Wednesday, 26 December 2007

HILLARY CLINTON'S 'EXPERIENCE'

Ken Berwitz

I have noted over the past month or two that the New York Tmes - a newspaper which once seemed hopelessly in the tank for Hillary Clinton - keeps finding reasons to hedge its bets on the senator from New York

Yesterday, the Times ran an article on what is supposed to pass for Ms. Clinton's "experience".  I am posting the first part of it below (it's far too long to show in its entirety, but you can read it all by linking to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22395503/.) 

The news here is not that this is a hit piece.  It isn't.  The news is that it is a fair piece which seems to accurately put out the good and the bad, the real and the mythical about Ms. Clinton. 

Coming from the New York Times, it is borderline revelational:

Clinton's influence as first lady questioned

Clinton appeared to learn more through osmosis than decision-making
THE LONG RUN
By Patrick Healy
The New York Times
updated 11:16 p.m. ET, Tues., Dec. 25, 2007
This is part of a series of articles about the life and careers of contenders for the 2008 Republican and Democratic presidential nominations.

As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton jaw-boned the authoritarian president of Uzbekistan to leave his car and shake hands with people. She argued with the Czech prime minister about democracy. She cajoled Roman Catholic and Protestant women to talk to one another in Northern Ireland. She traveled to 79 countries in total, little of it leisure; one meeting with mutilated Rwandan refugees so unsettled her that she threw up afterward.

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the presidents daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

And during one of President Bill Clintons major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

Value, depth of experience debated
In seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton lays claim to two traits nearly every day: strength and experience. But as the junior senator from New York, she has few significant legislative accomplishments to her name. She has cast herself, instead, as a first lady like no other: a full partner to her husband in his administration, and, she says, all the stronger and more experienced for her eight years with a front-row seat on history.

Her rivals scoff at the idea that her background gives her any special qualifications for the presidency. Senator Barack Obama has especially questioned what experiences shes claiming as first lady, noting that the job is not the same as being a cabinet member, much less president.

And late last week, Mr. Obama suggested that more foreign policy experts from the Clinton administration were supporting his candidacy than hers; his campaign released a list naming about 45 of them, and said that others were not ready to go public. Mrs. Clinton quickly put out a list of 80 who were supporting her, and plans to release another 75 names on Wednesday.

Mrs. Clintons role in her most high-profile assignment as first lady, the failed health care initiative of the early 1990s, has been well documented. Yet little has been made public about her involvement in foreign policy and national security as first lady. Documents about her work remain classified at the National Archives. Mrs. Clinton has declined to divulge the private advice she gave her husband.

An interview with Mrs. Clinton, conversations with 35 Clinton administration officials and a review of books about her White House years suggest that she was more of a sounding board than a policy maker, who learned through osmosis rather than decision-making, and who grew gradually more comfortable with the use of military power.

Her time in the White House was a period of transition in foreign policy and national security, with the cold war over and the threat of Islamic terrorism still emerging. As a result, while in the White House, she was never fully a part of either the old school that had been focused on the Soviet Union and the possibility of nuclear war or the more recent strain of national security thinking defined by issues like nonstate threats and the proliferation of nuclear technology.

Associates from that time said that she was aware of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and what her husband has in recent years characterized as his intense focus on them, but that she made no aggressive independent effort to shape policy or gather information about the threat of terrorism.

First lady exercised soft power
She did not wrestle directly with many of the other challenges the next president will face, including managing a large-scale deployment or withdrawal of troops abroad, an overhaul of the intelligence agencies or the effort to halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Most of her exposure to the military has come since she left the White House through her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

When it came to the regional conflicts in the Balkans, she, along with many officials, was cautious at first about supporting American military intervention, though she later backed air strikes against the Serbs and the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

Her role mostly involved what diplomats call soft power converting cold war foes into friends, supporting nonprofit work and good-will endeavors, and pressing her agenda on womens rights, human trafficking and the expanded use of microcredits, tiny loans to help individuals in poor countries start small businesses.

Asked to name three major foreign policy decisions where she played a decisive role as first lady, Mrs. Clinton responded in generalities more than specifics, describing her strategic roles on trips to Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, India, Africa and Latin America.

Asked to cite a significant foreign policy object lesson from the 1990s, Mrs. Clinton also replied with broad observations. There are a lot of them, she said. The whole unfortunate experience weve had with the Bush administration, where they havent done what weve needed to do to reach out to the rest of the world, reinforces my experience in the 1990s that public diplomacy, showing respect and understanding of peoples different perspectives its more likely to at least create the conditions where we can exercise our values and pursue our interests.

