Ed Morrissey has blogged at Captain's Quarters since 2003, and has a daily radio show at BlogTalkRadio, where he serves as Political Director. Called "Captain Ed" by his readers, Ed is a father and grandfather living in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, a native Californian who moved to the North Star State because of the weather.
Another Terror Attack? (Update & Bump)
UPDATE II: ABC News reports that the US warned the UK of an imminent attack at Glasgow two weeks ago. That makes today's incident a likely case of Islamist attack:
U.S. law enforcement officials received intelligence reports two weeks ago warning of a possible terror attack in Glasgow against "airport infrastructure or aircraft," a senior US law enforcement officials tells the Blotter on ABCNews.com.
The intelligence reports also warned that airports and aircraft in the Czech Republic could be the targets of al Qaeda-connected terrorists. ...
A US official told ABCNews.com that the intelligence reports led to the assignment of Federal Air Marshals to flights into and out of both Glasgow and Prague.
If the US had picked up intel on this attack, it shows that we have our ear fairly close to the ground -- and that AQ has lost a lot of its competence and capability. The same sources tell ABC that the US has nothing specific about attacks here in the US, but airport security here is being beefed up just in case.
Original post follows:
Reports from Glasgow say that a car in flames crashed into the front of Glasgow Airport, resulting in two arrests and speculation that the attack may be tied to two London car bombs discovered yesterday. If so, it's a bad week for jihadists:
Witness James Edgar told Sky News he was in the airport during the incident.
He said a four-wheel drive, believed to be a Cherokee Jeep, tried to drive into the building, but was stopped by security barriers.
"I was in the airport booking a holiday, suddenly people were running as if they were missing their flight, but then we were told to get out of the airport," he said.
"A four-by-four had rammed into the building and caught on fire.
"Police were scuffling with a gentleman."
If this is tied to a campaign of terrorist attacks against the United Kingdom, it's off to a poor start. All that Jihadi U has managed to muster from its Class of 2007 are two failed bomb designs and a torch job with no damage. They've also allowed their operatives to get identified, with a good possibility of having their cells rolled up and future operations scuttled.
It's a great week's work for The Flaming Anuses at Jihadi U. If this continues, they may lose their accreditation.
UPDATE: Is there another terrorist situation in Belize? Lance at TMQ-2 says a Continental Airlines jet has been isolated on the tarmac due to a bomb threat. Most of those, however, turn out to be stunts and have nothing to do with Islamists. We'll update as more details become available.
NARN, The Lost Cloture Patrol Edition
The Northern Alliance Radio Network will be on the air today, with our six-hour-long broadcast schedule starting at 11 am CT. The first two hours features Power Line's John Hinderaker and Chad and Brian from Fraters Libertas. Mitch and I hit the airwaves for the second shift from 1-3 pm CT, and King Banaian and Michael Brodkorb have The Final Word from 3-5. If you're in the Twin Cities, you can hear us on AM 1280 The Patriot, or on the station's Internet stream if you're outside of the broadcast area.
Today, Mitch and I will review the rather momentous week that conservatives had. We'll talk about the failure of the immigration bill, and the impact that will have on George Bush and the candidates to replace him. We'll also discuss the two Supreme Court decisions that trimmed government efforts to impose race-based policies and curtail political speech. The demise of the Fairness Doctrine will certainly get a gleeful obituary as well.
Be sure to call 651-289-4488 to join the conversation!
BUMPED to Top, 12:53: We're on in a few moments!
Mel Wants A Solution
Senator and RNC chair Mel Martinez apparently had a temper tantrum yesterday in his home state of Florida after the collapse of the immigration reform bill. He angrily challenged the bill's opponents to come up with their own plan, saying the "voices of negativity" had to start offering solutions (via TMV):
The Chairman of the Republican Party on Friday lambasted Democrats and Republicans who helped kill an immigration bill in the Senate and challenged them to come up with a solution beyond ``just build a fence along the border.''
``The voices of negativity now have a responsibility to come up with an answer,'' RNC Chairman and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez, R-Fla. said.
``How will you fix the situation to make peoples' lives better? How will you continue to grow the economy? How will we bring people out of the shadows for our national security and for the sake of being a country that is just?'' he demanded.
