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.
Taking The Day Off
A bout of insomnia, computer problems, and a busy travel schedule have led to do something I haven't done in the four years I've been blogging -- take a day off. I need a recharge of the batteries and preparation for travel tomorrow. I'm going to give the First Mate some undivided attention, because she deserves it.
Have a great day -- I'll be back tomorrow!
The Bookshelf Is Open
One feature at the new Captain's Quarters has not yet been properly introduced. As part of my work as a blogger and radio host, I interview authors on a regular basis, and I will often include a link to their books. In the previous design, I had a small portion of the sidebar that would show those books and others that I recommend, but it did not get updated very often.
In the new design, we included a page called the Bookshelf. It shows all of the books that I have covered, with links back to Amazon. I participate in the Amazon Associates program, which pays me a small percentage of the sale price on every book sold through this blog. In fact, that's true for any purchase made at Amazon resulting from a CapQ referral, so I have included a search widget on the page that will allow readers to find and purchase whatever they want through this site. It doesn't add cost to the products, and it gives me a small revenue stream with which I can support the site.
If you haven't checked out the Bookshelf yet, click on the link in the header just below the logo and take a look at the recommendations. If you're going to shop at Amazon for anything, I'd appreciate it if you start your search here and help support the site.
Rutten: Score One For Ahmadinejad
Tim Rutten looks at the arguments from Lee Bollinger's apologists and finds them unconvincing. Reaching back to Columbia University's earlier support for fascists, Rutten scores the win for Ahmadinejad for his appearance at the Ivy League academy, and scolds Columbia for giving Ahmadinejad the Western legitimacy he craved (via Memeorandum):
It would be interesting to know if any consideration of these events -- and all that followed a decade of engagement and dialogue with fascism -- occurred before Columbia extended a speaking invitation to a man who hopes to see Israel "wiped off the face of the Earth," has denied the Holocaust and is defying the world community in pursuit of nuclear weapons. Perhaps they did and perhaps that's part of what motivated Lee Bollinger, Columbia's president now, to deliver his extraordinarily ill-advised welcoming remarks to Ahmadinejad.
Bollinger clearly had an American audience in mind when he denounced the Iranian leader to his face as a "cruel" and "petty dictator" and described his Holocaust denial as designed to "fool the illiterate and the ignorant." Bollinger's remarks may have taken him off the hook with his domestic critics, but when it came to the international media audience that really counted, Ahmadinejad already had carried the day. The invitation to speak at Columbia already had given him something totalitarian demagogues -- who are as image-conscious as Hollywood stars -- always crave: legitimacy. Bollinger's denunciation was icing on the cake, because the constituency the Iranian leader cares about is scattered across an Islamic world that values hospitality and its courtesies as core social virtues. To that audience, Bollinger looked stunningly ill-mannered; Ahmadinejad dignified and restrained.
Back in Tehran, Mohsen Mirdamadi, a leading Iranian reformer and Ahmadinejad opponent, said Bollinger's blistering remarks "only strengthened" the president back home and "made his radical supporters more determined," According to an Associated Press report, "Many Iranians found the comments insulting, particularly because in Iranian traditions of hospitality, a host should be polite to a guest, no matter what he thinks of him. To many, Ahmadinejad looked like the victim, and hard-liners praised the president's calm demeanor during the event, saying Bollinger was spouting a 'Zionist' line."
Rutten and the Los Angeles Times hardly qualify as conservative mouthpieces. Rutten makes a devastating argument against the notion of engagement with oppressive tyrants, or in this case, their mouthpieces. He notes that tyrannies base themselves on will, not intellectual argument, for their use of power. Intellectual challenge does nothing to deflect them from their courses of action -- but it does provide an excuse for inaction from free peoples who should know better.
He particularly scolds the media for failing to report properly on Ahmadinejad. The media played up the Bush administration's various efforts to contain and confront Iran, but managed to play down the irrational messianic nature of the mullahcracy, and Ahmadinejad's role in it.
Be sure to read the entire essay.
I Hate To Say I Told You So, But ....
... well, I did tell you so. Newt Gingrich has announced through his spokesman that he will not run for President in this cycle. Running American Solutions makes it legally impossible to conduct an exploratory campaign:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will not run for president in 2008 after determining he could not legally explore a bid and remain as head of his tax-exempt political organization, a spokesman said Saturday.
