Friday, February 29, 2008

The Bush Administration, Neoconservatives, and the Iraq War

One of the most bothersome things about discussions of neoconservatism is how critics resort to uncritical conventional wisdom or inaccurate stereotypes to ridicule the Bush administration's war in Iraq. To hear these folks, the war's always a "disaster" or a "failed policy of idealist neo-imperial overreach." Rarely are events placed in historical context (World War II, for example, had its share of disasters, and was hardly a sure run thing until late in the conflict).

I'm seeing this trend more lately, as otherwise esteemed analysts and pundits make the same mistakes over and over again in reviewing recent journalistic histories of neoconservatives in the top ranks of power.

For example, David Greenberg, who writes very respectably on trends in conservatism, makes some simple, largely discredited or unsubstantiated remarks about the movement
in his review of Jacob Heilbrunn's They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons:

Not long ago the term "neoconservative" seemed ripe for retirement. The label was originally applied in the 1960s and 1970s to the ex-liberals (themselves ex-socialists) who turned halfway to the right after becoming disenchanted with the Great Society, left-wing politics, and the Democrats' post-Vietnam isolationism. Under Ronald Reagan, however, the neocons kept moving right and joined in a broad right-wing consensus, and by the 1990s it became hard to tell them apart from other Republicans....

Despite some tensions that surfaced during George Bush Sr.'s presidency, Reagan's conservative coalition cohered, more or less, until midway through the current administration. Only with the failures of Bush II and the Iraq War has the concept of neoconservatism gained new life and new meaning, at least on foreign policy (on domestic issues the neocons now can hardly be distinguished from other Republicans). On one side, the neocons' zeal for the war has earned them seething hatred (occasionally tinged with anti-Semitism) from the anti-war left, as younger bloggers, indifferent to the label's precise meaning, sling it as an all-purpose epithet. On the other side, the Republican crack-up has resurrected old internecine splits on the right -- Wall Street versus Main Street, isolationist versus neo-imperialist, and paleocon versus neocon -- with the neocons often being blamed for the right's disarray.
There's the "failed war" meme right there!

To be fair, though, sure, the war did look increasingly, disastrously lost in the fall of 2006. But the point (attack) was made more often by enraged radical left bloggers (with little credibility) than evenhanded policy analysts.

I keep these thoughts in mind whenever I see some new essay on the Bush administration's Iraq policy or on the neoconservative movement.

So I was quite pleased to read Adam Garfinkle's review of three new books on the Bush adminstration over at Foreign Affairs, "
Bye Bye Bush: What History Will Make of 43?"

Garfinkle reviews, Fred Kaplan's, Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power, Heilbrunn's, They Knew They Were Right, and Jacob Weisberg's, The Bush Tragedy.

He does a great job. The review's analytical and fair, and Garfinkle's no neocon. But the most important section comes near the end of the piece, where he puts Bush's efforts in Iraq in analytical and counterfactual perspective:

Years from now, when historians work on advanced drafts of the Bush legacy, they may well conclude that the Iraq war, the failed "freedom agenda," and the White House's response to 9/11 compose its central contributions. But this is not certain. After all, judgments about historical epochs are, as the humorist S. J. Perelman once observed of the prospects for immortality, "subject to the caprice of the unborn." And even if these policies do turn out to be the main themes of the Bush presidency, they might look different a decade or so hence. For example, the conclusion of all three authors that the Iraq war and the collapsed freedom agenda make the Bush presidency a failure is premature. All three books were conceived before the surge in U.S. troop levels in Iraq improved security there. More broadly, who can possibly know now the long-term effects of current U.S. policy in the Middle East, any more than French observers in 1801 could accurately reckon the impact of Napoleon's botched adventures in Egypt? Yes, neoconservatives, flush with having been vindicated by the West's victory in the Cold War, lazily applied their creed to problems and places for which their experience was a poor guide. But who is to say that a third generation of neoconservatives, whose arrival Heilbrunn foresees, will not do better? Whatever they are called, and wherever they come from, there will be idealists in the United States' future.
Garfinkle argues that other Bush administration failures - such as the "retrograde" bureaucratic reforms following September 11 and the Katrina disaster of 2005 - will likely be way more important in forthcoming historical assessments of the Bush adminstration's legacy.

He may be right, but I must admit being surprised that his review wasn't one more canned denunciation of that "evil neocon cabal" who hijacked American foreign policy to implement the "greatest military blunder" in history.

We've seen plenty of such hack jobs in the past (
Garfinkle himself has tended that way occasionally), and more are coming out all the time.

See some of my earlier posts on neoconservatism, here, here, here, here, and here.

Americans Credit Bush Administration with Keeping Country Safe

A new Pew Research survey finds continued improvements in public support for the Iraq war, and a majority credits the Bush administration with keeping the country safe from another terrorist attack:

Opinions about progress toward specific objectives, such as defeating the insurgents and reducing civilian casualties, also have become much more positive. In addition, the proportion saying the United States is making progress in preventing a civil war in Iraq has approximately doubled in the past year (from 18% to 35%), though a greater percentage (49%) still says the United States is losing ground in preventing civil war.

Despite the more positive outlook, the balance of opinion about the decision to take military action in Iraq is about the same now as it was a year ago. A majority (54%) says the war was the wrong decision, while 38% say it was the right decision. The balance of opinion on whether the war was right is nearly identical to what it was in February 2007 (54% wrong vs. 40% right).

Democrats hold a significant advantage as the party better able to handle Iraq, and have even larger leads on nearly every other issue. By 47%-37%, more people say the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party is better able to make wise decisions about Iraq. Notably, a majority (53%) also says the Democrats are better able to handle the economy, which has become the leading issue in the presidential campaign. Terrorism is the only issue on which the Republican Party holds even a modest lead (45% to 38%); however, its advantage on dealing with the terrorist threat was approximately twice as great during the 2004 campaign.

In this regard, the poll finds a majority of the public giving the Bush administration credit for preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S. in recent years. More than six-in-ten Americans say the policies and actions Bush has pursued have had a great deal (28%) or fair amount (34%) to do with keeping America safe.
It's noteworthy that while the public picks the Democrats in responding to generic questions about handling Iraq, in trial heat matchups for the general election, John McCain defeats both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (see "Public Favors McCain Over Democrats").

It's no slam dunk for the Democrats in '08.

Military Cautions Against New President's Policy Shift

Top military officials are raising flags concerning a possible precipitous withdrawal from Iraq under the next presidential administration.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Taking note of the debate over the Iraq war in the presidential race, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Pentagon officials in a town hall meeting Thursday that the military must be prepared to change policy and carry out the wishes of the next president.

But at a news conference afterward, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen cautioned against policies that include a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, saying leaving too quickly would undermine recent security gains.

"I do worry about a rapid withdrawal," said Mullen, who serves as the top military advisor to the president.

Mullen would not specify what he considered too fast. "I am talking about a withdrawal that would be so fast that it would leave us in a chaotic situation, that the gains we have made would be lost," he said.

