American Elephants


A Bully at Home, Feckless in Foreign Policy. by The Elephant's Child

Daniel Henninger began his column in the Wall Street Journal today thusly:

By the time the second World Trade Center tower collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, the whole world was watching it. We may assume that Vladimir Putin was watching. Mr. Putin, a quick calculator of political realities, would see that someone was going to get hit for this, and hit hard.

He was right of course. The Bush presidency became a war presidency that day, and it pounded and pursued the Islamic fundamentalists of al Qaeda without let-up or apology.

During that time, it was reported that Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer in East Germany, deeply regretted the fall of the Soviet Union’s empire and despised the Americans who caused it to fall. But no one cared what Mr. Putin thought then.

Mark Steyn added:

That’s true. A couple of days after September 11th, the Bush Administration called Moscow and demanded the Russians agree to letting the US use military bases in former Soviet Central Asia for their planned invasion of Afghanistan. That must have been quite a phone call. Washington was proposing not only to do to the Afghans what the Kremlin has so abysmally failed to do, but to do it out of the Russians’ old bases. And yet Moscow understood that, for once, America was serious. And so, presented with a fait accomplis, they agreed to it.

Back to today, Daniel Henninger again:

Sometimes world affairs go off the grid. Diplomats may give reasons why it is not in the interests of Mr. Putin or Russia to take this course. Vice President Biden told the Poles in Warsaw Monday that Mr. Putin’s seizure of Crimea was “flawed logic.” It is difficult for men embedded in a world of rational affairs to come to grips with Mr. Putin’s point of view: He doesn’t care what they think.

And everything Obama does confirms to Putin that the Crimea is his, so why stop there. So Putin will roll on, reassembling the Russian Empire. The Obama Administration pursues its own foreign policy priorities:

Secretary Kerry says the U.S. will send scientists to discuss homosexuality with the President of Uganda.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice wants to take affirmative action in the legal sense on behalf of women. The post of U.S. ambassador to Russia has been vacant for three weeks. Al Kamen of the Washington Post says Ms. Rice would like to place a woman in Moscow. It was rumored that White House press secretary Jay Carney who once worked in Moscow for Time magazine wanted the job of ambassador.

Russian forces invade the Ukraine Naval Base.  President Obama reveals his “Final Four” picks. Joe Biden is in Eastern Europe conferring with our allies there, and trying to convince them that we are serious.

Conservatives who note the stark difference between Obama’s domestic legally questionable hardball and his passive international posture must wonder whether Obama behaves as he does because he is naive or just because he wants the U.S. to have less say in the world. His stated foreign policy objectives are to keep the U.S. out of war and transform America’s image from that of unilateralist bully to a nation that plays well with others.

The trouble is that under Obama the U.S. does not play well with others. Obama’s view of the world is extraordinarily naive, as is the substance and the style of his foreign policy.



I don’t think I can Think of a Satisfactory Headline for This One! by The Elephant's Child

And I’m sure you remember Senator Joe Biden who insisted that it was necessary to divide Iraq into three parts to end the sectarian violence there.

Last night Vice President Joe Biden appeared on the Larry King show.  Here’s how he explained it to Larry:

I am very optimistic about — about Iraq.  I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.  You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer.  You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.

I spent — I’ve been there 17 times now.  I go about every two months — three months.  I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society.  It’s impressed me.  I’ve been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.

So there you go.  The Obama administration has some achievements after all.



Obama’s Dishonest War. by The Elephant's Child
October 30, 2008, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Election 2008, Iraq, Military, Terrorism | Tags: ,

Back at the Saddleback Church debate, Obama was asked by Pastor Rick Warren what was the most gut-wrenching decision he ever had to make and what was the process he used to make it?

Obama said:

The opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision that I’ve had to make, not only because there were political consequences but also because Saddam Hussein was a bad person and there was no doubt that he he meant America ill.  But I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction and do we know how the Shiites and the Sunnis and the Kurds are going to get along in a post-Saddam situation”  What’s our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorists like Al-Qaeda?  Have we finished the job in Afghanistan? And now as the war went forward, very difficult about how long do you keep funding the war if you strongly believe that it’s not in our national interest.  At the same time you don’t want to have troops who are out there without the equipment they need.

