Saturday, June 30, 2007

Of Tax Cuts and Terror - New York's former mayor makes his case to be Reagan's heir

You all know I support Rudy for president - now please take a moment and read this interview with the WSJ, encapsulated below, and in toto here:
He'll make an outstanding president...T

"I think the American people in November 2008 are going to select the person they think is strongest to defend America against Islamic terrorism. And it is not going to focus on--as some of the media wants it--just Iraq. I think Americans are smarter than that."

Thus did Rudy Giuliani summarize the rationale for his presidential campaign at a meeting this week with the editorial board of the Journal. Next year's election will be about national security, not about Iraq narrowly defined.

In an hour-long conversation in our offices in lower Manhattan, the former New York City mayor sat facing away from the view of Ground Zero below, but 9/11 was very much in the front of his mind. A few minutes into the interview, he paused midsentence, gestured over his shoulder and looked down at his hands. "Coming down here just fills me with memories," he offered. "I can't come here without thinking about what happened that day."

Mr. Giuliani has been accused of playing the 9/11 card for political gain, and he did not shy from discussing his role after the terrorist attacks on that day and its effect on his worldview. But he defied the caricature of a man who intends to beat the 9/11 drum all the way to the White House.

His views on foreign and domestic policy were cogent and delivered with the take-it-or-leave-it confidence that is as refreshing to his backers as it is infuriating to his opponents, both now and when he was mayor. "Leadership," he told us, "is first figuring out what's right, and then explaining it to people, as opposed to first having people explain to you what's right, and then just saying what they want to hear."

Mr. Giuliani is often referred to as a "moderate" Republican, which is true if it means simply that he doesn't follow the party line on certain issues, such as abortion. But there is very little else about him that qualifies for the label. "I am," he told us, "by all objective measures the most fiscally conservative candidate in the race." On domestic policy, he says he wants to shrink the government's share of the economy and increase the private sector's. Tax rates "should be lower" and our health-care system ought to be "move[d] away from the paternalistic model" that we have now.

This is not big-government conservatism. George W. Bush, he tells us, "was not good on spending," although he adds that Congress wasn't very good on spending, either. "I think that it's one of the primary reasons [the Republicans] lost Congress in 2006."

When it comes to the war on terror, "defending America" means "remaining on offense." More particularly, it means "using the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance and interrogation techniques that are legal but aggressive." Of Guantanamo Bay, he says, "I don't think we should close Guantanamo."

These, then, are the talking points. But in order to discover whether there was more to his national-security credentials than merely being "America's mayor" on 9/11, we pressed him on how a President Giuliani would handle a current foreign-policy crisis such as Iran. His answer revealed a discursive style that was on display throughout the meeting, and which can only be demonstrated by quoting from his reply at some length.

He started by explaining how he understands the problem, before getting around to how it ought to be handled: "Well, I think that if we've learned any lessons from the history of the 20th century, one of the lessons we should learn is [to] stop trying to psychoanalyze people and take them at their word.

"If we had taken Hitler at his word, Stalin at his word, I think we would have made much sounder decisions and saved a lot more lives. I don't know why we have to think that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad doesn't mean what he says. Therefore, the more cautious, prudent way to react to it is, he means what he says.

"The second thing is . . . we shouldn't be surprised that he's emerged in Iran. Iran has been like that since the Ayatollah took over. So, they are an irresponsible regime."
With that by way of preamble, he answered the question: "America's approach should begin with the clear statement that we will not allow him to become a nuclear power. And everybody should know that, including your allies, that that's not a solution American will tolerate, because it would be too dangerous for us to put nuclear weapons in the hands of people who say the things he says and have done the things they've done."

OK, but it's one thing to say we will "not allow" a nuclear Iran, it's another to be prepared to do something about it. Does not allowing him to become a nuclear power include taking military action against Iran, if necessary? The answer comes quickly: "Whatever is necessary."

