Democrats To Propose Largest Tax Hike In History

House Democrats today will propose the largest tax hike in American history, one which will add more poor people to the tax rolls and which will further burden millions of small businesses. They will position this as fiscal discipline while refusing to trim federal spending, according to Robert Novak:

The new Democratic majority begins dancing the next phase of the tax-and-spend minuet in the House of Representatives today. Following the example set by their Senate brethren last Friday, House Democrats will adopt a budget resolution containing the largest tax increase in U.S. history amid massive national inattention.
Nobody’s tax payment will increase immediately, but the budget resolutions set a pattern for years ahead. The House version would increase non-defense, non-emergency spending by $22.5 billion for next fiscal year, with such spending to rise 2.4 percent in each of the next three years. To pay for these increases, the resolution would raise taxes by close to $400 billion over five years — about $100 billion more than what was passed in the Senate.
It had been assumed that the new Democratic majority would end President Bush’s relief in capital gains, dividend and estate taxation. The simultaneous rollback of Bush-sponsored income tax cuts was a surprise. This reflects Democrats’ belief that they can survive a long-term commitment to bigger government. Here is an audacious effort to raise the banner of fiscal responsibility while increasing spending and taxes.
This Democratic strategy is encapsulated in what Harry Hopkins, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s main man, is alleged to have told a friend at New York’s Empire City race track in August 1938: “We will spend and spend, and tax and tax, and elect and elect.” While Hopkins denied ever saying those words, they represented successful Democratic government and political strategy for the next two decades.

Well, as pundits across the political spectrum note, elections matter. Many people abandoned the GOP in the midterms because of their lack of discipline in federal spending. Discretionary spending rose by over 30% during the six years that the Republicans controlled both elective branches of government. They reduced taxes and grew the economy, but the GOP never delivered on their initial promise to reduce government an rein in spending.
Based on those failures, the nation gave the Democrats the majority in both chambers of Congress. What did we get? No decrease in federal spending; the Democrats want to grow the government by 2.4% each year, which would mean adding close to $100 billion in spending each year. In order to do that, they want to increase taxes across the board, choking off economic growth and making people even more dependent on the government.
By 2011, the added tax burden on every taxpayer would be over $1100 dollars. Twenty-six million small businesses would have to pay almost $4,000 in extra taxes. More than five million Americans whose incomes are too low to pay taxes now would have to start paying in 2011, making the Democratic plan more regressive than what it seeks to replace.
Democrats and taxes, together again after twelve years in the wilderness. It sounds like a movie romance — and we’re footing the bill for the production.

Culture Of Corruption, Democrat Style

The new Congress has barely made it past its start before a new face has been put on lobbyist influence. Dianne Feinstein, the senior Senator from California, has resigned her leadership position on a subcommittee which put billions of dollars into her family’s business (via QandO):

SEN. Dianne Feinstein has resigned from the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee. As previously and extensively reviewed in these pages, Feinstein was chairperson and ranking member of MILCON for six years, during which time she had a conflict of interest due to her husband Richard C. Blum’s ownership of two major defense contractors, who were awarded billions of dollars for military construction projects approved by Feinstein.
As MILCON leader, Feinstein relished the details of military construction, even micromanaging one project at the level of its sewer design. She regularly took junkets to military bases around the world to inspect construction projects, some of which were contracted to her husband’s companies, Perini Corp. and URS Corp. …
As of December 2006, according to SEC filings and www.fedspending.org, three corporations in which Blum’s financial entities own a total of $1 billion in stock won considerable favor from the budgets of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs:
* Boston Scientific Corporation: $17.8 million for medical equipment and supplies; 85 percent of contracts awarded without benefit of competition.
* Kinetic Concepts Inc.: $12 million, medical equipment and supplies; 28 percent noncompetitively awarded.
* CB Richard Ellis: The Blum-controlled international real estate firm holds congressionally funded contracts to lease office space to the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also is involved in redeveloping military bases turned over to the private sector.