This was not what he said when he opposed the war.  He opposed the war because he represented a district that was opposed to the war, and it had no political consequences for him whatsoever since he was only a member of the Illinois state legislature. But his story has changed more than once.

Conservatives and Liberals think differently about war, and do so as a result of their differing visions of life.

Conservatives believe that mankind is imperfect: partly good, partly evil, prone to selfishness, greed, bad temper, cheating, crime, cruelty as well as all the good things.  Because man is imperfect, we cannot expect perfection and must look for ways to modify bad behavior, and prevent crime. But because man is imperfect, it will be a constant struggle, and you will need a certain amount of stoical resignation.

Liberals believe that man is perfectible, and the right government, the right laws, the proper controls will fix things, and if they don’t, then you have to fix the government and the laws.  Man is born an empty slate and is formed by his environment and his government and laws.  If the world is not what it “should be” then you have to fix it, by putting the “right” people in charge.

Conservatives believe that war is a natural part of mankind arising from man’s imperfect nature. And that we must try to manage those impulses and try to prevent war, although there have always been wars. We must learn more about how to sustain peace.  It is a slow process.

Liberals believe that war is a matter of misunderstanding or paranoid emotions that override rationality.  They feel the need to explain war and crime, rather than prevent it.

When we were attacked on 9/11, George W. Bush understood that we were looking at a long war with a radical part of Islam that yearned for a return to the days of the Caliphate and the submission of the free world to the rule of Islam. That though it would begin with the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, the war would not end there. He said:

Now this war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion.  It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago;, where no ground troops were used and not a single American life was lost in combat.

Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes.  Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen.  It may include dramatic strikes visible on TV and covert operations secret even in success.

President Bush was looking ten years down the road and trying to see how to manage those “impulses.” Barack Obama, writing in the Hyde Park Herald a week after 9/11, presented the typical liberal response, trying to explain the “paranoid emotions:”

We must engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness.  The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers; an inability to imagine, or connect with the humanity or suffering of others.  Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion or ethnicity….Most often though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.

This was a fairly typical response among the leftist liberal intelligensia. Many university professors penned similar paragraphs, and the farther left, the more similarity.

Former Ambassador Peter Galbraith has written that:

Along with Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the two most cruel and inhumane regimes in the second half of the twentieth century.  Using the definition of genocide specified in the 1948 Genocide Convention, Iraq’s Baath regime can be charged with planning and executing two genocides — one against the Kurdish population in the late 1980s and another against the Marsh Arabs in the 1990s.

Yet Senator Obama continued to oppose the war to liberate Iraq, despite the fact that the U.S, had amassed a coalition of more than two dozen nations that committed troops to the war and had won unanimous approval for the UN’s Resolution 1441.

Once we were in Iraq, Sen. Obama did everything that he could, including voting against funding for the troops, to block efforts to win the war.  He insisted that the surge was failing long after it was clearly making progress, and he promoted a plan that would have withdrawn all troops by March 2008, which would probably have led to another genocide.

Senator Barack Obama was perfectly willing to lose the War in Iraq. There were obvious immediate consequences. But there are also long-term consequences for losing a war, as any examination of the history of the Vietnam War would demonstrate.  We are still seeing the consequences of Congress’ withdrawal of funds just when we were on the verge of winning that war.

Senator Obama seems to have the childish idea that the purpose of our whole effort should have been to get revenge on one man, Osama bin Laden.  This shows a profound misunderstanding of the history, the intelligence, the Middle East and America’s place in the world.

The Iraq war did not go smoothly.  Wars don’t.  A war is not a one-sided operation.  The other side gets a vote, and in this case there was more than one “other side”. There were bad decisions, and poor intelligence and a terrorist war that we had to learn how to fight.  Was it important? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes.  Is Barack Obama prepared to be Commander in Chief? Not if you care about your country.



Why is Barack Obama running against George Bush? Because he has no record of his own. by The Elephant's Child

Every Democrat speech includes the obligatory phrase “eight years of failed Bush policies.” This is the old “big lie” technique of propaganda. You repeat something often enough, and people will start to believe it. New York’s senior senator Charles Schumer, chairman of the senate Democratic Campaign Committee, has been in front of every available camera and microphone for the last eight years, bloviating on the “terrible economy”, at least until he caused a bank run and got caught at it.