In the session with members of the Joint Staff, the primary planning organization in the Pentagon, Mullen said it was crucial for the military to remain apolitical. The uniformed military and the Joint Staff must be a "solid foundation" in the transition between the Bush administration and its successor, Mullen told them.

Both of the Democratic presidential candidates back accelerated troop withdrawals. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she would pull out up to two brigades a month. Sen. Barack Obama has supported a similar pace of reductions.

Military leaders have been more cautious. Mullen's predecessor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, said the military could safely withdraw one brigade a month. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, is more cautious still.

Petraeus has been withdrawing brigades sent last year as part of the U.S. troop buildup, but the reductions have come slowly and he has proposed a pause in further withdrawals in July, when the troops sent as part of the buildup are gone. He will make formal recommendations on troop levels in April.
This is an interesting development.

Mullen did not speak out against GOP frontrunner John McCain. While there's much talk about our "broken" armed services (especially the army), it's obvious that a hasty retreat from Iraq is not in the nation's or the military's interest.

Antiwar Left Seeks to Recreate Protests of 1968

Some in the antiwar movement are hoping for a '08 reprise to the summer of '68 protests at the Democratic National Convention, which was held in Chicago that year. The Politico's got the report:

A coalition of anti-war groups is vowing to protest this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Denver under the rubric “Re-create ’68,” prompting criticism from some on the left who are loath to revisit what they see as a disastrous time for both the anti-war movement and the Democratic Party.

Capping a year that saw the assassinations of both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the 1968 Democratic National Convention erupted in violence as thousands of Chicago police officers, supported by U.S. Army troops and National Guardsmen, battled in the streets with activists protesting the Vietnam War. Inside the convention hall, the Democrats chose as their presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey, who went on to lose the general election to Richard Nixon.

Re-create ’68?

“What’s the political calculation that speaks to them of the wisdom of civil disobedience — which means a massive media spectacle — on the brink of a Democratic campaign that could plausibly put a Democrat in the White House who’s committed to withdrawal from Iraq?” asked Todd Gitlin, an anti-Vietnam War activist who was at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. “If the objective is to put a belligerent Republican in the White House, they should keep up the good work.”

The “belligerent Republican” of whom Gitlin speaks will almost certainly be Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who spent the summer of 1968 as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Organizers acknowledge that their “Re-create ’68” moniker has been met with skepticism as they’ve toured the country to gin up support among fellow activists. “A lot of people of course associate it with the DNC of ’68 and react negatively,” said organizer Mark Cohen. But the point, Cohen said, isn’t to reproduce the violence associated with the 1968 convention, just the strong sense of countercultural protest that coalesced against the Vietnam War. “We don’t call ourselves ‘Re-create Chicago ’68,’” Cohen offered.
If antiwar radicals want to showcase their extremist views to a national television audience, by all means, let it rip.

The more examples of
hard-left extremist antics that are distributed, the better it will be to paint the Democrats as in the tank with the most nihilist forces on the fringe of left-wing popular culture.

The Anti-Military Left

Dr. Sanity discusses the recent controversy over military recruiting in Berkeley, California, "The Neo-Marxist Agenda of the Anti-Military Left":

On January 29 of this year, the Berkeley City Council called the US Marines "unwelcome", "uninvited", and told them to get out of their city. They authorized the radical group, Code Pink, to harass the local recruiting station by granting them a preferred parking space in front of the office and waiving any permits they might need for 6 months of 'activity'.

This sort of floridly anti-military and anti-American behavior on the part of the nut clusters on the political left seems to be a fairly frequent occurrance in this day and age. Berkeley happens to be one of the main players in these little psychodramas, but you can find the same sort of moral insanity wherever the species academicus pseudointellectualis runs rampant, i.e., in most university towns.

The same manics who espouse the "military oppresses and victimizes our children" meme--which was the Berkeley City Council's righteous explanation of their scurrilous behavior--will often rapidly shift into a somber depressive mode at a moment's notice and, as evidence of their devout "support of the troops", will tut tut about the terrible victimization of the poor, oppressed and helpless 'children' who serve in the U.S. military.
But see also Cinnamon Stillwell's recent piece at FrontPageMagazine, "Protesting an Anti-Terror Rally? Only in Berkeley":

As centerpiece for the rally and to bring the reality of terrorism closer to home, the wreckage of Jerusalem Bus #19, destroyed last year in a suicide bombing that killed 11 and wounded 45 passengers, was on display to show the horrors of terrorism up close. The back of the bus was completely blown away along with parts of the front roof. The interior of the bus was all burned and made any sensitive viewer understand the agony of those inside the bus that fateful day the attack occurred.

“Most of those passengers were simply people going to or from work,” Katz told the sympathetic crowd. A large portable mural displayed photos of many of those killed in over 50 suicide bombing attacks on buses in Israel.

700 people attended the rally to protest terrorism worldwide and listen to a diverse group of speakers representing different religious, ethnic, and political points of view. This was an event for Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Hindus, Christians and others who all joined that day to oppose terrorism worldwide. Even some of Berkeley’s homeless joined in. A large portable mural displayed photos of many of those killed in terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, the day was marred by the bellicose presence of protesters against the bus’s presence in Berkeley because it shows the world the damage that can be done by a suicide bomber. Word got out quickly and even before the rally officially began at noon, a crowd of 300 pro-Palestinian and radical communist and anarchist groups such as
International Answer and the International Socialist Organization showed up determined to disrupt the event. They gathered across the street to express their outrage that Jews, Christians, and other supporters of Israel and America had dared to gather and speak out against terrorism.

Groups such as the Justice in Palestine Coalition, Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), East Bay Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, and the International Solidarity Movement
(ISM) were present. Paul La Rudee, the leader of Norcal ISM who once wrote about his experiences sleeping in the bed of a suicide bomber , was also present as a leader. As evidence of just where the sympathies of Berkeley’s political establishment lay, Berkeley City Councilman Max Anderson was also part of the crowd.
Around 40 pro-Palestinian college students, the women wearing hijabs and the men sporting Arafat-style black and white checkered keffiyehs (in some cases covering their whole faces, terrorist-style), waved Palestinian flags and used bullhorns to chant “Down with Israel!” and “ Down with the U.S.A!.” They yelled “Free Palestine!” in an attempt to drown out the anti-terrorism speakers on the platform.

Members of San Francisco State University’s General Union of Palestinian Students and UC Berkeley’s Muslim Student Association also joined their ranks and became the most vocal and rowdy of the bunch. They unraveled a large banner reading “United States and Israel: Terrorists Against Humanity.”

One has to wonder at the logic of people who would protest a protest against world terrorism in the name of “humanity.” The demonstrators even brought small children who stood alongside them, shouting slogans and imitating their behavior.
Stillwell raises important issues, although I would disagree slightly on whether we should "wonder" about these types.

As I've noted repeatedly, hatred of the United States drives an implacable ideology that
celebrates suicide attacks on Americans and Iraqis, including those mounted by those thought to be mentally impaired. These are the same folks who'll use any inkling of abuse or civilian casualties to paint the United States are the greatest threat to human rights in history.