"Newt is not running," spokesman Rick Tyler said. "It is legally impermissible for him to continue on as chairman of American Solutions (for Winning the Future) and to explore a campaign for president."
Gingrich decided "to continue on raising the challenges America faces and finding solutions to those challenges" as the group's chairman, Tyler said, "rather than pursuing the presidency."
Over the past few months, Gingrich had stoked speculation he might enter the crowded GOP field, despite the seemingly insurmountable challenge of entering the race several months after the other Republicans have been running.
Newt has made clear his dissatisfaction with GOP leadership, especially in his remarks yesterday. People looking for a party's nomination do not call their consultants stupid and uneducated, nor to they spend their time reaching out to Democrats like Roy Romer. The entire pledge exercise was intended to set so high a bar to his entry that people would finally stop asking him when he would announce his candidacy.
Look for Newt in 2012. He will have his national constituency, a bipartisan reputation, and a record of providing practical solutions over vitriol. He will be positioned as this century's Teddy Roosevelt.
John at Stop the ACLU is rounding up reactions.
NARN, The Out Of Context 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 Broadkorb 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, I'm going to catch up with Mitch on the various topics we've missed in the three weeks I've been gone from the show. We'll definitely talk about Newt Gingrich's Solutions Day, the apparent wave of intellectually dishonest cherry-picking of conservative commentary over the past couple of weeks, the collapse of Democratic opposition to the surge in Iraq, and much much more!
Be sure to call 651-289-4488 to join the conversation!
UPDATE: We also interviewed David Bellavia, author of House to House, an excellent book about his experiences in Iraq, both as a soldier and a journalist. It's an excellent segment, and it gives a great insight into the mind of the men and women who serve on the front lines. Best sequence: when Mitch asked him what he thought about people who say they support the troops but not the mission, David asked us what we thought about people who say they like us as radio hosts but think our show stinks. Mitch replied that he says, "Thanks for tuning in, Mom!"
Williams Defends O'Reilly, Rips CNN
Juan Williams defends Bill O'Reilly against charges of racism in Time Magazine, and angrily calls out O'Reilly's critics for calling him an Uncle Tom. He charges those critics with intellectual dishonesty for pulling one quote out of context to reverse what O'Reilly really said -- and he also accuses CNN for deliberately misreporting the incident in order to eat into O'Reilly's substantial ratings lead over CNN.
It's a media meltdown!
It started with Bill O'Reilly's grandmother. And it blew up into charges of O'Reilly being called a racist and me being attacked as a "Happy Negro" (read that as a lackey or Uncle Tom). ...
So, O'Reilly says to me that the reality to black life is very different from the lowlife behavior glorified by the rappers. He told me he was at a restaurant in Harlem recently and there was no one shouting profanity, no one threatening people. Then he mentioned going to an Anita Baker concert with an audience that was half black, and in sharp contrast to the corrosive images on TV, well dressed and well behaved.
I joked with O'Reilly that for him, a guy from Long Island, a visit to Harlem was like a "foreign trip." That's when he brought up his grandma. He said she was prejudiced against black people because she knew no flesh-and-blood black folks but only the one-dimensional TV coverage of black criminals shooting each other and the rappers and comedians glorifying "gangsta" life and thug cool. He criticized his grandmother as irrational for being afraid of people she really did not know.
Just like Bush's analogy about Nelson Mandela and the Rush Limbaugh controversy, this is another effort to discredit someone by cherry-picking the transcript and stripping something of all context. I don't even care for O'Reilly's show. I never watch it unless Michelle Malkin appears on it. I don't like shoutfests on TV and haven't gone out of my way to watch them in quite some time. That, however, doesn't mean that O'Reilly should be pilloried for supposedly saying something almost completely opposite of what he actually said.
Juan Williams goes into far more detail than I will, but essentially, O'Reilly was arguing against the rappers' defense that they just represent reality in the 'hood. O'Reilly countered that by relating his experience at a Harlem restaurant and an Anita Baker concert. His supposed "surprise" that black people behave normally was a sarcastic commentary on the "reality" that rappers supposedly relate to their audiences.