But what are these “failed Bush policies?” Let’s consider the history. The Clinton administration benefited from a technology boom that became a bubble. The stock market peaked and by the end of 2000 had declined by 8%, and GDP declined from 4.8 to 1.9 percent. Six weeks into the Bush administration the economy was officially in recession.

On the national security front, Saddam Hussein had kicked the weapons inspectors out of Iraq, and was in complete defiance of UN resolutions that he was obligated to obey. His military had fired at US Air Force planes that were patrolling the ‘no-fly’ zones. The US Cole had been attacked in 2000 by Islamists, killing 17 American sailors.

Then on September 11, 2001, just eight months after George W. Bush took office, Islamic terrorists attacked, killing nearly 3,000 civilians and brought down the twin towers and destroyed part of the Pentagon. Not an auspicious start for an administration.

By November the recession was officially over, and the economy never looked back. Under a Republican Congress and a Republican President the economy has grown at a healthy and sustainable pace every year until 2008, with unemployment averaging 5.2%, which is considered good.

Inflation-adjusted personal disposable income grew by 9% in the first six years under President Bush.  The real economy grew by about 20% since the President took office.

Imagine, this was an economy battered by the attacks of 9/11, battered by the devastation of Katrina, and in spite of it all it just chugs along. The Bush tax cuts helped greatly.  They raised the threshold so that way more people owed no taxes at all, and reduced the rates for everyone else, increasing the number of brackets from five to six.  The tax brackets are available here.  Please find the vast tax cuts for “the rich” that were somehow so unfair. Another example of the “big lie” technique in operation. The United States has the most progressive tax system in the world, and collects more income from the top 10 percent than any other country.

Though no one expected it at the time, President Bush has managed to keep us safe here at home for 7 years, while Islamist terrorists were attacking other countries, and attempting to attack us here.  Took a lot of vigilance to accomplish that.

If you look a little deeper than the bumper-sticker slogans from the Democrats, you will find that Guantanamo has been a model prison where no one except the guards was abused.  You will find that no one had any interest in listening to your telephone conversations unless you were chatting with someone in the mountains of Pakistan.  You will find that American troops were restoring schools, rebuilding water supplies, fixing power stations as well as trying to protect Iraqi civilians.

It does require a little effort to find sources like the Long War Journal or learn which reporters can be trusted, or how to find the Milblogs.  It is easier to simply repeat the daily sound bite.

It has been a great disappointment that President Bush has been unable to break through the mainstream media spin. He feels that history will justify him. I agree that it will.  He’s done a pretty darn good job.



Bush and McCain each tried to reform Fannie Mae. Democrats Blocked them both times. by The Elephant's Child

First from the New York Times: Note the date!

September 11, 2003– The Bush Administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry,

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies.  It would exercise authority over any new lines of business.  And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.

The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt — is broken.  A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.

Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.

From the Congressional Record: Again, Note the Date!

FEDERAL HOUSING ENTERPRISE REGULATOR REFORM ACT OF 2005
The United States Senate, May 25, 2006

Sen. John McCain [R-AZ]:  Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae’s regulator reported that the company’s quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were “illusions deliberately and systematically created” by the company’s senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight Oversight’s report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives.  In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae’s former chief executive officer, OFHEO’s report shows that over half of Mr. Raines’ compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets.  The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac. …

For Years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs— and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market.  OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns.  In fact, the report does quite the contrary.  OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

Democrats blocked both attempts to reform Fannie Mae.

Thanks to Sweetness &Light which has printed these two articles in full.

Barack Obama is out trying to blame this all on the Bush Administration, as usual, and scare people as much as he can, — so that he can promise to “rescue” them.  But his solutions are the worst possible, and his speeches are irresponsible.

First Trust economists note that:

The most important thing to remember is that the emphasis belongs on the word financial. These financial market problems are not a result of general market weakness, otherwise known as a recession.  In fact, real GDP has grown 2.2% in the past year and accelerated to a 3.3% annualized growth rate in the second quarter.

The economy is not taking down investment banks; lousy lending standards and the excessive use of leverage are taking down investment banks.

This whole thing had its’ beginnings in a well-intentioned law during the Carter Administration, The Community Redevelopment Act, which was designed to encourage minority homeownership.  President Clinton, influenced by multiculturalism, encouraged it further by dictating where mortgage lenders could lend.  Tough new regulations required that lenders increase their lending in high-risk areas where they had no choice but to lower lending standards to make loans that sound business practices had previously rejected.  Clinton cronies Franklin Raines and Jamie Gorelick became multimillionaires through their supervision of the quasi-governmental agencies that came to manage the real estate market in America.

