The Ever-Despicable Helen Thomas

Skip CNN’s self-inflicted wounds, and save your outrage for the doyenne of the White House press gaggle. Helen Thomas decided to get her feelings about the American military out into the open today:

Q Why should we depend on him?
MS. PERINO: Because he is the commander on the ground, Helen. He’s the one who is making sure that the situation is moving —
Q You mean how many more people we kill?
MS. PERINO: Helen, I find it really unfortunate that you use your front row position, bestowed upon you by your colleagues, to make such statements. This is a — it is an honor and a privilege to be in the briefing room, and to suggest that we, at the United States, are killing innocent people is just absurd and very offensive.
Q Do you know how many we have since the start of this war?
MS. PERINO: How many — we are going after the enemy, Helen. To the extent that any innocent Iraqis have been killed, we have expressed regret for it.
Q Oh, regret. It doesn’t bring back a life.
MS. PERINO: Helen, we are in a war zone, and our military works extremely hard to make sure that everyone has the opportunity for liberty and freedom and democracy, and that is exactly what they are doing.
I’m going to move on.

So should Thomas’ employer — and should have 30 years ago, when she was last coherent.

Comments Policy Update II

We’ve gone about two weeks with the new comment system from Disqus at CapQ, and I’m pleased to see it working as well as it has. The folks at Disqus have received a lot of feedback from the commenters here, and have quite a list of updates to implement. The outstanding issues that I’ve seen include:
* Absolute timestamping (time zones are the trip-up, I understand)
* Viewer option for threading or flat displays
* Either a preview option or an edit option
* Sorting options on an individual basis (hot, old, new, etc)
They have a couple of requests from me, too, and I look forward to their implementation.
Some people have written me with questions about the change. I’d like to address the answers to everyone:
Why change at all? — I have been dealing with an increasing level of trolls and sock-puppets, and quite frankly, it’s made me overreact in some cases of off-topic commentary and other issues. I’d rather have a registration system that keeps those issues from popping up at all, and take it off my plate entirely. I tried Typekey, but that caused more problems than it solved.
Why Disqus? — Movable Type does not include a very good comment-management system, and the Typekey option didn’t work well. Disqus was suggested by a CapQ reader who works there, and I liked the easy interface and the threading, voting, and other features of the system.
Why the threading? — One of the issues I had to police before was off-topic commentary. With threading, that mostly polices itself. People can reply to specific comments, and if that goes off on a tangent, it’s limited to that thread. Commenters can also vote other comments into disappearing on their displays so that they don’t need to trip over commentary they feel is off-topic.
I don’t like moderation — Well, neither do I. I’m actually not moderating Disqus for content, but for verified registration. If you want your comments to appear immediately, verify your registration with Disqus, and it doesn’t wait at all to appear. Those comments that do get held for verification have to wait for me to check the queue and clear the backlog. I will require verified registration and block all other comments in the next couple of weeks, so please make sure you complete the verification process with Disqus soon. I’m waiting for some of the above fixes to come first.
Thanks for your patience. I’m hoping to improve the experience here at CapQ with these changes. Feel free to post your thoughts on this in the comments section for this post. Both myself and Disqus will be keeping a close eye on them!

Heading Right Radio: The Week In Review!

Note: This post will remain on top until show time; newer posts may be found below.
Today on Heading Right Radio (2 pm CT), Duane “Generalissimo” Patterson joins us once again for a 90-minute romp through the past week in politics. We’ll chat about the YouTube debate, Mansoor Ijaz, John Murtha, Bill Clinton, and maybe even a few non-prevaricators! As always, Duane will preview tonight’s Hugh Hewitt show, too, so don’t miss a minute …
On Monday, we will talk with the ACU’s David Keene about his endorsement of Mitt Romney, and ask him about the state of the conservative movement today. Put that on your schedule now!
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation! And don’t forget to join our chat room!
Did you know that you can listen to Heading Right Radio through your TiVo service? Click here for the instructions. Also, you can subscribe to Heading Right Radio through iTunes now by clicking this link:
Add to iTunes

Hostage Situation At Clinton NH HQ

Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke. A man who claims to have a bomb strapped to his torso has taken over the Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters in Rochester, New Hampshire. Police have it surrounded (via Michelle Malkin):

Officials with the campaign confirmed that there were two workers taken hostage in the office on 28 North Main St.. A woman and her baby told workers at a neighboring business that she was released by the hostage-taker.
“A young woman with a 6-month or 8-month-old infant came rushing into the store just in tears, and she said, ‘You need to call 911. A man has just walked into the Clinton office, opened his coat and showed us a bomb strapped to his chest with duct tape,'” witness Lettie Tzizik said.
There are several police officers positioned across the street from the office, crouched down behind cruisers with guns drawn, according to a reported at the scene.

