Thursday, 12 June 2008


Ken Berwitz

David Reinhard is Associate Editor of The Oregonian.  His latest column is an excellent analysis of the difference in experience between John McCain and Barack Obama.  Here are the key parts:


Thursday, June 12, 2008
David Reinhard

A week later it's still baffling. In fact, it's one of the more baffling lines ever uttered by a candidate laying claim to his party's presidential nomination. It came last week on the night Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton.

"In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda," he told the multitude before him. "They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine."

"Even if he chooses to deny mine." What's that all about? Obama stands at the hour of his great triumph. He's locked up the Democratic nomination, becoming the first African American to win a major party's presidential nomination. He's defeated the once-mighty house of Clinton. And he engages in a bit of narcissistic self-pity worthy of a teenager.

Obama, it seems, has come to believe his own gushy media notices. And he's in something of a snit that Republicans aren't so smitten.

Now, Obama's a charming man with an impressive resume -- Columbia graduate, Harvard Law, former Illinois state senator, first-term U.S. senator, best-selling author. He doubtless gives a good set speech. But elections are about comparisons, and it's a tad presumptuous of Obama to grouse about not getting equal treatment when it comes to his public service and accomplishments.

McCain has spent 25 years in Congress doing the kinds of things Obama has only talked about in speeches. That includes pushing bipartisan legislation (campaign-finance reform, climate change, terrorist interrogation techniques, immigrations reform), forging compromises (the Gang of 14 deal on judicial nominations) and breaking with his own party (all the aforementioned and his early criticism of the Iraq war's execution).

Now, I don't find much of this heart-warming. It's too bipartisan for me. But there it is. Obama, by contrast, has spent seven years in the Illinois senate before heading to the U.S. Senate in 2005. Almost immediately, he started running for president. Does his slim record reflect the post-partisan cooperation he talks up on the hustings? No. He was, for example, nowhere to be found when McCain was putting together the Gang of 14.

Even if Obama were a modern-day Henry Clay or Sam Rayburn and his legislative record matched his turn-back-the-tides rhetoric, it would still probably not be wise for him to mention McCain's denying his public accomplishments.

Why? Because McCain's service includes - 51/2 years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi -- complete with the poor medical care for the broken leg and broken arms he had upon capture, the beatings and torture, the breaking of his ribs and arm (again) and solitary confinement. A captivity that could have been shorter if McCain, the son of an admiral, had accepted Vietnamese offers to go home before the other POWs who'd been there longer.

It's unclear if McCain's experience in Vietnam and Washington, D.C., will matter this November. Voters may decide that all that has little to do with being president. They might choose Obama's pretty speeches. Fair enough. But, please, let's not pretend -- let's not let Barack Obama himself pretend -- that the two candidates' public service and accomplishments merit inclusion in the same sentence.

Obama is making too many mistakes.  I've chronicled a good many of them in this blog and there are plenty I've let go.

Media's love affair with Mr. Obama, however strong at the moment, is not complete and unconditional.  I suspect that at some point they will have to acknowledge his numerous gaffes, misstatements and off the wall comments like the one David Reinhard cited above. But time will tell.

In any event Mr. Reinhard has given us a pretty good preview of how Barack Obama's nonexistent political rsum is likely to be addressed by the McCain campaign.  I wonder how he'll try to get around it.


Ken Berwitz

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that alleged terrorist prisoners in Guantanamo have to be accorded Habeus Corpus rights (they can challenge their detention in a federal court). 

Democrats appear to be thrilled by this turn of events, as shown by the following quotes which were posted at

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the Court for uphold[ing] the constitution of the United States and reiterated her desire to see Gitmo shut down.

Other Democrats quickly followed suit after the court ruled 5-4 that the U.S. military lacks the legal authority to prosecute as many as 300 prisoners. The detainees sued the government to contest their imprisonment and the current rules used to try them in military tribunals.

Todays Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush is a stinging rebuke of the Bush administrations flawed detention policies," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), "and a vindication for those who have also argued from the beginning that it was unwise as well as unconstitutional.