The answers seemed very clear to everyone outside of the Senate chambers for the past four weeks. Instead of offering a repeat of 1986, fix the underlying problems that allow for lousy border and visa security, as Congress has repeatedly promised, before saying "Trust us!" How difficult is that to comprehend?
For decades, we have encouraged people to illegally cross into the US, both through a lack of effort in securing the border and then even less effort to enforce the laws even when police discover them living in the country. Many of them have spent most of their lives understanding that Congress and each succeeding administration shrugged off the hypocrisy. We created this situation, and I would probably find myself in agreement with Martinez that we can't just lay all the blame on those who took advantage of our own hypocrisies. We should find a way to normalize the status of those who have put down roots, lived lawfully, and want to assimilate into the US in a manner which treats them humanely but gives them no advantage over legal immigrants.
But we can't do that until we have fixed the problems on the border and in the visa program. If Martinez finds himself offended that Americans look at the last several decades of deceit and hypocrisy of Congress and the executive branch and come to the rational conclusion that we don't want to get fooled again, then he should grow a thicker skin and learn to listen a little more carefully. We have tried one amnesty with a message from Congress that "the check's in the mail" for real border security and visa management. Pardon us if we can't quite bring ourselves to play the Three-Card Monty again.
Secure the borders. Fix the broken visa system. Do that before creating an underresourced bureaucratic nightmare, and creating entire new classes of visas while the existing system remains an embarassing and dangerous failure. In other words, take responsibility for the decades of failure from the political class and build some credibility with the American voter.
That's the solution, Senator Martinez. We've been saying this for years. Perhaps the problem is that you refuse to listen.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin notes that some Floridians have begun a movement to recall Martinez. In my opinion, that's a short-sighted mistake. This is a man who gets a 100% from the National Right to Life Committee, a 70 from the National Taxpayers Union, a 100 from National Federation of Independent Businesses, and a 100 from the Gun Owners of America. Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Shelton Takes On Tenet
Two months ago, former CIA Director George Tenet offered his side of the Iraq war story in his memoirs, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA. In that book, Tenet tried to attack Douglas Feith and other backers of action against Iraq, partly by micharacterizing one key player's presentations and her background in intelligence. At the time Christina Shelton issued a brief statement in rebuttal to Tenet on both points. In today's Washington Post, Shelton gives a much more detailed account of her role and Tenet's lack of truth:
On Aug. 15, 2002, I presented my part of a composite Pentagon briefing on al-Qaeda and Iraq to George Tenet, then CIA director. In his recent book, "At the Center of the Storm," Tenet wrote that I said in opening remarks that "there is no more debate," "no further analysis is required" and "it is an open-and-shut case."
I never said those things. In fact, I said the covert nature of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda made it difficult to know its full extent; al-Qaeda's security precautions and Iraq's need to cloak its activities with terrorist networks precluded a full appreciation of their relationship. Tenet also got the title of the briefing wrong. It was "Assessing the Relationship Between Iraq and al-Qa'ida," not "Iraq and al-Qa'ida -- Making the Case." ...
Tenet's response to my presentation was to attempt to denigrate my credentials. I was not a "naval reservist," as he wrote in his book, assigned to the Pentagon for temporary duty. In fact, I was a career intelligence analyst for two decades, and I spent half of that time in counterintelligence. I did not draw conclusions beyond the reporting, as he suggested. I addressed the substantive material in the reports.
Tenet claimed that the body of reporting did not prove an "operational" relationship existed. I never said it did. The use of the caveat "operational" became a convenient -- albeit transparent -- way to discount the credibility of the 1990s reporting and the relationship as I had described it. In his book Tenet maintained that there was no evidence of Iraq's having "authority, direction, and control of al-Qa'ida operations." I don't recall anyone inside or outside the intelligence community ever making that claim.
It's odd that Shelton waited two months to publish this rebuttal. The first reviews of the book appeared in the last week of April, and the book hit the stores a week later. As I wrote at the time, even before its publication, the book's excerpts got panned for their inaccuracies. Afterwards, the criticism turned into a flood, with former high-ranking CIA officials as Michael Scheuer and Tyler Drumheller essentially calling Tenet a liar after they read the book.