Wasn’t it the Democrats who insisted that the Republicans jumped into bed with lobbyists and special interests? Well, now we have a senior Democrat who made sure that over a billion dollars of federal money got routed through her own checkbook, with her husband as proxy. When can we expect to see a Democratic investigation into this brand of corruption?
During the 2006 election, Feinstein’s party made a lot of hay out of non-competitve contracting by the government. Democrats railed especially about Halliburton, even though Halliburton won 95% of its contract dollars by full and open competition. Now we see that Feinstein herself had no problem with non-competitive practices, as long as it meant stuffing her own pockets with taxpayer money. Take a look at the percentages in the above. In 2005, CB Richard Ellis made $100 million in federal contracts, only half of which had been part of full and open competitive bidding.
When we talk about political corruption, this is exactly what we mean. Politicians who use their power and assignments to fill their own pockets with federal dollars corrupt our system and deserve to be tried in court for violating the public trust. Feinstein never should have sat on subcommittees that hand out federal contracts for markets in which her own family businesses compete. If the Democrats meant what they said in 2006, Feinstein provides an excellent test case for their new sense of ethics. They should expel her from the Senate and have California hold a special election to replace her. If they do nothing, then they have exposed themselves as the party of self-enrichment at the expense of taxpayers.

It’s Safer To Hate Us

Germans, in a recent poll, believed that the US presented a greater threat to world peace than Iran. Forty-eight percent of Germans agreed with that statement, opposed by only 31%, and the number goes to 57% among younger Germans. In his essay in Der Spiegel, Claus Christian Malzahn skewers his countrymen for their reflexive and ignorant anti-Americanism:

The German political establishment, which will no doubt loudly lament the result of the poll, is largely responsible for this wave of anti-Americanism. For years the country’s foreign ministers fed the Germans the fairy tale of what they called a “critical dialogue” between Europe and Iran. It went something like this: If we are nice to the ayatollahs, cuddle up to them a bit and occasionally wag our fingers at them when they’ve been naughty, they’ll stop condemning their women to death for “unchaste behavior” and they’ll stop building the atom bomb.
That plan failed at some point — an outcome, incidentally, that Washington had long anticipated. Iran continues to work away unhindered on its nuclear program, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacts to UN demands with an ostentatious show of ignorance. The UN gets upset and drafts a resolution.
Another item on the Iranian president’s wish list is the annihilation of Israel. But that will take a bit longer. In the meantime, just to make sure it doesn’t get out of practice, the regime had 15 British soldiers kidnapped a few days ago. But it’s still all the Americans’ fault — that much is obvious. …
Not a day passes in Germany when someone isn’t making the wildest claims, hurling the vilest insults or spreading the most outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States. But there’s no risk involved and it all serves mainly to boost the German feeling of self-righteousness.
Iran is a different story. The last time someone made a joke on German TV about an Iranian leader, the outcome was not pleasant. Exactly 20 years ago, Dutch entertainer Rudi Carell produced a short TV sketch portraying Ayatollah Khomeini dressed in women’s underwear. Carell received death threats. The piece, which lasted all of a few seconds, led to flights being cancelled and German diplomats being expelled from Tehran. Carell apologized. Jokes about fat Americans are just safer.

I’m not going to claim that America has never made a foreign-policy error, but the notion that we represent a greater threat to peace than the main terrorist-sponsoring state in the world is nothing short of breathtakingly stupid. And Malzahn has this analyzed perfectly: it’s safe to hate America. We don’t set off bombs in discotheques or mass in front of embassies whenever anyone insults us or our leadership.
But the Germans really should know better. For decades, we stood guard on the freedom of most of Germany, putting American lives on the line to keep the Soviets from overrunning the rest of their country. We rebuilt their nation after their defeat in the last world war, and we have maintained European security even after the end of the Cold War. If anyone should understand the efforts we have made in keeping totalitarianism and terrorism at bay, it should be the Germans.
This should especially embarrass them considering the rhetoric used by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has adopted the policies of the Nazis of late, calling for the destruction of the Jews and claiming that the Holocaust is nothing more than Jewish conspiracies against them. Ahmadinejad has thumbed his nose at German diplomacy to build nuclear weapons with one obvious target — Israel.
Perhaps the Germans would get a better appreciation for security issues if they shouldered more of the burden for them. It’s time to close down the relics of the Cold War in Germany, and locate our military forces in nations more amenable to America. Poland would probably have some interest in hosting American bases, and they would have more strategic location in this era than Germany. Let the Germans have their space from the warmongering Americans and pay for their own national security. We do not need to stay where we are not wanted or appreciated.

