Thursday, 17 April 2008

THE PENNSYLVANIA DEBATE

Ken Berwitz

I watched parts of the debate last night between Senators Clinton and Obama but not all of it.  (Hey, the Yankees were playing Boston.  Cut me some slack, jack.)

But I did see a lot of it, and I've read two analyses - one by leftist Tom Shales of the Washington Post (which you can read by clicking here) and one by Philip Klein of the American Spectator (who I assume to be a conservative given the venue he writes for), which I am posting below.

I would put them both up, but it would be too long a blog.  Besides, Shales is so ridiculously pro-Obama that it might annoy you to see it here.  At least I know that if you proactively link to his Barack love-fest it is because you want it in front of you.

Klein, by contrast, clearly dislikes them both.  So while it isn't a very positive playing field, both candidates take their lumps with roughly the same level of vitriol.

Here is what Klein had to say:

Stuttering Democrats
By Philip Klein
Published 4/17/2008 1:29:38 AM

PHILADELPHIA -- Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton squared off last night in a debate to help Democrats choose their party's nominee, but the big winner wasn't either Democrat. It was Republican John McCain.

Both Clinton and Obama were rattled as ABC moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopolous grilled them on a number of issues that have not been brought into focus before.

Clinton came across as craven and dishonest, while the normally eloquent Obama buckled under tough questioning about his relationships with former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright. When the debate moved to policy, both candidates contradicted themselves repeatedly and
revealed the hollowness of their liberal positions.

Gibson reminded Obama that more than a year ago he asked Wright not to attend the announcement of his candidacy, reportedly telling his long-time pastor, "You can get kind of rough in sermons. So, what we've decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public." Gibson then asked Obama why, knowing Wright was "rough in sermons," it took him more than a year to distance himself from the remarks.

Obama responded unconvincingly, saying that even though he had a close relationship with Wright that spanned decades, it wasn't until he read an article in Rolling Stone that he found out that the reverend had delivered inflammatory sermons, and that it wasn't until he saw YouTube clips that he was aware of Wright's even more explosive comments.

But in last month's highly touted race speech, Obama said: "Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes."

So which is it?

Meanwhile, Obama declared that because Wright served as a Marine, "I believe that he loves this country." I'd wager that most Americans who listened to Wright shout, "God damn America" would come to a different conclusion.

When Obama was asked a question about his relationship with domestic terrorist Ayers, he made the outlandish parallel to his friendship with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, who is a fierce opponent of abortion.

And Obama also had a telling response when asked about his uneasiness about wearing an American flag lapel pin.

"This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I'm commander in chief, which is going to be figuring out how we get our troops out of Iraq and how we actually make our economy better for the American people," Obama said.

It was quite indicative of how he views his job as commander in chief that he describes it only in terms of leaving Iraq rather than protecting America. Even if somebody believes that withdrawing from Iraq is a necessary precondition to securing our nation, it is certainly a bizarre way to define the role of leading the armed forces of the largest military of the world.

Clinton didn't fare any better when, by video, a voter asked about her fantastical recreation of her visit to Bosnia in 1996.

"I can tell you that I may be a lot of things. But I'm not dumb," Clinton said. "On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book."

Well there's a word for when intelligent people say things that they know not to be true. It's called: lying. I'm surprised she never learned this from her grandfather who worked in the lace mills in Scranton.


THE CANDIDATES' PERFORMANCES did not improve once the subject moved on to policy.

Clinton, at first, committed to withdrawing one or two brigades a month from Iraq upon taking office, no matter the realities on the ground. But then she said she would, upon taking office, ask her security advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretary of Defense to draw up plans to begin a pullout within 60 days. "I will make it very clear that we will do so in a responsible and careful manner because, obviously, withdrawing troops and equipment, is dangerous."

But what if her advisers tell her that withdrawing one or two brigades a month isn't responsible, would she override them?

"No one can predict what will happen," Clinton said. "There are many different scenarios."

But what if one of these unpredictable scenarios occurs? Will she still withdraw troops at the same pace? And who's on first?

Obama, meanwhile, gave a more coherent response to this question, that the president sets the mission, which the military commanders then follow. But when it came to Iran, the golden-tongued Obama sounded like Elmer Fudd.

When asked by Stephanopolous whether America should treat an Iranian attack on Israel as an attack on the United States, Obama dodged the question with boilerplate about the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, before eventually arriving at, "that would be an act of aggression that we would -- that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable. And the United States would take appropriate action."

Yeah Barack, that ought to show them!