The issue has often spilled over from the courts into the legislative branch. In 2006, Congress passed a law limiting the court jurisdiction to hear similar types of challenges.

Time after time," says Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), "the Supreme Court has rebuffed the administrations attempts to undermine the Constitution."

But should they be thrilled?  I wonder.  Consider Pyrrhus:

Pyrrhus was king of the Hellenistic kingdom of Epirus whose costly military successes against Macedonia and Rome gave rise to the phrase' Pyrrhic victory'.

In 281 BC Tarentum, a Greek colony in southern Italy, asked his assisstance against Rome. Pyrrhus crossed to Italy with 25,000 men and 20 elephants.  He won a complete, but costly, victory over a Roman army at Heraclea. 

In 279 Pyrrhus, again suffering heavy casualties, defeated the Romans at Asculum. His remark 'Another such victory and I shall be ruined' gave name to the term 'Pyrrhic victory' for a victory obtained at too great a cost.

I have not seen any research on how the country feels about suspected terrorists who are not legal residents of the USA being given such rights.  But I have a feeling most people aren't very happy about it.  If so, the Democratic joy over this ruling may be short-lived. 

Most of the justices who voted in favor are (not surprisingly) from the liberal/left.  Two of them, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, are likely to retire very soon - Stevens due to advanced age (he is 88) and Ginsburg due to a combination of age (she is 75)and sickness (she has cancer). 

Voters have to decide if they want Stevens, Ginsburg and possibly others being replaced by a liberal leftist or a Republican conservative. 

Depending on how this issue is handled by the two candidates, it is quite possible that decisions like the one made today could be the difference on election day. 

Will Democrats, like Pyrrhus, be lamenting the cost of today's "victory" when the votes are counted?  We'll see.........


Ken Berwitz

Here, via, is an excerpt from Chief Justice Roberts' dissent regarding the 5-4 Supreme Court decision to give habeus corpus rights to enemy combatants.  I urge you to read it and think about it.

Today the Court strikes down as inadequate the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants. The political branches crafted these procedures amidst an ongoing military conflict, after much careful investigation and thorough debate. The Court rejects them today out of hand, without bothering to say what due process rights the detainees possess, without explaining how the statute fails to vindicate those rights, and before a single petitioner has even attempted to avail himself of the law's operation. And to what effect? The majority merely replaces a review system designed by the people's representatives with a set of shapeless procedures to be defined by federal courts at some future date. One cannot help but think, after surveying the modest practical results of the majority's ambitious opinion, that this decision is not really about the detainees at all, but about control of federal policy regarding enemy combatants.


Ken Berwitz

Earlier this week Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told us that there has been a significant upturn in the past month.  Now we have this from the AP (I'm showing an excerpt, but you can read the entire article by clicking here):

Retail sales rose by bigger-than-expected 1 percent in May, bolstered by rebate checks

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Retail sales jumped by the largest amount in six months in May as 57 million economic stimulus payments helped offset the headwinds buffeting consumers.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that retail sales soared 1 percent last month, the biggest increase since November. A wide variety of retailers enjoyed a good month, including the biggest increase at department stores and other general merchandise stores in a year.

The May increase was double what economists had been expecting and indicated that the economy is getting a major boost from the $50 million in economic stimulus payments the government sent out in May, just under half of the total stimulus aimed at consumers.

In a third report, the Commerce Department said that business inventories grew by 0.5 percent in April, more than double the 0.2 percent rise in March and the best showing since inventories rose by 1 percent in January.

Analysts were surprised by the solid increase in retail sales and noted that sales in April were also revised to show a respectable gain of 0.4 percent, instead of the original estimate that sales had fallen by 0.2 percent.

"Recession? What recession?" asked Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. "Spending in April and May was solid in just about every category."

So why are media relentlessly talking about a recession?

Well, let's see.......

As with Iraq, Democrats have put themselves in a position where the worse the news is for the country, the better it is for them. 

