Right Said Fred
June 05 | 2007
To that end, Mr. Thompson said the next president should have the courage to talk straight with the American people and bluntly say that Americans will have to confront both the soaring cost of entitlements and the need to remain committed in the war on terror, even when Iraq is "in the rear-view mirror." "This is a battle between the forces of civilization and of evil," he said, noting that reports over the weekend of a foiled plot against John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was proof positive that terrorism remains a real threat. "I listen to the Democratic congressional leaders and I hear them talking about how many [House and Senate] seats they're going to pick up because of this war," he said. "I listened to one of their presidential candidates talk about that this is a phony war, the war on terror. This is what passes for policy today in the Democratic Party."
Mr. Thompson also zinged Democrats for proposing a budget that boosts spending dramatically while remaining silent on the extension of investment-focused tax cuts that expire in 2010. "The Democrats are hot after repealing all of that, the engine that's driving this economy."
On judicial nominations, Mr. Thompson recalled his role in helping guide John Roberts through the confirmation process. He said nominees like Chief Justice Roberts are necessary because too many judges were "waking up in the morning and deciding what social policy should be." He warned federal judges: "If they continue to act like politicians, the American people are going to start treating them like politicians, and that's not good news for them."
But Mr. Thompson's biggest response came when he addressed immigration. "We are a nation of compassion, a nation of immigrants," he told the crowd. "But this is our home, and whether you're a first-generation American, a third-generation American or a brand newly minted American, this is our home and we get to decide who comes into our home." At that, much of the crowd rose and applauded midspeech.
While it was clear Mr. Thompson has found a way to excite the Republican base, his impending candidacy is at a crossroads. He has run what Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard calls "the greatest non-campaign campaign I've ever seen" and has managed to land in the upper ranks of the crowded GOP field without spending any money. But when his actual campaign begins next month, a different standard of success will be applied.
Edwards' Peculiar Brand of Patriotism
June 05 | 2007
Though he never answered the question directly, Edwards said -- unconvincingly -- he would use every means available to "find terrorists where they are" and "stop them." But he is sticking by his position that the "war on terror" has just been a bumper sticker and political slogan used by President Bush to justify every nefarious act he has committed, from "the ongoing war in Iraq, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, spying on Americans, torture. "
How can we possibly believe Edwards would do everything in his power to hunt down terrorists, since we know many of them are in Iraq and he is proudly advocating abandoning our mission there? Oh, yes, that's right, it's just a civil war, forgive me. Talk about a bumper sticker slogan.
More offensively, Edwards' answer suggests that Bush was behind any and all bad things that might have happened at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib. It implies he truly does spy on innocent American citizens and directs that our prisoners be tortured. And why not? These charges fire up the kook base, just like Edwards' channeling of an unborn baby girl apparently fired up the jury in one of his legendary personal injury cases in 1985.
For his last time at bat, Blitzer asked Edwards (and the others) what his top priority would be in his first 100 days in office.
Edwards answered, "To travel the world, reestablish America's moral authority in the world, which I think is absolutely crucial. The other things become less important and subservient." Later he added, "To lead in taking action that demonstrates that America is strong, but that America is also moral and just, and we're going to help other people in the world and we're going to demonstrate our commitment to humanity."
There's No Negotiating With Iran
June 05 | 2007
The news of the Shakeri arrest came down from the State Department days after the United States held talks with Iran for the first time in 25 years. While I don't have easy answers ready for how to solve the problem that is a nuclear, jihadist Iran, I also have the hardest time squaring these negotiations with President George W. Bush's brave and morally clear insistence of "you're either with us or against us." He named Iran as part of an "axis of evil," encouraging terrorism against American citizens, of the sort we saw when jihadists killed some 3,000 Americans on our soil, none too far from where I work and live.
As its humiliation of Britain earlier this year proved, Iran is clearly in the mood to test how far it can go -- how much the United Nations and the United States will let it get away with. The answer appears to be, pretty far. A recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency tells us that over the course of a year, Iran has gone from 164 centrifuges to 1,312. Maybe 8,000 by year's end? Clearly, we have no time to be messing around. I'm all for diplomacy in general -- but with Iran? The country fomenting violence against our troops and allies in Iraq? The country that wants to wipe Israel off the map? The country that answers our diplomatic olive branches with hostage-taking?
But we're in diplomatic mode anyway. A diplomatic mode that -- with the names Parnaz Azima, Haleh Esfandiari, Ali Shakeri, Tajbakhsh and Robert Levinson on our minds -- should have all Americans angry, nervous, and praying that the Bush administration is working on something good they're keeping close to the vest. Praying that they are as skeptical of Iran as they should be. Praying that they are willing to put in place a debilitating sanctions policy and send clear signals of support to the good men and women of Iran who want another kind of life there, free of the terrorists who run the country.