Beware The Legacy Dance

The Bush administration has started legacy hunting, and it has fixed its sights on immigration reform. The one issue where George Bush and the Democrats have common ground will get immediate attention, according to the Los Angeles Times — a development that will concern border-security conservatives:

With President Bush looking to counter a legacy increasingly marred by the war in Iraq, the White House has launched a bold, behind-the-scenes drive to advance a key domestic goal: immigration reform.
For a month, White House staffers and Cabinet members have met three to four times a week with influential Republican senators and aides to hash out a consensus plan designed to draw a significant number of GOP votes.
With that effort largely completed, Republicans were set to present their proposal Wednesday to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who would lead the Democrats in any attempt to move a bill through the Senate.
The intense effort — conceived by the president’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove — is intended to ensure that Bush will achieve at least one crucial policy achievement in the last two years of his presidency.
Success on immigration reform could also accomplish another Rove goal, shoring up the GOP’s weakened support among Hispanics, who are even more critical to the party as independent voters become increasingly disenchanted.

The administration had backed a fairly liberal immigration plan, co-sponsored by John McCain and Kennedy, before the midterm elections, when the White House needed conservatives. Now, they need a legacy, and the Democrats in Congress will use their new strength to push even harder for citizenship for illegals while they eschew border security. Already, the majority leadership has hinted that the border fence will likely not get funded, the one small victory gained by hardliners on immigration.
If Bush hopes to reach an agreement, he has to do so soon, before relations between Capitol Hill and the White House get too poisonous. The new Democratic majority plans a series of investigations into the administration in order to build a record for the 2008 presidential election. Given the fact that the administration keeps giving them excuses, like the strange terminations of the federal prosecutors last December and the incompetent handling of the aftermath, it’s hard to see how the Democrats could possibly overplay that hand. That kind of ongoing activity will eventually shut down all channels of communication and turn every bill into a pitched battle.
Perhaps Bush hopes that a success on immigration reform, defined as such by the Democrats, will slake their thirst for dirt and humiliation. If so, I’d say that a surrender on immigration reform would prove highly disappointing. I’d rather he surrender on Alberto Gonzales, in the long run. That wouldn’t keep the investigations from continuing, but it would give the administration a more competent AG and it would not involve approving another amnesty program with no border security.
The only cause for optimism is the inclusion of conservatives like Jon Kyl in the development process. He has remained insistent on border security first and foremost, even while some of his colleagues seem more than willing to promote open borders in an age of terrorism. The Times reports on the Republican efforts to include “triggers” in the plan, which would only allow the normalization of illegals in the US after security benchmarks have been met. However, the GOP couldn’t make that work when they had the majority. Now that the Democrats control Congress, the “triggers” will never survive in a final bill. Democrats don’t do benchmarks, after all, unless they want to surrender to our enemies in the field.
Those Republicans who want border security are outnumbered and outgunned by the Democrats, and will likely find themselves abandoned by an administration that needs to secure some sort of victory in its final months in office. Look for a rehash of last year’s virtual amnesty bill.
Note: I should emphasize that I do support some form of normalization for most of the illegals here in the US. I believe that it is impractical to assume that we can make it so miserable for them that they will self-deport back into a poverty in Mexico that far outstrips anything seen here in the US. However, that has to come only after we achieve a secure southern border – a priority that should have been addressed in 1986, after the last amnesty.