On domestic policy, both candidates tried to slither their way out of past anti-gun rights positions, and explain their myriad plans to raise taxes.

Asked why he would consider nearly doubling capital gains taxes even though historically revenue has gone up from lowering the rates, Obama got flustered.

"Well, that might happen, or it might not," Obama said. "It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going." He then went off on a tangent about President Bush and McCain being inattentive to the housing crisis.

Clinton also said she would consider raising the capital gains tax, only not by as much as Obama.

And then Obama, despite minutes earlier saying he wouldn't raise taxes on individuals earning less than $200,000, said he would consider raising the cap on payroll taxes, which would mean a tax hike for anybody earning more than $97,000.

It may very well be that with an unpopular incumbent president in office, a controversial war, and an uncertain economy, the deck is just too stacked against Republicans this election year for them to retake the White House. And McCain no doubt has his own weaknesses as a candidate. But the Democrats sure did look beatable Wednesday night.

Klein clearly feels that neither of the two candidates performed well and neither of them advanced the Democratic party's presidential election prospects.  I tend to agree with that.

But I would add that, of the two, Barack Obama has a lot more to lose, because a) he is the prohibitive favorite (at least as of now) to win the nomination and b) he is far less well known than Ms. Clinton, so every new piece of information is a significant building block to people's overall impression of him.

Most of the debate was over issues that Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama pretty much agree on.  Their proposals might differ, but they would be seeking the same results.

In my opinion the most important part of the debate was about what Tom Shales refers to as "gossip":  namely Mr. Obama's associations with william ayers and jeremiah wright, which he so clumsily tried to defend.

If Mr. Obama thinks that he can brush off his association with william ayers, an admitted - and enthusiastic - domestic terrorist by calling it a "flimsy" attack, he better go back to Harvard and load up on courses that teach basic logic.  Ditto the decades-long association with racist, anti-USA jeremiah wright, Obama's "spiritual mentor" - whose hate-filled positions he initially claimed not to even know about.

It will be more than a little interesting to see how Pennsylvania votes next Tuesday.  If Obama runs about even with Clinton or wins outright, it is all but over for Hillary Clinton.  However, if Ms. Clinton wins decisively it could be the beginning of the end for Mr. Obama.

Either way, you can see that smile on John McCain's face clear across Pennsylvania Avenue.


THE CROOKSANDLIARS.COM REGULARS COMMENT ON DICK CHENEY

Ken Berwitz

I couldn't resist.

Every now and then I put up a comment at www.crooksandliars.com about one of its blogs.  Today I put this one up about Dick Cheney:

Since this is Dick Cheneys last year as Vice President it is also his last licks at the Radio and Television Correspondents dinner.

Cheney was biting, sarcastic, often self-effacing and (mostly) funny as hell.

As far as Mo Rocca, I have nothing against him but I have never found him to be funny or clever. As it turned out, he was godawful. Maybe this is just the wrong forum for his kind of humor.

As you might have expected, these comments are in synch with my blog about Mr. Cheney.

I do not know how the regulars at crooksandliars.com will react to what I wrote.  Since it isn't very provocative maybe they won't react at all.  If they do, I'll update and let you know what they said.

But first I would like to show you a sampling of what the regulars have posted about Mr. Cheney without my input.  Warning:  you will need a strong stomach to read them:

War criminal toadying to ignorant assholes who think they matter. What an edifying spectacle. Yuk it up you vile, fat, old piece of human waste. 

Your days are numbered.

------

You know, if Cheney would have gotten up there with a cigar, his shotgun while wearing that hat and sunglasses he would look just like Saddam Hussein. Fitting actually, since they are both cut from the same cloth.

------

Im sure way back when, it was just as creepy when Hitler laughed. And soldiers have died and suffered permanent injuries for these mother fuckers. A total waste.

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Why the fuck do we allow our media to schmooze with any of these assholes?

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The world will cool off when his pace maker finally fails for the last time.

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You watch this garbage and its not hard to see why the media has no credibility! They are such whores for these idiots.Oh Dick We LoveYou Tee Hee Youre so funny . Gag me, I think Im going to be sick.

He claimed he met with the pope earlier, Why didnt his holiness bitch slap Darth for his part in destroying a soveriegn nation, the deaths of over four thousand American soldiers, the murder of an estimated million Iraqis, Torture, war profiteering and more. Nothing was said, That says a lot about the pope I guess.

Keep smirking Dickie Boy Youre gonna look great in that orange jumpsuit next year after you leave office!!