This is not something that should be swept under the rug as a "fringe" movement.

Anti-American ideology has long-disrupted the ability of U.S. military recruiters to attract young Americans seeking to serve their country, and the antiwar war forces lobbying the Democrats in Congress and along the campaign trail will not rest until the U.S makes an unconditional retreat from Iraq.

First-Time Vietnamese Voters Registering Democrat

California's Orange County Vietnamese community, the largest in the country, has been a reliably Republican stronghold since the late-1970s.

But as this morning's Los Angeles Times indicates, younger voters are showing less allegiance to the GOP:

Since they first began arriving in the U.S. after fleeing Vietnam's communist regime in the 1970s, Vietnamese immigrants -- much like the Cuban refugees who settled in Florida -- have developed a political profile that is almost monolithically Republican, identifying with the party's historic anti-Communist stance.

Now, after years in which they were eclipsed by their more dominant Republican counterparts, Vietnamese Democrats are beginning to emerge in Orange County, home to the nation's largest Vietnamese American community with a population of more than 150,000.

Republicans continue to outnumber Democrats nearly 2 to 1 in Little Saigon, and the vast majority of elected Vietnamese politicians are Republicans. Few political experts in either party expect that Tran will defeat his GOP rivals for the supervisor's seat.

But for the first time, registration of new Vietnamese voters as Democrats is outpacing Republicans in Orange County, and the number of newly registered Republicans has declined.

The widening political bandwidth is a sign of change in the Vietnamese American community, where the agenda -- once sharply and nearly exclusively focused on foreign affairs -- now includes domestic issues such as poverty, healthcare and Social Security.

"For so long, there has been a one-party monopoly in the Vietnamese community," said Kim Oanh Nguyen-Lam, who became the first Vietnamese Democrat elected in Orange County in 2004 as a Garden Grove school board member. "We Democrats are coming out of the shadow."
They've got a long way to go. Vietnamese GOP registration in the county is nearly double to that of Democrats.

Still, times are clearly changing. The power of anti-Communism is declining as a salient voting issue, and domestic concerns have increased in importance.

But like Cuban-Americans in Florida, California's Vietnamese-Americans are fiercely patriotic, and I'm skeptical that the Democratic Party will make inroads with the group's more traditional constituencies.

Exclusive Role of Dollar Under Pressure Amid Market Instability

Today's Wall Street Journal argues that that U.S. dollar's facing increasing downward pressure, a trend that's rekindled questions about the greenback's historic role as the world's reserve currency (here and here):

Beaten down by fears of a U.S. recession, the dollar is falling with new speed -- creating severe challenges not just for the U.S., but also for sugar traders in Brazil, central bankers in the Persian Gulf and a host of others.

On Thursday, the dollar sank to a new record low against the euro, deepening a six-year slide in which it has fallen more than 40% versus the European currency and more than 20% against a broader basket of currencies. In late trading in New York, one euro fetched about $1.52, just two days after it surged through the symbolically important level of $1.50.

The latest impetus: economic data in the past three days showing a softening U.S. labor market, deepening turmoil in housing, and growth in 2007 slowing to the worst pace in five years. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke put more pressure on the dollar during testimony before Congress yesterday, emphasizing gloomy prospects for the economy while pointing to the weak dollar as a rare bright spot helping exports, jobs and the trade deficit.

The greenback's biggest detractors -- a small but growing group -- say the currency is in danger of eventually losing its place as the world's dominant currency. Jim Rogers, a well-known commodity investor and a former partner of famed currency trader George Soros, has a particularly bleak assessment: "The dollar is a terribly flawed currency and its days are numbered," he said in a recent interview. He cited the U.S.'s huge foreign-held debt as the biggest cause.

Yet for all of the gloom, the world is unready to let go of America's unloved dollar. Akin to the way Microsoft's often-criticized Windows operating system remains indispensable to the majority of computer users, the dollar remains the common language of finance, the medium of exchange in everything from sugar to wheat to oil.

Shaking the dollar loose from that place would require a vast reworking of the global financial system that few parties seem prepared to confront. It is far from certain that the dollar will continue to decline. But if it does, businesses and policy makers around the world could be wrestling with the problems created by their dependence on it for many years.
Keep in mind that U.S. world monetary leadership's been threatened many times in the post-World War II era.

As Robert Gilpin, whose The Political Economy of International Relations is the standard textbook in the field, noted with reference to earlier "dollar crises":

With the dollar providing the base of the monetary system, the United States has been able to fight foreign wars, to maintain troops abroad, and to finance its hegemonic position without placing substantial economic costs on the American taxpayer and thereby lowering the American standard of living. The crucial role of the dollar and the "extravagant privileges," to use the term of Charles de Gaulle, that it has conferred on the United States has required a foreign partner to help support the dollar. In the contemporary era [1980s], this task has fallen to the Japanese and their immense capital outflows to the United States. U.S. financial dependence on Japan and the growing interdependence of the Nichibei economy is a major theme of this book.
Gilpin's a realist, so his concern is how the U.S. can maintain its status as global hegemon and continue providing the international public goods of economic stability, market access, military security.

Are we in a new era, with the collapsing dollar, in which our
major creditor nations will abandon dollar holdings, pushing a new currency as a new standard of international monetary exchange?

I doubt it.

China's holding roughly a trillion in U.S. dollars, and
critics of the American economy (especially leftists) routinely talk of the "Chinese stranglehold on America," the collapse of the U.S. standard of living, and the sellout of the American worker to Beijing. That's hyperbole (and a little America-bashing). We're not at risk of losing our dominant position, even amid current world financial volatility. Are the world's traders ready to stake their national economies on the renminbi?

Daniel Drezner noted recently:

American consumer and capital markets are still the primary engine of global economic growth....

Two decades ago international-relations scholars were enmeshed in a debate about American decline. Replace China with Japan, and the current gnashing of teeth sounds like a replay of debates from the 1980s. Over the long term, however, the demographic and economic vitality of the American economy is difficult to dispute compared with possible peer competitors. For decades to come, the United States will be first among equals. So don't believe the hype. By most measures, the United States is still the hegemon.
This is not to say we don't have problems, or that global market jitters are insignificant. Rather, until the deep cultural and institutional affinities to the dollar give way at the central banks around the world, we're not likely to witness an end of America's "extravagant privilege" any time soon.

Number of Male Public School Teachers Reaches 40-Year Low

Via Dr. Helen, "Percentage of Male Teachers Hits 40-Year Low":

An MSN article notes that male teachers continue to take a nosedive...:

According to statistics recently released by the National Education Association (NEA), men made up just 24.4 percent of the total number of teachers in 2006. In fact, the number of male public school teachers in the U.S. has hit a record 40-year low. Arkansas, at 17.5 percent, and Mississippi, with 17.7 percent, have the lowest percentage of male teachers, while Kansas, at 33.3 percent, and Oregon, with 31.4 percent, boast the largest percentage of men leading the classroom....

