From Robert Novak's column on Fred Thompson:
The Connecticut Republicans, down to one seat in Congress after 2006 election losses, cheered when Thompson told them: "I think the biggest problem we have today is what I believe is the disconnect between Washington, D.C., and the people of the United States. People are looking around at the pork barrel spending and the petty politics, the backbiting. The fighting over all things, large or small, is creating a cynicism among our people."
This is an excerpt from Obama's standard stump speech, as delivered in Richmond a few weeks ago, which I transcribed:
"People feel cynical about the political process. They feel as if politics is a business and not a mission, that power is always trumping principle, especially in Washington. They get discouraged and that cynicism has been fed over the last six yearsâ€_.No wonder people feel cynical. The net effect is that politics has become small, it's become timidâ€_"
Sounds like a bipartisan consensus is developing around the War on Cynicism.
The NY Daily News reports that Louis Freeh, the FBI director under Bill Clinton, will endorse Giuliani today. The move is unlikely to win many votes, but as the article notes, it does help reinforce Giuliani’s image as the candidate with the strong security background, allowing him to talk about fighting crime and terrorism, and is somewhat noteworthy that an ex-Clinton official has defected.
The Commerce Department reported sluggish economic growth in this year’s first quarter, of 0.6 percent, which is the slowest since the last quarter of 2002. For all of the criticism Bush has received on a variety of fronts, economic growth has been solid for about 4 years now. Though polls indicate Americans feel worse about the economy than you’d expect from the economic numbers (liberals attribute this to income inequality), the economy has been strong enough so that the Democrats haven’t been able to use it as an issue. If the economy stalls over the next year and a half (or dips into a recession) it will be another tool in the arsenal for Democrats in 2008. Then, the argument won’t just be that we’re spending too much money and losing too many lives in Iraq, but because Bush was so worried about Iraq, he neglected people here at home. In other words, it would strengthen the Democrats’ case for change. To be sure, there are six more quarters between now and next November, so this may just turn out to be a blip, but it’s worth keeping in mind, because when the economy is doing poorly, pocket book issues rise to the top of the political radar, and that’s normally not good news for the incumbent party.
Not that it should come as a shock to anybody at this point, but Fred Thompson is planning to enter the race over the July 4th weekend. I would expect him to receive at least a slight boost in polls from making it official, but the question that remains is whether he can live up to the rather lofty expectations of conservatives once he begins to campaign in earnest. Polls indicate that he takes away the most from Giuliani, but I think ultimately he is the biggest threat to Romney because he occupies a space–“viable conservative”–that is central to Romney’s strategy. If Romney is going to win the nomination, he has to peel off the soft Rudy support and pick up supporters of lower tier candidates once they drop out, but now Thompson is going to compete for those voters. So, while we aren’t seeing Thompson eat into Romney’s numbers now, I think Thompson’s entrance lowers the ceiling on Romney’s growth potential. Another thing that Thompson has going for him is that he can make the argument that he’s the candidate most capable of unifying the party. There’s a lot of bad blood between the Romney and McCain camps, so should either drop out of the race, it’s hard to see their supporters jump to the other. Giuliani is unacceptable to a lot of social conservatives. Thompson may not be everybody’s first choice, but nobody seems to dislike him–at least not yet.
My issue with Thompson has nothing to do with him personally, but that he lacks executive experience and beyond a mostly conservative voting record, he really didn’t accomplish much in the Senate. After six years of a president who is a disengaged executive, I think it’s really important to have somebody who is detail oriented and interested in not only setting a policy, but making sure that it gets implemented properly. I’m not sure Thompson fits the bill. But I look forward to hearing what he has to say.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has made it into a run-off election against Ami Ayalon to replace Amir Peretz as the leader of the Labor Party, and presumably to take over the Ministry of Defense. It speaks to the dirth of leadership in Israel right now that Barak (who was ready to give away the store to Arafat in 2000) has re-entered the political fray. Should Barak become the head of Labor, at least it’s unlikely that he’d be much worse than Peretz as Defense Minister, and he has military experience. While both Barak and Ayalon have called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign, it’s uncertain how far they’d push things. Barak has said he wouldn’t withdraw Labor from the coalition government (which would trigger its collapse), but would push for early elections. One thing to keep in mind is that there is a certain dis-incentive for Labor to call early elections, because polls show Likud would be a big winner. That’s another reason why Olmert has managed to stay in power dispite having practically no support from the Israeli public.