Shelton provides a straightforward deconstruction of the charges Tenet leveled at her in his book. She makes it clear that Tenet at best told a lot of half-truths, most of them intending to paint his subordinates as radicals and all of them self-serving. She also points out information that Tenet left out of the book -- such as his own assertions to Congress that Iraq and al-Qaeda had some operational ties and those would likely increase whether we took military action or not.
Be sure to read it all. It comes late in the debate over Tenet, his book, and his tenure at Langley, but not so late as to be at all irrelevant.
A Fred Of Two Tales
Fred Thompson paid a visit to New Hampshire this week, his first as a certain presidential candidate -- and he got a taste of what media coverage would be like from this point forward. One reporter from McClatchy did his best to pour cold water on Fred's appearance, while the New Hampshire Union-Leader's editorial page editor pronounced it a rousing success.
First, McClatchy's Steve Thomma focused on the brevity that was the soul of Fred's wit:
When Fred Thompson made his debut on the presidential stage here this week, he left some Republicans thinking he needs more work before his nascent campaign matches the media hype it's gotten in advance.
The former Tennessee senator with the baritone drawl showed up Thursday in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary voting, and gave a speech that lasted only nine minutes, skipping over hot-button issues such as Iraq and immigration to invoke platitudes about freedom and strength.
He left more than a few Republicans disappointed.
"Platitudes about freedom and strength..." No loaded language there! Thomma quotes one attendee about his disappointment with the short speech, and characterizes another quote by the same person as having been said "dismissively". It's a strange news article; it reads more like an op-ed column.
If readers want an op-ed column, they may be better served by going to the state's most well-known paper and its editorial page editor. Andrew Cline noticed that Fred didn't just make a nine-minute stop in New Hampshire but had campaigned there all day. Cline has a different opinion of the brief fund-raising appearance, too:
Before the evening event on their behalf, Thompson made the rounds like an experienced presidential candidate.
He hit the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he met with publisher Joe McQuaid before touring the newsroom, had a tuna sandwich at the Merrimack Restaurant in downtown Manchester (where all candidates seem to be required by the secretary of state’s office to eat at some point) and stopped for a chat at a Hooksett gun shop.
Thompson’s evening speech at the Wayfarer Inn was timed at all of nine minutes. It was enough to give N.H. Republicans a taste and touch on the usual conservative topics: smaller government, lower taxes, federalism and winning the war against terrorists.
But Thompson added his own twist in this state where registered independents outnumber Republicans: “I think we can form a new coalition of Republicans and independents and some Democrats. If we do the right thing, we'll be a magnet for people of all beliefs about all kinds of issues, but [who] basically [hold] their country's issues first and foremost, and that's the thing that we'll have in common.”
Well, that sounds quite a bit more substantive than the actual news report from McClatchy, doesn't it? Fred spent the day touring the Granite State, meeting people and conferring with the state's largest newspaper. He then appeared at a benefit for state GOP candidates -- not for his own candidacy -- and talked about shared values and how we could build a coalition of New Hampshire voters to support them.
Maybe McClatchy should ask Cline to handle their actual reporting in the future, and send Thomma back to a less-biased beat.
The presidential campaigns have a deadline approaching for announcing their second-quarter fundraising numbers, and they have already begun jockeying to manage expectations. Hillary Clinton surprised pundits by announcing a firm number early -- $27 million -- and then telling everyone they could that they expected Barack Obama to do better than that. Now Mitt Romney's campaign has started to get the word out that fundraising efforts had dropped off from their impressive Q1 totals:
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who led Republican candidates in money raised during the first three months of the presidential race with $21 million, told top fundraisers yesterday that his campaign will bring in less during the second quarter and that he continues to lend money from his personal fortune to ensure that more voters hear his message.
"This tells only part of the story given this cycle's unprecedented nature, and the competing needs of less well-known candidates, such as Governor Romney, for both fundraising dollars and political exposure," said the memo to fundraisers from senior campaign adviser Alex Castellanos and top lawyers Benjamin Ginsberg and Katie Biber Chen.
"Our total will reflect the campaign's strategic decision to include more political travel days in this quarter than in the first," they explained, noting that Romney spent a total of 20 days in the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa between April and June, double the time he spent there in the first three months of 2007.
