Novak Update

Bob Novak ‘s family released the following statement:

“Exploratory surgery was completed yesterday with no complications. Detailed results are not back yet but Mr. Novak is expected to start therapy soon.”

Broke Barr?

The WSJ‘s Susan Davis reports:

In perhaps the most desperate sounding e-mail solicitation yet this election cycle, third party Libertarian candidate Bob Barr‘s campaign manager sent out a plea today to supporters to raise $15,000 each day this week — or else.

Under the subject line, “Have I said or done something to offend you?” Russ Verney writes, “You see, I have to report that unless we receive and immediate cash infusion of $85,000, our progress will stop dead in its tracks. To be very blunt, I am presently faced with bills equaling our bank account balance, and I know there are many more expenses on the horizon.”

According to the latest report with the Federal Election Commission, Barr’s campaign had just $69,000 cash on hand at the end of June, and he raised just under $200,000 last month.

Barr, thus far, has run a cautious campaign by third party standards. When he speaks, his statements are measured, as if he thinks he may actually become president; he has embraced the Libertarian Party, but rejected its more radical elements in a concerted play for conservative votes. In theory, it looked like it a promising strategy for him — combining Ron Paul voters with disgruntled conservatives could make for a historic showing for a Libertarian candidate, and mean trouble for John McCain. But I wonder if the high-wire act he has been trying to pull off has left Barr with the worst of both worlds. On the one hand, his play for conservative voters and measured tone has made it more difficult for him to tap into the enthusiasm (and wallets) of the Paulites, while his shift from conservative stalwart to Libertarian standard bearer has turned off potential supporters on the right. One would think that in an election year such as this, in which you have a sizable number of frustrated libertarians and limited government conservatives and a Republican nominee unacceptable to many of them, that the political terrain would be ideally-suited for somebody like Barr. But, while it’s a long way until November, right now, Barr doesn’t appear to be catching fire, and that has to be seen as good news for McCain.

The Tories on National Security

In an earlier post, I raised alarms about the British conservatives’ abandonment of Thatcherism on the domestic front. This afternoon, I attended a talk on the party’s approach to national security matters featuring Dr. Liam Fox, a Tory member of parliament who is the shadow Defence Secretary, set to take over should the Tories return to power, which seems increasingly likely.

On the one hand, Fox said he expected a continued British presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and said any withdrawal from Iraq should be conditions based. But, he also distanced himself from some of the idealism of the Bush and Blair administrations, especially when it came to democratization. He said that it may not have been the strategy that failed in Iraq, but the fact that expectations were set too high, and there wasn’t a realistic timescale for how long it would take to create a stable democracy. Democracy could not be achieved overnight, Fox said, and it’s a lot more complicated than just holding elections.

Fox was intentionally vague when it came to Iran, saying only that all options should be on the table. He said that there can be no accepting an Iranian nuclear weapon for three primary reasons: the dangers posed by a regime that has threatened to wipe a neighboring country off the map, the regime’s sponsorship and export of terrorism, and the fact that if it went nuclear, it would set off a nuclear arms race among all nations in one of the most unstable regions in the world.

A Tory government, Fox vowed, would be tougher on the European Union, which signed an agreement in Lisbon that would create a standing army that would duplicate, and perhaps compete for troops with NATO, and compromise British sovereignty.

He also noted other threats, specifically signaling out the dangers posed by a “re-emerging” Russia.

Former Army spokesman Crispian Cuss talked about the financial challenges Britain faced in funding its military, given their robust social spending, and Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion (which conducted the survey I mentioned yesterday on Islam on British campuses), warned about the dangers of Muslim radicalization in Britain. Murray said that the Tories decision to name Sayeeda Warsi to their shadow cabinet is a troubling indication that the party doesn’t understand the threat. Warsi, who is Muslim, has attacked Murray for using the term “Islamist terrorism” objecting not only to the “Islamist” part, but to the use of the word “terrorism” as well. Murray said she has also refused to condemn the killing of British troops in Iraq by Iranian-backed terrorists. Nile Gardiner has written about Warsi in the past, noting that, among other things, she welcomed the election of Hamas in 2006.