------

Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney! Go fuck yourself!

Did you enjoy this wit and wisdom?  If so, I have a link to crooksandliars.com on this blog.  Feel free to go there any time, and be assured you'll get the same quality of commentary.

Ahhh, the hard left.  Poets and lovers all............

UPDATE:  Well, my comment (so far, at least) has not generated any response.  But here are a few more nuggets from the regulars at crooksandliars.com.  I hope you enjoy them as much as the last batch:

Hey, Dick, this ones for you

^ () ^

Didnt get that? how about this.

..(`
\.
.\.
../`.`
.._|
.(..(..).).).)
././
/
..)../
././

------

Funny stuff!
This is the same group of people that killed JFK, RFK and MLK.
90% of the people in that room should be rounded up and charged with treason!! War crimes!! and Crimes against humanity!! Starting with Chenney and his bitch wife!!
Everyone wonders why the media is so fucked upthis little get together says alot.

------

Too bad he didnt choke on a chicken bone!

------

I cant believe hes as bad at entertaining his boot licking brown shirts as he is at taking care of our country.

He is a war criminal. This whole administration needs to be brought to justice. But the US justice system has no balls, and would never waste its time with an indictment of this magnitude. wimps!!

------

Please God, do me one favor smite this asshole.
I promise Ill change and he deserves it anyway.

FYI, that last comment was posted by someone who uses the screen name "waterboarding for jesus".  Lovely.


DICK CHENEY GETS HIS LAST LICKS

Ken Berwitz

Dick Cheney is the Vice President of the United States.  He is also one of the most despised figures in Washington D.C. to the people he addressed last night - Radio and TV correspondents.

But it was Cheney at the mike, not them.  And since this is his last year as VP, it is also his "last licks" at the correspondents' self-congratulatory dinner.

What a job he did!  Cheney was biting, sarcastic and (mostly) funny as hell.  He made Mo Rocca, who followed him, look like a rank amateur by comparison (not hard to do as far as I'm concerned, since I have never found this guy funny at all).

Here is the transcript of Vice President Cheney's remarks.  I have put several of my favorite lines in bold print:

Vice President Cheney at Radio & Television Correspondents Dinner

Dick Cheney
Washington D.C.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You'd be amazed at how many guys want to go fishing with me these days.

Well, thank you very much, Steve. Thanks for the introduction. Lynn and I have enjoyed ourselves very much this evening. We want to thank the Radio Television Correspondents' Association for inviting us, and we congratulate all the award recipients.

You all know how to make a guy feel welcome. Obviously, you're not the kind to look down on a "bitter" man who clings to his guns.

And I was just as surprised as you were to see Governor Mitt Romney. And though I enjoyed his props and slides, I won't be needing any myself. I'm counting, as usual, on the power of my charm and charisma.

But Mitt was great, and I understand he's interested in running for vice president with Senator McCain. Mitt, let me give you a little nugget of advice. Never mind the resume, the policy ideas, or any of that stuff. Just get yourself on that search committee.

As the president said in his video message, he's hosting a dinner in honor of the visit of Pope Benedict, and I myself met with His Holiness this morning at the White House. So between that and this dinner with the media, it's been quite a day for me. I spent the morning with one infallible authority, and now I get to spend the evening with a thousand of them.

I was glad to talk to the pope. It's rare that I run into somebody who's heard more secrets than I have. When the moment was right, I even took the pope aside and confided to him that I'd been thinking a lot of unkind thoughts lately about the news media. I went on and on, and finally said, "Your Holiness, I just don't think they like me."

The pope replied, "So?"

It's always very exciting when the pope comes to town. And I am modest enough to realize that all of you would rather see the pope standing here than me. But instead of the successor to St. Peter, you're stuck with me, the successor to St. Al.

Speaking of Vice President Gore, I'm sorry to relate that he's a little bit sore at me. He's convinced that, on global warming, I just don't get it. But lately with every passing day, the evidence has been catching my attention. I have no doubt, none at all, that we are in the midst of a global warming, or as I prefer to call it, spring. And I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but it's going to get a lot warmer before it gets cooler.

But I want you to know I'm doing my part to meet the crisis by reducing my carbon footprint big-time. Every time I'm rushed to the hospital, I insist on a hybrid ambulance.

You heard it from the president himself tonight, that I'm the funniest guy he knows. I'll take that compliment, but I'll try to forget that it comes from the same fellow who thinks that 9 p.m. is late, who believes ginger ale is a night cap, and who thinks paradise is 40 miles west of Waco.

