. I have no way of knowing what was on that note (but wouldn't we all love to know -- "Boss, you just called Jim Inhofe a racist!"), but I do know that shortly after the note was passed to him, Mr. Reid assured Mr. Inhofe and those watching the floor of the Senate that he didn't believe Mr. Inhofe himself to be a racist. Not surprisingly, Mr. Inhofe appeared only slightly mollified.

    What's truly disturbing about the whole exchange is that Mr. Reid seems not to understand the concept of "racism." "Racism" is defined as "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish one as inferior or superior to another race or races; prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on that belief."

    So the first question is, how are differences between the races defined? Traditionally, races were defined physically -- first by phenotypes (the totality of external physical characteristics, such as eye color and shape, body size and shape, hair color and texture, etc.), and then more recently by genotypes (similar genetic material). The current consensus in the anthropological community, however, suggests that race is more a cultural than a physical phenomenon.

    No one, however, suggests that language has anything to do with race. The Australian aborigine who speaks English is clearly of a different race than Muffy Bernard Shaw, whose ancestors arrived in North America shortly after the Mayflower.

    That is, there is no "English-speaking" race, just as there is no "Spanish-speaking" race.

    And, consequently, Mr. Reid is an idiot. Or, to put it in language he appears to like as least as much as his own native tongue, Senor Reid es idiota.

    Busby stuns Bilbray

    That's my prediction for the headlines on the morning of June 7 in the San Diego Union-Tribune and the North County Times, the two daily newspapers that serve California's 50th congressional district, just north of San Diego.

    Francine Busby, a Democrat, is campaigning in a special election runoff to fill out the unexpired portion of the term to which Randy "Duke" Cunningham was elected in November 2004.

    The special general election was held on April 11. In that race, there were 18 candidates: two Democrats, 14 Republicans, and and two Independents. Under the rules that governed the election, whoever won 50 percent plus one of the votes cast would fill out the remaining eight months of the term; if no one won the requisite majority, then the top vote-getter from each party would compete in a runoff election to be held on June 6.

    National Democrats hoped that they could pick up this Republican seat as a fluke, and not without good reason. In any normal year, this district is rock-solid Republican: It's 44-30-26 percent GOP-Dem-Ind by registration, and votes 65-35 percent GOP at the congressional level historically. But given the fact that the special election was necessitated by the resignation of Duke Cunningham (as the result of his personal corruption), whose trials and tribulations dominated news coverage in the district for six months, and given the Democrats' belief that what they call "the GOP Culture of Corruption" will serve as a significant voting issue this year, CA-50 was viewed as Ground Zero of the Corruption Argument: If it could work anywhere, it would be here.

    Consequently, national Democrats poured money into the district on Busby's behalf. National Republicans believed the only way they could lose this seat would be if, because of the unique circumstances surrounding the general election, Busby would be able to win 50 percent plus one on April 11 -- so they poured money into the district, too, with negative ads whacking her.

    It wasn't surprising that Busby, familiar to the district's voters from her 2004 run against Cunningham (which she lost, 65-35 percent), took far more votes than anyone else on the night of April 11: she pulled in roughly 44 percent of the vote. That was enough to impress some people, but there was a great sigh of relief at 110 First Street SE, in DC, headquarters of the National Republican Congressional Committee -- close, but no cigar.

    The next highest vote-getter was a Republican, the moderately conservative former Congressman Brian Bilbray, who eked out a win over the more conservative newcomer/self-funder Eric Roach by 15.3-14.5 percent, or just over 1,000 votes.

    Thus, the special election runoff would feature Busby v. Bilbray, and it was widely believed that Bilbray would be able to rally Republicans around him in time for the June 6 runoff election. Several of the other GOP candidates who had made the race -- led by Richard Earnest (a former client of mine) -- moved immediately to endorse Bilbray and rally their supporters around him in hopes of holding the seat on June 6.

    The one big holdout at the time was Roach, who bided his time and considered continuing his campaign for the GOP nomination in the primary election to be held concurrently with the special election runoff.


    That's right: Complicating the analysis of what's going on in CA-50 is the fact that on June 6, TWO elections will be held simultaneously -- the first will be the special election runoff between Democrat Busby and Republican Bilbray, to fill out the remainder of the term through January 2007; the second will be the regularly primary election, so that each party can select its nominee for the full term that begins in January 2007 and runs through January 2009.

    Busby, not surprisingly, is the Democrats' candidate in both the special election runoff AND the primary election; right now, Bilbray is the GOP candidate in the special election runoff, but could still have a fight on his hands for the GOP nomination for the full term.

    Until earlier this week, it was expected that Bilbray's only potential challenger in the primary election might be Roach, who had already invested almost $3 million of his own money in building his name ID in the district during the course of his campaign in the special election. So again, there were huge sighs of relief at 110 First Street SE when Roach -- who came to Washington two weeks ago to meet with conservative leaders to discuss continuing his primary challenge -- announced he would NOT challenge Bilbray in the June 6 primary.