Crisis at home and terror afar
There were times, though, when Mrs. Clinton did not appear deeply involved in some of Mr. Clintons hardest moments on national security. He faced a major one in 1998 the bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and subsequently whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan. Just days after he acknowledged to his wife, the public and a grand jury that he had had a relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Mr. Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes on targets suspected to be a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and a chemical weapons factory in Sudan.

It was the height of Monica, and they were barely talking to each other, if at all, said one senior national security official who spoke with both Clintons during that time.

Asked if she talked to the president about the military choices or advised him, regardless of their personal problems, Mrs. Clinton was elliptical.

I was very proud of him, he did what he thought he was supposed to do as president based on the best intelligence he had, she said. And he was well aware that there would be those that would certainly criticize him for it. .

Woody Allen once said that 80% of success is just showing up.  If he's right, most people will consider Hillary Clinton experienced simply because she was there when it happened.

Me, I'm a bit skeptical about this presumption.  Hillary Clinton's security detail was there too.  So was the rest of her not inconsiderable entourage.  No one is nominating any of them for the presidency.  And no one is claiming any of them have the experience to run this country.


CUTTING THEIR LOSSES

Ken Berwitz

Remember that little who made the mistake of bringing a steak knife to school earlier this month, for the purpose of (gasp!) cutting the steak she was eating for lunch?  Remember her being hauled away from the school on a FELONY charge? 

Well here, two weeks later, is what happened to her, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Charges dropped against girl who brought steak knife to school

By The Associated Press

OCALA, Fla. (AP) - Authorities have dropped a felony weapons charge against a 10-year-old girl in Ocala who brought a kitchen knife to school to cut up her lunch.

The girl, whose name has not been released, was arrested after teachers at Sunrise Elementary School saw her use a 4-inch knife on a steak. She was also suspended from school for three days.

After reviewing her school record and interviewing her, investigators with the Department of Juvenile Justice recommended that the State Attorney's Office not prosecute the child. The attorney's office agreed.

Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway told the Orlando Sentinel that nothing in the girl's school history suggested she was a troubled child
.
 
I understand the concept of zero tolerance.  But I prefer that the zero refer only to tolerance and not to the IQ of the school personnel.
 
There is such a thing as common sense.  And when a ten year old girl who has never been any kind of a problem shows up with a steak knife --- and a steak to use it on  --- you do not call the police.  You take the knife away.
 
Did the girl make a mistake.  Yes she did.  Omigod, a ten year old girl made a mistake.  When did that ever happen before?
 
I am certainly against children bringing potential weapons to any school, elementary or otherwise.  But if zero tolerance means teachers and school administrators use the rule as an absolute instead of using their brains, that's where I part company with it.
 
And that's what happened here. 
 
All I can say is I hope they never start a fencing team at the school.  Based on what happent to this little girl, they'd wind up getting the chair.
 
 


THE BIGGEST BOONDOGGLE

Ken Berwitz

Riddle:  What do you think the single biggest public works boondoggle in USA history could be?  I don't know for certain, but I would bet plenty it is Boston's "Big Dig"

"The Big Dig", or more correctly "Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project, started at a budget of under 3 billion dollars.  It has come in at an astounding 15 billion (so far!). 

The amount of graft, corruption and incompetence and mismanagement and malfeasance and misfeasance and thumbs in the eye of every taxpayer required to create this 12 billion dollar overage is beyond imagination.

But, then again, you don't have to imagine it, do you?  Because there it is for you to "enjoy".

My chatroom pal Jaland was nice enough to give me some specific cost breakdowns related to the size of this boondoggle.  According to him:

"(The) $1 billion per mile cost of the Big Dig works out to $189,393.94 per foot, or $15,782.83 per inch"

Am I surprised by the fraud inherent in this boondoggle?  Not at all.

Am I surprised by the SCOPE of the fraud?  Yes.  I had no idea that much corruption and dishonesty would be pushed in taxpayers' faces (and prodded out of their wallets).

I wonder how many of the people involved in "The Big Dig" have spent the last four years telling us about all the mistakes President Bush made in Iraq, as if things going wrong during a war were unique to his administration?  I wonder how they stack that up against a 500%  overrun costing an extra 12 billion or so dollars when there was no adversary involved.

Come to think of it, I wonder the same thing about the folks responsible for rebuilding the world trade center site in New York City - which, over 6 years after the attack, remains a hole in the ground.


REVISITING JOHN MCCAIN

Ken Berwitz

In previous blogs I have written about my fear of John McCain.

My concern is that, probably because of the horrific years he spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and what he was subjected to at that time (hint: it was a bit more than having panties put on his head)  he may be a ticking time bomb and therefore unfit for the office of President. 

