February 29, 2008

I'm So Glad We've Had This Time Together

The time has come to sail Captain's Quarters into drydock. Tomorrow I officially start my new adventure at Hot Air, and as we have discussed all week here, all of my blogging efforts will go into building on the success at that site. I will continue to write as I like, as often as I like, on subjects that I like, with my own perspective, and gain access to a much larger platform at which to do it.

The site will remain on the Internet. The archives will be accessible at this link, so if you ever decide you wish to review my work or search for a favorite post, it will be ready to serve you.

I hope all of the commenters at Captain's Quarters will join me at Hot Air. For those who missed the open-registration deadline, I can add people manually. Send an e-mail to "register" at "captainsquartersblog.com" (without the quotes), and be sure to include your preferred username and password, as well as the e-mail address you want to use for your account. I can add people manually or fix earlier registrations at any time, so keep that e-mail address handy.

For my last post here at Captain's Quarters, I'd like to thank a few people. First, I want to thank the entire CapQ community, which has been an absolute blessing. I want to thank Hugh Hewitt and Duane Patterson, who have mentored and befriended me and opened many, many doors. Rush Limbaugh has shown me many kindnesses, most of which have come quietly. Of course, it goes without saying that Michelle Malkin -- for whom I will begin working tomorrow -- has been a wonderful friend to me for almost the lifetime of this blog.

I don't have the room to list all of the bloggers who have assisted me over the years, but I do want to acknowledge a few. Glenn Reynolds has given me many links and has served as an inspiration, of course, as he does to many of us. Robert Bluey at Heritage has been a good friend and a sounding board. Rob Neppell has become a good friend, as has Mark Tapscott.

Mostly, though, I want to thank my friends on the Northern Alliance -- Mitch, King, Brian and Chad at Fraters Libertas, and John, Scott, and Paul at Power Line -- who gave me encouragement and guidance without any reservation or condescension. They are a great group of bloggers, but more importantly, a great group of friends, and I'm lucky to have them.

Finally, and crucially, one person remains to thank. If it weren't for the support and love of my wife Marcia, the First Mate, I never would have been able to do this. She has been nothing but supportive and encouraging, even when the blogging became a much larger effort than either of us ever dreamed.

Simply put, I'm one lucky man to have all of this.

Let's all take the next step on the adventure.

Heading Right Radio: The Week In Review!

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Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson of the Hugh Hewitt Show joins us for the 90-minute week in review.

Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! And don't forget to join our chat room!

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Fear And Loathing In The Hillary Clinton Campaign

"Knows the military"?

I'd call this the last act of a desperate woman. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton present themselves as the person most people would want answering the phone at the White House in the middle of the night. In fact, the Democrats have done their best to minimize the threats to the US, especially since it became clear that John McCain -- with his decades of work on military policy -- would be the Republican nominee.

Does anyone remember the line that the "war on terror" was just a bumper sticker?

John McCain could simply clip off the last ten seconds of this ad and run it for the general election -- no matter which Democrat won the nomination. I can't wait for the pushback against Hillary for this ad.

AOL Hot Seat Question Of The Day

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AOL and BlogTalkRadio have partnered on the Hot Seat poll, extending the debate to our listenership. I will host a 15-minute show weekdays at 1:00 pm ET to review the poll, interview the blogger, and take calls from the participants. We'll speak to a wide spectrum of bloggers and callers alike for each day's poll -- including today's:

Be sure to tune it at BlogTalkRadio -- and don't forget to cast your votes! We will also take your calls at (347) 205-9555.

Obama Double-Talk On NAFTA Confirmed: CTV

After reporting on Barack Obama's dance with the Canadians on NAFTA yesterday, Canadian broadcaster CTV got accused of perpetrating a smear against the Democratic front-runner. They insisted that Obama meant every word he said about overturning the free-trade treaty, and that no one had contacted the Canadian diplomatic corps to reassure them that it was mere demagoguery. CTV responded today by naming names -- and suddenly the Obama campaign has grown quiet:

The Obama campaign told CTV late Thursday night that no message was passed to the Canadian government that suggests that Obama does not mean what he says about opting out of NAFTA if it is not renegotiated.

However, the Obama camp did not respond to repeated questions from CTV on reports that a conversation on this matter was held between Obama's senior economic adviser -- Austan Goolsbee -- and the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago.

Earlier Thursday, the Obama campaign insisted that no conversations have taken place with any of its senior ranks and representatives of the Canadian government on the NAFTA issue. On Thursday night, CTV spoke with Goolsbee, but he refused to say whether he had such a conversation with the Canadian government office in Chicago. He also said he has been told to direct any questions to the campaign headquarters.

CTV didn't stop there. They also announced that their sources, at "the highest levels of the Canadian government", reconfirmed the story to CTV. One of their primary sources provided a timeline of the discussion to CTV. Contrary to some reports, CTV has not retreated at all from this story.