    Those sighs may have come too soon. One of the other Republicans who ran in the special election on April 11 is Bill Hauf, another conservative self-funder (he spent more than $1 million of his own money to win 1.6 percent of the vote). On Monday of this week, Hauf announced that conservative Republicans in CA-50 were unrepresented by Bilbray, and Hauf would run against him in the primary, for the right to take on Busby in the regular November election. Vowing to spend "whatever it takes," Hauf let fly with his first mail piece.

    So now Bilbray will be taking hits from Busby on his left and from Hauf on his right for the next three weeks. Hauf says he's endorsing Bilbray in the special election runoff -- even as he plans to spend hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars to win the GOP nomination for the full term. Does anyone believe the vast majority of voters are sophisticated enough to know the difference between the two elections? Is it fair to expect that a significant number of GOP voters will actually be smart enough to vote for Bilbray in the special election runoff, and then vote for Hauf in the primary election?

    Likely not. More likely, Hauf's attacks from the right will siphon off enough support that some GOP voters either vote for Hauf in the primary election and skip voting in the special runoff election, or, worse, they could just stay home altogether.

    The most recent polling in the race shows Busby leading Bilbray by 47-40 percent. More worrisome for Bilbray: that 7-point lead for Busby represents a 9-point shift since April 20, the last time the poll was in the field, when Bilbray led Busby by 45-43 percent.

    Of course, there is one other potential outcome: Bilbray could win the special election runoff and lose the GOP nomination. That result would be one for the books, wouldn't it?

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    "'Tis only a flesh wound!"

    An item in Thursday morning's Washington Post caught my eye, and I haven't had a chance to write about it until now. So forgive my tardiness in posting, please.

    Seems FOX News isn't the only media outlet focusing in on the alligators-in-Florida story. (Which, I must admit, is kind of a surprise to me -- if I've heard once, I've heard a hundred times from my friends in the media that 'the first three letters of "NEWS" are "N-E-W"' -- and if alligators in Florida are "new," I've got some land down there in the Keys I'd like to sell you.)

    Anyway, back to the Washington Post. This excerpt comes from a story that ran on page C1 -- the Arts & Living Section:

    "Yesterday ... an alligator walked through the doggy door of a woman's house in Bradenton and went for her golden retriever. The woman grabbed a shotgun and blazed away. The alligator escaped with a flesh wound. The neighbors heard shots and called police, who promptly cited the woman for hunting without a license."

    Indoors -- and, therefore, presumably within relatively close range -- "blazing away" with a shotgun at an alligator small enough to enter her home through a doggy door, this woman couldn't kill the gator outright, and instead let it escape with a flesh wound? The police shouldn't have cited her for hunting without a license. They should have cited her for bad aim, and ordered her to the local firing range for practice.

    Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    Late Wednesday evening, a friend of mine here in Chicago -- a conservative (!) member of the Fourth Estate, no less! -- sent an email to a selected few friends and family members. The subject of his email was a speech given by Ronald Reagan in West Berlin in June of 1987, at the Brandenburg Gate, wherein the President uttered perhaps the most powerful six words ever spoken by an American President in the 20th century: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

    Below you'll find selected excerpts from the speech. But first, a brief interlude by historian Douglas Brinkely, who was asked in 1999 to select and then write about the most patriotic speech given by an American President in the 20th century. He certainly had a lot from which to choose -- FDR's first inaugural ("We have nothing to fear but fear itself"); Harry Truman's address to the Congress in March of 1947, wherein he enunciated what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine ("I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures"); JFK's inaugural ("Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country," and my personal favorite JFK line, "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty").

    But Brinkley chose President Reagan's June 12, 1987 address in West Berlin. Here's what Brinkley wrote:

    "The story of how Reagan came to deliver his freedom-tolling speech is worth retelling. In May 1987, White House speechwriter [now Hoover fellow] Peter Robinson had been assigned to draft an address for President Reagan’s upcoming journey to Berlin, a teeming city that was celebrating its 750th anniversary. Unfortunately, Berlin—although one of the blessed centers of Europe, with its Bauhaus architecture, imposing Reichstag, Tiergarten Park, and smoky cabarets—was divided by a concrete barrier and encircled in barbed wire.

    "The Berlin Wall, erected in August 1961, was a monstrous affront to Jeffersonian democracy, human rights, common decency, and laissez-faire capitalism. It had become an ugly, drab symbol of Soviet totalitarianism gone haywire. Obviously any society that had to wall in citizens or, as Reagan put it, “had to pen its people up like farm animals,” was committing an enormous affront to the very notion of justice.

    "Not content to just sit at his White House desk to draft such an important international speech, Robinson flew to Berlin, took the pulse of the city, and asked a lot of questions. It was at a dinner party, however, that Robinson came up with the simple but powerful “tear down this wall” phrase. When the host of the party, Dieter Eltz, a retired World Bank official, was asked about the wall, she suddenly made a fist with one of her hands and slapped it into the palm of her other and said, “If this man Gorbachev is serious with this talk of glasnost and perestroika, he can prove it. He can get rid of this wall.”