Why the downward trend in male teaching? According to Bryan Nelson, founder of MenTeach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to recruiting male teachers, research suggests three key reasons for the shortage of male teachers: low status and pay, the perception that teaching is "women's work," and the fear of accusation of child abuse. Many men once in the profession say they quit because of worries that innocuous contact with students could be misconstrued, reports the NEA.

Many men once in the profession say they quit because of worries that innocuous contact with students could be misconstrued, reports the NEA.
In addition to worrying about being called a pervert, men also face discrimination in the interview process, according to the article:

For men thinking of heading into education, Nelson offered hard-won advice: Be persistent. Get practical experience first. Look for resources to help you get through school, and, when applying for a job, make sure you have thick skin. "People will ask you inappropriate questions," he said, recalling a recent e-mail he received from an aspiring male teacher who was asked during a job interview, "Why would any healthy male want to work with kids?"

In such situations, Nelson suggests stressing the positive aspects of having a man in the classroom. "When kids see [a man] in front of them on a daily basis, it helps to contradict negative stereotypes," Nelson said.
So men are told to get a thick skin, get used to handling "inappropriate questions," and learn to contradict negative sterotypes. In other words, if men are discriminated against, it is up to them to deal with the fall-out and to change negative steroptypes and to expect no help from other people. So men are guilty unless proven otherwise.
I've hesitated from posting on this issue, frankly, for some of the very issues raised in the post - it just feels strange even discussing the topic, and I'm a professor!

I have small kids - my youngest is in kindergarten - so I can understand the fears at the parental level. My oldest boy didn't have a male teacher until 5th grade, and, actually, I appreciate the change in teaching style (more of the "old-school" emphasis common among some older men).

But sure, just the thought of men around kids, especially young chidren, raises many sensitive fears for parents. It's a "masculophobia" of male teachers, it seems, which has discriminatory effects.

Who Do You Want Answering the Phone? Or, Be Very Afraid of the Clintons!

"Who do you want answering the phone?" That's the soft, subliminal scare language evident in Hillary Clinton's new campaign ad, via YouTube:

This is an interesting strategy, especially since the GOP was attacked mercilessly for their "wolves" ad from the Bush/Cheney campaign of 2004 (via YouTube):

Frankly, Hillary's ad's even more subliminally diabolical, since it implies the real wolves of today's terrorist evil are readying to pounce on those childhood innocents on the video screen.

Hillary's obviously not throwing in the towel on her campaign. If she doesn't win Ohio or Texas next week, what should we expect, a graceful exit from the race?

Dont' count on it. Here's Dan Schnur's argument to be afraid, very afraid, of the Clintons:

If it’s not the first rule of Republican politics, it should be: never, ever, ever underestimate anybody whose last name is Clinton. Not Bill, not Hillary. Not Chelsea, not even George. They’re very good at what they do, and when they’re about to be written off for dead, that’s when they’re at their very best....

When Hillary Clinton decided to run for president, I promised myself I would not be fooled again. As an equally loyal fan of the Republican Party and of the Green Bay Packers football team, I had come to regard the Clintons the same way I’ve always thought about the Dallas Cowboys. I don’t like them. I root against them. I want them to lose and occasionally find myself wanting bad things to happen to them. But they are very good at what they do. And if someone can knock them out in the playoffs — whether it’s the New York Giants or a senator from Illinois — I’m just as happy not to have to go up against them when the stakes are at their highest.

Yes, they are very good. Fom Hillary choking up at a New Hampshire campaign breakfast to Bill Clinton smearing Barack Obama as the next Jesse Jackson, you have to watch out for these two.

Schnur focuses on Hillary's electability in November, suggesting this is the greater threat than an Obama campaign:

Most of my fellow Republicans, consumed with 16 years of Hillary hatred and awestruck by Senator Obama’s political skills, are still hoping Senator Clinton can come back and claim her party’s nomination. Only she, they think, can unify the Republicans and mobilize our voters to the polls in November.

But I’ve been burned by the Clintons too many times before, so I’m rooting for the new guy from Illinois to take her out in the playoffs next week. Forgive me for holding off on the eulogies, but I’d just as soon wait until Wednesday morning before performing last rites on the Clinton-for-president campaign.

See also, Ben Smith's post on Clinton's 'Who do you want answering the phone?" ad. Expect more of this subliminalism if she the Democratic nominee this fall.

Battle for the Republican Vote in Texas

While John McCain mounts an effort to woo the conservative base in Texas, Barack Obama's reaching out to "Obamacans" - Republicans who might cross over to vote for the charismatic Democratic frontrunner.

Here's the
Dallas Morning News on McCain's outreach:

John McCain was on a mission Thursday in Texas – consolidate the Republican base and frame the November election on his terms.

Far ahead of rival Mike Huckabee in delegates and the polls, Mr. McCain has taken advantage of the lack of meaningful primary competition to highlight the differences between himself and the eventual Democratic nominee.

And while he mentioned both Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton by name, his sharpest criticism was aimed at the Illinois senator in what sounded like a rehearsal for the general election campaign.

"Senator Obama has, according to the National Journal, the most liberal record in the U.S. Senate," said Mr. McCain, who took his three-day Texas swing Thursday to a town hall meeting at Texas Instruments Inc.

In a twist on the current campaign narrative, the 71-year-old opened a new line of attack – accusing Mr. Obama of dwelling on the past while he is focused on the future.

Of Mr. Obama's criticism that America should never have gone to war against Iraq, Mr. McCain said: "That's history, that's the past."

"What we should be talking about is what we're going to be doing now," he told 600 workers gathered in a large manufacturing hall festooned with flags and orange Texas Instruments banners.
The Washinton Wire has the background on Obama's crossover appeal to Lone Star Republicans:

MSNBC’s Alex Johnson looks at looks at a secret weapon for Sen. Barack Obama in Texas: Republicans who say they’re going to cross over to vote for him in the Democratic primary. Obama, Johnson notes, often says in his speeches that Republicans come up to him and whisper that they are supporting him. “If the latest polling data are to be believed, those Republicans aren’t whispering in Texas, where 195 of the 228 delegates the state will send to the Democratic National Convention will be chosen in a primary and caucuses Tuesday,” Johnson writes. “As many as a tenth of the Texans voting in the Democratic contests could be Republicans, and overwhelmingly they favor Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, the polls show.” Some, he says, genuinely like Obama; some dislike Sen. Hillary Clinton so much they’ll vote for another Democrat next Tuesday just to stop her.

Also commenting on Obama’s ties to Republicans,
The Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne takes a look at the similarities between Obama and Ronald Reagan. Both were criticized by opposing campaigns that charged that the candidates had nothing more than oratory skills. Both faced concerns about their ability to handle foreign policy. Both endured complaints that they wouldn’t achieve bipartisanship - Obama will reveal himself as a “big, bad liberal” and Reagan as a right-wing extremist. But the electorate wanted a change in 1980 and they took a risk to achieve it. And they’re doing it again this year. “Now is the time to go for broke, to challenge not only the ruling party but also the governing ideas of the previous political era and the political coalition that allowed them to dominate public life,” Dionne writes.
Will those same Republicans now looking to Obama in the Texas primary stick with him in November, assuming he's the nominee?

