State Of The Union: Live Blog

I’ll be live-blogging the State of the Union at this post starting at 8 pm CT. Keep checking back …
7:12 CT – Michelle has a number of links to other live-bloggers, but her son’s stomach bug will consume her attention during speech-time.
7:15 – Hugh Hewitt talks about Cindy Sheehan’s acceptance of a pass to sit in the gallery for the State of the Union speech, and he’s soliciting responses for George Bush if she tries to disrupt the speech. Call him at 800-520-1234 for your suggestions …
7:41 – Cindy Sheehan’s invitation came from Rep. Lynn Woolsey, not from the White House …
7:42 – La Shawn Barber will be checking on references to illegal immigration at her excellent blog …
7:46 – I just read my secondary e-mail account and discovered that Hosting Matters will be moving CQ to a new server, since our traffic has caused problems for other blogs on my current server. We may see some interruptions as a result, but hang in there — I’ll still be making notes …
7:47 – By the way, Hosting Matters has been a great service for blog hosting. They’ve treated me wonderfully for over eighteen months …
8:03 – I notice that it takes the Cabinet longer to make their way through the Congressional well-wishers than any other group. The Supreme Court went straight tp their seats almost without acknowledging the huge reception they received on their announcement …
8:07 – The Corner and a couple of readers report that Cindy Sheehan got herself arrested before the speech, apparently for unfolding a banner in the balcony …
8:10 – Bush gives a spry jump up to the podium, and the Congress comes to order until Hastert introduces him. What a shock — just like every other SOTU. He opens with an acknowledgement of the death of Coretta Scott King, eloquently speaking of a long-awaited reunion with her husband, Martin Luther King.
8:19 – A good start to the speech. Bush started with a strong call for honorable debate on the Hill, and then spoke about the choice between isolationism and engagement. He makes it clear that the US is committed to engagement and the fight against terrorism — “We will never surrender to evil.” He also makes clear that he intends to remain on the offensive against terror networks.
8:21 – Once again, he reviews the plan for victory in Iraq. It’s not that it’s a complicated plan, conceptually; it’s just that his opponents refuse to listen to him when he explains it, and then claims he has no plan.
8:23 – FYI, the server move has been put off until later tonight — the folks at Hosting Matters don’t want to interrupt my live-blogging. Told you they were aces!
8:24 – A strong call to stop defeatist talk in Congress gets a huge reception, although I don’t see Jack Murtha on C-SPAN.
8:27 – Like SOTUs past, Bush has focused the opening on the war and foreign policy. That used to be his strength, and he wants to recapture that momentum. He’s doing well with this speech, I believe. He needs to speak more often like this, and I think 2006 will see Bush engaging in the debate more often.
8:34 – Getting some problems with the traffic load, but hang in there …
8:35 – “We will not sit back to wait to be hit again.” That’s why the hue and cry over the NSA program is such a loser for the Democrats. It’s also the flaw in using a law-enforcement model for fighting terrorism.
8:40 – “We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy – even though this economy could not function without them. All these are forms of economic retreat, and they lead in the same direction – toward a stagnant and second-rate economy.” Well, I like immigrants too, being a third-generation American on one side and a sixth-generation American on the other. However, I prefer legal immigration. Can we distinguish between the two, please?
8:41 – “This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year – and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.” Okay, great, $14B isn’t anything to sneeze at, just like earmark reform and the line-item veto. However, entitlement explosion is the problem, and Bush makes a great stab at it. He also scolded the Democrats who stood and cheered when Bush noted that Congress didn’t act on Social Security reform by reminding them that they made the problem worse by ignoring it …
8:48 – “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world.” He’s going to increase funding at the DoE by 22 percent to pursue alternative energy sources. He’s also still pushing hydrogen and ethanol, the latter of which will make farmers pretty darned enthusiastic…
8:50 – He wants to make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past. If we could drill in ANWR and offshore in California and Florida, we might already be there …
8:54 – Bush looks very relaxed and confident at the podium tonight. He has moved well at the podium, spoke engagingly, taken his time, and hasn’t rushed his applause lines. He’s used humor and he’s shown resolve.
8:57 – A nice tribute to Sandra Day O’Connor, the most over-feted person in DC this season. She’s served honorably for 24 years. She isn’t Saint Sandra.
8:58 – A good and courageous argument against human cloning and the sale of human embryos.
9:01 – NZ Bear welcomes George Bush to Porkbusters. I hope he’s right … but I’d keep that open for review, NZ …
9:05 – A strong finish to one of Bush’s better speeches. This speech seemed to emphasize a particular theme, of moving forward to engage the world rather than waiting for the world to engage us. That theme ran across all of his subjects, from terrorism to the economy to energy reform. He reminded people of the missionary concept of American exceptionalism, a Wilsonian note for a man who six years ago seemed to hew more towards his father on foreign policy.
9:13 – “The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others.” Er, well, we did accept it for 40 years. It took another practical Wilsonian to bring that to an end, as well as a Pope willing to make a stand against that oppression after living through it himself and having no illusions about the so-called “social justice” of Communism.
9:16 – Tim Kaine gives the response. His message: “We do great things when we work together. Some of our leaders in Washington forget that.” Some of Kaine’s leaders on the Judiciary Committee embodied that last week and this week; not exactly a great way to start.
9:18 – “There’s a better way.” That’s the theme. Expect Kaine to beat it into the ground. He’s already said it three times.
9:19 – The administration’s No Child Left Behind Act had wide bipartisan support, including Ted Kennedy, when it was first introduced.
9:22 – Er, what’s with the arched eyebrow?
9:23 – Five times now … “There’s a better way.” The administration wants to cut veteran’s benefits? No, they just didn’t increase them as much as Democrats wanted.
9:24 – Six times now! “There’s a better way.” Holy cow, no one could come up with better filler than that?
9:25 – So far, what we’ve heard from Kaine is a litany of criticisms of administration efforts, which is fine, but what we’re not hearing is what Democrats propose to do in their place. No plans, no programs … just some empty platitudes about change.
9:28 – Kaine spoke well, better than Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi ever did, or even Tom Daschle. I can understand why they selected Kaine to deliver the response. However, it was nothing but criticisms and empty rhetoric, laughably deriding a “culture of partisanship” one day after having Ted Kennedy screaming on the Senate floor about the End Of All Civilization if Samuel Alito got confirmed to the Supreme Court. No one who watches Washington even superficially will buy that the problem with partisanship emanates from the GOP.
9:33 – On the air right now with CHQR and Rob Breckinridge ….
10:02 – Wrapping up the speech: I think it was one of his better efforts, a cohesive and coherent theme of continuing forward engagement. He had explicit goals and policies to meet them, which the Democratic response lacked. Most importantly, he delivered it with resolve and confidence.