    "Robinson had the line he was looking for, the centerpiece of the thirty-minute speech Reagan would deliver. When Reagan read the first draft of the Robinson speech he loved it, particularly the part about the wall having to come down. But the State Department and National Security Council were in an uproar. They pleaded with the president to drop the inflammatory line about the wall, which they considered antagonistic in the extreme. A flurry of telephone calls and memoranda circulated, insisting that the Robinson speech be thrown away, or at least seriously rewritten.

    "America’s top foreign policy experts were vehement that Reagan not deliver the so-called crude and unduly provocative speech, which would only incite friction with the Kremlin. Even on the morning that Reagan arrived in Berlin, top aides pleaded with the president not to deliver the Robinson speech. Reagan told his top advisers that he would consider their recommendation. But on the limousine ride to the Brandenburg Gate, Reagan told his deputy chief of staff, Ken Duberstein, that he just had to deliver the powerful line about tearing down the wall. With an “aw shucks” smile, he poked Duberstein in the ribs and said, “The boys at State are going to kill me, but it’s the right thing to do.”

    "Ronald Reagan had the self-confidence to pull off a clarion call for democracy on that June afternoon. Today, the speech stands as a permanent testimony to the power of presidential rhetoric and to one man’s inclination to ignore the conventional wisdom and follow his own beliefs. And isn’t that what we expect from our presidents?"

    And now to the speech itself: (selected excerpts below)

    "We come to Berlin, we American presidents, because it's our duty to speak, in this place, of freedom...

    "Our gathering today is being broadcast throughout Western Europe and North America. I understand that it is being seen and heard as well in the East. To those listening throughout Eastern Europe, a special word: Although I cannot be with you, I address my remarks to you just as surely as to those standing here before me. For I join you, as I join your fellow countrymen in the West, in this firm, this unalterable belief: Es gibt nur ein Berlin. [There is only one Berlin.]

    "Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same--still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.

    "President von Weizsacker has said, "The German question is open as long as the Brandenburg Gate is closed." Today I say: As long as the gate is closed, as long as this scar of a wall is permitted to stand, it is not the German question alone that remains open, but the question of freedom for all mankind. Yet I do not come here to lament. For I find in Berlin a message of hope, even in the shadow of this wall, a message of triumph...

    "In the Reichstag a few moments ago, I saw a display commemorating this 40th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. I was struck by the sign on a burnt-out, gutted structure that was being rebuilt. I understand that Berliners of my own generation can remember seeing signs like it dotted throughout the western sectors of the city. The sign read simply: "The Marshall Plan is helping here to strengthen the free world." A strong, free world in the West, that dream became real. Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium--virtually every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth; the European Community was founded.

    "In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty--that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

    "Where four decades ago there was rubble, today in West Berlin there is the greatest industrial output of any city in Germany--busy office blocks, fine homes and apartments, proud avenues, and the spreading lawns of parkland. Where a city's culture seemed to have been destroyed, today there are two great universities, orchestras and an opera, countless theaters, and museums. Where there was want, today there's abundance--food, clothing, automobiles--the wonderful goods of the Ku'damm. From devastation, from utter ruin, you Berliners have, in freedom, rebuilt a city that once again ranks as one of the greatest on earth. The Soviets may have had other plans. But my friends, there were a few things the Soviets didn't count on--Berliner Herz, Berliner Humor, ja, und Berliner Schnauze. [Berliner heart, Berliner humor, yes, and a Berliner Schnauze.]

    "In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind--too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor....

    "There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

    "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
    I understand the fear of war and the pain of division that afflict this continent-- and I pledge to you my country's efforts to help overcome these burdens. ...

    "We must remember a crucial fact: East and West do not mistrust each other because we are armed; we are armed because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons but about liberty. When President Kennedy spoke at the City Hall those 24 years ago, freedom was encircled, Berlin was under siege. And today, despite all the pressures upon this city, Berlin stands secure in its liberty. And freedom itself is transforming the globe.

    "In the Philippines, in South and Central America, democracy has been given a rebirth. Throughout the Pacific, free markets are working miracle after miracle of economic growth. In the industrialized nations, a technological revolution is taking place--a revolution marked by rapid, dramatic advances in computers and telecommunications.

    "In Europe, only one nation and those it controls refuse to join the community of freedom. Yet in this age of redoubled economic growth, of information and innovation, the Soviet Union faces a choice: It must make fundamental changes, or it will become obsolete.

    "Today thus represents a moment of hope. We in the West stand ready to cooperate with the East to promote true openness, to break down barriers that separate people, to create a safe, freer world. And surely there is no better place than Berlin, the meeting place of East and West, to make a start. ...

    "Perhaps this gets to the root of the matter, to the most fundamental distinction of all between East and West. The totalitarian world produces backwardness because it does such violence to the spirit, thwarting the human impulse to create, to enjoy, to worship. The totalitarian world finds even symbols of love and of worship an affront. Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexander Platz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower's one major flaw, treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere--that sphere that towers over all Berlin--the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

    "As I looked out a moment ago from the Reichstag, that embodiment of German unity, I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner: "This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality." Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall. For it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom ... "