Friday, 06 April 2007

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TOM LANTOS?

Ken Berwitz

I really want to like Tom Lantos.  His early history (many years ago, but his history nevertheless) certainly gives me a reason to be sympathetic to the congressman from California.  From his website:-

An American by choice, Tom Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary, on February 1, 1928. He was 16 years of age when Nazi Germany occupied his native country. As a teenager, he was placed in a Hungarian fascist forced labor camp. He succeeded in escaping and was able to survive in a safe house in Budapest set up by Swedish humanitarian Raoul Wallenberg. His story is one of the individual accounts which forms the basis of Steven Spielberg's Academy Award winning documentary about the Holocaust in Hungary, The Last Days. -

How can you root against someone who came from that background and rose to where he is today?

Unfortunately, Mr. Lantos makes it easy.  Lantos, who is now chairman of the house Foreign Affairs Committee, has decided he is not just chairing a committee, he is in charge of this country's foreign affairs.  The fact that chairing this committee gives him exactly no such authority?  Not an issue to Mr. Lantos...or to his boss, Speaker Pelosi.

Read this piece from today's Wall Street Journal.  Its main focus is on the incomparably arrogant, ignorant Nancy Pelosi.  But note what a close second - certainly in arrogance - Mr. Lantos is.  He gives Ms. Pelosi a real run for her money.   As usual, the bold print is mine:

-

Democrats at War
Prime Minister Pelosi and Secretary of State Lantos undermine U.S. foreign policy--and maybe their own party.

Friday, April 6, 2007 12:01 a.m.

Democrats took Congress last fall in part by opposing the war in Iraq, but it is becoming clear that they view their election as a mandate for something far more ambitious--to wit, promoting and executing their own foreign policy, albeit without the detail of a Presidential election.

Their intentions were made plain this week with two remarkable acts by their House and Senate leaders. Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed Senator Russ Feingold's proposal to withdraw from Iraq immediately, cutting off funds entirely within a year. He promised a vote soon, as part of what the Washington Post reported would also be a Democratic offensive to close Guantanamo, reinstate legal rights for terror suspects, and improve relations with Cuba.

Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her now famous sojourn to Syria, donning a head scarf and advertising that she was conducting shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem and Damascus. If there was any doubt that her trip was intended as far more than a routine Congressional "fact-finding" trip, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Tom Lantos put it to rest by declaring that, "We have an alternative Democratic foreign policy. I view my job as beginning with restoring overseas credibility and respect for the United States."

Americans should understand how extraordinary this is. There have been previous battles over U.S. foreign policy and fierce domestic criticism. In the 1990s, these columns defended Bill Clinton against "the Republican drift toward isolationism and political opportunism" amid the Kosovo conflict. But rarely in U.S. history have Congressional leaders sought to conduct their own independent diplomacy, with the Speaker acting as a Prime Minister traveling with a Secretary of State in the person of Mr. Lantos.

Yes, Congressional Republicans have visited Syria too. But Ms. Pelosi isn't some minority back-bencher. Without a Democrat in the White House, she and Mr. Reid are the national leaders of their party. Even Newt Gingrich, for all his grand domestic ambitions in 1995, took a muted stand on foreign policy, realizing that in the American system the executive has the bulk of national security power. He also understood he would do the country no favors by sending a mixed message to our enemies--at the time, Slobodan Milosevic.

What was Ms. Pelosi hoping to accomplish, other than embarrassing President Bush? "We were very pleased with reassurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process," she told reporters after meeting with dictator Bashar Assad. "We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria."

She purported to convey a message from Israel's Ehud Olmert expressing similar interest in "the peace process," except that the Israeli Prime Minister felt obliged to issue a clarification noting that Ms. Pelosi had got the message wrong. Israel hadn't changed its policy, which is that it will negotiate only when Mr. Assad repudiates his support for terrorism and stops trying to dominate Lebanon. As a shuttle diplomat, Ms. Pelosi needs some practice.

Mr. Lantos probably got closer to their real intentions when he told reporters that "this is only the beginning of our constructive dialogue with Syria, and we hope to build on it." The Pelosi cavalcade is intended to show that if only the Bush Administration would engage in "constructive dialogue," the Syrians, Israelis and everyone else could all get along.

This is the same Syrian regime that has facilitated the movement of money and insurgents to kill Americans in Iraq; that has been implicated by a U.N. probe in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri; and that has snubbed any number of U.S. overtures since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Perhaps if he works hard enough, Mr. Lantos can match the 22 visits to Damascus that Bill Clinton's Secretary of State Warren Christopher made in the 1990s trying to squeeze peace from that same stone.

In fact, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Lantos both voted for the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 that ordered Mr. Bush to choose from a menu of six sanctions to impose on Damascus. Mr. Bush chose the weakest two sanctions and dispatched a new Ambassador to Syria in a goodwill gesture in 2004. Only later, in the wake of the Hariri murder and clear intelligence of Syria's role in aiding Iraqi Baathists, did Mr. Bush conclude that Mr. Assad's real goal was to reassert control over Lebanon and bleed Americans in Iraq.

With her trip, Ms. Pelosi has now reassured the Syrian strongman that Mr. Bush lacks the domestic support to impose any further pressure on his country. She has also made it less likely that Mr. Assad will cooperate with the Hariri probe, or assist the Iraqi government in defeating Baathist and al Qaeda terrorists.