I wrote then and I write now that this has nothing to do with my respect and admiration for John McCain.  I have an enormous amount of both.  But in reading about his legendary temper and then listening to him speak in those measured, deliberate monotones, I have to admit there is a genuinely unsettling aura about the man.

Politics-wise, none of this has been very relevant until recently because McCain has been so low in the polls.  But it appears that he is in the midst of a strong resurgance, and that changes things.  It is time to revisit the man and reconsider his viability as a Presidential candidate.

In this connection Jeff Jacoby's column about Senator McCain in today's Boston Globe is a very persuasive one. 

Please read it and see if you agree:

NO ORDINARY CANDIDATE

By Jeff Jacoby

TheBoston Globe

 

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

 

 

     When he ran for president eight years ago, John McCain was asked by an interviewer what he thought of the Confederate flag -- a touchy topic in South Carolina , where at the time a debate was raging over whether the banner

should continue to fly above the state capitol.

 

 

     McCain answered from the heart: As we all know, it's a symbol of racism and slavery. But his reply infuriated many South Carolina voters, and after the interview McCain's aides pushed him to undo the damage. So he let them draft a statement clarifying his position, and when reporters asked him about the flag in the days that followed, he made a show of pulling the paper from his pocket and reading his revised remarks. As to how I view the flag, it began, I understand both sides. It went on to acknowledge that some people may deem the flag a symbol of slavery -- McCain's original, authentic opinion -- but that personally, I see the battle flag as a symbol of heritage.

 

     By the fourth or fifth time the question came up, McCain later wrote in his 2002 memoir, *Worth the Fighting For* (coauthored with Mark Salter), he could have delivered the new response from memory.

 

     But I persisted with the theatrics of unfolding the paper and reading it as if I were making a hostage statement. I wanted to telegraph reporters that I really didn't mean to suggest I supported flying the flag, but political imperatives required a little evasiveness on my part. I wanted them to think me still an honest man, who simply had to cut a corner a little here and there so that I could go on to be an honest president. I think that made the offense worse. Acknowledging my dishonesty with a wink didn't make it less a lie. It compounded the offense by revealing how willful it had been. You either have the guts to tell the truth or you dont. . . .

 

     I had not just been dishonest. I had been a coward, and I had severed my own interests from my country's. That was what made the lie unforgivable. All my heroes, fictional and real, would have been ashamed of me.

 

     Try, if you can, to imagine Hillary Clinton writing those words. Or Mitt Romney. Or Mike Huckabee. Is it conceivable that John Edwards, who fiercely indicts the moral shortcomings of others, would ever speak so bluntly and harshly about his own? Would Ron Paul? Would Barack Obama? Among America's leading politicians, I cannot think of any who is so forthright about his own failings, or so willing to let the world see him struggle with his conscience.

 

     I didnt vote for McCain in the 2000 primary. I didnt vote for George W. Bush either. As I wrote at the time, I skipped the GOP primary altogether because I was repelled by the candidates cheap shots and mudslinging. (McCain would later characterize it pretty much the same way. "George and I exchanged so many insults and charges," he wrote in his memoir. "[T]he primary became a foul brew of resentment, hatred, and sleaze.")

 

     Today McCain's second presidential campaign is in the midst of a remarkable revival. A few months ago, he was down and nearly out, his poll numbers plummeting and his bank account depleted. Today he is closing in on the New Hampshire lead, just 3 percentage points behind front-runner Mitt Romney, according to the latest Boston Globe poll.

 

     An impressive collection of odd journalistic bedfellows -- the liberal Globe and the Des Moines Register, the conservative Boston Herald and the Manchester Union-Leader, even the University of Iowa's Daily Iowan -- have all endorsed the Arizona senator. So have four quite dissimilar former secretaries of state -- Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Lawrence Eagleburger, and George Shultz. McCain even has the blessing of Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee in 2000. Highly opinionated and controversial politicians do not normally win support from such disparate regions of the philosophical map. If the slogan weren't so tarnished, McCain could rightly claim to be running for the White House as a uniter, not a divider.

 

     In the Globe's new poll, one finding caught my eye. When asked which candidate they thought most trustworthy, 30 percent of likely Republican voters chose McCain -- the highest tally of any candidate, Republican or Democrat. Obama, with 29 percent, is almost as highly trusted. Among Republicans, Romneys 23 percent puts him in second place, not too far behind McCain's rating on trustworthiness. But the two men's numbers have been moving in opposite directions. The more voters get to know the candidates, the less they trust Romney -- and the more they trust McCain.

