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Disaster In Japan

Andrew Sullivan with a round-up of live blogs

Naked Capitalism:

When a smaller earthquake struck near Tokyo a couple of days ago, I wondered if worse was on the way soon.

Japan has been overdue for a major earthquake, given their historical frequency. Perversely, there was much more worry about the impact of a major quake on Japan when it was an economic force to be reckoned with (perhaps a subconscious wish to cut the seemingly unbeatable Japanese down to size?). While the horrific death count that resulted from the last great quake in 1923, led the Japanese to impose vastly tougher building codes and continue to improve upon earthquake-related technology, events like this too often have a nasty way of defeating careful planning. But this tremblor, which registered a formidable magnitude 8.8, was off the northern coast, but still has produced serious disruptions in Tokyo. There are no good reports of the damage yet.

Choire Sicha at The Awl:

Livestream news from Hawaii seem to show non-devastating waves and pullbacks as the tsunami spreads out from its source in Japan, but at “fairly significant numbers,” according to the islands’ tsunami guy. Japan is still reporting a shockingly low death toll from such a significant event; but that toll is expected to rise. In Hawaii, people seem nervous but assured: “I’ve cut my feet on this reef a few times but nothing like this,” said the KHNL newscaster a few minutes ago, looking at the exposed Diamondhead reef, which is now getting some water again. So far they’ve seen surge of about six feet; it’s now expected to top out at 8 or 9 feet. In the 1946 tsunami, waves lasted all day; this is not expected to be as severe, but you’ll see “odd behavior” all day around Hawaii. After 7 a.m., foot-size waves are expected to reach California.

Michelle Malkin:

Keep the people of Japan in your prayers. The earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern part of the country has caused devastating loss of life and destruction. Readers in Hawaii e-mail that they have prepared for coastal flooding as well. Be safe, friends.

Ed Morrissey:

I lived most of my life in Southern California, where natives take a blasé attitude towards most quakes, but a few of them are memorable.  My first day running an alarm center in Southern California was the day of the Northridge quake seventeen years ago, which only hit 6.7 on the Richter scale and killed 33 people, destroyed a freeway overpass, and did major damage.  The Richter scale is logarithmic, which means that an 8.8 quake released more than 1000 times the energy of a 6.7.

Jack Spencer at Heritage:

Reports coming from Japan say the quake caused millions of people to evacuate buildings, and the government ordered people near several of the country’s nuclear power plants to leave. Concerns about a radiation leak at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 reactor, one of Japan’s 11 nuclear reactors, led to the precautionary evacuation. The biggest concern is that the electricity shortage at the plant is making it difficult for crews to operate the plant’s reactor cooling system quickly.

It is important to remember that the evacuation efforts are cautionary measures rather than indicative of any certain danger posed by the nuclear reactors. Japan’s nuclear power plants, like our own, are built to withstand earthquakes. Plants are engineered to shut down the moment an earthquake hits. Beyond that, each nuclear power plant is fitted with numerous and layered safety mechanisms to ensure the integrity of the facility.

Indeed, even if all of those systems fail, which has not been the case in Japan based on current information, the physics of light water reactors (the type operated in both Japan and the U.S.) make them inherently safe. The same water used to cool the reactor is also necessary to sustain the nuclear reaction. Should the ability to cool the reactor be lost because of an inability to pump coolant to the core, as is the case with the one Japanese reactor, the nuclear reaction will cease. However, it is much too early to even assume that has happened.

Digby:

I was watching the live coverage of the tsunami in Japan last night and could not believe what I was seeing. It was something out of a movie — a movie that I would have thought was somewhat ridiculous until I saw this surge from the birds eye view. Unbelievable.

I’m sitting here now, six blocks from the beach in California, waiting for the wave to hit the west coast. Luckily it doesn’t appear to be dangerous to us at this point.

The good news is that if the Republicans have their way, when one of these things does hit us in this earthquake zone, we won’t have warning:

Thursday night’s massive earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami warnings that have alarmed U.S. coasts, seem likely to ignite a debate over a previously little-discussed subsection of the spending bills currently being debated in Congress.

Tucked into the House Republican continuing resolution are provisions cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the National Weather Service, as well as humanitarian and foreign aid.

Presented as part of a larger deficit reduction package, each cut could be pitched as tough-choice, belt-tightening on behalf of the GOP. But advocates for protecting those funds pointed to the crisis in Japan as evidence that without the money, disaster preparedness and relief would suffer.

“These are very closely related,” National Weather Service Employees Organization President Dan Sobien told The Huffington Post with respect to the budget cuts and the tsunami. “The National Weather Service has the responsibility of warning about tsunami’s also. It is true that there is no plan to not fund the tsunami buoys. Everyone knows you just can’t do that. Still if those [House] cuts go through there will be furloughs at both of the tsunami warning centers that protect the whole country and, in fact, the whole world.”

The House full-year continuing resolution, which has not passed the Senate, would indeed make steep cuts to several programs and functions that would serve in a response to natural disasters (not just tsunamis) home and abroad. According to Sobien, the bill cuts $126 million from the budget of the NWS. Since, however, the cuts are being enacted over a six-month period (the length of the continuing resolution) as opposed to over the course of a full year, the effect would be roughly double.

I realize that the productive wealthy can’t be taxed but I hope they’re all thinking ahead and employing their own natural disaster experts or they might suffer right along with the rest of us.

Noah Kristula-Green at FrumForum:

I grew up in Japan from Kindergarten through high school, so when I learned about the earthquake that struck the country this morning, I immediately had flashbacks to the many disaster preparedness drills I had gone through growing up. The images on the television of the aftermath of the earthquake are undoubtedly extreme and the level of damage from this natural disaster is more than any that I can remember from my lifetime. In addition to the news on television, a glance at facebook shows that many of my friends from Japan are scared as well. It seems that many phone lines are not working and I am sure the mobile phone networks are over-saturated as well. I’m also learning interesting pieces of news, apparently the roof of an ice skating rink my friends and I used to go to as a kid has collapsed.

However, only Japan could be hit with an 8.9 scale quake and come out of it with only hundreds dead. Similarly large earthquakes in less prepared countries have killed tens of thousands almost instantly. (A 7.5 earthquake in Bangladesh killed 90,000 people within minutes in 2010).