Media Matters, which has apparently created an entire division of cherry-pickers, dishonestly claimed that O'Reilly was surprised that black people act normally, and the rest of O'Reilly's critics followed. Normally, that would only matter in the blogosphere, but CNN decided to play the same intellectually dishonest game, and they're still playing it.
Last night in the 8 pm ET hour, I watched a segment on CNN where they continued to exploit this story, claiming that O'Reilly wouldn't come on their show and wouldn't apologize for what he said. Well, first off, O'Reilly's show airs live against that time slot, a point which the CNN hosts never mentioned, so he couldn't possibly join them to discuss it. Second, why should he apologize? He didn't say anything wrong, as Williams notes in his column.
Even the other people in the airport were scoffing at this. One younger man sitting next to me said, "Wow, CNN must be getting desperate." Another said, "Isn't there anything else to talk about?" Not on CNN. They and the Left have to play their intellectually dishonest games, and as Williams points out, make it impossible for anyone to have a constructive conversation about race.
Huckabee Hits The Bush Administration
Mike Huckabee has decided to make a clean break with the Bush administration on foreign policy. In a speech yesterday, Huckabee supported the surge in Iraq but came out against the White House on most other foreign-policy issues, including the conduct of the war on terror:
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee ripped the Bush administration's war against terrorism Friday, delivering a bold and potentially risky speech that could establish the former Arkansas governor as the maverick among top Republican candidates and test his party's loyalty to President Bush.
"This administration's bunker mentality has been counterproductive both at home and abroad," Huckabee said in opening a broad indictment of Bush's style and policy.
The speech came after several top Republican candidates started distancing themselves from Bush, vowing change on such issues as illegal immigration and federal spending even as they endorsed Bush's foreign policy.
By going much further than his rivals have in attacking Bush, Huckabee could draw attention to a campaign that's inched up in polls in recent months but still lacks the money and organization that can compete head-on with better-known, better-financed candidates such as Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson.
His speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies puts an interesting twist on Huckabee's campaign. He's generally been seen as the most personable candidate of the Republican flock, but perhaps he feels he's been a little too nice. Huckabee may want to show a little flash and fire to let people know that he's got enough flint to be a Commander in Chief.
McClatchy's Steven Thomma believes that Huckabee wants to wrest the "maverick" role away from John McCain, and perhaps some of the straight talk label as well. McCain himself has criticized the Bush administration on foreign policy in the past, but not quite in these terms, and he definitely doesn't counsel closer relations with the mullahcracy in Iran. Huckabee told the CSIS yesterday that the US could turn Iran away from nuclear weapons through the promise of better relations and economic support.
We have tried that approach in the past, though, and it never works. Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all attempted outreaches to the Iranian mullahcracy, and all efforts failed. The Iranians may have seen al-Qaeda as a Wahhabi threat to its own vision of a Shi'ite Caliphate based in Teheran when it offered to assist us in beating back the Taliban and AQ in Afghanistan, but they have no interest in helping us protect our assets in the Middle East or anywhere else. The fantasy that 9/11 represented a unique opportunity to engage with the Iranian mullahs is just that -- fantasy. They want Israel destroyed and the US completely out of southwest Asia and North Africa. That's their end game, and it won't change until the Iranian people finally jettison the mullahcracy and replace it with responsible self-government.
His criticism grew especially harsh when he discussed the aborted mission into Pakistan that intended on capturing Ayman al-Zawahiri. Donald Rumsfeld called it off when the support group got so large that it would have required coordination with the Pakistani government. Huckabee promised that he would not have let his Defense Secretary make that call had Huckabee been President. "Did the President even know about it? ... When I'm president, I will make the final call on such action, not my secretary of defense." That one will sting.
We'll see if it gains Huckabee anything other than headlines. In a general election, these positions would almost certainly boost a GOP nominee. In the primaries, though, it may have the opposite effect.
Taliban Changes Tactics, Karzai Offers A Deal
The Taliban has seen itself decimated in attempting straight-up fights against Western forces. Some have wondered why Mullah Omar doesn't just adopt the tactics of al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq and focus on suicide bombings. Apparently, Omar has decided to do just that, and one of his terrorists killed 30 people in Kabul this morning:
A Taliban suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform set off a huge explosion Saturday while trying to board a military bus in the capital, killing 30 people, most of them soldiers, officials said. Hours later, the Afghan president offered to meet personally with the Taliban leader for peace talks and give the militants a position in government. ...