Another incremental step toward the fulfillment of my prediction.
The AP reports:
An independent human rights expert called Tuesday for the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union to fully recognize the Palestinian government – including Hamas members – as an “indispensable requirement” to peace.
John Dugard, the UN Human Rights Council’s investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the Mideast Quartet has to treat both sides equally if it wants to broker a successful peace agreement.
Israel has consistently rejected Dugard’s reports and statements as one-sided. In March he compared the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians to apartheid – comments that drew strong criticism from Israeli officials, who called them “inflammatory and inciteful.”
“In order to prevent another season of violence and to protect human rights in the region, the Quartet must intervene immediately in a fair and evenhanded manner,” said Dugard, a South African lawyer. “This means the recognition of both Hamas and non-Hamas members of the Palestinian Government of National Unity.”
Apparently Dugard’s definition of being fair an even handed means recognizing a terrorist group that is dedicated to the destruction of another nation.
After Mitt Romney and John McCain criticized Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for their votes against the Iraq funding bill, Obama issued a response that included the follwing jab at McCain:
“This country is united in our support for our troops, but we also owe them a plan to relieve them of the burden of policing someone else’s civil war. Governor Romney and Senator McCain clearly believe the course we are on in Iraq is working, but I do not.
“And if there ever was a reflection of that it’s the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket, ten armored Humvees, two Apache attack helicopters, and 100 soldiers with rifles by his side to stroll through a market in Baghdad just a few weeks ago….”
McCain just followed it up with a hook:
“While Senator Obama’s two years in the U.S. Senate certainly entitle him to vote against funding our troops, my service and experience combined with conversations with military leaders on the ground in Iraq lead me to believe that we must give this new strategy a chance to succeed because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic to our nation’s security.
“By the way, Senator Obama, it’s a ‘flak’ jacket, not a ‘flack’ jacket.”
And good for McCain. This is indicative of a few things. Clearly, it benefits McCain to pick a fight with a leading Democrat on his strongest issue with the Republican base at a time when he is being savaged on immigration. It also provides a bit of a preview of how Republicans (particularly McCain) can attack Obama’s inexperience. Should be interesting to see how the young Senator responds.
It appears the Gipper has injected himself into the presidential race from the grave. I picked up a copy of the newly released Reagan Diaries and found the following in an entry from Tuesday, June 14, 1988 :
Jim Kelly NSC came in to report Philippine legis. is giving us trouble on renewing our mil. bases there. And Giuliani (U.S. Attorney) is talking of drawing up an indictment against Marcos. I think he’s crazy.
UPDATE: Jonathan Martin has documents of the cordial exchange between Reagan and Rudy when Giuliani resigned as associate attorney general to become U.S. Attorney.
Giuliani gains another endorsement from a Club for Growth-type conservative, Stephen Laffey, the man best known for his failed primary bid against Lincoln Chafee. Rhode Island obviously isn’t a major primary state, and this isn’t a huge endorsement, but it’s another feather in Rudy’s cap as he makes his pitch to fiscal conservatives.
Meanwhile, down in the South, the Giuliani campaign announced a number of endorsements in Georgia, including the speaker of their House of Representatives, Glenn Richardson.
UPDATE: Jonathan Martin notes that even though he isn’t in the race, Fred Thompson’s roster of Georgia support is deeper.
I attended a Barack Obama event for young professionals last night held at a trendy lounge in the waterfront area of DC. The event was titled Generation BO and was held at a place called H2O, so there was a certain irony in that. The crowd was more energetic than I’ve seen it at recent Obama events I’ve attended, chanting “O-BA-MA!” in anticipation of his entrance. Perhaps that had to do with the age of the audience and the loud, pulsating music. For the most part, Obama stuck to his standard stump speech about replacing cynicism with hope and optimism so we can meet the challenges of our generation: health care, education, energy independence/global warming, and leaving Iraq “so we can start focusing on the real war on terror and ignorance and poverty.” A refrain in the speech is it’s “time to turn the page,” which works well for Obama. I fear that in practice that would mean a de-emphasis on fighting terrorism. Objectively speaking, however, given Bush’s low approval ratings, it’s clear that the country does want a change, and of the major candidates, he’s the most representative of change. The three Republicans have stuck with Bush on the Iraq War, while John Edwards ran in the last election, and Hillary Clinton, well, she’s a Clinton.