Jim Geraghty notes:

I realize Obama's campaign can still claim that one of his advisers went rogue in contacting the Canadians about his NAFTA rhetoric, but to me, this is game, set and match to CTV. ... If Goolsbee had not talked to officials in the consulate, it seems likely that his answer would have been, "No, I didn't talk to them."

Who is Austin Goolsbee? According to this press release from last September, Goolsbee serves as the Senior Economic Advisor to the Obama campaign. He was highly touted by Obama in his visit to Iowa in that month, when he showed his intellectual chops by bringing Goolsbee along with a raft of other advisers, in part to show that he wasn't a political lightweight.

It will be rather hard to distance himself from Goolsbee at this point. If Goolsbee spent time reassuring the Canadians sotto voce that Obama was merely demagoguing on NAFTA, then voters need to understand that the supposed "new politics" of Obama smells very similar to that of the same old lies and empty rhetoric we have heard from the Beltway for decades. And without that "new politics", Obama is nothing more than an empty suit with a pleasant voice.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.

UPDATE: ABC also gets some refusal to confirm or deny from both Goolsbee and the Canadian diplomat in question, Georges Rioux.

Israel To Gaza: Get Ready

The Israelis have sent a warning to Gaza and its Hamas leadership after the latest rocket attack on Ashkelon. If the attacks continue, Israel will invade Gaza and conduct large-scale military operations to eliminate the threat:

Israeli leaders warned Friday of an approaching conflagration in the Gaza Strip as Israel activated a rocket warning system to protect Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people, from Palestinian rockets.

Ashkelon was hit by several Grad rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday, a sign of the widening scope of violence between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. One hit an apartment building and another landed near a school, wounding a 17-year-old girl.

Located 11 miles from Gaza, Ashkelon had been sporadically targeted in the past but never suffered direct hits or significant damage.

"It will be sad, and difficult, but we have no other choice," Matan Vilnai, Israel's deputy defense mister, said Friday, referring to the large-scale military operation he said Israel was preparing to bring a halt to the rocket fire.

"We're getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we've used a small percentage of the army's power because of the nature of the territory," Vilnai told Army Radio on Friday.

Israel had tried using softer methods to stop the attacks, including a lockdown on the border between Gaza and Israel. That resulted in a breakout at Rafah, which took the Egyptian government several days to resecure. Other nations had pressured Israel to end the embargo or at least loosen it for food, energy, and medical supplies, but the rocket attacks continue.

Hamas says that Israel's return fire has killed 15 civilians and blames Israel for the rising tensions. Apart from the absurdity of blaming someone for hitting an aggressor in return, Hamas and other terrorist entities have no one but themselves to blame for civilian deaths. Even the AP acknowledges that Hamas launches its rockets from densely populated civilian centers, drawing fire onto their own people.

Israel cannot stand idle while terrorists rain rockets onto civilian populations, and the escalation to Ashkelon is a deliberate provocation by Hamas. The IDF has to take action, and this time it cannot be constrained by proportionality. They need a massive response to the Gaza provocateurs, one that leaves them no ground to hide. If Gaza's civilian population wants to avoid that, then they need to rid themselves of the terrorists before Israel's military does its work.

Hillary: I Want My VRWC

What's worse in politics than being attacked? Being ignored -- and Hillary Clinton wants it to stop. She wants back into the national discourse after mostly being overlooked since the debacle of Super Tuesday:

There was a time not long ago when Hillary Clinton dominated the discourse in both parties’ presidential contests.

Now, she’s struggling to get her message out and remain part of the campaign conversation as the media and her remaining rivals, Barack Obama and John McCain, stampede toward a general election matchup that seems more and more likely. ....

Today, though, after a post-Super Tuesday string of wins by Obama, Clinton hardly draws notice from the Republican party. The daily barrage of press releases from the Republican National Committee almost exclusively targets Obama. McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, makes almost no reference to Clinton in his campaign appearances, instead zeroing in on Obama’s record.

Oddly, I had thought to write about this exact phenomenon at some point today. Over the last two weeks, hardly any releases about Hillary Clinton have found their way into my e-mail. The RNC's missives have focused on Obama exclusively, no mean feat considering his thin track record. Even blog readers have stopped sending Hillary material, a sure sign that she represents no real threat to either Obama or John McCain.

That makes Hillary pine for the days of her "vast right-wing conspiracy" fantasy. As Mike Huckabee once said, you know you're over the target when you're taking flak. When the flak aims at someone else entirely, you know you're over. Hillary needs some media oxygen to keep her campaign alive, especially in Texas and Ohio, but Obama has kept the spotlight on himself.

The example given by the Politico amply demonstrates this. Hillary thought she could capture some attention by announcing her February fundraising number -- a very impressive $35 million. It briefly created some buzz about a comeback, but Obama's campaign responded within hours that he had raised close to twice that much. Not only did that take the spotlight away from Hillary, but it reinforced the perception that she keeps falling further behind.

Hillary once complained about media-fueled controversies that surrounded her and Bill. Now she'd put up with a scandal or two if it managed to focus the media and the opposition in both parties back on her campaign. She has discovered that obscurity is worse.