When it comes to earthquake preparedness, Japan does set the gold standard. In addition to strict building codes, a concerted effort is made to train and drill the entire population. Schools regularly practice evacuation routes, classrooms keep enough helmets in stock for all students, and reminders about where the safest place to be during a quake (under tables or in doorways) are constantly reiterated. I have vivid memories of an earthquake simulation truck that would travel around to educate people about what a large quake would feel like. The truck would be cut open to reveal a diorama of a living room. A series of springs would be activated to shake the diorama at levels up to and beyond the scale of quakes that Japan would normally be hit by.

Just as important as the civil preparedness, the security of Japan’s infrastructure is also a high priority. Its nuclear power plants have managed to be controlled despite initial concerns of a cooling problem.

Earthquakes are also excellent times to remember that Japan’s architects and construction companies are some of the best and most thorough in the world. Web video is already circulating of Japanese skyscrapers swaying dramatically.  This video may look shocking to the uninitiated, but it is actually a very good thing: it is much better for a building to move and sway with the earthquake as opposed to resisting it.

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Live, From CPAC, It’s Friday Afternoon!

David Weigel:

First, a word about hecklers: It’s awful that they get so much attention. A few bad apples in a room of thousands can create the impression of massive dissent, when it really isn’t there.

That said, boy, was there a lot of heckling when Donald Rumsfeld arrived at CPAC to accept the Defender of the Constitution Award. The ballroom for big events fills up many minutes in advance. In this instance, the people who wanted to hear Rand Paul speak at 3:45 had to arrive around 2:30, and stay there. If they did, they sat through a speech from Donald Trump (a surprise to attendees who weren’t checking the news frequently), and used every possible moment to yell “RON PAUL” at the Donald. When Trump responded to one of the heckles, and said that Paul “can’t win” the presidency, there were loud and righteous boos.

It takes a while to exit the ballroom. This means that hundreds of Paul fans — recognizably younger and sometimes beardier than the median CPAC attendee — are in the room or in lines as Donald Rumsfeld is introduced.

“I am pleased to recognize our chairman, David Keene, to recognize Donald Rumsfeld,” says emcee Ted Cruz.

There are loud boos.

Robert Stacy McCain:

Total CPAC attendance is more than 10,000, among whom are hundreds of Paulistas – more than 10 percent of the total attendance, due not only to the fanaticism of Paul’s following but also because Campaign for Liberty has paid the way for his student supporters to attend the conference.

As might be expected, the Paulistas are at odds with most conservatives on foreign policy and this coincidence of scheduling that had many of the anti-war libertarians in their ballroom seats during the Rumsfeld recognition is just typical of the unexpected happenings at CPAC. And this unfortunate incident of inexcusable rudeness should help put the whole GOProud “controversy” in perspective. Are conflicts between anti-war libertarians and pro-war neocons really any different than the clash between gay Republicans and pro-family social conservatives?

Grant that these would seem to be what might be called irreconcilable differences, and yet if the broad coalition of the Right is to cohere — as it was powerfully coherent in 2010 — the disagreements must be tamped down. Courtesy and forebearance would seem to be requisite to the endeavor.

Dana Milbank at WaPo:

Republicans may not yet have the ideal candidate to take on President Obama in 2012. But at least they have an apprentice program.

“This is the largest crowd we have ever had in eager anticipation of our next speaker!” Lisa De Pasquale, director of the Conservative Political Action Conference, told the annual gathering this week. “We have overflow rooms filled! This ballroom filled!”

The reason for this eager anticipation, and for the whoops and hollers from the crowd: “someone who is thinking about tossing his hat in the ring for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.”

The sound system played the theme from NBC’s “The Apprentice.” A puff of orange hair appeared on the stage, and somewhere underneath it was the billionaire Donald Trump, giving a flirtatious, finger-wiggling wave to the crowd.

“You’re hired!” a woman in the front called out to him.

Basking in the adulation, Trump announced: “These are my people!”

Oh? The last time Trump tested the presidential waters, as a prospective Reform Party candidate a decade ago, he favored abortion rights, campaign finance reform and universal health care. He’s thrice married and has had many girlfriends in and out of wedlock. He’s behaved erratically in his handling of the Miss USA competition. He’s contributed to Democrats as recently as four months ago. And – unbeknownst to most in the audience – he was invited to CPAC by a gay Republican group, GOProud, whose participation in the conference sparked a boycott by social conservatives.

“Over the years I’ve participated in many battles and have really almost come out very, very victorious every single time,” the Donald said. (Except for the bankruptcy, that is.) “I’ve beaten many people and companies and I’ve won many wars,” he added. (Though he didn’t serve in the military.) “I have fairly but intelligently earned many billions of dollars, which in a sense was both a scorecard and acknowledgment of my abilities.”

Joshua Green at The Atlantic

Jennifer Rubin:

Mitt Romney’s wife Ann introduced Romney, trying to humanize a candidate that in 2008 seemed remote if not plastic. However, this line didn’t exactly make him seem warm and cuddly: “When the children were young and Mitt would call home from a business trip on the road, he would often hear a very tired and exasperated young mother, overwhelmed by our rambunctious five boys.” She’s an attractive lady and her battles against MS and cancer make her especially sympathetic; she however needs better material.

Romney’s delivery was more relaxed and quick-paced than in the past. His use of humor was perhaps the most noticeable change. (This got a hearty laugh: “The world – and our valiant troops – watched in confusion as the President announced that he intended to win the war in Afghanistan….as long as it didn’t go much beyond August of 2011. And while the Taliban may not have an air force or sophisticated drones, it’s safe to say… they do have calendars.”) Romney is a polished and professional pol.

As for the substance, he made clear he’s not a pull-up-the-drawbridge Republican. In fact he began his speech with a foreign policy riff:

An uncertain world has been made more dangerous by the lack of clear direction from a weak President. The President who touted his personal experience as giving him special insight into foreign affairs was caught unprepared when Iranian citizens rose up against oppression. His proposed policy of engagement with Iran and North Korea won him the Nobel Peace Prize. How’s that worked out? Iran armed Hezbollah and Hamas and is rushing toward nuclear weapons. North Korea fired missiles, tested nukes, sunk a South Korean ship and shelled a South Korean island. And his “reset program” with Russia? That consisted of our President abandoning our missile defense in Poland and signing a one-sided nuclear treaty. The cause of liberty cannot endure much more of his “they get, we give” diplomacy!

But the heart of his speech was the economy. But, for obvious reasons, he limited his focus to job creation, entirely ignoring ObamaCare. His attention to jobs was effective insofar as it went:

Fifteen million Americans are out of work. And millions and millions more can’t find the good paying jobs they long for and deserve. You’ve seen the heartbreaking photos and videos of the jobs fairs around the country, where thousands show up to stand in line all day just to have a chance to compete for a few job openings that probably aren’t as good as the job they held two years ago. These job fairs and unemployment lines are President Obama’s Hoovervilles.

Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy–a moral tragedy of epic proportion. Unemployment is not just a statistic. Fifteen million unemployed is not just a number. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. Liberals should be ashamed that they and their policies have failed these good and decent Americans!

Curiously his only mention of debt was this: “Like the Europeans, they grew the government, they racked up bigger deficits, they took over healthcare, they pushed cap and trade, they stalled production of our oil and gas and coal, they fought to impose unions on America’s workers, and they created over a hundred new agencies and commissions and hundreds of thousands of pages of new regulations.”

Reason

Michael Scherer at Time:

The heirs to Ronald Reagan’s conservative legacy gathered Thursday in a hotel ballroom to exchange variations on the dominant theme in today’s Republican politics: It is evening in America.

“The Germans are buying the New York Stock Exchange,” announced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “The U.S. is becoming the laughing stock of the world,” exhorted reality television star Donald Trump. It’s “a national reckoning unlike any I have seen in my lifetime,” explained former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rick Santorum, a one-time Pennsylvania senator preparing a run for president, rounded out the collective cry of Cassandra by announcing that the nation was being run by a heretic. “This is someone who doesn’t believe in truth and evil in America,” he said of President Obama. (Read about what to expect from CPAC 2011.)

For decades, the Conservative Political Action Conference has been a bellwether of conservative thought. And the first day of this year’s event, with record attendance boosted by ever multiplying scores of college students, did not disappoint. For journalists looking to crack the code on the right’s narrative for the 2012 election cycle, it was evident in nearly every speech delivered in the main ballroom.

The next election, different speakers argued in different ways, would not just determine the occupant of the Oval Office, but the very survival of the country as a global superpower. “This is a crossroads of American history. This is a moment,” said Santorum. “Were you there? Did you see it? Did you understand what was at stake?”

As can be expected, much of the blame for America’s precipitous state was laid at the feet of Obama and the Democratic agenda, which Rumsfeld poetically described as “the gentle despotism of big government.” Several speakers accused Obama of not believing in the exceptionalism of America, or understanding American power, and therefore precipitating the country’s declining influence. Downstairs, in the exhibit hall, supporters of Mitt Romney distributed stickers that read only, “Believe In America,” as if his Democratic opponents did not.

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with a round-up

Tim Mak at FrumForum:

The new chair of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, today distanced his organization from GOProud, telling FrumForum in an exclusive interview that “it’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship” with the gay conservative organization.

The ACU, which annually organizes the Conservative Political Action Conference, has faced some criticism for including GOProud as a co-sponsor for the second year in a row. Socially conservative organizations have denounced the move, and the Heritage Foundation claimed that GOProud’s inclusion was part of their decision to opt-out.

Cardenas, who was selected yesterday to replace outgoing chairman David Keene, told FrumForum that he disapproved of GOProud’s response to the furor.

“I have been disappointed with their website and their quotes in the media, taunting organizations that are respected in our movement and part of our movement, and that’s not acceptable. And that puts them in a difficult light in terms of how I view things,” said Cardenas.

GOProud had asserted that Cleta Mitchell, the chairman of the ACU Foundation, was pushing conservative groups and individuals to boycott CPAC because of GOProud’s inclusion. Chris Barron, the chairman of GOProud, recently said in an interview that Mitchell was “a nasty bigot.”

“It’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude,” Cardenas told FrumForum.

Asked for GOProud’s response, the group’s chairman apologized for his comments about Cleta Mitchell.

“For the past six months, we have watched as unfair and untrue attacks have been leveled against our organization, our allies, our friends and sometimes even their families. Everyone has their breaking point and clearly in my interview with Metro Weekly I had reached mine. I shouldn’t have used the language that I did to describe Cleta Mitchell and for that I apologize,” said Chris Barron.

Asked about whether he values a big tent approach to conservatism, Cardenas said that he did – but that his vision applied principally to reaching out to different minorities and ethnic groups.

“There are not enough African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities here. That diversity is critical – you don’t need to change your value system to attract more diversity into the movement… [but] I’m not going to – for the sake of being inclusive – change the principles that have made the movement what it is,” said Cardenas.

“David [Keene] invited these folks [GOProud] in an effort to be inclusive… Having friends of ours leaving… presents difficulties to me,” he said. “There’s always going to be some tension, [but] there should never be any tension between time-tested values.”

Asked if someone who supported gay marriage could be a conservative, Cardenas replied, “Not a Ronald Reagan conservative… I will say this: we adopted a resolution unanimously at ACU advocating traditional marriage between a man and a woman, so that answers how we feel on the issue.”

Cardenas says that his priorities as the new ACU chairman will be focused on “making sure that our true friends never leave the table.”

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Filed under Conservative Movement, Political Figures

The Smoked Salmon At Iwo Jima

Alexander Burns at Politico:

THE REVIEWS ARE IN – SNAP POLL FROM CBS: “An overwhelming majority of Americans approved of President Obama’s overall message in his State of the Union on Tuesday night, according to a CBS News Poll of speech watchers. According to the poll, which was conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the president’s address, 92 percent of those who watched the speech approved of the proposals Mr. Obama put forth during his remarks, while only 8 percent disapproved. … Americans who watched the speech were generally more Democratic than the nation as a whole.” … FROM CNN: “A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 52 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with 32 percent saying they had a somewhat positive response and 15 percent with a negative response. … Those numbers indicate that the sample is about nine to ten points more Democratic than the population as a whole.” … AND FROM GQR, VIA POLITICO44: “The firm monitored the reactions of swing voters and unmarried women from Colorado as they watched the speech. According to the analysis, before the address, the test group’s approval of the president was 30 percent – by the end of the speech, the approval rating had gone up to 56 percent.” http://bit.ly/dMdVnT and http://bit.ly/fhBhgN and http://politi.co/ffVLil

Jonathan Chait at The New Republic:

The substance of Obama’s speech was moderate liberalism — we like business, but government has a role too, neither too much nor too little, etc. It’s hard to attach that kind of case-by-case pragmatism to an overarching theme. But I do think Obama pulled it off pretty well. He took a fairly hackneyed idea — the future — and managed to weave it into issue after issue, from infrastructure to energy to deficits to education and even foreign policy.