It could also be that, by sending me here, the president's trying to soften up my image. After all these years, all the time we've spent together, he persists in thinking I come across as a cold, forbidding, even frightening man.

But the president's not alone. Even my wife seems to think my image needs polishing. At breakfast today I asked Lynn if, deep down, it bugs her that people have taken to calling me Darth Vader. She said, "Not at all. It humanizes you."

All the same, I'm very glad to be here tonight, in the president's usual place, and it's good to share the stage with so many dignitaries, including Majority Leader Hoyer, Minority Leader McConnell, Chairman Dingell, Minority Whip Kyl, and that great TV personality and blogger, Mo Rocca.

In case you don't know it, Mo's blog is titled "Mo Rocca 180: Only Half as Tedious as the Regular News." Among his other credits, Mo used to host a TV show called "Things I Hate About You." I'm sure I've seen that program. Only I believe it's now called "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

Keith's not here tonight to savor my company, but we do have many big names from the broadcast media. And you could use a little good cheer, because these are tough times in your industry, in this age of YouTube and the blogs that threaten to overshadow the old media.

At times you must feel like you're at the center of events, but nobody's really paying attention to you. You understand the world better than anybody, but no one wants to hear it. Now you know exactly what it's like to be vice president.

But I've had frustrations of my own. I'm old news in this election, but I want a piece of the action. I'm fired up for my own candidate, but the feeling isn't always returned. I feel kind of like Bill Clinton.

But like you, I've been watching the campaign with interest, and I really want John McCain to win. I'm proud to support John, even though one of the Democrats running is a relative of mine. He's Senator Obama to you, but he's cousin Barack to me.

Amazingly enough, it turns out that Barack is also related to Brad Pitt. That means Dick Cheney and Brad Pitt are related, which explains what Angelina sees in that guy. In case you're looking -- in any case, you're looking at somebody who is just a couple degrees of separation from the sexiest man alive.

Barack Obama and I have had our disagreements, and, frankly, I do wish he'd keep these things in the family. For example, I keep telling him it's time to start thinking about a choice for vice president. He says he'll find a running mate just as soon as he's got himself a new pastor. I like that one.

I guess my cousin Barack has sat through some mighty riveting sermons over the years. If he gets elected, you're not going to want to miss those Washington prayer breakfasts.

Of course, there are two Democrats running, and they're still hopelessly divided over who's the real uniter. And you in the press need to go easy on Senator Clinton on the whole business about running and ducking from gunfire in Bosnia. She made an honest mistake. She confused the Bosnia trip with the time I took her hunting.

Did you see that footage of Hillary knocking that -- back that shot with a beer chaser? People say she did it like an old pro. I hadn't realized she'd been in the Senate that long. Looks like she replaced Mark Penn with Johnny Walker.

Apparently, it was pretty strong whiskey, and there might have been a few more when the cameras stopped rolling. When the 3 a.m. phone call came in, it went right to voice mail.

Maybe I'm sympathetic to Hillary because I've had my own troubles. The big buzz last week was about that picture of me fishing. In the reflection in my sunglasses, it looked like I'd reeled in something a lot more interesting than trout. You should have seen the one that got away.

I get asked a lot about that photo. The most common question is: what lure was I using? Anyway, that's the last time I'll go with an outfitter called the Emperors Club VIP.

With that, I think it's time for Mo Rocca and less Cheney. But before I turn over to Mo, I want to tell you that I like and admire the broadcast media more than I usually let on. I want to tell you how much I've come to appreciate the work you do, often under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

I want to tell you that you're here in Washington, because you're among the finest in your profession. You do hard work. And you do it well. I want to tell you all these things, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

But since it is our last time together at this dinner, I think it's enough to leave you with words I once addressed to Senator Pat Leahy. Go straight home, have a good night, and thank you very much.

Dick Cheney nailed them with humor. 

Sometimes the humor was self-deprecating and sometimes it tossed brickbats at other politicians.  Sometime it was funnier than other times.

But, oh, did he nail them.  Good for you, Dick.  You earned the shot at them and they earned what you did with it.


PEACE PARTNER UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Interested in seeing how those nice folks in Gaza and Judea/Samaria (the west bank), who the world expects Israel to make peace with, are getting along with each other?