Fruit Loops

Many of us railed against the pork that the House included in its supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war, along with its mandatory time tables for defeat and retreat. Proving that the House is a collection of pikers in a porkfest, the Senate added its own pork onto their version of the bill — leading to the strange speech of Barbara Boxer using “Strawberry Fields Forever” in support of a war funding bill:

“There’s a song called ‘Strawberry Fields Forever,’ ” the California Democrat declared on the Senate floor, as an aide displayed a poster of an icy berry patch. “This is a strawberry field,” Boxer continued, seeking funds for frostbitten fruit farmers. “It looks like an ice rink. The strawberries are somewhere in there; they are destroyed. I also want to show you oranges. . . . Here you can see the icicles near the avocados.”
The relationship between crops and troops was lost on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who backed an amendment that would remove spending for sugar beets and other agricultural pursuits. “I don’t see how the asparagus-spinach problem helps us win in Iraq,” he argued at a news conference. “This is a bill designed to help people that are getting shot at.”
Oh? Immediately after this righteous plea in the Senate television studio, Graham went downstairs to the Senate floor and voted in support of an amendment to the Iraq bill directing an additional $5 billion to rural schools and counties — right here in the U.S. of A.
It’s common for lawmakers to complain that a spending bill is “loaded up like a Christmas tree” with pet projects. But the Iraq Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act going through the Senate this week is unusual in that it is loaded up with Christmas trees.
Specifically, it includes $40 million for a Tree Assistance Program that provides help for Christmas trees and ornamental shrubs. Also in the Senate’s version of the Iraq bill: $24 million for sugar beets, $3 million for Hawaiian sugar cane, $13 million for the Ewe Lamb Replacement and Retention Program, $100 million in compensation for dairy losses, $165.9 million for fisheries disaster relief, and money for numerous other “emergencies.”

I can understand that the stench of defeat would be so strong that politicians want to cover it with the aroma of Christmas trees. Leaving Iraq to the terrorists like lambs to slaughter could inspire some to fund replacement lambs. Rural schools will need to learn why we left Iraq to become a terrorist haven with access to billions in oil revenue.
This proves that this Congress is an even bigger joke than usual. Democrats who ran on a platform of opposing lobbyists and corruption have gone on a pork binge so obscene that it has become difficult to count the money that they are handing to lobbyists and supporters. They use funding for the troops to shovel federal dollars back to their home districts and states while promising the men and women fighting terrorists and insurgents more effectively than ever that they have no confidence in their ability to do the job.
Obscene and shameful. And this is just Month Three of the Democrat-controlled Congress. Just think what they will do by Month Twenty-Three, after they get warmed up.
John McCain suggested yesterday that George Bush should read the list of pork in a national speech when he vetoes the supplemental. I don’t think the networks will give him three hours for his speech, though, so he’ll have to play Pork’s Greatest Hits instead. However, McCain has gone one step further and offered a petition for people to sign on-line to protest both the pork and the surrender offered by Congress:

* The supplemental appropriations bill that passed the Senate on March 27, calling for a date certain withdrawal from Iraq, is nothing more than a guaranteed date of surrender.
* It is a refusal to acknowledge the dire consequences of failure, in terms of the stability in the Middle East and the resulting impact on the security of all Americans, whether home or abroad.
* Democrats have chosen the politically expedient position of failure rather than putting aside the small politics of the day in the interest of our nation and the values upon which this nation rests.
* We the undersigned remain steadfast in our support for the war against terrorism and mindful of the consequences of failure in Iraq, even if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid refuse to acknowledge those consequences.
* We support our troops and the new strategy and believe it should be given the opportunity to succeed. American national security interests are directly at stake. Success or failure in Iraq is the transcendent issue for our foreign policy and our national security. People say they want to defeat the terrorists, but if we withdraw from Iraq prematurely, it will be the terrorists’ greatest triumph.
* If we leave Iraq based on an artificial timetable, al Qaeda will be free to plan, train for and conduct operations from Iraq just as they did in Afghanistan before 9/11.