Louisiana Turned Down Katrina Help For Evacuations

A new memo has surfaced from the investigation into the response to Hurricane Katrina which shows that state and local officials turned down federal help in evacuating hospitals and nursing homes until it was too late:

A ranking Louisiana health official turned down federal offers to help move or evacuate patients as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, a newly released document shows.
But the state’s top medical officer said Louisiana coordinated with the federal Health and Human Services Department in evacuating hospitals and nursing homes after Katrina hit.
Two days before the Aug. 29 storm, HHS was told by the state’s health emergency preparedness director that the help was not needed, according to an e-mail released Monday by a Senate panel investigating the government’s response to Katrina.
The state official, identified in the Aug. 27 e-mail as Dr. Roseanne Pratts, “responded no, that they do not require anything at this time and they would be in touch if and when they needed assistance,” wrote HHS senior policy analyst Erin Fowler.

Once again, the evidence for the failure of emergency relief in Louisiana keeps pointing back to the state and local officials who responded without referencing their own emergency plans, who left assets to sink under the flood waters, and who sat around pointing fingers and mouthing off to the cameras instead of doing their jobs. Their refusal to ask for federal help — indeed, for telling the feds that no help was necessary — cost dozens of lives.
These investigations will not make Ray Nagin or Kathleen Blanco look good. If the Exempt Media gives it any kind of coverage at all, it will recast the Katrina relief story significantly, and to the detriment of their reputations.

CQ On The Air Tonight

I’ll be appearing on Rob Breckrenridge’s show, The World Tonight, on CHQR in Calgary later tonight to discuss the State of the Union and the Alito confirmation. Canadians can listen on AM 770, but everyone else can catch us on the Internet stream on their website. I should be on at 9:30 PM Central Time. Rob has a terrific show, and it’s always a pleasure to be on as his guest.