Turkey Made Its Point

Turkey has ended its incursion into northern Iraq, according to the Iraqi government, and its troops will return home shortly. The raid intended to wipe out PKK bases in the Zap valley, and some sources in Turkey claim that they have succeeded:

Turkey wound down its major ground offensive against Kurdish PKK rebels inside northern Iraq on Friday, although it declined to confirm an Iraqi minister's statement that it had already withdrawn all its troops.

Turkey sent thousands of soldiers into remote, mountainous northern Iraq on February 21 to crush rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who use the region as a base for attacks on Turkish territory. Washington feared the incursion could destabilize an area of relative stability in Iraq....

A Turkish military source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed only that Turkish forces had fully withdrawn from the key Zap valley in northern Iraq, long a major PKK stronghold, and most had already arrived back in Turkey.

The invasion made its point. The Turks rightly had lost patience with the Iraqis over their inability to control PKK terrorists in Zap. The valley has not come under Iraqi control, and PKK had flourished there as a result. The terrorists used their isolation to conduct attacks in Turkey that Ankara could no longer tolerate.

The US had pressed Turkey to avoid attacks on Iraq, but in the end could not stop the Turks from retaliating against terrorists. Instead, the US tried to contain the fighting to Zap and keep the situation from escalating into the rest of Iraqi Kurdistan. In that, we seem to have succeeded; the Turks did not attack areas controlled by the Iraqi security forces.

Americans and Iraqis have to come to a better solution to the PKK menace. While Kurds in Turkey have legitimate grievances, we cannot allow terrorists to operate in Iraq, especially under our protection. It not only works against the entire mission in Iraq, it will eventually destabilize the relationship between what we hope will be the only two moderate Muslim democracies in the region.

We need both Turkey and Iraq as partners to bolster our fight against radical Islamist terrorists. We don't need them fighting each other, with the US in the middle.

The Economics Of Fear

The Economist takes a look at Obamanomics, and it sees William Jennings Bryan and class warfare. Instead of offering hope, Barack Obama offers the same fear- and envy-based tactics on which populism has always thrived. While Democrats have often used these tactics in primaries, the Economist worries that Obama might try to govern based on these promises:

FOR a man who has placed “hope” at the centre of his campaign, Barack Obama can sound pretty darned depressing. As the battle for the Democratic nomination reaches a climax in Texas and Ohio, the front-runner's speeches have begun to paint a world in which laid-off parents compete with their children for minimum-wage jobs while corporate fat-cats mis-sell dodgy mortgages and ship jobs off to Mexico. The man who claims to be a “post-partisan” centrist seems to be channelling the spirit of William Jennings Bryan, the original American populist, who thunderously demanded to know “Upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight—upon the side of ‘the idle holders of idle capital’ or upon the side of ‘the struggling masses’?”

There is no denying that for some middle-class Americans, the past few years have indeed been a struggle. What is missing from Mr Obama's speeches is any hint that this is not the whole story: that globalisation brings down prices and increases consumer choice; that unemployment is low by historical standards; that American companies are still the world's most dynamic and creative; and that Americans still, on the whole, live lives of astonishing affluence. ...

If he were elected president, backed by a Democratic Congress with enhanced majorities, Mr Obama might well feel obliged to deliver on some of his promises. At the very least, the prospects for freer trade would then be dim.

The sad thing is that one might reasonably have expected better from Mr Obama. He wants to improve America's international reputation yet campaigns against NAFTA. He trumpets “the audacity of hope” yet proposes more government intervention. He might have chosen to use his silver tongue to address America's problems in imaginative ways—for example, by making the case for reforming the distorting tax code. Instead, he wants to throw money at social problems and slap more taxes on the rich, and he is using his oratorical powers to prey on people's fears.

Many people have compared Obama to Ronald Reagan in his ability to promise "morning in America," but they have focused only on the most superficial part of the Reagan revolution. Reagan didn't cast himself as the agent of hope, but appealed to the hope within Americans that they could lift up the country, and not the other way around. He focused on the hope of the individual as the true agent of change, and not the despair of the collective that required government intervention.

The rhetoric has given us nothing really new. It has the same populist ring to it that we have heard since before collectivism got entirely discredited in the latter 20th century. It's simplistic calls to soak the rich and redistribute the wealth, to impose economic isolationism, and to prey on the fears of the working class by casting globalization as an unmitigated evil.

The Economist acknowledges that Democrats usually drop the populism when it comes to general elections. That was certainly true of Bill Clinton, who made the NAFTA deal that his wife routinely disparages on the stump now. It would most likely be true with Hillary, but Obama has no track record on which to gauge this. Given that the only basis for analysis is Obama's rhetoric, it's hard to judge him as anything other than the fear-mongering populist he has become on the campaign trail.

Black Superdelegates Get Harassed By .... Obama Supporters?