This doesn't bode well for the Romney campaign. He made a seven-figure loan to the campaign last week to keep up with the other candidates, which sounds as though fundraising has seriously flagged in this quarter. Romney has done well in Iowa and New Hampshire in gaining some momentum, but a significant drop in fundraising may signal to voters that Romney has peaked already.
The other GOP candidates, meanwhile, appear poised to show more consistent performance, if not breakout numbers. According to the Post, Giuliani has turned in a strong Q2. In Q1, he raised $17 million, but most of that was in the final two months. With three months of steady fundraising, Giuliani could top that number. John McCain, despite having a tough Q2 with immigration, still expects to get close to or beat his previous $13 million. Romney can run well under his $23 million and still beat them, but the perception will not be that of victory.
And Republicans should feel concerned about the disparity between their candidates' fundraising and that of the Democrats. Hillary and Obama will have somewhere between $55-60 million just between them, and that could outdo all three GOP frontrunners combined. In terms of primary efforts, the money difference won't create problems for Republicans, since primaries are mostly closed systems. However, if that fundraising disparity continues into the general election, the GOP may be in serious trouble regardless of the candidates involved.
Romney's strength in the campaign thus far has been his organizational skills, which his national poll numbers have not reflected. Many expected that his support would begin to reflect the organization. If his numbers fall too low, many might think that the reverse has happened.
Subtle As A Brick
I see the AP has continued its glorious tradition of objectivity, as reproduced in the Washington Post. Ben Evans writes a profile of Senator Jeff Sessions, who led the charge against the immigration bill, which starts off by informing readers that his parents named him after Confederate generals -- a not-terribly-subtle insinuation of racism (via Hot Air and Ace o' Spades):
When President Bush's "grand bargain" on immigration fell apart, Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama who is named after a pair of famous Confederates, was very proud.
Maybe one of the AP's layers of editors can explain the necessity of including that factoid in the first sentence of a news article about the immigration bill. Apparently Evans and his editor think that a story on opposition to the comprehensive reform bill has to have a racist angle -- even if they have to make it up.
Evans actually tries this twice. He explains Session's heritage again, in a paragraph that has no connection to anything else in the article:
His deep Southern roots are evident in his full name: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a family name handed down from his father and grandfather after the former president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and General P.G.T. Beauregard, who fired on Fort Sumter in 1861 to open the Civil War.
Deep Southern roots. Named after the Confederate president, and the man who touched off the Civil War. You know, those guys who wanted slavery in America.
I'm sure that Senator Sessions is proud of his heritage, and that has absolutely nothing to do with his opposition to the immigration bill -- unless Evans wants to also use that kind of innuendo about people like Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Tom Harkin of Iowa, all of whom voted against cloture on the bill along with Sessions.
Nice Pathetic try.
In The Mail: The Prince Of Darkness
One of the ironies of my new job is that I get a number of books for review purposes -- and hardly any time to read them. Over the weekend, I plan on posting about three new books just hitting the bookstores, and one from a prominent blogger. However, this afternoon I received what looks like one of the more intriguing selections I've seen in a while -- the memiors of Robert Novak, titled Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting In Washington.
According to the promotional material, Novak tells the full story of the Valerie Plame scandal for the first time -- but that's hardly the only draw for readers. It promises to be a fascinating look both inside the Beltway and into the life of a man whose glowering visage has dominated political reporting for decades.
I'll write more after I have a chance to read it. You can be sure that I'll make some time for this book.
Car Bomb (Dud) In London (Update: Jihadists Had Spree In Mind)
UPDATE III, AND BUMP TO TOP: ABC News reports that Germany has arrested two men who came from the Pakistani camp that served as Jihadi U, and believe that they have also been targeted. Also, authorities say this bears all the hallmarks of an Al-Qaeda operation:
Last year, al Qaeda operative Dhiren Barot was convicted by a British court for a plot to use limousines to carry similar bombs as those defused today to similar targets as the nightclubs allegedly targeted today.
In his own personal manual, Barot described how the cylinders, "if carefully orchestrated can be as powerful as exploding TNT," and "are easily available to the general public," designed for a "synchronized, concurrent (back-to-back) execution on the same day and time." Videos posted on al Qaeda Web sites also show in full detail how to rig propane and butane cylinders as powerful bombs.