I thought Obama explicated his idea about American unity better than he has in the past. The notion of unity has always sat in tension with the fierce ideological disagreement of American politics, and indeed the latter has served as a rebuke to the former. I thought Obama effectively communicated that the messiness of political debate is a part of what makes America great, to turn that into a source of pride. He simultaneouly placed himself both within and above the debate.

Ross Douthat:

If you were a visitor from Mars, watching tonight’s State of the Union address and Paul Ryan’s Republican response, you would have no reason to think that the looming insolvency of our entitlement system lies at the heart of the economic challenges facing the United States over the next two decades. From President Obama, we heard a reasonably eloquent case for center-left technocracy and industrial policy, punctuated by a few bipartisan flourishes, in which the entitlement issue felt like an afterthought: He took note of the problem, thanked his own fiscal commission for their work without endorsing any of their recommendations, made general, detail-free pledges to keep Medicare and Social Security solvent (but “without slashing benefits for future generations”), and then moved swiftly on to the case for tax reform. Tax reform is important, of course, and so are education and technological innovation and infrastructure and all the other issues that the president touched on in this speech. But it was still striking that in an address organized around the theme of American competitiveness, which ran to almost 7,000 words and lasted for an hour, the president spent almost as much time talking about solar power as he did about the roots of the nation’s fiscal crisis.

Ryan’s rejoinder was more urgent and more focused: America’s crippling debt was an organizing theme, and there were warnings of “painful austerity measures” and a looming “day of reckoning.” But his remarks, while rhetorically effective, were even more vague about the details of that reckoning than the president’s address. Ryan owes his prominence, in part, to his willingness to propose a very specific blueprint for addressing the entitlement system’s fiscal woes. But in his first big moment on the national stage, the words “Medicare” and “Social Security” did not pass the Wisconsin congressman’s lips.

Paul Krugman

Allah Pundit

David Frum at FrumForum:

What to like in Obama’s SOTU:

  1. The gracious congratulations to the Republicans and John Boehner.
  2. His reminders of the country’s positive accomplishments, including the country’s huge lead in labor force productivity.
  3. His explanation that the challenge to less-skilled US labor comes much more from technology than from foreign competition.
  4. Opening the door to firing bad teachers.
  5. Call for a stepped-up national infrastructure program. If only he’d explained how this would work.
  6. Call for lower corporate tax rates with fewer loopholes.
  7. Openness to amendments on healthcare reform.
  8. Endorsement of cuts to Medicare & Medicaid.
  9. Endorsement of malpractice reform.
  10. Bringing forth the designer of the Chilean miner rescue tunnel. Nice!

What’s not to like:

  1. The disingenuous suggestion that China’s growth is driven by superior Chinese education system. Don’t confuse Amy Chua’s kids with off-the-farm peasants in Chinese factories.
  2. The call for more creative thinking in American education. Creative thinking is good, obviously. But the kids who are in most trouble need more drill, not more questions about their feelings.
  3. The too clever-by-half slip from the need for government to invest in basic research (yes) to the value of government investment in development of particular energy technologies (a record of failure).
  4. The pledge to put electric vehicles on the roads. So long as 50% of our power comes from coal, electric vehicles are not “clean.”
  5. The pledge to reach 80% clean electricity by 2035. If this is done by neutral across -the-board means like carbon taxes, fine. If done by favoritism for particular energy forms – and especially by tax credits or subsidies – it’s national industrial planning and is bad.
  6. The misleading implication that bestowing more college degrees will address educational deficits. It’s the low quality of American secondary education that is the problem.
  7. The endorsement of DREAM – made worse by the total fuzz of the commitment to immigration enforcement.
  8. No mention of Colombia FTA in trade section of speech.
  9. Very backhanded comments on deregulation
  10. Repudiation of benefit cuts to future Social Security beneficiaries.
  11. Silly earmarks pledge 100% guaranteed to be broken.
  12. Graceless comment about restoring America’s standing: ill-judged from a president whose foreign policy becomes more continuous with his predecessor’s seemingly with every month.

Jennifer Rubin:

If you were expecting a moderate Obama or a bold Obama, you were disappointed, most likely, by Tuesday’s State of the Union Address. In a nutshell: Obama proposed a ton of new domestic spending, promised to freeze discretionary spending (attained by savaging defense), abstained from offering specifics on entitlement reform and largely ignored major foreign policy changes. Moreover, the delivery was so listless that this State of the Union address likely garnered less applause than any address in recent memory.

But the mystery is solved: There is no new Obama, just a less snarly one. But it was also a flat and boring speech, too long by a third. Can you recall a single line? After the Giffords memorial service, this effort seemed like Obama had phoned it in. Perhaps that is because the name of the game is to pass the buck to Congress to do the hard work of digging out of the fiscal mess we are in.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

Obama’s domestic policy is big on “investments” — not yours, the government’s. That is, spending. It’s a throwback to the vocabulary of the Clinton era. “The kids” must not be far behind. And there they are. They need more of your dough for their education.

“We do big things,” Obama says. I think when he says “we,” he means big government. The speech is long on domestic policy cloaked in the characteristically disingenuous rhetoric designed to conceal the substance. Obama advocates some kind of a freeze in federal spending. I’m not sure how that squares with the call for more “investments.”

Obama acknowledges the tumult in Tunisia thusly: “We saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.” Where does the United States of America stand tonight with respect to the people of Iran? We’re still waiting to hear from Obama on that one, but I guess we can infer he supports their aspirations as well. The people of Iran are included in “all people.”

The speech does have several good lines. Here is one of them: “I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC.” It’s a pity that Obama has to gild it with the usual gay rights boilerplate. This line also deserves a nod: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Unlike most of the rest of the speech, it has the advantage, as Henry Kissinger might say, of being true.

Obama’s advent gets the usual iteration tonight: “That [American] dream is why I can stand here before you tonight.” And he includes Biden: “That dream is why a working class kid from Scranton can stand behind me.” But Biden’s rise too is a tribute to the advent of Obama.” And he includes an uncharacteristically gracious salute to Speaker Boehner: “That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”

It’s a pity that Obama hasn’t found previous occasions to articulate American exceptionalism. Indeed, he has essentially denied it. Maybe he didn’t think it was true before the advent of the Age of Obama, or maybe he chooses not to share his innermost thoughts on the subject with his fellow citizens tonight.

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

Much has been made of Michelle Bachmann’s “Tea Party” response to the State of the Union.

For days the media has been playing this up as a major conflict within the Republican Party. In fact, a number of Republican leadership aides pulled out all the stops trying to get the networks to ignore Michelle Bachmann.