Black superdelegates report harassment, intimidation, and namecalling in attempts to get them to change their votes. Has this come from the vaunted Clinton machine, desperately attempting to pull out a miracle win? No -- it comes from affiliates of the Barack Obama campaign, which hardly needs the hard sell (via Memeorandum):

African-American superdelegates said Thursday that they’ll stand up against threats, intimidation and “Uncle Tom” smears rather than switch their support from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama.

“African-American superdelegates are being targeted, harassed and threatened,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), a superdelegate who has supported Clinton since August. Cleaver said black superdelegates are receiving “nasty letters, phone calls, threats they’ll get an opponent, being called an Uncle Tom.

“This is the politics of the 1950s,” he complained. “A lot of members are experiencing a lot of ugly stuff. They’re not going to talk about it, but it’s happening.”

After civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) switched his support from Clinton to Obama earlier this week, other black superdelegates have come under renewed pressure to do a similar about-face. A handful have bowed to the entreaties in recent weeks, including Georgia Rep. David Scott, but many say they are steadfast in their support for Clinton and resent strong-arm tactics to make them change.

This ugliness is the inevitable product of the Democratic delegate structure. One has to remember that the superdelegates comprise 20% of the total delegates, and that they are almost all public office holders. Their votes will determine the nominee, not the popular vote in the primaries and caucuses -- and their constituents will hold them responsible if they vote in opposition to them.

For a candidate who supposedly wants a new kind of politics, this looks a lot like an older version that we thought we'd left behind. Obama's supporters, at least, don't seem to have much problem playing the race card with the superdelegates. That might work in the Democratic primaries, but this naked power play with identity politics will diminish his prospects in a general election, and it won't help other Democrats, either.

It portends ugly divisions for the party in July, when they meet for the convention. Only an early withdrawal by Hillary Clinton will avoid it, and at the moment that doesn't look likely. She's leading in both Ohio and Texas in some polls, although in Texas she's slipped behind Obama in most. If she stays in the race, the ugliness will only increase, and the bitterness will not easily fade.

The Democrats need to overhaul their delegate system, or put the pretense of a popular nomination process aside. They cannot expect people to sit idle as their elected representatives gainsay their will at the ballot box, and the superdelegates won't stand for it again after this, either. They have to run for re-election in these districts and states, and getting called an "Uncle Tom" doesn't make for a great campaign slogan.

February 28, 2008

Democrats Want To Fund ACORN, La Raza With Stimulus Bill

The Democrats reacted in anger when Senate Republicans blocked their latest economic stimulus bill. Harry Reid said that bankers and lenders were high-fiving each other in hallways after the GOP torpedoed the bill, but perhaps a better explanation of Reid's disappointment comes from Bob Casey (D-PA). The beneficiaries of the bill turns out to be somewhat different than advertised:

Here's the transcript:

Mr. CASEY: “We want to do a couple of things with this legislation, which we know is the Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. Our Majority Leader, Senator Reid, and our leadership and the members of the Democratic Caucus set it out fairly specifically. A couple of basic things this legislation would have done: first of all, it would have continued what we started in the end of last year, foreclosure prevention counseling dollars, to give money to organizations around the country that are certifiably expert at this, organizations like La Raza. I know the presiding officer knows that group. We know also the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now, known by the acronym ‘ACORN.’ They’re headquartered in Philadelphia. These are organizations which understand what a lender has to deal with but more importantly deal with borrowers when they’re borrowing money, when they’re dealing with the difficulty and complexity of borrowing money. These organizations would have helped even more so than they’re helping now with $200 million more of counseling money. That’s not going to happen right now because of what the other side did; they blocked that money by blocking this legislation.”

ACORN? Would this be the same ACORN that conducted voter fraud in Washington, resulting in felony charges against its officers there in 2007? Isn't this the same organization that generated complaints and questions about their practices in several other jurisdictions during the 2006 election? How does shoving money into the pockets of ACORN provide an economic stimulus?

This doesn't look like a stimulus package. It looks more like an investment in further voter fraud.

Once More, With Feeling: Registration Open at Hot Air

In case anyone lost their sanity in the Byzantine series of updates on my earlier post, comments registration has been open all day at Hot Air, with a few glitches. The link to the registration page is here. It will remain open until later tonight.

However, I can also add people myself to the user database, if commenters are having problems registering. Send an e-mail to "register" at "captainsquartersblog.com" (without the quotes), and be sure to include your preferred username and password, as well as the e-mail address you want to use for your account. I can add people manually or fix earlier registrations at any time, so keep that e-mail address handy.

Some have asked whether I will be cross-posting most of my material at Hot Air for the remainder of the time left at CapQ. I believe I will. With Bryan already hard at work at his great new job as Laura Ingraham's producer, he hasn't had an opportunity to post at Hot Air. It gives me an opportunity to learn the ropes there as well. Starting on Saturday, I'll post all of my new material there exclusively anyway.

One last note: Several people have asked me whether I plan to post less now that I'm going to Hot Air. Not at all! In fact, I may post more, now that other responsibilities have been removed. This week, though, has been insane -- so that's why the output seems a little low.

Thanks for all of your patience and understanding.