Low interest rates in the marketplace persuaded Investment banks to purchase packages of sub-prime loans, and risky decisions and a little greed, of course, let them use too much leverage.

This is not the first time that Investment Banks have failed and disappeared. E.F. Hutton, Goodbody & Company, and Kidder Peabody are three of the vanished.  Today’s Investment Banks did not do anything against the law, they just exercised bad business judgment.

Unemployment in the economy is largely confined to the housing crisis with home builders and related trades suffering, as well as the auto industry and related trades and now there will be some investment bankers on the unemployment line.

They are in trouble because they are affected by unfortunate laws made by a Congress that does not always understand what they do. Remember that most congressmen never read the bills that they sign. Congress has long been inclined to well-intentioned regulation to help the poor and save the planet.  They fall in love with the goals, and never consider or learn about the consequences of what they do.

It seems kind to help a poor family get into a house larger than they can really afford, with less of a down payment, but it isn’t really kind.  Kindness would be helping them to learn how to work hard and save their money, and how to move up to better jobs. Government can make it easier for private industry to build smaller, more affordable houses, without telling them what kind of houses to build, where to build them and under what qualifications to sell them.

The great problem with Socialism is their pursuit of “social justice”.  They believe that they can make the poor — not poor — by taking money from the well-to-do and giving it to the poor.  Never works.  Though there is extraordinary mobility in our society, those who are induced into dependency on government are inclined to lose that mobility.

Barack Obama, in all his economic plans, is extraordinarily invested in the pursuit of “social justice”. That should be a serious warning.



Surprise, surprise, Vladimir lied….. by The Elephant's Child

You thought all that talk about a cease fire could be believed, didn’t you? Some of us have longer experience with the Russians than others. The idea that Russia, while the world was watching the Olympics, just suddenly needed to respond to a “provocation” by Georgia’s elected president, with a fully organized two division military force, tanks, warplanes, warships, and two divisions of soldiers. As Canadian David Warren said:

The notion that Russia — whose land area makes her by far the planet’s largest single state — could be threatened by a neighbour 1/245th her size, should not be confused with paranoia.

In spite of changing titles, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, strongman of Russia, remains in charge. As a former KGB officer, he has long been schooled in Communist power politics. Russia has been meddling in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for years. Russia’s thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group from “ethnic cleansing” provided cover for Georgia’s timid friends in the West to ignore Russia’s adventures. Melik Kaylan explains, in the Wall Street Journal, some of Russia’s strategic plans.

Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since. Already, a great deal has been said about the implications of Russia’s invasion for Ukraine, the Baltic States and Europe generally. But few have noticed the direct strategic threat of Moscow’s action to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kremlin is not about to reignite the Cold War for the love of a few thousand Ossetians or even for its animosity toward five million Georgians. This is calculated strategic maneuvering. And make no mistake, it’s about countering U.S. power at its furthest stretch with Moscow’s power very close to home…
Between Russia and Iran, in the lower Caucasus, sits a small wedge of independent soil — namely, the soil of Azerbaijan and Georgia combined. Through those two countries runs the immensely important Bakuk-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which delivers precious oil circuitously from Azerbaijan to Turkey and out to the world. …It says to the world that if any former Moscow colonies wish to sell their wares to the West diectly, they have a right to do so, and the West will support that right.

John McCain understood the situation immediately as a case of Russian aggression, and spoke out forcefully. McCain knows Georgia well, quickly grasped the strategic situation, and spoke to President Saakashvili who he has know for many years.

Susan Rice, most prominent of Obama’s 300 foreign policy advisers, quickly accused McCain of “shooting from the hip”, and said that a more “measured response” would be more appropriate. Susan Rice has emphasized that Barack Obama clearly has more foreign policy expertise because he actually lived abroad from age 6 to age 10. A measured response seems to be talking and consulting the expertise of the U.N.

Leaders of the other former Soviet controlled states have quickly called for Russia to back off and offered their support to Georgia. President Bush has sent humanitarian supplies and medical aid. His statement is here. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on the way to Georgia. The situation is fluid.




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