 

     I'm not surprised. Not because I imagine that McCain walks on water. He is plainly a flawed human being with a skeleton or two in his closet. But he strives to heed the better angels of his nature -- and he lets us see the striving. Ironically, a politician who can publicly berate himself for being dishonest and a coward is a politician voters have more reason to trust. A once and future presidential hopeful who can own up to his own moral lapses and write, with sincerity, All my heroes . . . would have been ashamed of me, is no ordinary candidate.

 

     And if there is one thing American politics badly needs these days, it is no ordinary candidate. .

 

There are issues John McCain and I disagree on, both to the left and to the right.  But a) we agree on many others and b) in any event, I've never known of a candidate whose positions were entirely in synch with mine, so our differences don't really count for much.

 

Jacoby's column reminds me of the innate honesty of the man.  Honesty goes a long way in my book. 

 

I am also thinking that McCain has been in the senate for almost a quarter century and - despite his fabled temper - has not snapped yet. 

 

While it is certainly true that the rigors of the presidency are dramatically greater than those of the US Senate, it is also true that if anyone has been tested on withstanding rigors, this is the guy.

 

Maybe I should be rethinking John McCain....


THOMAS SOWELL'S PRESIDENTIAL CYNICISM

Ken Berwitz

It's sad to see as brilliant a man as Professor Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, this disheartened by the presidential prospects in both parties.  But disheartened he is.  And when Mr. Sowell speaks, intelligent people listen (or, in this case, read).

I'm not as unhappy with the candidates as the Professor is. But I also have trouble arguing with almost any of the points he raises.  That's an uncomfortable position to be in.

Here is his analysis.  See how you feel about it:







Unpromising Times
Primary elections and secondary candidates.

By Thomas Sowell

Apparently there is nobody among either the Democrats or the Republicans who is going to cause a runaway stampede like that which toppled all the Republican front-runners in 1940, when the convention delegates began loudly chanting We want Wilkie!

It is a struggle to keep awake during most of the so-called debates among the small army of candidates in both parties. At least the primaries will put an end to those awful spectacles.

It is much too early to try to guess who is going to win either partys nomination. The most we can have at this point are some general impressions.

None of the candidates looks truly inspiring at this point. I wouldnt buy a used car from most of them, nor a brand new car from some of them.

John Edwards is the easiest to peg. He looks just like the phony that he is.

His talk about poor children going to bed hungry may rouse the far left in his party but in fact the lowest-income people are even more obese than the rest of us, not that the facts make the slightest difference to Senator Edwards.

As an attorney, Edwards conned millions of dollars out of gullible juries, using junk science to create the impression that it was the fault of doctors when babies were born with birth defects.

Republicans, as usual, seem to have more people who would make good presidents than people who would make good presidential candidates. Unfortunately for them, we have elections instead of coronations.

Fred Thompson seems to have the best policy positions and the best political track record among the Republican candidates and the least effective presentation of himself.

If Senator Thompson can beat the odds and become president, he would probably be better than most of those who have been in the White House in recent times though that is not extravagant praise.

The only candidate of either party who truly looks presidential is Mitt Romney. It was unfortunate that Mike Huckabee and others have tried to make his religion an issue.

John F. Kennedy was supposed to have taken that issue out of politics and Huckabees bringing it back in ought to disqualify him for a shot at the White House, even aside from Governor Huckabees wholesale pardons of criminals and his raising taxes.

Romney and Giuliani are both articulate Republicans and it is rare for the Republicans to have two at one time. Some presidential election years they havent even had one.

If Romneys and Giulianis track records in office matched their ability to talk, either of them could unite and lead their party to victory. But that is no small if.

When it comes to articulation, no one can beat Barack Obama. He can even convince people that he has new ideas, when in fact they are old 1960s ideas that have failed repeatedly, ever since that irresponsible decade.

John McCain seems to be having a little resurgence but it is hard to believe that Republicans are so desperate as to support a man who joined with far left Democrat Russ Feingold to restrict free speech in the name of campaign finance reform and with Ted Kennedy to sponsor a bill giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Then there is Hillary Clinton, formerly known as front-runner Hillary Clinton or the inevitable candidate Hillary Clinton.

It is painful to watch her trying to act human and it would be even more painful to see the Clintons back in the White House that they disgraced in so many ways.

She might even be shameless enough to put him on the Supreme Court, where he could ruin the law of the land, as many of his own judicial appointees are already doing in the federal courts.

As for the other candidates in both parties, the big question is why anyone takes them seriously as candidates to lead the nation at a time of huge dangers that terrorists will end up with nuclear weapons, whether from Iran or Pakistan.

This nation has come back from unpromising times before. Lets hope that we have not already used up all our luck
.

Ouch.