So, what are the odds that we can avoid military confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program? "It all depends on their evaluation of the American president. If they think that they have an American president that's going to be ambiguous and worry about this stuff--kind of a John Kerry type who is going to worry what Europe thinks--they're going to be more likely to take advantage of it."

Call it peace through strength. "If," on the other hand, "they believe that an American president will utilize any steps necessary to stop them from becoming nuclear, there is a much better chance that the sanctions will work, because you have leverage--and in a strange way, I think that a much better chance the sanctions will work because our allies, or semi-allies [like Russia and China], will have an incentive for making them work, because they don't want that [military action] to happen."

Asked whether he thinks the Bush administration is doing enough to address the Iranian situation, he says he "probably would prefer somewhat stronger language. What I really want to know is what's the bottom line--and I don't know the answer to that." He argues that, in this case, making the administration's bottom line public and explicit would help bring the Iranians around because they could no longer delude themselves that they might get away with going nuclear without paying a high price.

So much for Iran. How does Mr. Giuliani rate the current administration's handling of Iraq? "The plan for how to stabilize Iraq certainly wasn't a good one. And then there wasn't a quick enough reaction to the facts on the ground that showed you that it wasn't a good one. So I kind of look at that as, if you come into office and it's still there, you've got to try to straighten it out and you have to try to learn from it in the future." He's not a cut-and-run man, in other words.

The current fashion in Iraq war criticism is to say that America can't make any headway unless the Iraqis come to a political accommodation with each other, so America should step aside until that is accomplished. Mr. Giuliani looks at it through the lens of his time as mayor, and believes that America has to provide security before anything like a functioning society or government can emerge.

"Maybe having been a mayor I can see some of this better. By that I mean, if you've got to create a democracy, democracy is only a theory that doesn't mean very much when people live in fear. I used to say that about crime in New York, that the most important civil right is being safe. . . . It doesn't matter if you have other civil rights if you can't go out at night. . . . So if you're going to create an election in Iraq when the infrastructure of that society has crumbled--which means people can't go to work, people can't go out, more people are being killed than used to be the case, right in front of you--then democracy is a theory down the road, but your life has disintegrated. I don't think we saw our responsibility clearly enough at the beginning to keep up the infrastructure of Iraq."

It's too soon to ask any candidate what they would do about Iraq if elected--we know too little about what the state of play will be in January 2009. But when asked what his response is to those Republicans who are concerned that continuing to support the war will cost them seats in the Senate in November 2008, his answer is concise: "I'd tell them that getting this right is much more important than winning Senate seats."

On the home front, it's no surprise that Mr. Giuliani, a law-enforcement man for decades, believes we need the Patriot Act, the NSA wiretapping program and the rest of the war-fighting architecture that has been built up under President Bush. But when you dig a little deeper, Mr. Giuliani, a public servant nearly all of his adult life, sounds a lot more like the CEO president that George Bush was billed as than Mr. Bush has proved to be. He seems to think less in terms of "initiatives" than in terms of quantification, analysis and information. "I'd want an evaluation about how accurate are we [in identifying threats]. Are we 70%, 80%, 90% accurate? Can we sit down, and do we have on paper the leading groups? Do we have the primary actors? Are we evaluating whether our intelligence is improving? How effective are we being in finding them?"

This focus on methods carries more weight coming from Mr. Giuliani because of the results he achieved using it to bring down crime in New York City. Identify the problem, quantify it, isolate it and fight it. He admits that, as a private citizen, he doesn't have enough information about how much of this we're doing right now. But it's illustrative of his way of thinking about problems that what he thinks we need are metrics by which to measure all these things.

Likewise on government reform. He announced in a speech earlier this week that he would plan to replace only half of the 300,000 civil servants due to retire over the next decade. In his visit to the Journal's offices, he said he'd like to see every government agency try to identify ways to be more efficient every year. "You task them with--sort of like [former GE CEO] Jack Welch's approach, to always get rid of the bottom 10%--you task them every year to find 5%, 10% in savings, or 15% or 20% . . . It's to save money, but it's also a discipline that has them going to their agency and figure out what is not efficient--what isn't working. We haven't done that since Reagan."