Geldof: The Unexpected Bush

Bob Geldof pens an unusual article for Time Magazine today, extolling the intellect and virtues of President George Bush. He starts off by noting -- as have we conservatives since early in the administration -- that Bush has no talent for marketing. Geldof instead assigns himself that task and reminds people that Bush may be the most significant President in modern times for the lives he has saved:

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

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

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

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

Geldof doesn't pull punches where he disagrees with Bush. In fact, he spends most of the article outlining his disagreements. However, he also paints a picture of a man of intellect and deep belief, and one who has been shortchanged by the media, at least on Africa. He also understands that while he disagrees with Bush on many policies, Bush is motivated by his own sense of what is right.

The Anchoress notes:

But I do like that he gives the president serious credit not just for his humanitarian aid to Africa, but for his smarts in general. The press narrative since 1999, has been that Bush is “incurious and slow.” Geldof writes precisely the opposite, noting after a discussion of Africa and trade tariffs, “he’s curious and quick.”

And while in not engaging the president on is a bit unfair because does not allow rebuttal to Geldof’s own meme’d musings, the Irish rocker does allow Bush to make his case as to the steadiness of his interest in Africa, going back to his debates w/ Gore.

Indeed. Rather than the two-dimensional caricature that so many pundits and journalists have created, Geldof gets much closer to describing Bush as he is -- intelligent, emotional, combative, and unusually open. In the end, Geldof and Bush have to agree to disagree on Iraq, but Geldof obviously has some affection for Bush despite the media-driven cardboard cutout most people choose to see.

This does not surprise me much. I have had the pleasure of participating in two round-table conference calls with Geldof, and he surprised me with his openness to all points of view. Like Bush, he has grown a thick skin through years of political combat. His last project, a series of concerts intended to produce pressure on the G-8 nations to forgive African debt and pledge more assistance, drew a lot of naysayers -- and Geldof almost seemed to relish engagement with them, in order to change minds.

In some ways, Geldof appears to recognize a bit of that in Bush, and has a difficult time not liking it.

Heading Right Radio: International Property Rights Index; Movie Day!

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Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Americans for Tax Relief affiliate group Property Rights Index released the second annual International Property Rights Index. PRA’s Executive Director Kelsey Zahourek talks about it, and Betty Jo Tucker, movie critic and host of Movie Addict Headquarters, joins us for another Top 5 movie list!

Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! And don't forget to join our chat room! This show is now sponsored by Lifelock -- and listen to find out how you can save 10% on their services.

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Open Comment Registration At Hot Air Today! (Update)

UPDATE IV: Some commenters are continuing to have issues with creating a login. If for some reason you just can't get it done through the system, e-mail me your preferred user name and password to this account: "register" at "captainsquartersblog.com" (without the quotes). I will manually add you to the system -- but give me some time to get it done.

BUMP: Registration is now open. It will remain open until later tonight. Link to register is here.

UPDATE III, 9:30 am CT: Had a glitch with registration this morning, but it's fixed now.

Earlier this week, we held a comment registration event at Hot Air to try to get as many CapQ commenters into the system as possible. Some missed the window, however, and I have received many requests to hold another open-registration event. As I reported yesterday, we have scheduled another period of open registration today, February 28th, between 9 am CT and 9 pm CT.

Why does Hot Air limit registration to certain periods? They have had many more problems with abuse than we have had at CapQ, and they have had to build their community in a different way as a result. Any site with the level of traffic that Hot Air generates becomes a target for trolls and spammers, and the management issues increase accordingly. This method has succeeded at Hot Air in keeping trolls and spammers to a minimum while allowing for dissent and debate in the comment threads.

When the registration period opens, those wishing to register will need to post a comment on a Hot Air post, which will go into moderation. I'll approve it, and that will register the commenter. It would be helpful if CapQ commenters keep their current names so I can recognize them in the comments.

I look forward to getting everyone into the system. In the meantime, I hope you have been enjoying my cross-posts at Hot Air, and jumping into the commentary.

NOTE: This is an update and bump from yesterday's announcement.

UPDATE: For those who may have lost their passwords -- please e-mail Hot Air with your info, and we will get your account reset.

UPDATE II: I will be crossposting most of my material today and tomorrow at Hot Air, but not all of it.

AOL Hot Seat Question Of The Day

Listen to AOL Hot Seat on internet talk radio

AOL and BlogTalkRadio have partnered on the Hot Seat poll, extending the debate to our listenership. I will host a 15-minute show weekdays at 1:00 pm ET to review the poll, interview the blogger, and take calls from the participants. We'll speak to a wide spectrum of bloggers and callers alike for each day's poll -- including today's:

[Poll expired.]

Be sure to tune it at BlogTalkRadio -- and don't forget to cast your votes! We will also take your calls at (347) 205-9555.