Again, I'm not convinced things are as bad as Mr. Sowell makes them out to be.  Nor do I think there have been appreciably better choices in other recent elections. 

Let's hope the country doesn't get stuck good in 2008.  It's a luxury we can't afford.


THE RACIAL DOUBLE STANDARD

Ken Berwitz

Earlier this year I blogged about the unspeakably hideous rape, torture and murder of a young White couple by a group of Black rapists, torturers and murderers.

I commented then, as I have at other times, about the fact that there is no such thing as "reverse racism".  Racial crimes are no more or less racial when they are committed by Blacks against Whites than the other way around.

Today Walter Williams has a column about this impossibly sick event.  There are two things in it that turn my stomach.  One is what happened to these two innocents.  And the other is that an intelligent, knowledgeable man like Walter Williams only now has heard about it:

Hiding Black Interracial Crimes
By Walter E. Williams
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

If you're like I am, you've heard scores of media reports about the 2006 Duke University rape case, in which three white lacrosse players were falsely accused of raping a black stripper at a wild party at the home of one of the team members. These guys, convicted by the news media and Duke faculty, were later found innocent. It turned out that Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was running for re-election. In seeking the black vote, he concealed DNA evidence that would have exonerated the lacrosse players.

You might remember hearing scores of stories about the 1998 murder of James Byrd, a black man who was stripped, chained to a pickup truck and dragged through the streets until he was decapitated in Jasper, Texas. The incident provided fodder for the NAACP and others to attack then-Texas Gov. George Bush, during his 2000 election campaign, for not supporting hate crime legislation. It turned out that two of Byrd's murderers were sentenced to death, and the other, life in prison.

I don't know about you, but it was just recently that I heard about a gruesome murder in Knoxville, Tenn., that is far worse than the false charges in the Duke rape case and is at least as horrible, if not more so, than the dragging death of James Byrd. Unlike the Duke rape case and the Jasper lynching, the national news media's coverage of the interracial Knoxville murders paled in comparison. On Jan. 6, 2007, University of Tennessee student Channon Christian and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, were carjacked and kidnapped in Knoxville. Both of them were later murdered.

According to a 46-count indictment, suspects Darnell Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson, George Thomas and Vanessa Coleman, all blacks, are charged with committing rape, including sodomy against Christian and Newsom, both of whom are white. After being raped, Newsom was shot several times and his body was found burned along nearby railroad tracks. Christian was forced to witness her boyfriend's rape, torture and subsequent murder before she was ultimately raped, tortured and murdered. The police discovered her body inside a large trash can in the kitchen of the home where the murders took place. Before disposing of her body, the murderers poured bleach or some other cleaning agent down her throat in an effort to destroy DNA evidence. Trial dates have been set for next May.

What have we heard from the NAACP, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and others who rushed to judgment and outrage as they condemned whites in the cases of the "Jena 6" and Don Imus when he referred to the Rutgers ladies basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's"? Where were the national news media and public officials? You can bet the rent money that were the victims black and the perpetrators white, Knoxville would have been inundated with TV crews, with Jackson, Sharpton and other civil rights spokesmen and politicians from both parties condemning racism, possibly blaming it all on George Bush.

According to the 2004 FBI National Crime Victimization Survey, in most instances of interracial crimes, the victim is white and the perpetrator is black. In the case of interracial murder for 2004, where the race of victim and perpetrator is known, more than twice as many whites were murdered by a black than cases of a white murdering a black. The failure of civil rights leaders, people like Jackson and Sharpton, as well as politicians to vocally condemn black-on-white crime -- and the relative silence of the news media in reporting it -- is not simply a matter of double standards. It's dangerous, for it contributes to a pile of racial kindling awaiting a racial arsonist to set it ablaze. I can't think of better recruitment gifts for America's racists, either white or black. .

Mr. Williams' point is made by the simple fact that he did not know about these atrocities for almost a year (they took place on January 6).  

Where were the media on this story?  What happened to the standard-issue explanation of news reportage that "if it bleeds, it leads"?  This wasn't gruesome enough? 

As Mr. Williams points out, media certainly had no problem covering the Duke lacrosse case and the Jena 6 case, the first of which turned out to be entirely fraudulent and the second of which turned out to be mostly fraudulent. 

But Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom were not some figment of someone's imagination.  What happened to them is all too real.  It hurts to even think about it. 

And people like jesse jackson and the despicable al sharpton -- a career racist/anti-semite who is now a kingmaker in the Democratic party?  Their silence is deafening. 

The same media which did not bother to report about Christian and Newsom also declines to hold the Democratic Party to account for its obeisance to sharpton.  What else do you need to know about these media?


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