Quick Notes …

Congrats to Lance at Red State Rant on his first blogiversary. He gives me too much credit for his start, but I’ll take what I can get ….
The Bird Dog also celebrates his first blogiversary. Gee, lots of people missed the presidential election. No wonder they seem sane …
Lorie at Polipundit wants to organize a thank-you campaign for the 58 Senators who did what they were supposed to do in confirming Alito. Sounds like a nice idea to me …
I’ll be live-blogging the State of the Union speech later tonight — and so will Drumwaster. Hey, run two browsers and keep up with us both! ….
Brian at Iowavoice has had a run of bad luck, and could use a hand. If you have a couple of bucks and are so inclined, hit his tip jar. One never knows when a blogger can use a hand …
The Duke of DeLand has some thoughts on Roberts, Alito, and a revisit of Kelo. Perhaps David Souter might be the next plaintiff to get cert …

WaPo Gives Op-Ed Space To Terrorists

Today’s Washington Post gives prime op-ed space to an indicted terrorist, arguing for diplomatic engagement with Hamas. All one needs to know about Mousa Abu Marzook can be found at the end of the article:

The writer is deputy political bureau chief of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). He has a U.S. doctorate in engineering and was indicted in the United States in 2004 as a co-conspirator on racketeering and money-laundering charges in connection with activities on behalf of Hamas dating to the early 1990s, before the organization was placed on the list of terrorist groups. He was deported to Jordan in 1997.

Despite these “qualifications”, the Post apparently considers Marzook a legitimate spokesman for the Hamas movement, an interesting indictment all by itself. Throughout the entire essay, Marzook implores the West to view the Hamas victory as a cleansing moment, an effort by the Palestinians to reform their society from the corruption of Fatah. He even invokes Judaism and Christianity to make his argument:

Our society has always celebrated pluralism in keeping with the unique history and traditions of the Holy Land. In recognizing Judeo-Christian traditions, Muslims nobly vie for and have the greatest incentive and stake in preserving the Holy Land for all three Abrahamic faiths. In addition, fair governance demands that the Palestinian nation be represented in a pluralistic environment. A new breed of Islamic leadership is ready to put into practice faith-based principles in a setting of tolerance and unity.

So far, we’ve been very impressed with Islamist attitudes towards Jews and Christians, especially as uttered by the mouthpieces of Hamas activists. Uh-huh. The Islamists have been famous for multiculturalism. Hey, wasn’t it the Islamist Taliban who blew up the ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan? Wasn’t it al-Qaeda that blew up Christian churches in Iraq? Isn’t it the Iranian Islamists that pay Hamas that deny the Holocaust ever occurred?
If Marzook wants the West to support Hamas, then they need to change their charter to recognize Israel and to abide by Palestinian Authority agreements on the road map. So far, Hamas continues to refuse both paths. Until they change their minds, the West has little choice but to respect the Palestinian electoral results and assume that they prefer the state of war that Hamas wants with Israel over negotiations for a permanent two-state solution and to direct their aid in concurrence with that reality. When people other than money-launderers and terrorists start speaking for the Palestinians, then perhaps the aid can flow once again.

SOTU Psychotics On Parade

The inevitable parade of nutcases will be in full flower tonight as the President delivers his State of the Union speech, as Stephanie Mansfield reports for the Washington Times. She also covered a couple of pre-speech events that sound absolutely hilarious, in a clueless-1960s-flashback manner:

Liberal activists — among them graying leftovers from the Vietnam-era antiwar movement — plan to gather near the Capitol tonight, banging pots and pans to drown out President Bush’s State of the Union address.
Yesterday, opponents of the Iraq war kicked off their latest round of demonstrations with an “Impeachment Forum” held downtown in a private dining room at Busboys and Poets.
Featured speakers were 78-year-old former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; longtime war protester Marcus Raskin, 71, who is head of the Institute for Policy Studies; and Cindy Sheehan, mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq. …
Last week, the group “World Can’t Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime” was denied a permit to gather on the Mall for security reasons. The group won a federal lawsuit and has been given permission to bang away while Mr. Bush speaks to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. The group’s Web site has gathered endorsements from left-leaning celebrities such as Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Harry Belafonte and Sean Penn, but it’s unlikely that any stars will show up for tonight’s protest.