Hillary Clinton is not at the campaign headquarters. Otherwise, the Secret Service detail would probably have already dispatched the bomber.
At one time, one could have written these kinds of people off as impotent lunatics, but the world has changed. It’s still likely the work of a lunatic, but the kind of lunacy involved makes the difference between a hoaxer and a real bomber. For the sake of all involved, let’s hope it’s the former and not the latter.
We’ll keep an eye on this story during our BTR show this afternoon for updates. If you comment on this thread, keep it responsible.
UPDATE: No one got hurt, and the hostage taker got arrested. Prayers answered — and a couple of big cheers for the Rochester PD.

The Anti-Endorsement

Over the last two weeks or so, conservatives have offered some unusual endorsements early in the race. Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani despite his pro-choice personal views, which came as a shock to Robertson’s Religious Right followers. National Right to Life endorsed Fred Thompson shortly after he rejected their project of a constitutional amendment against abortion on federalist grounds. Yesterday, David Keene of the American Conservative Union endorsed Mitt Romney despite his deep reservations expressed in February over convenient conversions. (Keene will join me on Monday’s Heading Right Radio show to talk more about this; he gave a good argument last night on the Hugh Hewitt show.)
Most of these endorsements come with explanations about electability and priorities for the war. I have argued that those arguments apply more towards explaining support in the general election. Rush Limbaugh picks up this same thought and presses it forward:

It was fascinating to me, as I said, to watch this because it hit me upside the head — even though, as I say, I instinctively knew this — that all of the top-tier candidates, because of these questions… See, there’s always a silver lining in everything. There’s always an upside. Some of you might not think of this as an upside or a silver lining, but the genuine moderate as opposed to conservative aspects of three of the top-tier, four of the top-tier candidates were on full-fledged display last night. There was one candidate who did not display any moderateness or liberalism or have any of his past forays into those areas displayed, and that candidate was Fred Thompson. Now, this is not an endorsement. You know, I don’t endorse during primaries. I just point out: These are things I noticed, and I’ve told you during the course of this one campaign year that one of the things that’s bothering me, is I’m a Reagan conservative, and I believe in conservatism. It’s in my soul and it’s in my heart, and I know it is the best way for us to manage our affairs to ensure the most prosperity for the most, to continue our freedom, to protect our country.
Conservatism sees people and sees potential. Liberalism looks at people and sees victims. Liberalism looks at people and sees incompetence, and, “We gotta help ’em out and keep ’em forever dependent so we’ll always have power.” Conservatives don’t want to use the government to empower themselves. They want to get government out of the way to empower other people. So, to me it matters, and we have a campaign now where most of the candidates are not genuine conservatives. They may be saying they are, but in their past they have done some things that are not conservative in any way, shape, manner, or form — and I think a lot of those things are being overlooked even by friends of mine in the conservative media because the obsession is Hillary. “Well, we gotta have somebody who can beat Hillary, and we can’t have the perfect candidate,” and so we gotta make the choice here based on who’s best equipped to win and beat Hillary. I understand that, and whoever the nominee is, I’m going to support them. So don’t misunderstand here. But I don’t like seeing “conservatism” being watered down as the way it’s defined. I don’t want people who are not conservative being said to be representatives of the “new conservatism.” There is no “new” conservatism. There is conservatism, and you either are or you aren’t.

I like almost all of the Republican candidates, for different reasons. My conservatism is of the Goldwater mold, the “leave us alone” faction, as Grover Norquist describes it. Some of these candidates have more of that, and some have less. Thompson, in my mind, has more of it, and a much stronger defense of federalist principles than most.
However, electability does factor into the decision-making process. So far, Fred has not changed, but expectations did. He has performed in the campaign much like he did in the precampaign, which is to say deliberately, thoughtfully, and philosophically. Unfortunately for those impatient for him to join the campaign, he did not assume a personality for the sake of a presidential run. Thompson gives us the authentic Thompson, for better or worse, and the question is whether one can run a philosopher’s campaign and hope to beat candidates running in beauty-contest mode. John McCain, by the way, has a similar problem.
Like Rush, I could support almost anyone who appeared on the stage in Florida on Wednesday. I don’t feel comfortable endorsing a specific candidate at this point because I don’t see a complete match for my policy goals in any one of them. I can wait until the primary to decide — and some of the conservative activists who endorse against their interests may have been better advised to do the same.