Fearing the Tories

In the latest issue of the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes takes a look at the resurgence of the Tories in Britain, and argues that Republicans should learn from them. Lord help us.

If British conservatives want to throw Thatcherism under the bus to retake power, that’s an unfortunate development, but one that I can live with as I am not British. But if a Tory victory will convince the American right that we have to imitate them and throw Reaganism under the bus, than consider me worried.

Barnes paints a portrait of a Tory party rebranding itself after a long time in the wilderness by co-opting the language of the left, using terms such as “social justice” and adopting the environmentalist slogan, “vote blue, go green.”

But we’ve seen this movie before, only in America it was called “compassionate conservatism.” Far from creating a permanent Republican majority, its signature policies of No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug bill, along with additional bloated spending bills, destroyed the Republican brand as the party of fiscal discipline, and now Republicans are well-positioned for another electoral disaster this November.

Now Fred “Rebel-in-Chief” Barnes, overlooking the utter debacle that big government conservatism has become in the U.S., wants us to look to statist Britain for answers. No thanks.

Obama-Kaine?

The Politico reports that Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is “very, very high” on Obama’s short list for VP, while the Washington Post writes that Kaine has told associates he has had “very serious” discussions with Obama about the job.

By tapping the governor, Obama would be awarding Kaine for being the first high-profile public official to endorse him back in the days when Hillary Clinton was seen as the inevitable nominee. I remember going to a small-dollar fundraiser in Richmond with the both of them in May of 2007, and this June, right after he clinched the nomination, Obama held a large rally in Bristow, Virginia featuring Kaine and Jim Webb. Kaine fired up the crowd with a speech about how Obama would be the first Democrat to carry the commonwealth since 1964, while Webb gave a bizarre and depressing speech. Many of the Obama supporters I spoke to after said they would prefer to see Kaine as his running mate. While choosing Kaine would clearly be a play for Virginia, it’s also worth noting that Kaine grew up and went to high school and college in the ultimate bellwether state — Missouri.

The biggest downside to Kaine has to be the fact that he has even less foreign policy experience than Obama. Picking Kaine would mean doubling-down on the “change” theme, rather than choosing somebody more seasoned to help close the riskiness gap.

The Perils of RomneyCare

The WSJ has a solid editorial explaining the fiscal nightmare created by Mitt Romney’s health-care plan in Massachusetts, which looks worse and worse with each passing day. But there’s one part that I found extremely rich.

While I was writing my health-care story for our July/August issue, I looked at how state mandates requiring that insurance policies cover specific treatments (as opposed to allowing people to choose a plan that’s right for them) drive up the cost of health care by anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent, according to a study by the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.

Now, says the editorial:

The Bay State has long served up coverage-specific insurance mandates, such as for fertility treatments, which raise costs. Yet in a just-deserts twist, Massachusetts health planners are now reviewing ways to trim mandates because the state is footing more of the bill, even if they didn’t care when imposing them on individuals and small business. A state-sponsored study shows that total spending on mandates was $1.32 billion in 2005, or 12% of premiums. The study is devastating despite its pro-mandate slant.

If there’s one thing Romney deserves credit for, it’s creating a government-managed health-care system in Massachusetts that’s so bad, and so over budget, that it provides free market advocates with the perfect case study to warn against the dangers of nationalized universal health care. Way to go, Mitt!

Western Wall-Gate

The Israeli paper Ma’ariv took heat for publishing the prayer Barack Obama left in the cracks of the Western Wall on his vistit to Israel. The fact that anybody would grab his private note in such a holy place is disgusting, no doubt. But all along, Obama’s message had a certain made for publication quality: “Lord – Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.” Now, a spokesman for Ma’ariv says that the Obama campaign revealed the note to reporters before placing it into the wall:

Barack Obama’s note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put in the Kotel [Western Wall], a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

The Obama campaign is denying the report, so it’s a he said, she said, situation. But what’s sad is that Obama’s campaign was supposed to be about making people less cynical about politics, and yet I find it completely believable that the Obama campaign would leak his “private” prayer to a newspaper for publication.