Kudos to CNN for its willingness to cover the speech in full.

I must admit I was deeply nervous about the speech, but I am delighted to say I was wrong. Michelle Bachmann gave the best speech of the night.

While the President sputniked and Paul Ryan went off on some high minded rhetoric, Michelle Bachmann kept to nuts and bolts. Her speech was based on actual economic data with actual, substantive policy suggestions for change.

Paul Ryan’s speech was okay. His blood shot eyes and Eddie Munster, Jr. haircut could have used some work. But he was good. Michelle Bachmann, however, shined in an easy to understand speech with a common man touch.

I’m glad I was wrong. And it just goes to show that the narrative of concern, built up in the media in large part by nervous Republicans, was silly. It yet again shows the GOP is unwilling to seriously treat the tea party movement as a legitimate player.

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

Rep. Michele Bachmann made history tonight–not just for being the first representative of the Tea Party to give a State of the Union response, but also for flatly refusing to look America in the eye.Bachmann, who came equipped with charts and Iwo Jima photos, began her speech looking slightly off camera. As Bachmann spoke, viewers–including the former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann–took to Twitter to ask a simple question: “what’s she looking at?”

As Olbermann tweeted, “Why isn’t Rep. Bachmann LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA?” He added later, “Seriously, somebody at the Tea Party needs to run on the stage, grab her, and POINT TO WHERE THE CAMERA IS.”

On CNN, Erick Erickson reported that Bachmann mistakenly focused on a camera recording the speech for the Tea Party Express, instead of the other camera capturing the speech live for the entire country. Jeepers.

Compared to President Obama’s traditional SOTU speech, and Rep. Ryan’s response, the Bachmann speech was unique. It had charts and multimedia, and it had the weird vibe of listening to a person who seems to be talking to somebody else.

Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:

He still loves his wife. But after 25 years of marriage, he has lost his enthusiasm for sex with her. Still. It is Valentine’s Day. And she has been hinting. So he takes her to a nice dinner, uncharactertistically orders an after-dinner drink, and feels extra discouraged when it only makes him more tired. He is 55. And so tired. Upon returning home, he wants more than anything to just fall asleep, but damnit, he makes the effort. He surprises her with a gift, lights candles, and dutifully makes love to her in the fashion he thinks that she will most enjoy.

It is with similar enthusiasm that some responses to the State of the Union are penned. Everyone expects that it will be covered by political bloggers, newspaper columnists and magazine writers. Especially at movement magazines on the left and right, lots of people are going through the motions,  feigning passionate intensity that isn’t there. In marriage, it is perfectly understandable for one partner to occasionally perform despite not being in the mood. Sex is built into the expectations. Justifiably so. But I’m skeptical about the system of expectations in political letters. Fresh insights are nice. I’ve read good stuff about last night’s SOTU. We’ve linked some of it here. What I find pointless is the completely predictable boilerplate that gets published. The banal right-leaning editorial inveighing against the speech. The left-leaning editorial vaguely extolling its virtues. If every possible reader will agree with everything in a piece what exactly is the point of writing it?

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In The “It Never Rains, But It Pours” File

P.B. at The Economist:

TO LITTLE pomp and widespread confusion, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former dictator of Haiti, returned to his country on January 16th, a quarter century after fleeing to exile on the French Riviera. Mr Duvalier arrived on an Air France flight a little before six in the evening, and a few hundred people greeted him outside the airport. A convoy of Haitian national police then accompanied him to a glitzy hotel in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital. Along with his Haitian companion, Veronique Roy, and a smattering of associates, he dined on a grilled conch and promised a press conference. But in the morning, about a hundred reporters waited in vain for Mr Duvalier to appear. A shabbily suited spokesperson cited “capacity problems” at the hotel and promised that the ex-dictator would talk tomorrow.

Little is known about the intentions of Mr Duvalier, who simply said upon arrival that he had “come to help”. His trip may well have been prompted by Haiti’s current political turmoil—its presidential run-off election, originally scheduled for yesterday, has been postponed indefinitely because of arguments over who should participate. But with both the Haitian government and the UN peacekeeping force keeping mum, speculation is running rampant over what he has in mind. One theory holds that the French sent him to pressure René Préval, the president, to accept the findings of a report by the Organisation of American States, which called for the government’s presidential candidate, Jude Celestin, to be dropped from the run-off. (The French embassy has denied any involvement). Another contends that Mr Préval himself cooked up the visit as a “Wag the Dog”-style ploy to distract the country. “Do you hear anyone talking about the election this morning?”, quipped Louis Henri Mars, an anti-violence campaigner. A less popular interpretation is that the stooped, haggard Mr Duvalier just wants to spend his last days at home.

It is also unclear why Mr Duvalier, a torturer, kidnapper and thief—although a less brutal ruler than his father and predecessor, François—has not been arrested. The Haitian government reiterated in 2008 that its criminal proceedings against him were ongoing, and he faces a $500m judgment in the United States. Haiti has no statute of limitations for misappropriation of public funds, and international law holds that crimes against humanity can always be prosecuted.

Chris Rovzar at The New Yorker:

Baby Doc has said he returned to “help” Haiti as it recognizes the anniversary of last year’s calamitous earthquake, and will hold a press conference today. He hopes to remain in the country for three days, though while there he could be arrested and charged for atrocities committed during his rule.

The Jawa Report:

Read more: Or just start reading Doonesbury again.

Doug Mataconis:

Given how poor, pathetic, and desperate Haiti is the return of Duvalier to power isn’t entirely inconceivable, unless the United States and the rest of the OAS were to weigh in to make sure it doesn’t happen. Nonetheless there is absolutely good that can come from Duvalier’s return, and the one  thing that is truly sad about this whole situation is that, in many ways, Haiti is no better off today than it was on the day the Baby Doc Duvalier was flown to France on a U.S. Air Force jet.

Ed Morrissey:

Duvalier, 19 years old when he officially took power and tossed out at age 34, wouldn’t leave his cushy exile in France merely to act on behalf of the OAS, or even to counter the OAS.  It’s difficult to imagine any reason for Duvalier to be in Haiti except to seize power once again.  It’s about the most propitious time for a power grab; we have a disputed and almost certainly corrupt election, starvation, epidemics, and the ravages of natural disasters still plaguing the nation.  That kind of chaos breeds dictators more often than not, and the return of a ready-made dictator might make it even easier to seize control.

Peter Worthington at FrumForum:

What to do about Haiti?

How can Canada improve the situation, a year after the earthquake and the return of Baby Doc Duvalier?