We may have issues with McCain, but except for his attempts to get unlawful combatants undue access to American civil courts, he’s been spot-on about the war. Be sure to sign the petition.

Mugabe Arrests The Opposition

Zimbabwe’s political crisis deepened yesterday after Robert Mugabe started rounding up opposition leaders ahead of an African summit on Mugabe’s dictatorship. Morgan Tsvangirai got arrested just before a scheduled press conference to discuss the political oppression suffered by Zimbabweans:

Forces stormed the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change in downtown Harare to gag its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, who was preparing to hold a press conference on the continued violent repression of his party by the Mugabe regime.
Mr Tsvangirai, 50, and other MDC leaders were taken by bus for questioning to an undisclosed location by officials. The approaches to the headquarters had earlier been sealed and tear gas was used to keep people away.
“Tsvangirai and a number of others we have not been able to identify have been taken by police in a bus. We don’t know their whereabouts. We don’t know if they have been charged,” said an MDC spokesman. Police said he was later let go. “We’ve heard he has been released but he is not at home or at the office and he is not reachable on his mobile,” the spokesman said.
The raids came just hours before Mr Mugabe left for Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to attend an emergency conference on Zimbabwe’s mounting political crisis hosted by the 18-member Southern African Development Community.

The timing shows how insecure Mugabe feels. The SADC conference came at a bad time for the man who has held power for more than a quarter century, turning a once-fertile land into Africa’s biggest welfare case. His departure, with all of the current unrest, could have turned into an opening for a coup. In order to prevent this, he simply had all of his opponents jailed while he travels to Dar es Salaam.
This puts enormous pressure on the SADC and the African Union to do something about Mugabe. In fact, Mugabe has more or less stuck a finger in the eye of both organizations, but especially the SADC. He effectively told the other African leaders that he has no intention of moderating his dictatorial practices even as they invited him to the meeting to look for some means to restore order and reverse the poverty that Mugabe has caused.
Hopefully, this provocation will finally get regional leaders to do something about Mugabe. The failure of Zimbabwe has created security problems for his neighbors. This latest stunt will make them appear weak and with no influence even in their own back yard. Even his ally, Zambia’s Levy Mwanawasa, has called Mugabe’s stewardship “the Titanic” of regimes in Africa.
If Africa ever wants to distance itself from its colonial past, it has to show that it can resolve these kinds of catastrophes on their own. Ethiopia did this in Somalia. Now the SADC has to show it can meet the challenge and defiance of Mugabe.

Maverick Is His Name?

Past Democratic Party leaders tell The Hill that John McCain negotiated for two months with them to abandon the Republican Party at around the same time that Jim Jeffords crossed the aisle. Tom Daschle and Tom Downey told Bob Cusack that unlike their efforts with Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee, McCain’s top aide came to them:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was close to leaving the Republican Party in 2001, weeks before then-Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) famously announced his decision to become an Independent, according to former Democratic lawmakers who say they were involved in the discussions.
In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain’s chief political strategist.
Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain’s case, they said, it was McCain’s top strategist who came to them. …
Daschle said that throughout April and May of 2001, he and McCain “had meetings and conversations on the floor and in his office, I think in mine as well, about how we would do it, what the conditions would be. We talked about committees and his seniority … [A lot of issues] were on the table.”