Obama Republicans... today's Reagan Democrats?

Doesn't have to same ring to it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

U.S. Will Succeed in Iraq, Poll Finds

I've long noted that public opinion on Iraq is far more complicated that the standard left-wing line that Americans want to "bring the troops home."

Indeed, not only are claims of a public demand for withdrawal unsupported, a
recent Pew Research poll finds that a majority of 53 percent of Americans sees the United States ultimately prevailing in the conflict. Here's some background from Hot Air:

In case you were wondering why the Democrats are running from this debate, it’s because the more public opinion shifts, the more their willingness to abandon Iraq looks less like a “realist” exit strategy than calculated defeatism. Even so, note how inelastic most of the results are despite the security gains (especially in Anbar). The microresults show impressive shifts — click the image and follow the link to see double digit swings in the “Growing Perceptions of Iraq Progress” graph — but the baseline results below are static. I wonder why.
Here's the Pew summary of results:

Public perceptions of the situation in Iraq have become significantly more positive over the past several months, even as opinions about the initial decision to use military force remain mostly negative and unchanged.

The number of Americans who say the military effort is going very or fairly well is much higher now than a year ago (48% vs. 30% in February 2007). There has been a smaller positive change in the number who believe that the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals (now 53%, up from 47% in February 2007).
The polls have been moving in the right direction since last summer, but you wouldn't know it from the journalistic coverage.

Here's the Economist's latest on McCain, for example:

The success of the surge has done almost nothing to reduce Americans' desire to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.
This meme on the "demand" for withdrawal will continue, and I'll continue to debunk it.

War Goes Glam? Angelina Jolie Rejects Iraq Retreat

Recall Daniel Drezner's recent point about celebrities and world politics:

IT IS TRUE that star activism can influence the global policy agenda. But as we’ve seen, when it comes to concrete achievements, celebrities have a spotty track record.
Not only that:

Celebrity activism rubs many policymakers and pundits the wrong way.
So, with that, what do we make of Angelina Jolie's rejection of antiwar demands for a precipitous retreat from Iraq? Jolie make the case for a long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq on humanitarian grounds:

The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home."

But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country.

In the six months since my previous visit to Iraq with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this humanitarian crisis has not improved. However, during the last week, the United States, UNHCR and the Iraqi government have begun to work together in new and important ways.

We still don't know exactly how many Iraqis have fled their homes, where they've all gone, or how they're managing to survive. Here is what we do know: More than 2 million people are refugees inside their own country -- without homes, jobs and, to a terrible degree, without medicine, food or clean water. Ethnic cleansing and other acts of unspeakable violence have driven them into a vast and very dangerous no-man's land. Many of the survivors huddle in mosques, in abandoned buildings with no electricity, in tents or in one-room huts made of straw and mud. Fifty-eight percent of these internally displaced people are younger than 12 years old.

An additional 2.5 million Iraqis have sought refuge outside Iraq, mainly in Syria and Jordan. But those host countries have reached their limits. Overwhelmed by the refugees they already have, these countries have essentially closed their borders until the international community provides support....

The Iraqi families I've met on my trips to the region are proud and resilient. They don't want anything from us other than the chance to return to their homes -- or, where those homes have been bombed to the ground or occupied by squatters, to build new ones and get back to their lives. One thing is certain: It will be quite a while before Iraq is ready to absorb more than 4 million refugees and displaced people. But it is not too early to start working on solutions. And last week, there were signs of progress.

In Baghdad, I spoke with Army Gen. David Petraeus about UNHCR's need for security information and protection for its staff as they re-enter Iraq, and I am pleased that he has offered that support. General Petraeus also told me he would support new efforts to address the humanitarian crisis "to the maximum extent possible" -- which leaves me hopeful that more progress can be made.

UNHCR is certainly committed to that. Last week while in Iraq, High Commissioner Antonio Guterres pledged to increase UNHCR's presence there and to work closely with the Iraqi government, both in assessing the conditions required for return and in providing humanitarian relief....

Today's humanitarian crisis in Iraq -- and the potential consequences for our national security -- are great. Can the United States afford to gamble that 4 million or more poor and displaced people, in the heart of Middle East, won't explode in violent desperation, sending the whole region into further disorder?

What we cannot afford, in my view, is to squander the progress that has been made.

Now that's an interesting development!

While Jolie states she's "not an expert," humanitarian activism's brought her around to the
longstanding expert position that a U.S. cut-and-run from the deployment would be a disaster: It's fantasy to think that "our exiting Iraq would leave us better off, when in all likelihood it would fan the flames of jihadism."

See also Anthony Cordesman, "
Victory and Violence in Iraq: Reducing the "Irreducible Minimum."

Jolie and the experts start off at different points on the spectrum, but they all end up at a point of consensus on the importance of American's commitment to the Iraqi people (humanitarian and strategic).

Perhaps this will be
a case of celebrity interest in world politics that works to make a difference.

Race, Identity Sensitive Issues in Campaign '08

With the McCain campaign's recent mini-controversy over a supporter's introductory remarks at a town hall rally stressing Barak Obama's middle name, it looks as though a new era of top-level racial senstitivity has arrived:

The Los Angeles Times has the story:

When John McCain apologized to Barack Obama this week for the comments of his warm-up act at a rally, it was not the first time -- and probably won't be the last -- that the most competitive black presidential candidate in U.S. history has heard the words, "I'm sorry."

In his yearlong quest to win the White House, the Democratic senator from Illinois has changed the rules of political engagement, forcing his rivals to step delicately in a normally no-holds-barred arena.

As the possibility grows that voters may bestow the nation's highest public office on an African American, serial public apologies -- largely by Democrats -- show just how sensitive race remains. What is less clear is how race could help or hinder Obama, who has struggled to keep it in the background.

If current or future opponents focus on Obama's race, it could help them by playing on some voters' racial prejudice, or it could help Obama if he is seen as a sympathetic victim of his rivals' insensitivity.
Hey, what happened to the "Obama's Bradley effect?"

I thought race was supposed drag down black candidates at the polls, not give them an advantage? Maybe there's a "
Reverse Bradley Effect" working to give black candidates an edge, since questions of race can't be raised for fears of allegations of insensitivity. Boy, it's tough to run a campaign these days...

And don't even get me going about religion!

Throughout Obama's campaign, foes have invoked his middle name as a kind of dual-use code word to remind voters of his African ancestry and call into question his Christian faith.

McCain had not arrived at the rally in time to hear Cunningham's remarks. Asked whether Obama's middle name -- a family name of Arab descent -- was appropriate fodder for political discourse, McCain said, "No, it is not. . . . I absolutely repudiate such comments."
Now, seriously, McCain made the right call on the "Hussein" smear, simply because Obama's not Muslim and he's got no ties to international Islamic terrorism.

Domestic terrorism another story, however. Will
Obama's ties to former Chicago Weathermen be off the table of reasonable campaign challenges and debate?