George W. Bush has had his good moments of leadership on Iran. A big believer in the yearning of all men and women for democracy, he's sent signs to the democracy activists and dissidents in Iran, some of them being held in the same Evin Prison some of our American compatriots are in right now. But, as far as we know, they are not getting the help they need from us, the West. The State Department presumably won't be as outraged as it should be by the abduction of American citizens because they care about "engaging" those who would rather talk about "Death to America." Something's got to give. And it better be us making them do the giving, one way or another.
A Story of Vigilance
June 05 | 2007
You remember the young electronics store clerk whose tip led the FBI to the six men plotting to murder American soldiers at Fort Dix. While copying a video tape onto DVD, he saw images of men firing guns and shouting Islamic slogans.
For a while after the story broke, he kept his head down. Now Brian Morgenstern has come forward -- and his story is eye-popping. For a full day after seeing the evidence, he debated with himself about whether he should report what he knew. He was concerned about violating the privacy of his customers and that telling the police might be looked upon as "racist."
I can understand his regard for customer privacy. Worrying that he’d be viewed as a racist, though, is troubling -- because there are people trying to use that charge to keep Americans from reporting potentially deadly behavior. This was the case with the so-called "flying imams." They provoked real concern among airline passengers – and some think purposely. Then they filed suit against the airline and the passengers who reported them -- claiming they were racists.
Most Americans take the charge of racism very seriously -- as they should. It becomes a problem, though, if false accusations are used to keep us from reporting suspicious activities. It looked for a while that legislation to protect sincere whistleblowers from lawsuits would never make it to a vote. The chair of the House Homeland Security Committee held up the legislation, saying it would promote racial and religious profiling. Fortunately, he’s changed his mind. I'm happy about that and congratulate him. I'll be happier, though, when the bill is enacted.
I was also glad to hear that Morgenstern was rewarded by his employer, Circuit City, for his part in preventing the attack on Fort Dix. And I was impressed that he told those who called him a "hero" that the real heroes are our soldiers in the field. A second man, also credited with the tip, has chosen to remain anonymous. Maybe when he's protected from expensive and frivolous lawsuits, we'll hear his story too.
June 05 | 2007
The bill's supporters simply should say, "The vast majority of these illegal immigrants are people here to work, and they aren't going to be forced to go home; therefore there is no humane and moral option besides giving them an amnesty." That would be admirably straightforward and obviate the need for complex, obfuscatory lawmaking.
The bill gives pretty much every illegal alien here immediate legal status in the form of a probationary Z visa. That's the amnesty. Then come all the things meant to make the amnesty deniable: a $1,000 fine and $1,500 processing fee for an actual Z visa, which lasts four years; then, it has to be renewed for a $500 fee for another four years; after which, a green card is available with another $4,000 fine; and five years after that -- the possibility of applying for citizenship!
Some of the obstacles are clearly for show. Once someone has a Z visa, he has to go back to his home country to apply for a green card. This is pointless. The original purpose of this kind of "touch-back" provision was to make sure an illegal alien was home -- not here in this country -- when applying for legal status. Then, if his application was denied, he'd already be deported. But these green-card applicants will already have been legal for years and presumably back in the U.S. while their application is processed.
Cynical politics and economics play a role here. Republicans don't want formerly illegal immigrants voting anytime soon, since poor, low-skilled households aren't going to produce many GOP voters for a generation or so. And business doesn't care about citizenship one way or the other, as long as it gets its cheap labor. That's why employers support the indentured-servitude-style guest-worker program in the bill.
"Buck Fush" and the Left
June 05 | 2007
Those blessed with common sense know there is a huge difference between public and private use of expletives. While the holiest among us might never utter an obscenity, most decent, even pious, individuals will use an occasional expletive in private under circumstances that can make its use morally, if not religiously, justifiable (as when using an expletive to describe some evil figure or after a heavy weight fell on one's toe).
But higher civilization has always regarded the use of expletives in public (outside of, let us say, theatrical performances) as a form of assault on civilization. That is why as a broadcaster I am prohibited from saying seven selected words on the air. No one monitors my private conversations, but just about everyone, at least until the 1960s, understood that there was something very wrong in saying such words on the radio or putting them on billboards.
That is why we have, as a society, crossed a line when people put expletives on bumper stickers ("S--t Happens," "Buck Fush") or use them in public in distinguished company -- as in newspaper interviews or campaign fund-raisers. Even the individual who puts a "Buck Fush" sticker on his or her car knows that the real "f-word" would constitute an assault on whatever remains of the concept of decency.
So what does the increasing ubiquity of such stickers tell us?