John McCain denies this charge, saying that he never considered leaving the GOP. John Weaver also refutes the notion that he proposed a switch in allegiance to Downey, saying that their chats amounted to nothing more than idle gossip about the Democrats’ efforts to find a turncoat. Mark Salter, McCain’s chief of staff then and a key member of his campaign staff now, also categorically and emphatically denies it.
This story sounds a bit strange, even if McCain has done his best to look like a Democrat at times. If McCain came to Daschle, one would have to imagine that Daschle would have closed the deal immediately. The once and future Senate Majority Leader would have offered a senior Republican like McCain almost anything he wanted to jump ship – even after Jeffords bailed. With the kind of interest reported by The Hill, McCain sounds as if the right deal would have cinched it for the Democrats.
McCain had his opportunity later as well. Recall the flirtation from John Kerry and the Democrats in 2004 about McCain serving as his running mate? If he had that kind of inclination in 2001, he would have found that sotto voce offer too tempting to refuse. Instead, McCain scotched the rumors and campaigned for George Bush and many other Republican candidates in the 2004 election.
However, there is another independent, if indirect, corroboration. Cusack reports that Chafee was another live target of this recruiting effort at the time — and Chafee confirmed it to Cusack. Also, John Edwards reportedly played a key role in the negotiations with McCain, and The Hill confirmed it with an anonymous source “close to Edwards”.
If true, this would effectively end McCain’s presidential bid. He already has trust issues with Republicans, and this will do nothing but cause them to reject him entirely. However, the people who sourced this story have plenty of motivation to derail McCain, including Edwards, who thinks he may run against McCain in the general election. The principals tell completely conflicting stories, and the nature of the issue almost ensures that no independent proof one way or the other could exist. I’m betting this is nonsense.
UPDATE: Allahpundit puts more credence in it than I do, making the good point that if it were just a smear, they would have waited until the general election to use it. However, the same would be true if the story is on the level. Why talk about this now in either case? It almost seems like someone couldn’t wait to spill the beans — and that does give some weight to the story.

Brits On Parade

In an escalation to the crisis over the seizure of 15 British sailors and Marines, the Iranians have displayed them on television, apparently forcing the female sailor to read a public statement. The Iranians have also promised to release her as a goodwill gesture:

A letter allegedly written by a captured British sailor to her parents says she had “apparently” entered Iranian territorial waters, the Iranian Embassy in London said Wednesday.
The letter was addressed to the parents of Faye Turney, one of the 15 British sailors captured by Iranian forces after they allegedly trespassed in Iranian waters. An Iranian embassy official e-mailed a copy of the letter to The Associated Press, saying Turner wrote it on Wednesday. …
Meanwhile, Iranian state TV showed video of some of the sailors and marines, including Turney, who wore a white tunic and a black head scarf and said the British boats “had trespassed” in Iranian waters.
“Obviously we trespassed into their waters,” Turney said on the broadcast by Al-Alam, an Arabic-language, Iranian state-run television station that is carried across the Middle East.
“They were very friendly and very hospitable, very thoughtful, nice people. They explained to us why we’ve been arrested, there was no harm, no aggression,” she said.

Allahpundit and Power Line have more on the odd syntax used by Turney in her televised statement. It suggests that its true author has little familiarity with British English, or at least a tin ear for it. For some reason, the Iranians seem to feel that these video releases will somehow put minds at rest about the treatment of their abductees — they did the same thing in 2004, and the effect was just as creepy and unbelievable then.
Plus, it amounts to another violation of the Geneva Convention. Convention III, Article 13 states:

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

The US has been accused of violating this just for showing video of the capture of combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. This cuts much closer to the mark. Clearly, the Iranians want to capitalize on the “public curiosity” of their prisoners, and they want to pressure the British government into acquiescence based on the publication of the videos. This goes with the potential violation of charging military personnel captured in uniform with espionage, which the Iranians have threatened to do.
Once again, we strain to hear the cries of those who display such sensitivity to the widest possible interpretation of the GC when the conduct of the US or its allies are in question. So far, we have not heard any outcry from a definite violation and the threat of another from a non-Western nation. If the GCs are only applicable to Western democracies, then perhaps the critics can just acknowledge that honestly.