Saturday's explosion ripped off the roof of the bus and tore out its sides, leaving a charred hull of burnt metal. It was reminiscent of the deadliest insurgent attack in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 — when a bomber boarded a police academy bus at Kabul's busiest transportation hub in June and killed 35 people.
Dozens of civilians and police officers searched for bodies. Police and soldiers climbed trees to retrieve some body parts. Nearby businesses also were damaged.
The bomber didn't actually get on the bus. The Afghan military had sent the bus to a local cinema to collect soldiers at the meeting point. They check IDs before allowing people on the bus, and the terrorist detonated his bomb as they completed the security check. It still devastated the bus and the men on and around it.
Hamid Karzai called it "an act of extreme cowardice". Nonetheless, he again extended an offer of direct talks with Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to negotiate an end to the conflict, although Omar would have to dump his foreign terrorists first. He even offered to allow them to take ministerial posts in his government if they pledged to eschew violence and work within the new, democratic framework of Afghanistan. "Why are you destroying the country?" he asked them.
Karzai's performing a high-wire act without a net. If Omar and Hekmatyar agree, Karzai runs the risk of letting the fox in the henhouse. The Taliban did not have a reputation for moderation and inclusion, and allowing them to participate in the governance of Afghanistan would risk another brutal takeover.
On the other hand, Karzai might believe he's not risking much. Omar has already said that he would not even negotiate unless Karzai sent all of the foreign troops out of Afghanistan. Karzai shrewdly said that he would do so as soon as all of the streets were paved, Afghans had reliable electricity and water, and Afghan security forces could maintain control. Karzai is playing a hearts-and-minds game with Omar, and he's winning it. As long as Karzai can show that he's improving the standard of living in Afghanistan and Omar is destroying it, Omar will remain marginalized.
NATO thinks that a large number of Taliban fighters want an end to the conflict. They have become frustrated by the new tactics and the stunningly bad performance of their troops in the field. Karzai, by focusing his words of reconciliation strictly to native Afghans, may have driven a wedge between the rank and file of the Taliban and al-Qaeda's foreign terrorists. The UN concurs in this analysis, and Karzai wants to take advantage of the opportunity to strip Omar of his tattered army.
It may work. If all Omar has left is a few senior commanders and AQ, he will present little difficluty to Karzai, and Afghanistan can finally focus on rebuilding itself after decades of war and centuries of isolation.
Iraq: We Want American Security Partnership
Iraq plans to propose one final extension to the UN Security Council mandate for the American deployment, the AP reports this morning. After the end of 2008, Iraq wants to directly negotiate a bilateral security arrangement with the US similar to that of Kuwait and Qatar:
Iraq wants the U.N. Security Council to extend the mandate of the 160,000-stong U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq only through the end of 2008, then replace it with a long-term bilateral security agreement, Foreign Ministry officials said Saturday.
Aides to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the mandate extension for the U.S.-led coalition, due to be discussed at the end of this year, would be "the last extension for these forces."
Iraq would then seek a long-term, bilateral security agreement with the United States like the ones Washington has with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt, he said.
"Iraq needs a new resolution to determine the shape of the relationship between the two countries and how to cooperate with the U.S. forces," said Labid Abawi, a deputy foreign minister.
The Iraqis want to move beyond what everyone sees as a temporary arrangement to something more permanent with the US. This will effectively take the UN out of the equation, but at the same time, it will give Nouri al-Maliki the initiative to negotiate a draw-down of American forces. That will satisfy demands from the Shi'te coalitions in his government while maintaining enough security to keep Iraq stable.
This could take the pressure off of the Bush administration, too. First, it indicates that the Maliki government has enough confidence in the development of Iraqi security forces that it can rely on them in 2008. It also changes the nature of the debate over the Iraq deployment. Even the Democratic candidates won't commit to having all of the combat troops out by 2013, but this changes the ground conditions for the debate. If we negotiate a bilateral security agreement on the request of the Iraqis, all of those conditions would get settled in the negotiations, and it will be conditioned on Iraq's demands.