And today's explosive devices -- composed of five or six propane and butane cylinders as well as 33 gallons of gasoline, all rigged to detonate with calls to two cell phones -- followed Barot's manual and the al Qaeda videos closely. Officials say the cell phones failed to initiate the explosions, even after each phone had been called twice, preventing a shrapnel-filled fireball from launching and killing people in the surrounding area.
Hmm. Looking more serious all the time, isn't it?
UPDATE II: It looks like London narrowly averted two bombings, perhaps more, as London police found a second rigged vehicle. The cell-phone detonaters failed despite multiple attempts to blow up the bombs:
Police in London's bustling nightclub and theater district on Friday defused a car bomb that could have killed hundreds after an ambulance crew spotted smoke coming from a Mercedes filled with a lethal mix of gasoline, propane and nails. Hours later, police confirmed a second explosives-rigged car was found nearby.
The first car bomb, found near Piccadilly Circus, was powerful enough to have caused "significant injury or loss of life" at a time when hundreds were in the area, British anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke said.
Clarke said Friday evening that the second car — another Mercedes — was originally parked illegally on nearby Cockspur Street, but had been towed from the West End to an impound lot near Hyde Park.
"The vehicle was found to contain very similar materials to those that had been found in the first car," he said. "There was a considerable amount of fuel and gas canisters. As in the first vehicle, there was also a quantity of nails. This like the first device was potentially viable."
And it looks like the Islamist terrorists had celebrated a little too early, according to CBS:
Hours before London explosives technicians dismantled a large car bomb in the heart of the British capital's tourist-rich theater district, a message appeared on one of the most widely used jihadist Internet forums, saying: "Today I say: Rejoice, by Allah, London shall be bombed."
CBS News found the posting, which went on for nearly 300 words, on the "al Hesbah" chat room. It was left by a person who goes by the name abu Osama al-Hazeen, who appears regularly on the forum. The comment was posted on the forum, according to time stamp, at 08:09 a.m. British time on June 28 -- about 17 hours before the bomb was found early on June 29.
Al Hesbah is frequently used by international Sunni militant groups, including al Qaeda and the Taliban, to post propaganda videos and messages in their fight against the West.
The police already know who they seek in the first incident. Security cameras -- London is full of them -- got a clear picture of the man who left the first Mercedes, and it's someone they know well. In fact, he's been arrested before for suspicious activity but released for a lack of evidence (via Hot Air):
British police have a “crystal clear” picture of the man who drove the bomb-rigged silver Mercedes outside a London nightclub, and officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com he bears “a close resemblance” to a man arrested by police in connection with another bomb plot but released for lack of evidence.
Officials say the suspect had been taken into custody in connection with the case of al Qaeda operative Dhiren Barot, who was convicted of orchestrating a vehicle bomb plot involving targets in London, New York, Newark, N.J. and Washington, D.C.
NBC reports that the British authorities now seek three men from Birmingham in connection to the day's events, which indicates a conspiracy for this attack. Both US and British intelligence have concluded that this is a plot by organized radical Islamists, who didn't know enough to get the air/fuel mixture correct in constructing the bombs. They won't repeat that mistake, I'm certain.
Bonus question: how long before we start hearing that this is the work of incompetents and that the media is blowing the story out of proportion?
Original post follows:
Police discovered that a car that left outside a London nightclub had been intended as a car bomb -- one that failed to detonate, fortunately. While authorities attempt to find the person or people responsible, the proximity to the anniversary of the July 7 bombing attacks two years ago seems more than just a coincidence:
A car bomb left in London's West End would have caused "significant injury or loss of life" if it had not been defused by police.
The explosive device, consisting of gas cyclinders and nails, was discovered at 2am outside a packed nightclub in The Haymarket, near Piccadilly Circus. ...
One witness said that door staff at the nightclub Tiger, Tiger alerted police after the car was driven into bins last night and the driver ran off.
The witness said the large silver saloon car was being driven "erratically" before the minor crash. The driver was not stopped.
So far, the size of the device is under dispute. Jack Straw, the new Justice Secretary in the Gordon Browne government, called it "big" in an interview today. The Telegraph reports from its police sources that the device actually was small -- but with the nails and the shrapnel the car would have created, it could have been very deadly regardless.
For now, details will be sketchy. Londoners, though, will wonder what comes next for a city that has always embraced multiculturalism.