Geez, it's getting to be so that a guy can't raise old-fashioned questions of character these days, not to mention sling a little mud!

Blog Posts Lead to Japanese Murder Suspect's Arrest

Because I blog on controversial topics, I never post personal information, family pictures, or specific travel itineraries. It's enough that I'm a public blogger, not to mention that I've had serious threats against my safety on more than one occasion.

Thus, given
the often rough nature of online publishing, I'd expect bloggers to use that kind of caution.

I guess that's not so in the case of Kazuyoshi Miura, a Japanese national wanted for the suspect murder of his wife in Los Angeles 27 years ago.
The Los Angeles Times has the story:
In the end, it was his own Internet blog that helped Los Angeles detectives nab Kazuyoshi Miura.

The Japanese businessman was wanted for allegedly hiring a gunman to shoot his 28-year-old wife, Kazumi, on a downtown Los Angeles street 27 years ago. Miura, who was wounded in the attack, made it appear to be a random crime, fanning Japanese fears of a city known for its street violence.

Miura was arrested Friday while trying to leave Saipan, a popular tourist destination in the Pacific north of Guam. He had remained in the sights of the Los Angeles Police Department as a generation of homicide investigators came and went.

The 60-year-old suspect spent 13 years in Japanese prison after being convicted in that country of attempted murder for an earlier attack on his wife in a Little Tokyo hotel in Los Angeles. He was also convicted in Japan for the murder of his wife, but the case was overturned on appeal.

Miura, who was charged here with murder two decades ago, had remained out of the reach of Los Angeles police and prosecutors until the persistence of retired police Lt. Jimmy Sakoda and other detectives finally paid off, officials told The Times.

For the last two years, police had been monitoring a blog written by Miura, who had become a crime sensation in Japan because of saturation media coverage of his case. In recent blog postings, he spoke of his international travel plans, including a possible trip to Saipan.

Sakoda, who worked with Japanese authorities in their prosecution of Miura, had maintained contact with his international counterparts and immigration officials in Saipan, according to Det. Rick Jackson of the LAPD's Cold Case Homicide Unit.

When Jackson got a call last year from Sakoda about the blog postings, detectives alerted Immigration and Customs officials in Guam and Saipan, both U.S. territories, to be on the lookout for Miura.

On Friday, immigration agents caught Miura as he was preparing to leave the island for Japan. The arrest culminated a case that has spanned three decades and has become one of the most sensational crimes in Japanese history -- that nation's version of the O.J. Simpson case.

"It was just a matter of wait and see," Jackson said of the final push to catch Miura. "If he left [Japan], and whether things would work out with our liaisons in other countries."

Miura, who has repeatedly denied involvement in his wife's murder, is awaiting extradition back to Los Angeles.

Additional details on the case will be discussed this afternoon at a City Hall news conference. Officials said that, based on recent court decisions, prosecuting Miura again in Los Angeles in his wife's murder does not violate the ban against legal double jeopardy.
Well, it's safe to say Miura didn't have time to make guest-blogger arrangments. Extented vacations can be murder on blog traffic.

The Search for the Next Dayton Housewife

Karlyn Bowman and Ruy Teixeira provide an intereting analysis of this year's election demographics, at the Wall Street Journal:

Ben Wattenberg and Richard Scammon introduced us to the Dayton housewife in their famous 1970 book, "The Real Majority." She was blue-collar and from middle America. She was middle aged and her views were moderate. Since their pioneering work, analysts, pundits and soothsayers have followed in hot pursuit, looking for the group holding the keys to the next presidential election.

In recent years, angry white men, soccer moms and Nascar dads have joined their Dayton housewife. Today's leading contender for the Democrats appears to be waitress moms.

There's usually some truth to the political shorthand, but only some. Soccer moms, supposedly college-educated women with children who lived in the suburbs, were 1996's great political icon. But most suburban women are not college educated, large numbers do not have children, and together those two groups were more important in that election than their college-educated cousins. This fact was lost in the buzz.

Still, the evolution of American politics is bound up with demographic and geographic change. So what are the trends to watch in 2008? A number of them will be examined today at an American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution conference featuring leading demographers and geographers.

The authors highlight a number of changing trends in the electorate:

    • Hispanic voters are becoming increasingly important.
    • Evangelicals are an important, but not overwhelming, force.
    • The influence married voters have on elections is declining.
    • The suburbs are the contested terrain.
    • America's shifting class structure has reduced the white working class's political role.
    • People are becoming increasingly likely to live close to those who look, act and think like them.
The discussion of married voters caught my attention:

Married voters typically vote solidly Republican and married voters with children even more so. But their representation in the national electorate is waning, as are some values to which these groups have traditionally been linked. According to Tom Smith of the National Opinion Research Center, two-parent families with kids at home were 23% of the population in 2006, down from 45% in 1972. The proportion of never-married adults rose to nearly a quarter of the electorate between 1972 and 2006, up from 15%. Overall, never-married, divorced, or widowed women are now a narrow majority of adult women, and unmarried households are now a majority of the nation's households. The growing, unmarried slice of the electorate is tilting Democratic.

That's a striking figure for "familied" couples with children. Married couple recently slipped to minority status in Census statisics on the American demography, but the number of married without children is pushing nearly 2 in 10 of the population.

Certainly that's an advantageous demographic trend for the Democrats, as those identifying as members of non-traditional family structures increasingly find themselves on the left side of the political divide.

I guess some of those Dayton housewives we might find'll be childless.

Abu Ghraib Makes a Comeback

There's a bit of a buzz today with the release of new, "disturbing" photographs from Abu Ghraib, the Baghdad Correctional Facility where cases of abuse and mistreatment of prisoners in 2004 created a firestorm of far-left wing condemnation of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq.

Are these new photos significant?

Of course the first batch of images were disturbing, especially as they represented the actions of rogue service personnel who in no way represented
the U.S. military's increasingly powerful ethic of compliance with the laws of war and principles of non-combatant immunity.

But check out the take on this at
They're being plugged as disturbing. Maybe I'll be disturbed by the fact the New York Times now has seven months of fresh material leading up to the election.

I figure they can't keep making up stores about John McCain, so this will give them cause to just keep bashing Bush.
Fresh material alright.

The left's already scrambling to put out the renewed meme arguing that the ultimate font of terror in the world resides in Washington and its wars of imperial agression:

Here's this from The Impolitic:

Frankly, I'm not as disturbed by the images of torture and mayhem perpetrated by American "warriors" as by some of the public response you can see at where Abu Ghraib photos have been published. It's the ones that argue "this is a war and in a war. . ." and the ones that say "but these are Muslims and they would be happy to eat your children, yada, yada" that make me most ashamed to have any association with this self righteous and evil nation. They've made me evil too; Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld and their puppet George Bush. I'm part of it because all I do is complain. I don't risk losing my life to end it, nor even my freedom. All I do is blog and go about my life of comfort and safety.