If Iraq goes well (and it is going exceptionally well right now) John McCain - who advocated the troop surge well before it ever took place -  looks good and Barack Obama - who advocated and  continues to advocate cutting and running from Iraq - looks bad.

Economy-wise, if things go south on us, John McCain - who wants to maintain the tax cuts and even increase them - looks bad, while Barack Obama - who wants to raise taxes just about every way he can - looks good. 

Conversely, however, if the economy shows an upturn this year, it is McCain who looks good and Obama who looks bad.

With this in mind, what does it tell you when media barely report the successes we are realizing in Iraq and barely report the significant signs that our economy is stronger (did they have any problem reporting higher unemployment numbers less than a week ago)? 

Whose side do you figure they're on?


Ken Berwitz

Yesterday morning, on the Today show, Matt Lauer asked John McCain whether the success of the troop surge in Iraq enabled him to have a better estimate of when the troops could come home.  Here, with the comments before and after so there is no doubt about context, is what Mr. McCain answered:

MR. LAUER: When the president, though, came up with this surge at a time where everyone, it seemed, was thinking the contrary, you endorsed it with great conviction and great courage. And a lot of people now say the surge is working.

SEN. MCCAIN: Anybody who knows the facts on the ground say that, yes.

MR. LAUER: If it's working, Senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

SEN. MCCAIN: No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That's all fine.
American casualties and the ability to withdraw -- we will be able to withdraw. General Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are.
But the key to it is we don't want any more Americans in harm's way. And that way they will be safe and serve our country and come home with honor and victory, not in defeat, which is what Senator Obama's proposal would have done.

MR. LAUER: Senator --

SEN. MCCAIN: And I'm proud of them, and they're doing a great
job. And we are succeeding. And it's fascinating that Senator Obama
still doesn't realize that.

Ok, there it is in its entirety.  Mr. McCain said that when we bring the the troops home is not too important, but that casualties are.  He specifically cited three countries - Korea, Japan and Germany - where we have maintained a troop presence for decades without engaging in any fighting.  He then said that the key to it is that we don't want our troops in harms way, we want them safe.

There is exactly zero doubt about the meaning of Mr. McCain's comment.  He is fine with our troops continuing to stay in Iraq if the casualties end (e.g. if Iraqis continue to take over the fighting as they have been doing in recent months).  In case there was even 1% of doubt, he specifically referenced the three countries as examples.  You would think that anyone with a functioning cerebrum would understand this perfectly.

But, then again, there is keith olbermann. 

olbermann hates John McCain, loves Barack Obama and has no journalistic integrity whatsoever.  Put those three together and you get the first 20 or so minutes of his TV show last night.

Using his trademark hissy-fit face, olbermann angrily spat out that McCain's comment showed he was indifferent to the casualties suffered by our troops and that, if he loses the election in November, he could look to his "that's not too important" comment as the reason.  He then put on three anti-McCain people to second, third and fourth his motion. (Does olbermann ever put on anyone who doesn't agree with him?)

Now...please read the transcript again.  Read John McCain's exact words and note his unmistakable point.  When you do that, you know that olbermann is a liar -- assuming you didn't already know it (which would mean you either love his political views or never watched the show before).

The funniest part is that olbermann's own network, MSNBC, considered this so inconsequential that it isn't even on their web page.   

It is now about 8:40 in the morning.  If you go to the web page, you will not find one word about John McCain's comment. 

This, of course, could change.  Who knows; olbermann being olbermann, he might call the station this morning and scream at them to put it up so he doesn't look like a complete fool.  But as of right now it doesn't exist.  Not even as a little teeny third-rate story.  It isn't there at all.

Maybe MSNBC is finally catching on to what an embarrassment they've got there.


It is now 2:48PM.  And still there is no mention of John McCain's "that's not too important" statement on the MSNBC web page.  

Game, set, match. 

Even olbermann's own network couldn't buy into his BS.  This elevates MSNBC and leaves olbermann where he belongs;  right in the gutter.

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