That’s a shame; the evening would have had so much more atmosphere had a limousine-liberal sighting gone along with the pots-and-pans protest on the Mall. (Would Sarandon have brought a maid to bang the pots and pans?) When last we saw the “World Can’t Wait” protestors, they had gathered outside of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church to protest Justice Sunday III — all two of them, as I recall. Here’s a link to their advisory board, which lists as its first member Lynne Stewart, the attorney convicted of passing messages from her terrorist clients to their followers, resulting in several deaths.
However, the best part of the article reviews the events already held by the group, including a luncheon yesterday. To demonstrate their overall cluelessness, one of their featured speakers was former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. He told the gathering that George Bush “is the greatest threat to peace and human rights.” Of course, one has to recall that Clark flew in from Baghdad, where he’s presently representing Saddam Hussein and trying to keep him from getting executed for his genocides.
Instead of banging pots and pans, I will be live-blogging tonight’s speech and the reactions afterwards. Keep checking back here at CQ for running commentary.

How To Tell When You’re Over

You’re a former presidential candidate from one of the major political parties and a member of the Senate. You’ve called for a party-line vote on a major issue against the opposition, investing your reputation and your credibility into the effort. However, you can only convince half of your caucus to vote with you, and even half of those tell reporters what a stupid idea it was from the outset. What happens afterwards?
Kerry: Am I done?
Yes, Senator, you’re done. We only wish you’d realize it. (h/t: The Corner)

Iran Faces Isolation

Iran suddenly finds itself alone in the diplomatic world as the United States and Europe convinced Russia and China to refer the Iranian IAEA file to the UN Security Council late yesterday. The surprise decision by Iran’s two Asian allies effectively isolates the mullahcracy and sets up a March reckoning for potentially crippling economic sanctions:

Key powers have agreed to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme at a UN nuclear watchdog board meeting on Thursday.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced the decision after a meeting of the five permanent council members and Germany in London.
Talks with Iran earlier in the day failed to produce a breakthrough.
President George W Bush earlier said the US and its allies would remain united in their dealings with Iran.
The permanent five – the UK, US, France, China and Russia – plus Germany, met in London on Monday night to co-ordinate their position ahead of an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Thursday.

The Iranians are not taking this quietly. They hope to influence the IAEA board to disregard the input of the six nations with whom the Iranians have negotiated for adherence to the non-proliferation agreements, chiefly by belligerent threats. They have already threatened to completely break loose from all diplomatic restraints on their nuclear program if referred to the UNSC:

“Reporting Iran’s dossier to the U.N. Security Council will be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy,” said Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. State television quoted him as sayiny Iran still believes the issue can be resolved peacefully.
Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also runs Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said it was difficult to predict how the IAEA meeting on Thursday would develop, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported.
“The biggest problem for the West is that they can’t find any (legal) justification to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council,” ISNA quoted him as saying. … “Europeans should pay more attention. Iran has called for dialogue and is moving in the direction of reaching an agreement through peaceful means,” Larijani said.

Breaking the seals on their facility turned out to be a bad move on Teheran’s part. The mullahs apparently thought that Russia and China would never follow the EU and the US on a UNSC referral for political reasons. They underestimated the reluctance of any nation to allow Islamists access to nuclear weapons, a thought which has an apparently sobering effect on political calculations, even in Moscow and Beijing. Neither are likely to give any support to a military strike on nuclear sites in Iraq, but at least it gets the ball rolling by imposing some penalties for Iranian intransigence.
Economic sanctions, if not undercut by other nations, may prove more effective than military action anyway. Iran’s restive population has much more ability to rise up against the mullahcracy than the Iraqis did against Saddam Hussein, in part — and ironically — because in some ways, the Iranians have a more open system than pre-liberation Iraq. A tough sanctions regime will hurt the people of Iran before it hurts the mullahs, and that might serve to finally rouse enough resentment to topple the Islamist power structure. With luck and some effort by the West, that could happen before the mullahs get their hands on a nuke and either fire it themselves or give it to like-minded terrorists for detonation elsewhere.
As Michael Ledeen says … faster, please.

Isn’t This What Got Abramoff In Trouble?