A bilateral security arrangement will also change the dynamics of the international debate. Our status in Iraq will change from occupation to partner, with Iraqi sovereignty helping to settle the nature of our work. The relationship will resemble that of our other partnerships in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and therefore less open to criticism.
It's a good development, and it will help reduce the vitriol over our engagement in Iraq. It will also ratify our present security arrangement and help keep the pressure on the terrorists for another year, during which we can hope to break them down completely. This is a positive step forward for both Iraq and the US.
Experience The Adventure Of Travelocity
I've found that booking my travel for the blog on Travelocity normally gets me good bargains and excellent adaptability. However, in order to use it properly, one has to focus on the details of the itineraries in order to avoid having unusual adventures. Tonight, I'm learning the lesson the hard way in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport.
Initially, I wanted to fly back from my Solutions Day trip around midday, and I thought that's what I'd booked. It would have brought me home in time to do my Heading Right Radio show and then get some rest for more travel. I've already booked my flight to DC on Monday for a special event, after which I'll do my HRR show at the prime-time hour of 9 pm ET to discuss the event, which I can't talk about at the moment.
However, late last night I realized that I had selected an 11 PM flight for tonight. I had to extend my stay at the excellent and reasonable Hyatt Place Airport hotel for another half-day, and I've been here at Hartsfield ever since.
It hasn't been all bad. I've chatted with a few other travelers, done some blogging, and had a drink with my dinner, which is a rare event for me. I don't usually get a chance to absorb any local flavor in airports, but I did notice that I kept hearing a recognizable voice in a local TV spot for the Atlanta tourism site. After a few (dozen) repetitions, I realized it was Samuel L. Jackson doing the voice-over. I almost expected him to say "Every day is Opening Day in Atlanta .... And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would talk bad about Atlanta." Maybe that wouldn't have been all that enticing, but it would have been more entertaining than the ubiquitous CNN feed.
I'm here for another couple of hours, and then I'll finally head home. Next time, I'll double-check those departure times....
Newt's Running ... In 2012
My friend and all-around brilliant political analyst Patrick Ruffini deduces that Newt Gingrich has decided to enter the 2008 presidential race. He takes a look at Newt's pledge scheme and figures that Newt only needs to find 14,000 donors to contribute the maximum $2300 in order to reach the threshold of $30 million Newt demanded as a prerequisite to opening a nomination bid:
Newt would need only 14,000 of his fans to flood the site with $2,300 "pledges" in order to declare a broad public groundswell for his candidacy.
Sound far-fetched? You've seen what Ron Paul supporters do. You think Newt fans wouldn't do the same if they believed his entry into the race depended on it? And if Newt's people actually left the system this open -- i.e. didn't require you to leave a credit card that could then be charged -- I guarantee this hack would spread like wildfire on the blogs the minute the site went up.
Well, that's certainly one look at the situation. The pledge system seems rather non-committal, and if Newt could generate a Paul-like Internet movement, he could garner that much in meaningless pledges. Something tells me that Newt isn't looking for vaporware donations, however, and that he's serious about needing $30 million to catch up to Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, if not Fred Thompson. I doubt seriously that Newt wants to give up his current commitments just to wind up with a few million dollars in actual receipts and drafting in just above the second tier.
So what does that mean? Why make a demand for $30 million in pledged donations in just three weeks, an amount that no Republican candidate in the race has managed in an entire quarter? It sets a bar so high that it qualifies as highly improbable, if not impossible. It's designed to fail, and to let Newt get back to his American Solutions project.
And let's take a look at this project. Newt has made clear that he thinks the future is in bipartisan outreach. This Wiki-style grassroots movement is designed to facilitate that, and to generate policy on all levels -- local, state, and federal. If he has any amount of success in transforming policy through American Solutions and drafts both Republicans and Democrats into the system, he really could generate a new movement of pragmatism within American politics.
If he does that, Newt will exchange his limited constituency from a narrow philosophical band to a truly national organization that transcends partisan lines. He can choose then whether to play kingmaker or heir apparent. Newt will be able to rid himself of the baggage of the bitter partisanship of his Speakership and reinvent himself as a Teddy Roosevelt.