Obama Getting Bad Military Advice

Jack Jacobs at MS-NBC wonders who Barack Obama has as his military advisers. Based on his answers at the debate, Jacobs suggests replacing them at the first opportunity. No one expects a presidential candidate to be an expert on ground combat, but at the very least candidates can hire a few:

But last week, during his debate with Clinton, Obama tried speaking about substance when he mentioned the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he displayed an astounding ignorance of the military instrument. He said that an anonymous U.S. Army captain told him that his infantry platoon was split and sent to different areas of operations; that they were lacking vehicles; and that they had insufficient ammunition to fight.

Although problems do occur in combat situations to be sure, none of what Obama related makes any sense and is, according to people with whom I spoke, untrue. Units the size of platoons are not sent to separate theaters, ammunition has been plentiful, and an investigation indicates that the unit in question was missing only one of its Humvees, all to no peril of the unit. ....

Politicians rely heavily, on almost every subject, on advisors to get them educated and keep them current. And nobody really expects Obama or Clinton or even McCain, who was a Navy aviator, to know anything about ground combat. But one does expect the candidate to employ advisors who know what they are talking about and to prevent their candidate from embarrassment.

While Obama has attracted money, notoriety and delegates, he has yet to attract military advisers who know what they are doing.

It helps to understand the macro concepts as well. When Obama talked about our military "air raiding villages and civilians" in Afghanistan, he showed a remarkable disengagement from the actual events in a theater even he calls critical to the war on terror. The use of close air support in fighting Taliban attacks derailed their last spring offensive, and it helped kill some of their highest-ranking leaders.

Obviously, his advisers either haven't improved since then, or they haven't been replaced with people who know what they're doing. Democrats can be forgiven for their continued support of Obama, however, because the alternative doesn't appear to be much of an improvement. Hillary Clinton has shown the same kind of diffidence to military strategy and policy as Obama, even though she has better sense about making sweeping pronouncements on the subject.

John McCain should focus on this gap, and based on his rapid-fire engagement with Obama on al-Qaeda in Iraq yesterday, he looks ready to do so. McCain may have served as a naval aviator, but he has also served on the Armed Services Committee for years. He knows a platoon from a battalion, and he knows the structure, purpose, and strategy for the American military better than most of the people in and out of Washington. Wartime is not the moment for apprenticeship at the highest level of command, and McCain needs to remind America of that truth.

The Times Raises Another McCain Non-Issue

The staff at the New York Times has burned the midnight oil trying to find ways to derail John McCain's campaign. After endorsing him in the primary, the paper then ran an unsubstantiated smear against him as a philanderer. Now they ask whether he is eligible for the office, given his birth in the Panama Canal zone while his father served the country:

The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.

Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.

Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.

“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”

It's a slam-dunk to the millions of military families whose service to this country should have left then with no doubts about their children being relegated to second-class citizenry. They sacrificed enough for their country without having to sacrifice the futures of their children. Any other conclusion would amount to a penalty for military service on those who did not volunteer.

The Founding Fathers recognized this. They passed a bill in 1790, three years after the adoption of the Constitution, which made clear that "natural born" applied to children born of American citizens "outside the limits of the United States". That law remains in effect and has never been challenged. At the least, it speaks to the intent of the founders when they used the term "natural born" in the Constitution.

It's beyond absurd to argue that John McCain doesn't qualify to run as an American for the presidency. The candidate or party that files a lawsuit to challenge him on this point runs the risk of alienating a large swath of the public who have served this nation in uniform, in diplomacy, and in government.

Besides, if the Times thinks this to be an issue, then why did they endorse McCain in January? Didn't they bother to do their research on him then?

German Unemployment Dips ... To 8.6%

While Democrats fan out to talk about the misery of our economy and how the government has to do more to control it, the news out of Europe seems brighter. The Germans and their more-controlled economy has begun improving. In fact, their unemployment rate has dropped all the way to 8.6%:

Germany's unemployment rate dipped to 8.6 percent in February as a relatively mild winter added to momentum from the country's economic upswing, government figures showed Thursday.

The number of people without a job in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, fell 42,000 from January to 3.617 million, and 630,000 lower than in February last year, the Federal Labor Agency said.

The unadjusted jobless rate was down from 8.7 percent in January. Last February, that rate was 10.1 percent.

"Unemployment continues to fall," Labor Agency chief Frank-Juergen Weise said. "Companies' demand for labor remains at a very high level."

The bad news? The improvement is likely overstated, according to a UniCredit economist in Munich. The German government's short-term winter benefit for construction workers masked what will soon become a significant drop in work. Major companies plan cuts as they forsee a cooling economy, although the government insists that unemployment will continue to decline.

Europe, with its heavy-handed economic regulation, struggles to keep itself out of Jimmy Carter-era unemployment. They celebrate 8.6% unemployment. Meanwhile, the Democrats claim that 5% unemployment here requires the exact same kind of solutions that brought Germany their current economic "success".

Lest anyone think that this problem is confined to Germany, take a look at this report from last February. The "Eurozone" celebrated its best unemployment rate ever -- at 7.4%. Three weeks ago, they announced a further improvement -- to 7.2%. Either of these numbers would have Americans screaming in the streets for new leadership, and yet those who claim to represent that new leadership want to take the US down the same statist path where 7.2% is a "record low".