If so, you might be interested in reading the excerpts I've pulled from today's article on that subject in the Washington Post (you can read the entire article by clicking here):

Killing in the West Bank Exposes a Furtive War
Hamas Cleric Apparently Tortured to Death in Custody of Rival Palestinian Authority

By Griff Witte
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, April 17, 2008; A14

KOBAR, West Bank -- When the preacher's body arrived at the hospital, his back was scarlet where he had been whipped with pipes. His legs were black with bruises. His wrists were sliced open and bloodied.

The Palestinian Authority, which had been holding Majd Barghouti in an intelligence-service prison for the previous week, soon declared that the popular Hamas imam, or prayer leader, had died of a heart attack.

But eyewitness accounts, photographs, video and an independent Palestinian investigation released this month suggested that he was tortured to death during his February detention.

"They wanted the sheik to admit something he wasn't going to admit," said Midhat Amriyeh, a 27-year-old laborer who said he witnessed Barghouti's death from a nearby cell. "There was no way out."

Barghouti's killing offers a rare glimpse into a subterranean war that plays out daily in the West Bank, where two Palestinian factions vie for power. Fatah, which dominates the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, uses its power in the West Bank to keep Hamas at a disadvantage -- banning Hamas newspapers, breaking up Hamas demonstrations and shutting down Hamas-affiliated social services groups. It has also arrested hundreds of Hamas activists in the West Bank.

Congress last year appropriated $86 million in assistance to the Authority's security services, but their officers remain undertrained and their facilities outdated. The investigative report released this month demanded that officials "take steps to punish all those who ordered torture, executed torture, assisted in torturing, supervised torturing or concealed acts of torture."

Sheik and other Authority officials say they need to take strong action to counter Hamas, a radical Islamist movement. The Authority is clearly worried that Hamas has ambitions to extend its power beyond Gaza and into the other half of what could one day be a Palestinian state -- the West Bank.

In January 2006, Hamas defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections. After a power-sharing arrangement crumbled last June, Hamas fighters routed Palestinian Authority security forces.

Fatah members in the West Bank tend to be organized in secretive cells centered on mosques, Sheik said. The cells are gaining support, he said, hoarding arms and preparing for the day when they are strong enough to carry out operations against their rivals.

According to Sheik, Majd Barghouti was at the heart of one such cell. "He wasn't just a religious person," Sheik said.

In between beatings during his interrogation, Barghouti was asked repeatedly by his jailers where he was stockpiling arms and why he was planning a coup against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to Amriyeh and another man imprisoned with the preacher.

Days after his death in late February, dozens of mourners packed a community center in Kobar, eating from steaming plates of chicken and passing around cellphone video of Barghouti's bloodied body, which had apparently been filmed by a hospital worker.

A picture of Barghouti hung alongside Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin's, with an inscription: "They martyred you." Yassin was killed by Israel in 2004; the inscription appeared to equate Israeli and Palestinian Authority violence against Hamas.

At first, Omar Barghouti thought the imam had been taken by the Israelis. But then he noticed that one of the officers was a Palestinian with whom he had served 22 years in an Israeli jail. "Why are you doing this?" Omar Barghouti said he shouted as the cars pulled away. "This is why you were kicked out of Gaza. Haven't you learned?"

From there, Barghouti was taken to a detention center near Ramallah. His fellow prisoners said he was held for hours in a stress position known as shabah, in which his hands were handcuffed behind his back and hung from the wall, with only his toes touching the ground. Periodically, his interrogators beat him with a heavy plastic pipe. In answer to their questions, he said repeatedly, "God will forgive you."

Barghouti was denied the chance to see a lawyer and was never formally charged with a crime, according to the investigation.

On his eighth night in custody, Barghouti called out in a faint voice that he was vomiting blood. He died the next day.

The news sparked an angry demonstration in Kobar. At Barghouti's funeral, mourners chanted slogans against the Palestinian Authority and, in a rare sight for the West Bank, waved the green flag of Hamas.

This is how palestinian Arabs behave with each other;  their own brethren.  Why would anyone in his/her right mind expect them to effect a credible peace agreement with Israelis, whom they hate.

Yet the world expects - demands - that Israel make such a peace.  And that Israel offer palestinian Arabs still more concessions to get it.

When does the world demand that palestinian Arabs make concessions for peace?  When does the world demand that Israel's Arab neighbors make concessions for peace?  Why is Israel, which yearns for peaceful coexistence rather than violent jihad, the only one with this responsibility?

It is impossible to successfully negotiate or peacefully coexist with people who think they get a one-way ticket to Allah if they die killing you.  They can't even peacefully coexist with each other.  But Israel is supposed to do just that.

Ridiculous doesn't begin to describe it. 


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