I got a video in my e-mail yesterday. I don't know whether it was staged or real, but it showed some US military personnel walking through an airport while people stood up and applauded. No one could have been thinking of the archive of pictures on view at They aren't returning from a parade ground, but from hell and a hell the United States of America created with eagerness and enthusiasm and lies.Men with plastic bags on their heads being beaten, smiling "warriors" posing with corpses, a man's severed penis in a mousetrap, blood and pain and shit; these are things many Americans think "you do in a war" even though you started the war and of course anyone caught up in the grinder is promoted to the ranks of the "terrorists" who bombed New York even though they didn't.

So clap when you see our soldiers; I'm sure nearly all of them are good people, but don't call them warriors. Warriors take scalps, soldiers are responsible for their actions. Warriors represent themselves, soldiers represent us and when there's blood on their hands, it's on our hands too and remember, when John McCain tries to tell you this is noble, this is about protecting your sainted mother, your back yard barbecue and your civil rights - it isn't. It's about water up the nose, the cattle prod up the ass, bloody teeth spilling out like corn from a popper; it's about rape, about shit and piss and blood on the floor being wiped up with the flag we're supposed to worship like some tawdry pagan idol.

It's about millions of homeless innocents, about a lost generation of uneducated children brought up in terror and squalor and hate. It's about people whose crime was fighting for their homes being tortured like John McCain who once was tortured by those whose homes and children he was destroying. It's about evil. It's about me and about you justifying it all by just calling it war.
The Impolitic's low traffic profile among the nihilist left-blogosphere belies its consistency as a template of the most hardened anti-Americanism among the antiwar, multiculturalist Bush-bashing hordes.

This is the blog
that applaued the story of al Qaeda's rumored deployment of women suicide bombers believed to have Down's syndrome, praising the terrorists for their "brilliant" military adaptation against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

But to summarize, the abuse at Abu Graib was a reprehensible violation of America's commitment to the international law and norms of human rights protection in wartime.

Criminal prosecutions of the perpetrators followed, however, resulting in the convictions of eleven lower-ranking soldiers accused of committing physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Abu Ghraib detainees.

Bullying Protectionists: Democrats on Trade

This Wall Street Journal editorial highlights a key international relations election issue that's been out of the media glare with so much talk about Iraq: Will the next president expand America's historic commitment to free trade, global markets, and the internationalization of economic opportunity?

The answer's less clear on the Democratic side:

Democrats claim the world hates America because President Bush has behaved like a global bully. But we don't recall him ever ordering an ally to rewrite an existing agreement on American terms -- or else.

Yet that's exactly what both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are now promising to do to our closest neighbors, Mexico and Canada. At their Ohio debate on Tuesday, first Mrs. Clinton, followed ever so quickly by Mr. Obama, pledged to pull America out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if the two countries don't agree to rewrite it on Yankee terms. How's that for global "unilateralism"?

Democrats sure have come a long way from the 1990s, when Bill Clinton pushed Nafta through a Democratic Congress. And the truth is that both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have spoken favorably about Nafta in the past. Yet now they are sounding the loudest protectionist notes by a potential President in decades. More dangerous, neither is telling the truth about the role of trade in the U.S. economy. If either one makes it to the White House, he or she will carry the weight of this campaign protectionism while trying to lead the global economy.
Protectionism has been an important theme throughout the campaign. See my earlier post, "Iowa Voters Jittery on Trade Policy."

But the gains from trade remain largely uncontroversial among economists.

But note further WSJ's editorial, which highlights the gains to both Canada and Mexico from the North America Free Trade Agreement.

Especially interesting here is Barack Obama's statements on trade. He campaigned as a free trader in earlier phases of his political career. Now he wants to roll back America's commitment to free international markets: He's like John Kerry on trade policy: He was for trade liberalization before he was against it.

The World After George W. Bush

What will the world be like in 2009, after George W. Bush exits the presidency? Not a bad place, but challenges remain, according to Victor David Hanson:

When President George Bush leaves office, will America once again be liked by most of the world? Not necessarily, since most current problems are either already getting better or not our fault.

When the next president takes office in January 2009, he or she will be confronted by a world that either understandably appreciates America or for self-interested reasons will challenge it.

On the positive side, the new president will see a Middle East without the Taliban in charge in Afghanistan or Saddam Hussein ruling Iraq. A stabilizing constitutional Iraq should result in a steadily diminishing American presence there.

In Europe, the French under Nicolas Sarkozy and the Germans under Angela Merkel will remain pro-American. But they will also expect continued American leadership. Both may talk grandly of the Atlantic Alliance, but in real terms they do little to help us in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Most of Africa likewise is already friendly to the United States. And why not? President Bush extended more humanitarian aid to combat African hunger and disease than any president in our history.

But what of our enemies? Won't adversaries back off when the Christian cowboy George Bush rides back to Texas -- and we have a kinder, gentler commander-in-chief who offers hope, or at least change, to the world?


There are plenty of problems that both antedated George Bush and are likely to continue well after he's left office.
These problems include authoritarianism in Russia, which preceded the Bush administration, and Iran's nuclear challenge, which will be here for as long as it takes to disarm the mad mullahs in Tehran.

For more on the world after Bush, see "
A New Middle East, After All: What George W. Bush Hath Wrought."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Raises Questions

I was born overseas at a U.S. military hospital, so I've often thought about John McCain's "natural born" status under the U.S. Constitution (Art. II, Sec. 1) and his qualifications for the presidency.

McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, and his eligibility is being questioned, as this New York Times story indicates:

The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.

Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.

Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.

“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”

Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a Navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that Mr. McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.

But given mounting interest, the campaign recently asked Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general now advising Mr. McCain, to prepare a detailed legal analysis. “I don’t have much doubt about it,” said Mr. Olson, who added, though, that he still needed to finish his research.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of Mr. McCain’s closest allies, said it would be incomprehensible to him if the son of a military member born in a military station could not run for president.

“He was posted there on orders from the United States government,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. McCain’s father. “If that becomes a problem, we need to tell every military family that your kid can’t be president if they take an overseas assignment.”

The phrase “natural born” was in early drafts of the Constitution. Scholars say notes of the Constitutional Convention give away little of the intent of the framers. Its origin may be traced to a letter from John Jay to George Washington, with Jay suggesting that to prevent foreigners from becoming commander in chief, the Constitution needed to “declare expressly” that only a natural-born citizen could be president.

Ms. Duggin and others who have explored the arcane subject in depth say legal argument and basic fairness may indeed be on the side of Mr. McCain, a longtime member of Congress from Arizona. But multiple experts and scholarly reviews say the issue has never been definitively resolved by either Congress or the Supreme Court.

Ms. Duggin favors a constitutional amendment to settle the matter. Others have called on Congress to guarantee that Americans born outside the national boundaries can legitimately see themselves as potential contenders for the Oval Office.
Well, McCain's not Arnold Schwarzenegger (who's Austrian born and widely considered ineligible), but it does sound that McCain's case could really create the demand for a definitive answer to the question.


UPDATE: Captain Ed provides a pretty good response:

It’s a slam-dunk to the millions of military families whose service to this country should have left then with no doubts about their children being relegated to second-class citizenry. They sacrificed enough for their country without having to sacrifice the futures of their children. Any other conclusion would amount to a penalty for military service on those who did not volunteer.