Rudy Hits A Homer

Rudy Giuliani has made a surprising entry into the primary race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Not known as a conservative, Rudy has nonetheless stuck to his public policy stands — and has been rewarded with broad, if not deep, support from the GOP. He has built momentum despite expectations that he will eventually falter on the basis of his pro-choice, gun-control past. Now he has garnered an endorsement that will not fail to impress fiscal conservatives:

Fiscal conservative Steve Forbes on Wednesday endorsed former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s bid to become the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 race for the White House.
Forbes, chief executive of Forbes magazine who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1996 and 2000, is considered a leader of the party’s pro-business and tax-cutting wings.
“He is the man who can lead America in a world that is uncertain, fight the forces of evil and at the same time increase economic opportunity here at home,” Forbes told a press conference.

Giuliani has tried to sell himself to conservatives as a member of the national-security, low-taxes Right while acknowledging the differences on social issues. He has counted on conservatives to make the calculation that half a loaf is better than none, especially when the half he offers has the most universal appeal among Republicans. In order to make that sale, though, he needed more credibility on economics and fiscal policy.
Steve Forbes delivers that credibility. Fiscal conservatives still lament his inability to catch fire in 1996 and 2000, and given the spending spree that the GOP has conducted since Forbes’ last run, those laments have been particularly pointed. Given his consistent free-market, deregulatory stands, the Forbes endorsement represents a conservative Good Housekeeping seal of approval. His new positions as national co-chair and senior policy advisor allows fiscal conservatives and neo-libertarians to find a comfort zone they may have previously lacked.
Without a doubt, Team Rudy hit a homer on this endorsement. It gives more conservatives more leeway towards discounting the social positions of Giuliani in a time of war, and increases his potential to attract centrists and independents to the GOP in 2008. Giuliani has shown that he understands conservative concerns with his record and that he will work towards reaching an accommodation with them. In a field lacking a credible conservative of national standing, Rudy could carve out a wire-to-wire frontrunner victory.

Tony Blair: Carter Or Thatcher?

Tony Blair seems to grasp the disaster awaiting Britain if it takes the Jimmy Carter strategy on Iranian hostaging of its sailors and Marines. He warned Iran that anything less than an immediate release of British servicement would move the confrontation to a “different phase”, as the US quickly filled the Persian Gulf with warships:

Tony Blair warned Iran yesterday that the dispute over the 15 British servicemen seized in Gulf waters last week could move into a “different phase” if diplomacy failed to secure their release.
His words, immediately condemned by Iran as “provocative”, came as the US Navy began its biggest show of force in the Gulf since the invasion of Iraq four years ago, with manoeuvres involving two aircraft carriers, a dozen warships and more than 100 aircraft.
As tensions rose, Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, had a robust telephone conversation with her Iranian counterpart demanding immediate consular access to the captured Britons.
In an interview on GMTV, Mr Blair said: “I hope we manage to get them to realise they have to release them. If not, then this will move into a different phase.”

Different phase — as in “outside of diplomacy”, a convenient euphemism for military conflict. Later, Blair backed down a bit from the challenge, his spokesperson saying merely that Britain would start producing the evidence which would clearly show that Iran snatched the group from Iraqi waters — but the point got made nonetheless.
So far, though, Blair has not exactly been Margaret Thatcher in his approach. When the Argentinians seized the Falkands in the early days of her government, Thatcher told Argentina that they had two choices: withdrawal or war. She made good her threat, despite widespread skepticism that the British Empire could still fight a colonial war — and she beat the Argentianians in their own back yard.
Blair has shown some steel, at least thus far, but Jimmy Carter made similar motions in the early days of the Teheran crisis. He just never followed through on them. It took him five months to attempt an ill-conceived rescue mission, far past the time when Carter had surrendered American prestige and power to a group of ragged students and a radical-Islamist theocracy. Not surprisingly, the same Islamists have decided to try it again with Britain, hoping that they will find a Carter rather than a Thatcher.
They may find an American Thatcher if the Iranians continue their provocations. George Bush didn’t send warships to the Gulf to allow sailors to get a tan. Quietly, Bush has conducted a new effort against Iranian power in the region, capturing its agents in Iraq and daring Teheran to respond. Iran tried an indirect response by capturing the British sailors. The Americans might try something more direct in the Gulf if the Iranians pull another stunt.