Disappointment In London

The European Union closed out its latest round of talks with Iran over its nuclear program, proclaiming disappointment over the results. Javier Solana said the two sides would meet again in a month, but that will not stop the matter from returning to the UN Security Council. The US will press for another round of harsher sanctions:

The European Union said it was disappointed after talks with Iran on Friday seen as a last chance to avert U.S. pressure for tougher international sanctions over Tehran’s disputed atomic program.
The absence of a breakthrough at the London talks means six world powers meeting in Paris on Saturday will try to agree new penalties to propose to the United Nations, despite differences in their approach to halting Iran’s nuclear program.
“I have to admit that after five hours of meetings I expected more. I am disappointed,” EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters, adding he would meet Iran’s negotiator Saeed Jalili again before the end of December.
Iran, which had earlier vowed to pursue its disputed atomic program come what may, said it thought the negotiations had been “positive” and that talks would continue.

Solana responded negatively when asked whether Iran had brought any new initiatives to the table. He told reporters that Jalili had not proposed enough to keep from being disappointed. Jalili, on the other hand, sounded delighted, as did Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki when speaking to Basiji militia members. Mottaki declared that America had “lost” the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.
We’ll see. The US will now demand the EU’s full cooperation on sanctions, as well as Russia and China. After hosting the inordinately-quiet Annapolis peace conference this week, all of these players in the Iranian drama owe us a few more chits, and the White House will not hesitate to leverage them for harsher economic and diplomatic penalties on Teheran. Russia and China may balk, but the EU will probably have little choice but to comply. Nicolas Sarkozy stripped Europe of its fig leaf a few months ago, pointing out that war will be the only other option open to the West.
This may turn into a game of economic chicken. If the West squeezes hard enough, either the mullahs will have to back down and stop their enrichment, or the economic collapse will force Iranians to replace the mullahs. Let’s hope the squeeze works before their nuclear device does.

Dems: Murtha Makes Surrender More Difficult

The Politico has a must-read analysis of the circumstances surrounding the John Murtha statement today that the surge is working in Iraq. Not only does John Bresnahan cover the multiple assertions this year that the Pentagon and White House were being dishonest in insisting on the surge’s success, it also quotes aides on the Hill stating that Murtha’s shift will damage the Democrats:

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), one of the leading anti-war voices in the House Democratic Caucus, is back from a trip to Iraq and he now says the “surge is working.” This could be a huge problem for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, who are blocking approval of the full $200 billion being sought by President Bush for combat operations in Iraq in 2008.
Murtha’s latest comments are also a stark reversal from what he said earlier in the year. The Pennsylvania Democrat, who chairs the powerful Defense Subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee, has previously stated that the surge “is not working” and the United States faced a military disaster in Iraq. …
But Pelosi, who is scheduled to speak to a Democratic National Committee event in Virginia on Friday, will surely face tough questions from reporters regarding Murtha’s statement on the surge.
“This could be a real headache for us,” said one top House Democratic aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Pelosi is going to be furious.”

Pelosi, readers will recall, aligns herself closely with Murtha. She had backed Murtha in a power play earlier, to her detriment when he lost. She has tied herself almost completely to his anti-war rhetoric, using his military experience as a shield for Democratic defeatism. His defection on the issue will leave her twisting in the wind.
It won’t do wonders for Murtha, either. Bresnahan points out four examples from this year alone when Murtha derided the administration for either dishonesty or incompetence in its insistence that the surge was working. He even berated the press during a “recent” conference, yelling at a reporter about the administration’s credibility. His own credibility — and by extension, the credibility of the entire Democratic caucus — has now been greatly diminished as a result.
The timing couldn’t possibly be worse. The Democrats want to torpedo the Iraq war supplemental and force the White House to agree to a withdrawal. Now Murtha says that he could foresee another two years of heavy engagement before withdrawing significant US forces, which matches in rough strokes the new security partnership agreement signed by Nouri al-Maliki and Bush this week. Their anti-war legislative position has now almost completely eroded, and Murtha has exposed Pelosi to another spectacular failure.