The answer: Nothing. More devastation ahead.

In Haiti, some 95% of the rubble resulting from the quake has still to be removed. Without moving the rubble, how can reconstruction begin?

The answer: It can’t, and won’t.

A million are living in tent cities a year later. About the only significant change is a surge in pregnancies after the quake – two-thirds of them unexpected, or unplanned. And a plunge in the age of these mothers.

Some predicted this as soon as word of the catastrophic quake  got out. No amount of humanitarian aid will change things. Haiti seems one of those corrupt, basket economies that defies improvement.

Worse, now, that Baby Doc is back.

Aside from blaming Nepalese troops on UN duty for the cholera outbreak, there’s very little evidence of accountability in Haiti.

Regardless of how cholera started, lack of clean water is an invitation for cholera and  other water-born diseases.

Jonathan Katz at Salon:

Haitian police led ex-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier out of his hotel and took him to court Tuesday without saying whether he was being charged with crimes committed under his brutal regime.

A contingent of police led the former dictator known as “Baby Doc” through the hotel and to a waiting SUV. He was not wearing handcuffs.

Duvalier, 59, was calm and did not say anything. Asked by journalists if he was being arrested, his longtime companion Veronique Roy, laughed but said nothing. Outside the hotel, he was jeered by some people and cheered by others.

The SUV drove in a convoy of police vehicles to a courthouse, even as dozens of Duvalier supporters blocked streets with overturned trash bins and rocks to try to prevent the former dictator from going to prison.

The courthouse was thronged with spectators and journalists trying to get in to view the proceedings. It was not immediately clear whether the session would be open to the public — or what, if any, charges had been filed against him.

His removal from the hotel came after he met in private with senior Haitian judicial officials met inside his hotel room amid calls by human rights groups and other for his arrest.

The country’s top prosecutor and a judge were among those meeting with the former leader in the high-end hotel where he has been ensconced since his surprise return to Haiti on Sunday.

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Tucson II

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up of reacts.

David Frum at FrumForum:

What a terrible assignment, especially for a father of young daughters. The president did the job he needed to do, struck the appropriate notes in the appropriate way. He conspicuously forbore to make political points, quite the contrary: he urged against finger-pointing, in this sense agreeing with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. “But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.”

The president’s challenge, as so often, was to make a human connection. In that, he succeeded tonight. He paid tribute to the individuality of the lost, honored the pain of the bereaved, and was crucial in bringing together the collective community acknowledgement of grief that is the only available comfort to those who mourn.
Rich Lowry at The Corner:

The pep-rally atmosphere was inappropriate and disconcerting, but President Obama turned in a magnificent performance. This was a non-accusatory, genuinely civil, case for civility, in stark contrast to what we’ve read and heard over the last few days. He subtly rebuked the Left’s finger-pointing, and rose above the rancor of both sides, exactly as a president should. Tonight, he re-captured some of the tone of his famous 2004 convention speech. Well done.

Michelle Malkin:

Bottom line:

Speeches and leadership are not the same thing.

Obama delivered one tonight, but failed at the other over the past three days as Pima County Sheriff Dupnik, Democrat Party leaders, and media abettors poisoned the public square with the very vitriol the president now condemns.

Right speech. Too late. Awful, awful venue.

Obama gets some goodreviews for hisspeech in the NY Times (and the sun rose in the east…).  Having read the speech, I am a bit of a non-believer – as with his condemnation of both Jeremiah Wright and his own grandmother or the criticism of left-winger Bill Ayers and offsetting righty Tom Coburn, Obama took his normal conciliatory tack of rebuking both sides and presenting himself as the calm man in the middle.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Barack Obama spoke to the city of Tucson, and to the United States of America, not so much as our President tonight, but as a member of our family. He spoke as a son–I couldn’t help but think of his personal regret over not being by his mother’s side when she passed as he said, “Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.” You could see the devastation insinuate itself onto, and then be quietly willed away from, his face. He spoke as a brother to his fellow public servants, killed and wounded in the events–an eager brother bringing the glad tidings the Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes. He repeated it, joyously, three times. But most of all, he spoke as a father–rising to a glorious peak describing the departed 9-year-old, Christine Taylor Green, a girl near the age of his daughters, whose own deaths, perhaps in the line of fire, he had so clearly been thinking about. And he spoke, more broadly, as the head of our national family, comforting, uplifting, scolding a little, nudging us toward our better angels.

Some of my friends may criticize Obama for not defending Palin specifically, or for waiting until the memorial to have rebuked those attempting to exploit the deaths for political gain.  On the first point, though, this was a memorial service and it wouldn’t have been appropriate to name other names than the dead, the wounded, and the heros who helped save lives.  The second point may be germane criticism of the previous couple of days, but even if it came late, Obama stepped up and led last night.

So kudos to President Obama for what may be the finest moment of his presidency.  I disagree with his policies and many of his tactics, and I will have no problem getting back to work in opposing them after this post publishes.  But he deserves credit and gratitude for his leadership at a point in time where the nation needed it, and I’m happy to give him both.

James Fallows:

The standard comparisons of the past four days have been to Ronald Reagan after the Challenger disaster and Bill Clinton after Oklahoma City. Tonight’s speech matched those as a demonstration of “head of state” presence, and far exceeded them as oratory — while being completely different in tone and nature. They, in retrospect, were mainly — and effectively — designed to note tragic loss. Obama turned this into a celebration — of the people who were killed, of the values they lived by, and of the way their example could bring out the better in all of us and in our country.

That is to Obama’s imaginative credit. (Even as the event began, I was wondering how he would find a way to match to somber tone of Reagan and Clinton.) More later, but a performance to remember — this will be, along with his 2004 Convention speech and his March, 2008 “meaning of race” speech in Philadelphia, one of the speeches he is lastingly known for — and to add to the list of daunting political/oratorical challenges Obama has not merely met but mastered.

David Weigel:

Last night, there arose a chorus of mostly-conservatives on Twitter attacking the tone of the memorial service in Tucson. There was some coverage on Fox News — there’s some more today — of this, but it didn’t define coverage. Nonetheless, Glenn Thrush reports that Robert Gibbs was asked about it, and surmised that the 13,000-odd people in attendance were “celebrating the miracle of those who survived” when they cheered.

We have a point of reference for all of this. In 2002, conservatives and Republicans complained that the tone of a memorial for Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) was too political, too cheery. Wellstone’s sons explicitly asked the crowd — which included Republicans like Trent Lott — to “win this election for Paul Wellstone.”