We need market solutions, not government-controlled economic plans that send capital to Capitol Hill instead of the engines of economic growth. We don't need to duplicate the European debacle.

Novak: Pawlenty Not Popular Among GOP Governors

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a high profile when it comes to potential running-mate options for John McCain. Pawlenty endorsed McCain early and stuck with him during hard times midway through 2007, and his center-right governance of blue-state Minnesota shows some real political talent. However, even Minnesotans question his conservative mien, and Robert Novak today reports that the unease extends to some of Pawlenty's colleagues:

Minnesota's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, carefully prepared his plan for controlling greenhouse gas emissions to present it at the annual winter meeting of governors in Washington. That effort coincided with Pawlenty's fast-rising prospects to become Sen. John McCain's choice for vice president. But behind closed doors, governors from energy-producing states complained so vigorously that Pawlenty's proposal was buried.

Pawlenty's position as chairman of the National Governors Association may prove to be his undoing. While party insiders sing his praises as ideal to be McCain's running mate, leading conservative Republican governors have been less than pleased with him. Pawlenty has collaborated with the association's Democratic vice chairman, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, on a fat economic stimulus package as well as the energy proposal.

Hours after Pawlenty's energy plan was derailed, McCain himself was privately urged by GOP governors not to appear to be anti-coal or anti-oil. The upshot of a busy Saturday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown was that Pawlenty came across as somebody considerably different from what McCain needs to calm conservatives. He left the nation's capital as a less attractive vice presidential possibility than he was when he arrived.

Pawlenty has a tough job here in Minnesota, and he has chosen his fights carefully -- a little too carefully for some of the state's conservatives. He has survived a Democratic upsurge in 2006, holding onto his office by 20,000 votes. That forced Pawlenty to work more with the political opposition, including a hike in cigarette taxes, supporting a smoking ban in restaurants and bars, public financing for the Twins baseball stadium, and repudiating his earlier no-taxes pledge with the Taxpayers League.

None of this has endeared him to the state's conservatives, nor has his flirtation with global-warming activists. The latter has extended that unpopularity to other Republican governors, which creates a big problem for John McCain. He will need the strong and public support of the dwindling number of GOP governors if he expects to unify the party. They have strong influence in their own states and can transmit enthusiasm or apathy to the Republican establishments there -- and McCain can't exactly count on grassroots efforts to bolster him among conservatives.

If Novak reads the temperature correctly, McCain can't afford Pawlenty as a running mate. That would tend to point towards Haley Barbour or Mark Sanford as alternate choices. Either would work, and both would substantially raise his stature among conservatives. Of the two, Sanford would be the wiser choice. He seems more temperamentally suited to McCain -- a pork fighter who has an independent, libertarian streak. Sanford could present a winning profile to those who want a strong candidate for 2012 or 2016, and who could appeal to independents and moderates as well as conservatives.

Bloomberg Shifts From King To Kingmaker

Michael Bloomberg has decided not to run for president, but he will likely decide on an endorsement in the next few weeks. The mayor of New York City opts out in today's New York Times, but he makes clear that he will remain engaged as an independent voice -- and that he's looking to see which candidate displays that kind of party-independent leadership:

I believe that an independent approach to these issues is essential to governing our nation — and that an independent can win the presidency. I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president. I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership. The most productive role that I can serve is to push them forward, by using the means at my disposal to promote a real and honest debate.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to work to steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance. And while I have always said I am not running for president, the race is too important to sit on the sidelines, and so I have changed my mind in one area. If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House.

Independence in political approach sounds terrific -- but it has become more of a fetish than a real platform. Especially with Bloomberg, it descends into platitude when it doesn't get accompanied by a defined set of policies. What constitutes independent thought? What policies does it entail? Or is it just another way of saying, "Why can't we all just get along?"

It sounds like "hope and change", and we already have that platitude in buckets for this cycle.

Bloomberg himself turned out to be more or less a liberal statist as mayor, with the questionable exception of law and order. The man who banned restaurants from using trans-fats doesn't qualify as a moderate, at least not any more. He has governed the Big Apple as a typical center-left Democrat would, still a large improvement over the doctrinaire liberal David Dinkins, but more a return to Ed Koch, without the humor.

So who would get Bloomberg's support? Given this essay, one can easily predict Barack Obama. It won't make much difference that Obama's agenda doesn't show a whit of independence from the Democratic Party platform; Bloomberg wants platitudes, and Obama produces them prodigiously. Bloomberg's talk about unity and change fits nicely with Obama's campaign rhetoric.

However, Bloomberg as kingmaker will be much less effective than Bloomberg as candidate. If he ran as an independent, Bloomberg could use as much of his own money for the race as he liked, and he has tons of it. He could drop a billion dollars and make himself at least into the Ross Perot of 2008, and he might even win a couple of states, which Perot couldn't do. He can't drop that kind of money into someone else's campaign, though he could prove a highly successful fundraiser. It will not have anywhere near the impact of his own candidacy, and what's more, it will reduce his profile as an "independent" the moment he signs onto either a Democratic or Republican campaign.