UPDATE: Was this a graduation requirement from Jihadi U? ABC News reports on an interesting, but necessarily compelling, correlation:
The discovery of a massive car bomb set to detonate in central London comes just three weeks after what was described as an al Qaeda graduation ceremony of suicide bomb teams to be dispatched to Europe and the United States. ...
On the tape, the leader of the British team speaks of the mission in broken English, "Let me say something about why we are going along with my team to tell a suicide attack in Britain."
That was just 20 days ago, and the existence of the tape first reported by ABC News put British and German security experts on edge.
It's interesting and provocative, but as a theory it has at least one major flaw -- no suicide. The driver of the car ran off, which makes this look like either a bad bomb design, a failure of will, or most likely a remote-detonation scheme that failed. Either that, or grade inflation has struck Jihadi U.
Hillary's Baggage Bigger Than Previously Thought
Hillary's reign at the top of the polls for the Democratic primary has always worried party activists, knowledgeable of her negatives in a general election. The sense of her inevitability has been tempered with the recognition of the high hurdles between winning a nomination and winning a general election with a large number of voters hostile to her candidacy. Now NBC reports that a new poll puts that number at a majority:
According to a new Mason-Dixon survey, given exclusively to NBC/MSNBC and McClatchy newspapers, Clinton is the only major presidential candidate -- either Democrat and Republican -- for whom a majority of likely general election voters say they would not consider voting. In addition, she's the only candidate who registers with a net-unfavorable rating.
In the poll, 48% say they would consider voting for Clinton versus 52% who say they wouldn't. By comparison, majorities signal they would consider voting for all other major presidential candidates or possible candidates: Giuliani (64%-36%), Fred Thompson (62%-38%), Bloomberg (61%-39%), Obama (60%-40%), Edwards (59%-41%), McCain (58%-42%), Biden (57%-43%), Richardson (57%-43%), Huckabee (56%-44%), and Romney (54%-46%).
Moreover, 39% say they recognize Clinton favorably, while 42% say they recognize her unfavorably. By contrast, every other candidate has a net-positive favorable rating: Giuliani (43%-17%), Obama (36%-21%), McCain (33%-28%), Edwards (32%-28%), Thompson (25%-12%), Romney (24%-20%), Biden (21%-20), Bloomberg (20%-18%), Richardson (19%-15%), and Huckabee (16%-12%).
Will the Democrats nominate someone demonstrably unelectable in this primary? Or will these numbers have the party desperate for a white-knight, eleventh-hour bid from an established national figure -- like Al Gore? Has anyone ever gotten elected to significant office with numbers such as these?
Which Candidate Benefits From The Immigration Bill's Demise?
Now that the comprehensive immigration reform bill has died, analysts have looked at winners and losers of the contest. Almost certainly, one of the main losers has to be George Bush, who pushed hard publicly and privately for its passage. US News says, "Bush Sinking Along With Immigration Bill," a fairly clear conclusion based on the extensive roundup they provide. He put his credibility on the line for this bill, and in the end could not even get a majority of his own Senate caucus to support him.
But which of the candidates to replace Bush gained the most from the bill's failure? The Politico argues that could be John McCain:
While his office put out the requisite statement expressing disappointment that the immigration compromise failed, a McCain aide I talked with sounded more relieved that the issue was off the table.
While lamenting that its failure was "bad for the country," this person indicated that they were looking forward to getting past an issue that had been the focus of the campaign for the last six weeks.
"We talked about it at every town hall meeting, we did talk radio, we did O'Reilly, we did regional press conference calls, we gave a speech in Florida on it," the source pointed out. But having fought the good fight for what was recognized as a political loser, this person said they would use the summer to do grass-roots campaigning and seek to shift the focus onto "core economic issues" such as taxes, trade and spending.
This sounds counterintuitive, but Jonathan Martin may be right. First, no one who knows John McCain can honestly say that this bill changed their opinion of him. He introduced and vociferously championed a worse bill last year, and he has made no secret of his preferences on immigration. In many ways, he conducted himself in a more positive manner last year; his tone was intended to be as inclusive as possible, after lashing out a couple of times last year in frustration.