Is that going to happen to the Tucson memorial? It shouldn’t. There was no partisan political message, although I suppose you could say that the president’s criticism of “cynicism or vitriol” buttressed what Democrats had been saying recently. I’d also argue that the tone in Tucson was more like the tone at the impromptu rally in New York City on September 13, 2001 —  the “bullhorn moment.” Wellstone was killed in an airplane accident. The Tucson victims were killed by a gunman who is awaiting trial and whose creepy smiling face has been made famous since Saturday. Thousands of New Yorkers — people didn’t know how many at the time — were killed by terrorists who committed suicide, but were led by terrorists still on the loose. (“The people who did this,” in Bush’s phrase.)

It isn’t up to anyone else how somebody grieves a local tragedy. And the tone at Tucson was understandable if you understand what, exactly, they were grieving or angry about.

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You Blog About Politics, You Blog About Sarah Palin: This Is Fact Now

The Corner at National Review:

Here’s the text:

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions.  And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

There are those who claim political rhetoric is to blame for the despicable act of this deranged, apparently apolitical criminal. And they claim political debate has somehow gotten more heated just recently. But when was it less heated? Back in those “calm days” when political figures literally settled their differences with dueling pistols? In an ideal world all discourse would be civil and all disagreements cordial. But our Founding Fathers knew they weren’t designing a system for perfect men and women. If men and women were angels, there would be no need for government. Our Founders’ genius was to design a system that helped settle the inevitable conflicts caused by our imperfect passions in civil ways. So, we must condemn violence if our Republic is to endure.

As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, “We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional.

No one should be deterred from speaking up and speaking out in peaceful dissent, and we certainly must not be deterred by those who embrace evil and call it good. And we will not be stopped from celebrating the greatness of our country and our foundational freedoms by those who mock its greatness by being intolerant of differing opinion and seeking to muzzle dissent with shrill cries of imagined insults.

Just days before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords read the First Amendment on the floor of the House. It was a beautiful moment and more than simply “symbolic,” as some claim, to have the Constitution read by our Congress. I am confident she knew that reading our sacred charter of liberty was more than just “symbolic.” But less than a week after Congresswoman Giffords reaffirmed our protected freedoms, another member of Congress announced that he would propose a law that would criminalize speech he found offensive.

It is in the hour when our values are challenged that we must remain resolved to protect those values. Recall how the events of 9-11 challenged our values and we had to fight the tendency to trade our freedoms for perceived security. And so it is today.

Let us honor those precious lives cut short in Tucson by praying for them and their families and by cherishing their memories. Let us pray for the full recovery of the wounded. And let us pray for our country. In times like this we need God’s guidance and the peace He provides. We need strength to not let the random acts of a criminal turn us against ourselves, or weaken our solid foundation, or provide a pretext to stifle debate.

America must be stronger than the evil we saw displayed last week. We are better than the mindless finger-pointing we endured in the wake of the tragedy. We will come out of this stronger and more united in our desire to peacefully engage in the great debates of our time, to respectfully embrace our differences in a positive manner, and to unite in the knowledge that, though our ideas may be different, we must all strive for a better future for our country. May God bless America.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

Palin’s statement is, I think, very good. It emphasizes, appropriately, the victims and the nation’s political process rather than politicians, demonstrating once again that Palin is less obsessed with Sarah than her enemies are. Overall, the statement comes across as mature, balanced, sympathetic and yet strong in its rejection of the left’s opportunism.

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

I should have said this a few days ago, when my friend Glenn Reynolds introduced the term to this debate. But I think that the use of this particular term in this context isn’t ideal. Historically, the term is almost invariably used to describe anti-Semitic myths about how Jews use blood — usually from children — in their rituals. I agree entirely with Glenn’s, and now Palin’s, larger point. But I’m not sure either of them intended to redefine the phrase, or that they should have.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

Sarah Palin has called the post-Tucson campaign of vilification against her and her fellow travelers a “blood libel.” On the one hand, this is unfortunate, as Jonah Goldberg points out, because it threatens to redefine the phrase, plus, what is happening to her is not precisely the byproduct of a blood libel.

On the other hand, Sarah Palin  is such an important political and cultural figure that her use of the term “blood libel” should introduce this very important historical phenomenon to a wide audience, and the ensuing discussion — about how Fox News is not actually Mendel Beilis — will serve to enlighten and inform. It is a moral necessity, I think, for Christians to understand the blood libel (Muslims, too — see the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840), not only because it is part of their history, but because the blood libel still has modern ramifications — Israel, after all, was founded as a reaction to Christian hatred, of which the blood libel was an obvious and murderous manifestation.

I mean it sincerely when I say I hope Sarah Palin, who regularly expresses love for Jews and Israel, takes the time to learn about the history of the blood libel, and shares what she has learned with her many admirers.

Instapundit:

That seems to be how it works. And here are a bunch of examples of “blood libel” used in various contexts, by people as diverse as Andrew Sullivan and Ann Coulter, as well as Alex Beam, Michael Barone, Andrew Cohen of CBS, and Les Payne. Nobody cared, because Sarah Palin wasn’t involved. Heck, I used the term myself in my WSJ column. I got a grouchy email or two, but nobody else — even among the lefties who criticized it — seemed to care about the use of the term. This is the silliest hissyfit yet, and is itself evidence that there’s no substantive response.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Okay, it’s a little over the top for Sarah Palin to accuse her critics of “blood libel.” But she does have a basic point. She had nothing to do with Jared Loughner. He was not an extremist who embraced some radical version of her ideas. And her use of targets to identify districts Republicans were, um, targetting is not exceptional or prone to incite anybody.

What’s happening is that Palin has come to represent unhinged grassroots conservatism, and people in the media immediately (and incorrectly) associated Loughner with the far right. Moreover, the Republican establishment understands her potential candidacy as a liability and is looking to snuff it out. So you have this weird moment where Palin is on trial for something she has no connection with at all.

Dan Riehl:

Last night on Twitter, Matthew Vadum and I both briefly noted a certain awkwardness with the term given its fairly precise etymology. I’m seeing critics like Jennifer Rubin point out that, while accurate, it’s inflammatory. That’s what started me to thinking about Palin’s use of the term death panels in the Obamacare debate. Isn’t she now doing very much the same thing – allegedly being inflammatory, but accurate? It is accurate. Even critics are conceding that.

shows her inflam. tendency=critics pt. she’s not serious, cert. not pres. – more G.Beck than Reagan … should note also it is tech. correct since accused of blood on her hands.. but still….