Of course, Bloomberg can always change his mind, claim to be disgusted at the tenor of the campaign, and launch his own bid for the presidency. He could wait until the conventions to do that and catch the other campaigns flat-footed. He would have learned that much from Ross Perot.

Obama's Sotto Voce To Canadians: I'm Demagoguing On NAFTA

Barack Obama has joined Hillary Clinton in trashing one of her husband's major economic and diplomatic achievements on the stump. He has told Americans that he rejects NAFTA, the program that created a free-trade zone out of North America, hoping to ride protectionist fever to the White House. However, the man who runs as a different kind of politician has a different kind of message to Canadians about NAFTA:

Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on NAFTA, but a senior member of his campaign team told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously, CTV News has learned.

Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have been critical of the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement over the course of the Democratic primaries, saying that the deal has cost U.S. workers' jobs.

Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama's campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada's ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.

The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.

Reportedly, lower-level Hillary staffers gave the same kind of warning to Canadian representatives, but Team Hillary flatly denies it. The same cannot be said for Obama's campaign. They called the warning "implausible" but didn't deny it.

If true, this would show Obama as the worst kind of demagogue. It would mean he's telling people what they want to hear while rejecting it himself, or alternately that he has begun his diplomatic relations with Canada by lying to them. Either way if true, it paints a disturbing picture of the kind of politician Obama really is.

In case the Democrats don't realize it, Canada is our most important trading partner -- and they rely on NAFTA heavily. Canada is the number one importer for oil, followed by our other NAFTA partner Mexico. If we junk NAFTA, it will create a fairly large diplomatic rift and ripples throughout our economy. Instead of making us more popular in the world, the Democrats will start making us less popular on our own continent and alienate our closest friend, as well as damage all three economies.

Perhaps that's why Obama's campaign didn't want the Canadians to take him seriously. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are taking him seriously, even if Obama apparently doesn't return the favor. (via CapQ reader Mark)

February 27, 2008

Jesse, O'Reilly's Not On The Stump ....

Not much to add to this video from our friends at Eyeblast. Jesse Jackson gets asked to comment on Michelle Obama's assertion that she is proud of her country for the first time, and can't quite grasp the question:

Mostly, the clip is fun for watching Jackson splutter. He actually makes it worse by getting it wrong twice, and then trying to avoid the real meaning by shifting to Bill O'Reilly's idiotic use of the term "lynch". Chris Matthews seems amused as well.

Remembering WFB

Today on Heading Right Radio, Jim Geraghty and I discussed the passing of William F. Buckley and what he meant to conservatives, the movement and its participants. We both agree that we will not see his like again soon, or perhaps ever -- but that the foundation he left us will serve us well in his absence.

I recalled later that I had an opportunity to interview one of Buckley's biographers, Linda Bridges, who partnered with John R Coyne Jr to author Strictly Right. Back in September, Bridges talked about how Buckley unified conservative factions into a coherent movement. It's especially appropriate to replay that episode of Heading Right Radio today, and perhaps to revisit Bridge's book.

Bonus: I have an interview with Tom Coburn in the second half.

Sixty-Six Percent Say 'Smear!'

The New York Times marks another milestone on its journey to National Enquirer status. The Gray Lady's smear piece on John McCain got 66% of Rasmussen respondents believing that the paper deliberately trying to kneecap the Republican frontrunner. Only 22% think that the paper had clean motives in publishing the unsubstantiated gossip:

The Times recently became enmeshed in controversy over an article published concerning John McCain. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the nation’s likely voters say they have followed that story at least somewhat closely.

Of those who followed the story, 66% believe it was an attempt by the paper to hurt the McCain campaign. Just 22% believe the Times was simply reporting the news. Republicans, by an 87% to 9% margin, believe the paper was trying to hurt McCain’s chances of winning the White House. Democrats are evenly divided.

Let's take a look at the crosstabs. Among age groups, a majority in each demographic believe that the NYT deliberately set out to damage McCain's reputation. The youngest give Bill Keller and company the most credit, with 34% believing that the Times was just reporting the news, as opposed to 53% who believed that the paper aimed to smear McCain. No other age demographic has more than 23% who believe that the Times operated with pure motives, and two-thirds across all other ages believe that they acted out of malice.

It doesn't get better in the other demographics, either. Whites, blacks, and "others" all strongly believe that Keller and his reporters acted maliciously. Sixty-nine percent of independents joined 40% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans in that belief. Only self-professed liberals believe that the Times used sound news judgment in running the piece; conservatives and moderates overwhelmingly blame bias and malice. And only liberals and 18-29 year olds view the Times more favorably than unfavorably.

The Times, under the management of Bill Keller and especially Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, has reduced what had been the nation's premiere newspaper to the credibility of a supermarket tabloid. People used to think conservatives overreacted to the attack memes of the Gray Lady. Now only liberals defend the paper -- and only then by the barest of majorities.