Did The Dem YouTube Debate Have Republican ‘Plants’?

The Los Angeles Times decided to take a look into whether CNN changed its vetting procedures between the Democratic and Republican YouTube debates. James Rainey found that CNN also allowed two questions from Republicans supporters to enter the Democratic debate in July, but doesn’t present any evidence that actual campaign figures got flown to the auditorium:

A review by the Los Angeles Times of the debate sponsored by CNN and YouTube four months ago found that the Democratic presidential candidates also faced queries that seemed to come from the conservative perspective. At least two of the citizen-interrogators had clear GOP leanings. …
During that session, one video questioner asked the candidates to choose between raising taxes or cutting benefits in order to save Social Security. Another demanded to know whether taxes would rise “like usually they do when a Democrat comes in office.” A third featured a gun-toting Michigan man, who in an interview Thursday said he had voted twice for President Bush, who wanted to know if the Democrats would protect his “baby” — an assault rifle he cradled in his arms.
Another questioner from that forum who seemed to have clear conservative credentials was John McAlpin, a sailor who asked Clinton: “How do you think you would be taken seriously” by Arab and Muslim nations that treat women as “second-class citizens”?
McAlpin’s MySpace page features pictures of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Republican presidential candidate.
It depicts Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly as a friend, while offering a caricature of a bearded, turban-wearing “Borat Hussein Obama” — a derogatory reference to Obama, the Democratic candidate who as a youth attended a Muslim school.

The format leaves limited ability to weed out partisans. The main complaint that followed from the first debate was the inordinate amount of silliness that CNN and YouTube allowed in the Democratic debate. That included the questioner who called his rifle his “baby”, and those complaints came not from the Democrats but the Republicans, who wanted to avoid all of the nonsense.
CNN’s main failure, and the only real “plant”, was General Keith Kerr. They didn’t just allow his question, they flew him to the debate, and then allowed him almost as much screen time as Duncan Hunter to make a speech. Kerr serves on Hillary Clinton’s steering committee on GLBT issues, a fact that he apparently failed to disclose to CNN, who didn’t bother to use Google and spend ten minutes vetting him. That failure to disclose on Kerr’s part certainly shows an intent to deceive, and renders his and Hillary’s insistence that they had no intent to plant questions laughable.
The other questioners had ulterior motives in asking their questions, and CNN may have had some in selecting them, even if it was just to spark some controversial statements from the candidates. Just as in the Democratic debate, though, the questions themselves weren’t outrageous and certainly can be expected from the campaign trail, especially in the general election. In this loose format, questions can come from anyone — just like a real town-hall forum — and candidates should be prepared to answer them. Either all presidential candidates have to prepare for a wide range of questions, or we should junk the format altogether and go back to journalists writing the questions.
In fact, given that CNN decided which 33 YouTubed questions it wanted to present, they effectively did that anyway. They just outsourced the scut work to YouTubers. In the future, CNN and YouTube may want to consider my original proposal to collaborate with bloggers in the selection process. At least we know that bloggers can use Google properly.

More Bad News For Democrats On War

If Democrats hoped to ride a wave of discontent on the war to electoral victory in 2008, they may face a harsh awakening. New Rasmussen polling released yesterday shows a surge in confidence among American voters in the war, reaching its highest levels in two years. A small plurality now believes that Iraq will continue to improve, a far cry from just four months ago:

The latest Rasmussen Reports tracking poll finds that 47% of Americans now say the U.S. and its allies are winning the War on Terror (see crosstabs). That’s up from 43% a month ago and reflects is the highest level of confidence measured since December 2005. Over the past 35 months, confidence in the War on Terror has been higher than today only twice, in November and December 2005.
The 47% who believe the U.S. and its allies are winning is up significantly from earlier in the year. During the first nine months of 2007, the number believing that the U.S. fell as low as 33% and reached the 40% level just once. During calendar year 2006, an average of 40% believed the U.S. and its allies were winning. That average was 45% in 2005.
In what may be just as significant a finding, only 24% of voters now believe the terrorists are winning. That’s down from 30% a month ago and represents the lowest level of pessimism recorded since 2004.
The Rasmussen Reports telephone survey also found that 35% of all American voters expect things to get better in Iraq over the next six months while 32% expect the situation to get worse. That’s the first time in years that a plurality has given a positive assessment on the situation in Iraq. The recent increase in optimism is substantial. Just four months ago, in July, 49% of American voters offered a pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq and only 23% expected things to get better.