So, it’s inflammatory, but accurate – or, … how about, effective, assuming one is willing to fight the good fight for candor in honestly defining a bad health care policy, or a malicious slander meant to silence political speech?

And how in the Hell did we get to a place where a so called conservative pundit writing for the Washington Post thinks doing that is somehow not Presidential? Are we interested in leadership willing to lead, or merely wishing to please our senses? That’s not meant as necessarily backing Palin for President, or anything. I didn’t bring it up, Rubin did.

However uncomfortable it may make some feel, what Palin has done here is engage the debate candidly and head-on, just as she did during the health care debate when she invoked the term death panels.

Isn’t it possible that we need to be made to feel just a bit uncomfortable with what the Left has been doing in exploiting the Arizona tragedy in a manner which transcends simply being angry? Whatever the reason, I do believe using the term blood libel has a way of doing that, elevating the debate into one of substance, over simply feelings, or anger, as a matter of fact. That, despite its presumed inflammatory nature. Ironic, that.

Seems to me, if we’re going to now run away from that debate because it requires potentially inflammatory rhetoric to define it both precisely – and in terms with which we can win it – then how the hell are we ever to win it, hopefully stopping the Left from repeatedly using repugnant tactics just like the one they are using as regards the Arizona massacre?

I swear to God, I’m no Palin fanatic. And I’m as susceptible as the next guy or gal to the notion that she may not be the person to be America’s next President. I don’t know. But I do know that, once examined, whether through happenstance, or design, some of her tactics are absolutely brilliant, if one is willing to examine them in depth. Who knows, perhaps it’s just instinct? Nah, it can’t be that. That would almost make her Reaganesque!

Nick Gillespie at Reason:

One of the things that excited people about Sarah Palin was her apparent authenticity, her down-to-earthiness, her experience of working, living, dreaming, and achieving far from the conventional centers of power in American society. In a political age characterized by the telegenic intimacy of the 24-hour news channel, Palin seemed perfectly in synch with the sort of unmediated access viewers and voters crave. And only the most insulated chumps in the opinionating business (read: most of them) were put off by her insistence that when she graduated college she got a job, not a passport and a backpack.

But since her bravura entrance onto the national stage, virtually every interaction she has had with her public has been so tightly stage-managed and scripted that her main selling point has been swathed and suffocated in layers and layers of distance from anything approaching a real-time response to the world she lives in. When she resigned her governorship long before her first term was up, she signaled that she wasn’t so interested in being an actual legislator. Fair enough, and who can blame her? But she’s now getting to the point where she’s signaling that she is incapable of giving even her most sympathetic audience what it wants from her. Which means there’s one less interesting character on the public stage and her future, even as an entertainer, is dimmer than it once seemed.

FrumForum

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Yes, We Know That Hammer And Slammer Rhyme

John Hudson at The Atlantic with the round-up:

In a long fall from grace, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for “conspiring to direct laundered corporate money” to seven state house candidates in 2002. In his prime, DeLay was one of the most powerful men in Congress, holding the second highest spot in the House of Representatives. “What we feel is that justice was served,” said lead prosecutor Gary Cobb in the aftermath of the ruling. Meanwhile, DeLay firmly maintained his innocence. “I can’t be remorseful for something I don’t think I did,” he said. He promised to appeal the ruling. Did the former House majority leader get off easy?

Jen Doll at The Village Voice:

DeLay was taken into custody, but will be released on a $10,000 bond pending appeal after he’s processed, which means he could remain free for months or years as his appeal goes through.

National Review:

The man who should be on trial in Texas is Ronnie Earle, the unethical Travis County prosecutor who went after DeLay as part of a political vendetta fueled by his bizarre belief that business owners’ political activities are “every bit as insidious as terrorism.” (Tell that to the almost 3,000 Americans who were murdered on 9/11.) How do we know Earle believes that? Because he had a documentary film crew follow him around as he pursued the indictment of DeLay, producing a film called The Big Buy that Earle used to try to win higher office in Texas. He used the same unprofessional and unethical tactics to prosecute Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (her case was thrown out by a judge) and former Texas attorney general Jim Mattox, who was acquitted and won reelection.

This was a phony prosecution from the very beginning. It took Earle three separate attempts before he could get a case that a grand jury or a judge would not throw out. Then he got DeLay indicted for behavior that was perfectly legitimate under campaign-finance laws, identical to the kind of fundraising done by practically every campaign committee and candidate in the country.

DeLay solicited $155,000 in contributions for a political-action committee he headed and contributed $190,000 to the Republican National State Election Committee (RNSEC); the RNSEC then contributed $877,000 to 42 state and local candidates in Texas in the final two months of the 2002 campaign, including seven recommended by DeLay. For this routine act of campaign financing, DeLay was charged with and convicted of criminal money laundering, a crime defined by knowingly using the proceeds of criminal activity. Since these contributions were all legal, the most basic element of this supposed crime could not be met; nonetheless, Earle drove the case forward in one of the most outrageous prosecutorial abuses of criminal law that we have seen in decades. Meanwhile Earle indicted a number of companies, including Sears, that had made perfectly legal contributions to DeLay’s PAC, and then sold those companies dismissals in exchange for donations to one of his favorite charities.

Government prosecutors have a duty and an obligation to enforce the law judiciously and fairly. The power they are given by society is immense, and so is the damage they can do when they abuse that power. Ronnie Earle has showed in case after case that he is a self-serving ideologue, a crass opportunist who uses his power as a prosecutor to pursue his own political and ideological agenda.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

I bet he comes out of this advocating prison reform. It’s a cause that badly needs more high-profile conservative advocates.

David Frum at FrumForum:

I won’t pretend to any expertise on this question but … Doesn’t Citizens United raise at least some question about the campaign finance laws on which Tom DeLay was convicted? Seems an obvious challenge on appeal and at the Supreme Court. What do readers think?

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

He spoke to the court prior to sentencing, saying “I fought the fight. I ran the race. I kept the faith.” Former Speaker Denny Hastert also testified as a character witness on behalf of DeLay. Prosecutors showed a tape in court of DeLay’s comments after conviction, when he said, “Maybe we can get it before people who understand the law.”

I’d expect an appeal, so whether or not DeLay sees jail time right away depends on the judge’s decision to allow his release on bond.

Brian Doherty at Reason:

Undoubtedly DeLay as a former leading congressman is a criminal. Whether this particular interpretation of a law blocking free support and expression in politics is a proper bludgeon, I’d say no.

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