That will take some time to develop -- and that plays into this analysis. In talking with Newt yesterday, he made it clear that he thought the Republicans (and Democrats) had run politics off the rails. He claimed that GOP consultants were basically stupid (an analysis which Matt Lewis found some consultants in agreement). The only candidate for which Newt had any kind words was Hillary Clinton, calling her serious and formidable, if wrong on almost all policy.
I think Newt believes that Hillary will win the presidency in 2008. He's not looking to beat her; realistically, he knows he won't be given that chance in 2008. He's looking to build a constituency that will allow him to challenge Hillary in a re-election bid in 2012. That's the calculus I see at work, only at risk of changing if he actually finds a hard $30 million in a little more than a fortnight -- which would indicate a bigger constituency than he first thought. Either way, he's positioned himself well.
Senior AQI Leader Reaches Room Temperature
One of the highest-placed leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the man responsible for kidnapping and killing American soldiers, has been killed by American-led forces. Abu Usama al-Tunisi had become the "emir" of Yusufiyah and led foreign terrorists in their campaign against US and Iraqi forces:
U.S.-led forces have killed one of the most important leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Tunisian believed connected to the kidnapping and killings last summer of American soldiers, a top commander said Friday.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson said the death of the terrorist in a U.S. airstrike Tuesday south of Baghdad, and recent similar operations against Al Qaeda, have left the organization in Iraq fractured.
"Abu Usama al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders ... the emir of foreign terrorists in Iraq and part of the inner leadership circle," Anderson said.
Al-Tunisi was a leader in helping bring foreign terrorists into the country and his death "is a key loss" to Al Qaeda leadership there, Anderson told a Pentagon news conference.
Anderson did not name the soldiers al-Tunisi was thought to have killed, but the timeline suggests Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker. Terrorists captured the two American soldiers in an ambush, and US forces searched desperately for them. Three days later, their mutilated bodies turned up, booby-trapped and showing gruesome signs of torture.
That made al-Tunisi a high-value target to American troops in Iraq. His senior position made him valuable, but his involvement in the Menchaca and Tucker murders has to give the US command a little more bitter satisfaction at his death. The surge meant to drive al-Tunisi's organization into disarray, and his death will make it even less capable of response.
In fact, CENTCOM has made it clear that successes like the operation against al-Tunisi are not coincidental. Aggressive strategy and tactics have driven AQI cells to the border of Iraq, disjointed and unable to coordinate for large-scale attacks. They have returned to single suicide bomber operations instead of the more massive coordinated attacks with small arms and mortars. They hold almost no territory outside of border districts, and American forces have begun denying them those toeholds now.
The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has been cut in half. It seems that the message has gotten out to would-be jihadis -- the US and Iraq have toughened up, and only pointless suicide awaits in Iraq. If the Americans don't get them, the Iraqis do. That's the kind of success that Petraeus gave Congress and the American people.
Clinton: Let's Add A $20 Billion Entitlement (Update & Bump - Context?)
Fresh off of pushing for an expansion of S-CHIP into the middle class and adding tens of billions of dollars on insurance subsidies, Hillary Clinton decided to create another entitlement program for her cradle-to-grave nanny state vision. In her address to the Congressional Black Caucus, Hillary said she'd like to spend $20 billion each year on checks to newborn infants:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.
Clinton, her party's front-runner in the 2008 race, made the suggestion during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.
"I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home," she said.
The New York senator did not offer any estimate of the total cost of such a program or how she would pay for it. Approximately 4 million babies are born each year in the United States.
The US has had over 4 million births per year since 2000. The calculation is easy. In 2004, with 4,121,000 births, that would mean $20,605,000,000 dollars ... for just one year.
Where does Hillary plan to get that money? It's easy to talk about writing checks, but the federal budget already runs in the red, especially on entitlements. If we talk about spending even more money that we don't have, why stop at $5,000? John McCain wondered aloud in his blogger conference call whether $100,000 wouldn't sound more compassionate, as long as we didn't talk about how we plan to pay for the program.
This represents pandering politics at its worst. Want to get votes for an election? Promise to buy people off with free money! It takes the worst instincts of Norman Hsu to suggest yet another entitlement Ponzi scheme to get elected to office. The company Hillary keeps has started to rub off on her. Read Philip Klein for more.