Back in Washington, Harry Reid says his response to Mr. Bush's certain veto of his Iraq spending bill will be to escalate. He now supports cutting off funds and beginning an immediate withdrawal, even as General David Petraeus's surge in Baghdad unfolds and shows signs of promise. If Mr. Bush were as politically cynical as Democrats think, he'd let Mr. Reid's policy become law. Then Democrats would share responsibility for whatever mayhem happened next.

So this is Democratic foreign policy: Assure our enemies that they can ignore a President who still has 21 months to serve; and wash their hands of Baghdad and of their own guilt for voting to let Mr. Bush go to war. No doubt Democrats think the President's low job approval, and public unhappiness with the war, gives them a kind of political immunity. But we wonder.

Once we leave Iraq, America's enemies will still reside in the Mideast; and they will be stronger if we leave behind a failed government and bloodbath in Iraq. Mr. Bush's successor will have to contain the damage, and that person could even be a Democrat. But by reverting to their Vietnam message of retreat and by blaming Mr. Bush for all the world's ills, Democrats on Capitol Hill may once again convince voters that they can't be trusted with the White House in a dangerous world.

-

The one glimmer of hope I see, is that anything being run by Pelosi will continue only to the point where there are serious political repercussions (as opposed to what it might do to our country).  In this regard I am happy to report that, in the past 48 hours, a very large number of media which are usually very reliable for Democrats have vilified Ms. Pelosi and, by implication, her chief henchman, Mr. Lantos.  Even the Today show ran a genuinely fair lead story on the Syria debacle. 

Maybe if enough additional American people wake up, Pelosi and Lantos will shut up.  We can only hope..........


THE BUSH ECONOMY

Ken Berwitz

Here's an update on the "failed" presidency of George Bush:-

Jobless Rate 4.4 Percent, 5-Year Low
Friday April 6, 3:52 pm ET
By Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer
Unemployment Matches 5-Year Low; Jobs Surge by 180,000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- If you were looking for a job as a teacher last month, you were in luck. Same goes for health workers, retail clerks and building contractors.

All told, the economy added 180,000 new jobs, dropping unemployment to a 4.4 percent rate that matched a five-year low.

The mostly positive snapshot of the nation's employment climate, released by the Labor Department on Friday, showed that companies ramped up hiring and paid workers more. That's good news for employees and jobseekers, and bodes well for the national economy, too, which is suffering a sluggish spell and a painful housing slump.

"For most people, the job market is still hitting on a lot of cylinders, especially for people who are willing to upgrade their skills. It is not leaving a large number of people stranded," said John Challenger, chief of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an employment research firm. "But there are pockets where people are having a difficult time," he said.

Those include people looking for work at factories, where jobs in March were cut for the ninth straight month. Makers of autos, furniture, clothing and textiles all eliminated jobs last month. Another soft spot: residential construction, a casualty of the housing slump.

But there were many more job winners than losers. Construction jobs led the way, especially for contractors and for commercial building. Retailers, health care providers, educational services and leisure and hospitality companies were among those boosting their payrolls.

"Businesses have a very good appetite for hiring workers. The job market is sturdy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com. "It is a good time to be looking for a job, particularly if you have skills and education."

Against that backdrop, unemployment fell from 4.5 percent in February to 4.4 percent in March. That matched the rate in October -- the lowest in five years.-

What is driving this economy?  Could it be the same thing that is causing our deficit to plummet?  Could it be the tax relief that has raised government revenues?  Could it be the fact that this stimulates the economy and incents businesses to expand and hire more employees?   

If so, and to a major degree it IS so, we have President Bush to thank.

When Bill Clinton took office we were in the midst of an economic boom.  He campaigned on the theme that our economy was the worst in 50 years, but he was lying (now there's a shock).  In reality, the recession he campaigned on had been over for a year and a half, and we were riding a growth rate over 5% (fourth quarter 1992). 

When Clinton left office, however, the economy was in a free-fall.  The great Clinton boom period, with its magnificent projections of budgetary surpluses as far as the eye could see, was primarily based on the dot.com bubble, with its artificial $$$ and millions of jobs for people in businesses that never turned a profit.  When that bubble burst, in March, 2000, it was the end of the Clinton boom. 

Our economic growth went from 8% in the first quarter of 2000 to 1% in the 4th quarter 2000, on its way to negative territory. Bush had not yet spent a day as president.

When Bush's first budget kicked in, October 1, 2001 (that's right, our fiscal year starts in fourth quarter.  So the first three quarters of the Bush presidency - i. e the entire recession - was during CLINTON'S budget), we not only had gone through a year and a half of downwardly spiralling economy, but it was three weeks after the 9/11 attacks which decimated what was left. 

Democrats thereupon not only blamed Bush for the bad economy that Clinton bequeathed him, but many blamed him for 9/11 too.  Sick isn't the word for it.

Instead of crumpling up and dying, however, Bush used his Republican majority in congress and pushed through massive tax reform.  By lowering taxes he has turned a disastrous economy into a years-long boom period, complete with huge job growth and higher wages.  

Illustratively, as President Bush reported last week (to minimal media coverage) we have had 42 consecutive months of job growth and about 7,500,000 new jobs.  Or, put in a comparative framework, we have economic growth and unemployment levels that the EU (European Union) doesn't even dare to dream about.

For which he gets virtually no credit in the media. 

This is why most people don't give him any credit for our remarkably strong economy;  it's hard to give credit when you aren't told there is credit to give. 

Anyway, if you read this blog you now know the latest good news.  Enjoy it, remember who brought it to you, and think about what will happen if Democrats repeal the tax cuts that were so instrumental in giving it to you.


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