Amid stories of Congressional influence using expense-paid junkets and gifts, the AP reports on an odd meeting yesterday in which it paints lobbying efforts involving both in a much different light. A group of rich New Orleans residents, irritated that most of Congress has not yet come to the devastated city to see the destruction for themselves, passed out bonbons and offered all-expenses-paid trips to the Crescent City to get more money for reconstruction:

“You ask us who we are? I’ll tell you. We’re nobody,” said the handsomely coifed blonde from New Orleans. Her self-effacing demeanor disarmed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who smiled and appeared relaxed as Anne Milling, 65, moved in for the kill.
“We’re no one. We’re a group of nonpolitical, nonpartisan ladies who are passionate about New Orleans. We’re mothers and housewives and businesswomen — and we can’t believe that 87 percent of the House of Representatives and 70 percent of the Senate have not come to see the devastation.”
Five months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, toppling New Orleans’ aging levees and submerging 80 percent of the city, only 55 representatives and 30 senators have visited the decimated city. Pelosi is not among them.
Underneath the elegant conference room table in her House office, the California Democrat clenched her hands in her lap. She bit her lower lip. But Milling pressed on, and soon Pelosi was accepting a box of bonbons and an invitation for a 36-hour, expense-paid trip to New Orleans. “I’ll be there,” she said before the women walked out.

At least she agreed to go without conditions. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), whom CQ readers last saw in May 2004 chewing out one of his constituents for daring to criticize him, told the women that he wouldn’t come unless they rounded up at least four Republicans first. Does Stark get lonely without GOP company?
All of this sounds quite noble, and I’m sure the Women of the Storm group have no nefarious purpose other than to maximize the amount and speed of relief to their devastated city. Nonetheless, they represent a lobbying effort that aims to get government money, and they’re offering elected representatives expenses-paid travel to convince them to increase the funding for their pet project. This lobbying technique differs little from offering trips for other purposes, such as Indian gaming, nuclear-waste disposal, and so on. It’s a technique that two weeks ago, in the first flush of the Abramoff scandal, people demanded that Congress end immediately. Now, however, because a group of elegant (rich) ladies from New Orleans offered trips to Congress to visit New Orleans, the AP never even notes that this is a lobbying effort.
In my opinion, these Congressional representatives should pay their own way to New Orleans and not take a dime from the victims of Katrina. I don’t think there’s anything corrupt in the offer, but if we’re drawing ethics rules, we need to be consistent. Either expenses-paid travel is out of bounds or it isn’t, and if it’s ethical to take money from hurricane victims to perform one’s job — the argument that politicians make when defending travel and the argument made by the Women of the Storm in their offer — then it should be just as ethical to receive travel from other lobbyists as well.
Let the ladies keep their money. Pelosi and her peers can pay for a flight to New Orleans and a hotel room for an overnight stay. Pete Stark can pay for the four Republicans without whom he seems unable to travel.

The Godwin Candidate

I live in Minnesota’s second Congressional district and have the honor of being represented by John Kline, a twenty-five year veteran of the Marine Corps and a man who has served honorably in the US Congress. On two occasions I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Mr. Kline and found him to be an affable, intelligent, and erudite representative. Of course, he and I see eye to eye on many issues, while principled people may disagree with both of us on how best to run the country and represent the Second.
Those principled people who do not care for John Kline’s view on the issues should get better representation than former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley. She has descended far into the fever swamp during her brief yet notorious campaign to unseat Mr. Kline. When last CQ heard from Ms. Rowley, she had just missed her chance to draft off of Cindy Sheehan’s momentum in Crawford, Texas. Rowley had trekked down to her campout just as Sheehan gave up on her protest. Unfortunately, she has resurfaced to start her campaign — and in doing so, she decided to depict the Marine Corps veteran as a Nazi:

This is the nadir of Democratic demagoguery, referencing anyone with whom they disagree as a Nazi. This slur is especially egregious when directed at a man who served his country faithfully for 25 years in the Marine Corps and then for two terms in Congress. No one disputes anyone’s right to disagree with Rep. Kline’s positions, but to call the man a Nazi goes beyond political debate and into character assassination.
Rowley later took the picture off the website but never issued an apology or even an acknowledgment that it had been posted. Fortunately, others did a screen grab of the site before the cowards at Rowley’s headquarters went into full retreat. If Minnesota Democrats have any sense of honor and respect, they will call for the immediate withdrawal of Rowley from the race. She disgraces not just the Second District but all of Minnesota with this kind of campaigning.