The crosstabs hold some intriguing data. On the general question for the GWOT, almost all demographics now have majorities or pluralities believing that the US and its allies are winning. The only demographic categories that believe the US is losing are Democrats and liberals. Across all other age, gender, and ethnic demos, large pluralities or majorities believe the US and the West are prevailing.
That certainly denotes a clear and narrow defeatism. That’s less clear but still present on Iraq’s prospects in the next six months. Women, blacks, and 18-29 year old voters have small pluralities for worse prospects. Democrats, on the other hand, have a wide plurality (45-12) predicting failure, and self-described liberals have a majority (51-13). Democrats and liberals have a large investment in that failure, and they’re not ready to relinquish it.
They may run into some serious electoral trouble if they continue to cling to defeat. In both categories, self-described moderates and political independents break sharply with Democrats. For the GWOT, moderates believe the US is winning, 44-24, a significant plurality, and independents follow closely at 47-21. On Iraq, it’s a tossup; moderates tie at 32, while independents skew slightly negative at 34-29. The trends clearly show most voters moving away from the Democrats, and if the situation continues to improve in Iraq, that will only continue.
With the spending bill up in the air, the Democrats want to play to their anti-war base and argue for defeat and retreat. If they continue to do so, the anti-war base will be all they have left by the time the 2008 elections arrive.

Bush: No Strings On War Funding

President Bush demanded a clean funding bill from Congress for the Iraq mission, and warned that he would veto anything that had timetables for withdrawal. If Congress doesn’t pass the supplemental appropriation by Christmas, he warned that the Pentagon would have no choice but to shut down other operations to shift funds — and that layoffs in the holiday season would take place:

President Bush warned Congress yesterday that the Pentagon will soon have to start laying off civilian employees and reducing operations at U.S. military bases unless lawmakers send him an emergency war funding bill that does not mandate troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Escalating a dispute with Democratic lawmakers over his request for $196 billion in supplemental funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush complained that a delay in providing the money is jeopardizing important military efforts.
“The missions of this department are essential to saving Americans’ lives, and they are too important to be disrupted or delayed or put at risk,” Bush said at the Pentagon after he received more than two hours of briefings. “Pentagon officials have warned Congress that the continued delay in funding our troops will soon begin to have a damaging impact on the operations of this department.”
Congressional Democrats blame Bush for the delay because he refuses to accept a $50 billion funding bill that includes a requirement to begin pulling combat troops out of Iraq and changing the U.S. military mission there. The House passed the bill earlier this month, but Republicans blocked it in the Senate.

We’ve seen this play before, and the Democrats lost it when they had a lot more reason to win than they do now. In May, they played chicken with the White House over the inclusion of troop-withdrawal language, and the Pentagon made the same threat then. When it became very clear that Bush would veto the bill even with substantial Republican dissatisfaction over the war, the Democrats decided that they could not withstand defunding troops in a battle zone.
Seven months later, much has changed, and all of it bad for the Democrats. The surge strategy succeeded in dramatically reducing sectarian violence. It chased al-Qaeda’s terrorists to the margins of Iraq, where the bolstered American forces — working with ever-increasing Iraqi Army units — continue to aggressively pursue their remnants. It has even sparked a ground-up reconciliation movement by focusing on tribal alliances rather than top-down efforts by the central government, which has begun doing the same thing.
Even the war’s biggest Congressional critic, John Murtha, has finally acknowledged reality and admitted that the surge strategy worked.
One might think that the Democrats would take a hint and abandon their old, failed strategies. President Bush tweaked them further by noting that the Iraqi National Assembly has already managed to pass a budget, showing more reconciliation than the American Congress. The House and Senate leadership that insisted on premature declarations of defeat will simply not have the credibility they had as late as last May, when they failed to infringe on the executive. They’re not going to succeed now when their defeatism has been revealed to even John Murtha, who also acknowledged that the timeline offered by the House was unrealistic — unless America abandons its heavy equipment and bugs out like the Democrats apparently desire.