In a season of gotcha games on flip-flops, McCain may (eventually) get some credit for standing on principle. Senator Tom Coburn, who opposed the immigration bill, wrote an essay in National Review praising McCain for his political courage:
As the American people, elected officials, and commentators reflect on the heated immigration debate that came to a temporary close in the Senate this week many will ask, and have asked, why U.S. Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) staked out a position that may, in retrospect, be seen as devastating to his presidential ambitions. I hope the American people, at least, step back from the obsessive play-by-play pre-season election analysis and reflect on Senator McCain’s actions for what I believe they were: One of the purest examples of political courage seen in Washington in a very, very long time. ...
I opposed Senator McCain in this immigration debate. I believed the policies he advocated were wrong for America and I used every tool at my disposal to defeat his position. However, the way Senator McCain conducted himself represented the essential qualities of leadership the American people deserve.
Senator McCain didn’t speak in generalities. He spoke in specific terms. He didn’t take a position and change his position when he came under withering fire. He didn’t pander. He didn’t equivocate. He didn’t demean his opponents in the Senate or insinuate we harbored base motives or secret prejudices. He was motivated by principle. He believed he was serving his country. He was not inspired by political strategists who foolishly believed they could use this bill to grow the Republicans party, and did not lecture his colleagues about why those strategists were smarter and wiser than 80 percent of Americans.
When Senator McCain lost this battle he didn’t express self-pity or bitterness. Instead, he said he would carry on and offered a unifying message that is beyond debate, saying, “The American people will not settle for the status quo — de facto amnesty and broken borders.”
Whether you agree with him or not, Senator McCain’s actions demonstrated the qualities we rarely see in Washington — courage, character, honor, and dignity.
McCain's numbers have drifted downward since the beginning of this debate, as voters get reminded of his position on immigration. However, now that the topic is off the table, he may start winning back some of those voters, who had to have known his position in January when he ran neck-and-neck for the lead in these same polls. As Dr. Coburn notes, he stayed firm in his convictions and gracious in his tactics, and some may reconsider him on that basis.
Some may not, too, and I suspect that McCain will find it difficult to recover the lost ground. Like Dr. Coburn, I'm not making endorsements, and I have disagreed with McCain in immigration, the BCRA, and on his actions in 2005 regarding judicial nominations. He takes positions and almost always tries to lead the national debate, sometimes to the extent that some feel he's chasing the media when he parts with the GOP on policy. When a politician does that, he's going to annoy a lot of people, sometimes rightly so.
However, and I have mentioned this more than once in my radio shows this week, there are few men who have given as much to his country and lived. A man who spent 7 years being tortured as a POW doesn't deserve to be called a "traitor" over sincere policy disputes. McCain has made mistakes and may not be a good choice for the presidency, but he's a man who deserves respect and an opportunity to make his case -- and, like Dr. Coburn says, a man whose courage did not end with his return from Viet Nam.
We may not like the policies he promotes with such tenacity -- but in an age where politicians too often change positions to suit fashion, one should at least respect fidelity when they see it. McCain may or may not benefit from the end of the immigration debate, but now that the debate has finished, hopefully we can at least give him the benefit of the doubt about his intention to do what he thinks is best for the nation.
UPDATE: Some people believe I'm "kissing up" to John McCain, which seems a little silly. Did Dr. Coburn "kiss up" to McCain? I admire the man for his service to our country, I'll admit that, and in my limited contacts with him, he has struck me as a pretty nice guy overall. It doesn't mean I'd vote for him or support his actions on immigration, the BCRA, or other issues, and I've been pretty critical of his politics. I don't think treating an ex-POW as though he acts on honorable motives is unreasonable, outside of solid evidence to the contrary.
Coleman, Thune To Block Fairness Doctrine In Senate
Yesterday, Mike Pence won bipartisan approval for his amendment blocking the FCC from reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. That amendment is attached to the appropriation for the agency, which requires a companion amendment in the Senate. Just a few moments ago, Senators Norm Coleman and John Thune announced that they have proposed an identical amendment in the Senate:
In an effort to prevent Democrats from suppressing the right to free speech for talk radio and other broadcasters, Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Thune (R-SD) today introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007 (S.1748). The bill would prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reinstituting the Fairness Doctrine, which would require the government to monitor political views and decide what constitutes fair political discourse. Identical legislation was also introduced by Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) in the House of the Representatives.