UPDATE & BUMP, 3:40 PM: Teresa in the comments claims that Clinton's remarks were taken out of context. "Clinton was responding to a program suggested by Time Magazine in which the gov't would set up this program, but kids could only withdraw the money IF they served in the military or some other national service organization first."
Unfortunately, to take advantage of the 18 years of compounded interest Hillary thinks will pay for a college education or a new home, the government has to buy the bonds at birth -- which means the money gets outlaid right from the start, and we're paying $20 billion a year for this entitlement. Either that, or the government has to calculate the compounded interest for 18 years at the point of that decision and write a check -- which makes this an unfunded mandate, a liability that won't even get accounting until the lump sums start getting paid. Either way, it's an irresponsible fiscal disaster.
Heading Right Radio: Duane Patterson, Week In Review
Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Duane "Generalissimo" Patterson joins me for the week in review, our traditional Friday fare. What will we cover? I'll probably talk about Newt Gingrich's Solutions Day, as well as the various free-speech arguments over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia and Lynne Stewart's participation on the Hofstra panel on legal ethics. We'll definitely talk about Burma, and I'll ask Duane why LA jurors can't close the deal on celebrity criminals. As always, Duane will brief us on the upcoming Hugh Hewitt show.
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! And don't forget to join our chat room!
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John McCain Conference Call
John McCain conducted another in his series of blogger conference calls this afternoon, and I had the chance to participate. It took a few minutes to get the conference going, but he did make it from his Detroit speech to the Hispanic business community. McCain talked about entrepeneurship and the need to get government out of the way of private enterprise.
He said that he's still pleased with the status of his candidacy. He's even more pleased that the leading Democrats would not commit to a date certain for withdrawal even before 2013. He says that General Petraeus gave a good case for continued commitment, and took the fight out of the Democrats over their demand for a withdrawal timeline. Ryan Crocker represents "the best" of what we have have to offer in the foreign service.
McCain also came out in favor of the new sanctions from George Bush against Burma. He wants ASEAN to expel Burma, and he wants to press China to isolate Burma as well. McCain keeps a picture of Aung Sang Suu Kyi on his wall to remind him of the need for action to defeat the "thugs" who run Burma.
Jennifer Rubin - Looking at the polls, New Hampshire looks good, Iowa not so well. How's the money going? -- Money is good, but budgeting is better. "A comfortable amount to do what we have to do" is how he characterizes it. Iowa is a tough fight, but he plans on contending for it.
Dan - Next month marks the 40th anniversary of McCain's shootdown over North Vietnam. Will he do something to commemorate it? -- "Maybe I'll fly over Hanoi and see if they want to shoot at me." He doesn't plan on anything else.
James Joyner - On Burma, what sort of action do you have in mind? -- Tell the Chinese to stop supporting the regime and do it publicly. Call on ASEAN to throw Burma out of the group. It has failed to affect the regime's policies, and they should not benefit from membership. Get the UN to start putting pressure on the regime. He doesn't mean an invasion of Burma.
Me - On the Morgan College/PBS debate -- McCain really did have a schedule conflict, he would have wanted to negotiate another debate. He will rest on his record on his efforts to make all Americans, including blacks, successful, especially in the military. He will continue his advocacy for all Americans; he has championed Martin Luther King day in Arizona, for instance. Republicans need to keep hammering the themes on free markets, punishing discrimination, and so on.
Jim Geraghty - None of the top three Democrats would guarantee a withdrawal of combat troops by 2013. Is this the Petraeus effect? -- It's "absolutely" the Petraeus effect. We have troops all over the world, and Americans don't mind that. The key is having the chance for success. We need to have the combat under control. McCain says he's encouraged.
Philip Klein - Hillary proposed giving a $5000 check to every baby born in America -- McCain would be interested in knowing how to pay for it. Why not $100,000, McCain says, as long as we're talking government largesse? That's not a harsh or cruel question to ask.
Fausta Wertz - As a Hispanic entrepeneur herself, how would you lower the barriers in the marketplace, especially government costs? -- McCain says we need to get rid of excess spending, and the corruption it brings. If we can get spending under control, then we can hand off a decent economic situation to future generations. We need to re-establish the credibility of Congress. There's been a tremendous erosion of trust from the American people in Congress.
McCain has really set the bar for blogospheric engagement in these conference calls. I'd like to see more of these from other Republican candidates.
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