The Founding Fathers recognized this. They passed a bill in 1790, three years after the adoption of the Constitution, which made clear that “natural born” applied to children born of American citizens “outside the limits of the United States”. That law remains in effect and has never been challenged. At the least, it speaks to the intent of the founders when they used the term “natural born” in the Constitution.

It’s beyond absurd to argue that John McCain doesn’t qualify to run as an American for the presidency. The candidate or party that files a lawsuit to challenge him on this point runs the risk of alienating a large swath of the public who have served this nation in uniform, in diplomacy, and in government.

Well said, Ed!


UPDATE II: I haven't been as up on this naturar born issues as I might have been, once I get a look at what some of the law bloggers are saying.

Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy notes that:

If the drafters of the Constitution had wanted to require that presidents be born in the United States, they could have done so. Instead, they invoked the then-standard idea of natural citizenship as reflecting natural allegiance to the king or the state.

In other words, the key is "natural allegiance" to crown or country. Lindgren cites the William Blackstone commentaries:

An Englishman who removes to France, or to China, owes the same allegiance to the king of England there as at home, and twenty years hence as well as now. For it is a principle of universal law, that the natural-born subject of one prince cannot by any act of his own, no, not by swearing allegiance to another, put off or discharge his natural allegiance to the former: for this natural allegiance was intrinsic, and primitive, and antecedent to the other; and cannot be devested without the concurrent act of that prince to whom it was first due.
Ann Althouse, moreover, takes Barack Obama to task, for turning a non-issue into an issue of McCain's qualifications to serve:

The argument that McCain isn't a natural born citizen within the meaning of Article II of the Constitution is an obvious loser, both as a matter of constitutional interpretation and as something that an opposing candidate would want to say. But Obama, co-sponsoring the bill [defining a "natural-born citizen" as anyone born to any U.S. citizen while the military], is acting generous, as though he is forbearing making an attack. But since there is no attack to make, he's not actually being magnanimous. He's only putting on a show.

What is more, offering a statutory solution sends the message that there is a problem to be fixed. So in fact, it's a crafty way of saying that McCain is not now currently qualified!

Good thing I blog! I'm picking up a lot here!

William F. Buckley, Jr., 1925-2008

William F. Buckley, Jr., died today at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. The New York Times obituary is here (and more views are posted at Memeorandum).

Buckley's ideological project, it may be said, sought to position the growing conservative movement within the mainstream of society, and Buckley sought to distance what he called "thinking right" from the far-right wing fringe, represented in the 1960s by the John Birch Society.

Efforts to that end are the subject of
Buckley's article in the March issue of Commentary. Here's an excerpt:

In the early months of l962, there was restiveness in certain political quarters of the Right. The concern was primarily the growing strength of the Soviet Union, and the reiteration by its leaders of their designs on the free world. Some of the actors keenly concerned felt that Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona was a natural leader in the days ahead.

But it seemed inconceivable that an anti-establishment gadfly like Goldwater could be nominated as the spokesman-head of a political party. And it was embarrassing that the only political organization in town that dared suggest this radical proposal—the GOP’s nominating Goldwater for President—was the John Birch Society.

The society had been founded in 1958 by an earnest and capable entrepreneur named Robert Welch, a candy man, who brought together little clusters of American conservatives, most of them businessmen. He demanded two undistracted days in exchange for his willingness to give his seminar on the Communist menace to the United States, which he believed was more thoroughgoing and far-reaching than anyone else in America could have conceived. His influence was near-hypnotic, and his ideas wild. He said Dwight D. Eisenhower was a “dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” and that the government of the United States was “under operational control of the Communist party.” It was, he said in the summer of 1961, “50-70 percent” Communist-controlled.

Welch refused to divulge the size of the society’s membership, though he suggested it was as high as 100,000 and could reach a million. His method of organization caused general alarm. The society comprised a series of cells, no more than twenty people per cell. It was said that its members were directed to run in secret for local offices and to harass school boards and librarians on the matter of the Communist nature of the textbooks and other materials they used.

The society became a national cause célèbre—so much so, that a few of those anxious to universalize a draft-Goldwater movement aiming at a nomination for President in 1964 thought it best to do a little conspiratorial organizing of their own against it.
The remainder of the essay elaborates Buckley's immediate pattern of "conspiratorial organizing."

William F. Buckley was an interesting man. He had an intriguing, kind of airy way about addressing people, with a roll of the eyes or a long pause before speaking, and his manner sometimes seemed, to me, like that of a true American aristrocrat.

May he rest in peace.

Teenagers Ignorant on Basic History and Literature

From the "Department of Tell Me Something I Didn't Already Know," here comes a new survey finding that America's teenagers are ignorant of basic American history (via the New York Times):

Fewer than half of American teenagers who were asked basic history and literature questions in a phone survey knew when the Civil War was fought, and one in four said Columbus sailed to the New World some time after 1750, not in 1492.

The survey results, released on Tuesday, demonstrate that a significant proportion of teenagers live in “stunning ignorance” of history and literature, said the group that commissioned it, Common Core.

The organization describes itself as a new research and advocacy organization that will press for more teaching of the liberal arts in public schools....

In the survey, 1,200 17-year-olds were called in January and asked to answer 33 multiple-choice questions about history and literature that were read aloud to them. The questions were drawn from a test that the federal government administered in 1986.

About a quarter of the teenagers were unable to correctly identify Hitler as Germany’s chancellor in World War II, instead identifying him as a munitions maker, an Austrian premier and the German kaiser.

On literature, the teenagers fared even worse. Four in 10 could pick the name of Ralph Ellison’s novel about a young man’s growing up in the South and moving to Harlem, “Invisible Man,” from a list of titles. About half knew that in the Bible Job is known for his patience in suffering. About as many said he was known for his skill as a builder, his prowess in battle or his prophetic abilities.

The history question that proved easiest asked the respondents to identify the man who declared, “I have a dream.” Ninety-seven percent correctly picked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

About 8 in 10, a higher percentage than on any other literature question, knew that Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is about two children affected by the conflict in their community when their father defends a black man in court.
Read the whole article, for I've ommitted the sections discussing how the sponsoring organization is using the findings to attack the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind Act as "crowding out" history and literature in the schools.

I'm not wading into this debate, except I will say that
while NCLB has its flaws, the law is possible one of the greatest attempts to expand equal protection in education opportunity in education in decades. I get these students at my college, unable to place the Civil War - or the Vietnam War - in historical context.

But more fundamentally (and sadly), I get these students (
way too many) who can barely read and write, and then who are expected to master a curriculum (in my department, at least) that would be challenging for an average freshman at San Diego State or UCLA .

So while I'm not surprised that 17 year-olds don't know much about history, I'd like to see
more discussion of the fundamental family, cultural, and community traditions that prevent these kids from gaining the underlying skills to needed master these texts, skills they'll need to develop into a meaningful, fully realized participatory citizenry.