“At its core, this is about the right to free speech. Our founders put the first amendment first for a reason. It protects all Americans’ right to free speech, regardless of political affiliation or views. The Democrats’ attempt to regulate and stifle ideas is a grave threat our liberties,” said Senator Coleman. “Since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio has flourished due to free market ideas. We mustn’t put the government in control over the political views expressed on the public airwaves. I applaud Congressman Pence for being a leader on this issue. Senators DeMint, Thune and I will continue working with our colleagues in the Senate to pass this critical legislation.”
“Here they go again. Democrats showed in the immigration debate they will once again try resurrect the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine', which is nothing more than an attempt to muzzle the free speech of conservative Americans. If liberals had their way, this unfair doctrine would give the heavy hand of government control over talk radio. We must act now to preserve all American's first amendment rights,” said Senator DeMint.
Power Line noted today that Dick Durbin and Dianne Feinstein have inadvertently given the Republicans an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves with their base after the immigration debacle. Attacking talk radio and threatening regulation of political content doesn't just resonate with conservatives, but with everyone concerned about government meddling with political speech. The GOP sees the opportunity to champion free speech while painting the Democrats as afraid and unable to respond to debate.
If Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic Caucus have an ounce of sense, they'll take a lesson from Jose Serrano and allow the amendment to prevail.
CQ Radio: What's Next Edition
Today on CQ Radio (2 pm CT), we have a great roundtable retrospective on the series of conservative wins this week. Mark Tapscott, editorial page editor of The Examiner, joins us to discuss his celebratory post on this week. He and I will also discuss my partial rebuttal, while Winfield Myers takes the position of his Democracy Project partner, Bruce Kesler.
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! Also, you can subscribe to CQ Radio through iTunes now by clicking this link:
The Stickings' New Blessing
Congratulations to my friend on the other side of the political fence, Michael Stickings, and his wife. Two weeks ago they welcomed a new addition to the family, Emily, which has explained his absence at The Moderate Voice. Congratulations to the entire family on the new arrival!
Gore Clears His Schedule? (Update: Gore Says No)
A blurb in the Taipei Times may telegraph a shakeup in the Democratic primary race, which has settled into a contest for the second spot already. Hillary Clinton may have a tougher fight on her hands, as a cancellation in Al Gore's schedule portends a presidential bid by the former Vice President (via Power Line and The Corner):
■ ENVIRONMENT Al Gore visit postponed Former US vice president Al Gore will not be able to make it to Taiwan this September to address the issue of global warming, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said yesterday. Tien, who invited Gore to visit Taiwan to promote awareness on global warming, told reporters yesterday that she received an e-mail from the Harry Walker Agency, which has the exclusive right to arrange Gore's speeches, saying that Gore had canceled all his scheduled events in the next six months. The visit to Taiwan had been postponed to next year, she added. Tien said the reason for the cancelation was that Gore was considering a presidential bid.
If this is accurate, it's the best indication that Gore will challenge Hillary for the top spot on the ticket. He has made it his mission to campaign worldwide against global warming, as well as making a living from at least some of his appearances. Cancelling six months of commitments clears him throught at least the start of the primary elections next year.
Of course, this could just be Gore's way of dumping the Taiwan appearance in a way that doesn't burn bridges. He could have decided not to irritate backers who want to concentrate on wheedling Beijing into changes, and a Taiwan appearance by Gore may have bruised some feelings in mainland China. The politics in that region have become very strained, and Beijing may have resented a challenge from Gore from the disputed island.
We should keep our eyes and ears open for other cancellations. If a rash of them suddenly appears, I think we will have our answer. Given the mood of the activists in the Democratic Party, Gore could give Hillary a real problem in the primaries -- and she might wind up at the bottom of the ticket.
UPDATE: Lowell at Raising Kaine (and a BlogTalkRadio host) called Gore's office and got a loud guffaw in return:
It is completely and utterly false.
1. He never accepted an event in Taiwan
2. We have loads of events on the schedule in the next six months
I don't know how to spell bubkus but there's no credibility to this whatsoever.
It's spelled bupkis, and it looks like that's what Gore has in mind for this presidential cycle, at least at the moment. Hillary can breathe a sigh of relief ...
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