Mr. Giuliani likes to quantify. In place of a platform, he has 12 "commitments," which he has printed up on a card (they are also on his campaign Web site). He freely admits that, political reality being what it is, he would consider it a victory to "achieve seven or eight of them."

Mr. Giuliani invoked Ronald Reagan's name repeatedly, and always as a model. There is an element of political calculation in that--Mr. Giuliani is trying to reassure the so-called cultural conservatives that if they liked Reagan, they'll love Rudy. But can he overcome the perception that he's a culturally liberal, pro-choice New Yorker who's to the left of his own party on a number of issues? He says that his differences with the party on cultural issues are "sometimes exaggerated for political purposes."

On Roe v. Wade, he says, astutely, "I don't answer that because I wouldn't want a judge to have to answer that. I don't consider it a litmus test." But he may give the pro-life crowd jitters when he adds, "I think a conservative strict constructionist judge could come to either conclusion." He suggests that the real test should be intellectual honesty, and to that end he cites D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge Larry Silberman's recent opinion on the Second Amendment, affirming a constitutional right to bear arms. This is a nice piece of political turnabout--to respond to a question about his stance on abortion by citing favorably the most important pro-gun-rights decision in recent history.

To return to the subject at hand, we ask him who on the Supreme Court now meets his standards for intellectual honesty. "[Samuel] Alito, [John] Roberts--I would have appointed either one of them," he offers. He's said as much before. But he continues: "[Antonin] Scalia clearly does [meet the standard], and [Clarence] Thomas. I would have appointed any one of the four of them."

Speaking of justice, Mr. Giuliani has been more circumspect than some of his rivals on whether he would pardon I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. And he repeated again that he wouldn't pardon Mr. Libby "right now." On the other hand, Mr. Giuliani advanced a pretty good argument that he should never have been tried. "Perjury has to be material--it has to relate to what you're investigating," he offered. "If someone goes in front of a grand jury and tells a lie about an insignificant fact, it's a lie but it isn't perjury. There's all kinds of lying that isn't criminal . . . If the investigation is about a non-crime, when you know who did it, how could anything be material to it?" That sounds an awful lot like an argument for a pardon, even if Mr. Giuliani seems to think the time may not be right.

There's no denying that Mr. Giuliani's campaign is built around the war on terror--or, as he prefers to call it, "the terrorists' war on us." He views the 2008 election as a turning point in the conflict, and, naturally, thinks he's the man to steer things in the right direction.

"I think that the president we elect in 2008 will determine how long it takes to prevail against the terrorists," Mr. Giuliani says. "If you select somebody that is going to go back on defense, it's going to take a much longer time and there are going to be more casualties. If you select a president that's going to remain on offense, and even improve on it, it isn't going to be easy, but it's going to mean less casualties, faster." It's not an easy or comforting message, but Mr. Giuliani is not in the comforting business. Whether it's a message the country wants to hear is something the voters will let us know.
Click here for full article

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lantos Raps Former European Leaders

After reading this, the next one who says "It's all Bush's fault" can drop dead! this guu is probably the 2nd or 3rd most liberal democrat EVER to serve in the US Congress...T

WASHINGTON (AP) - A leading Democratic lawmaker lashed out at the former leaders of Germany and France, calling former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder a `political prostitute.'
Germany denounced the remarks by Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, as an insult to its people.

Lantos' comments about Schroeder and former French President Jacques Chirac, both opponents of the Iraq war, came in a speech Tuesday at the dedication of a monument to victims of communism. President Bush spoke at the same event, but did not arrive until after Lantos spoke.

"I am so glad that the era of Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder in Germany is now gone," Lantos said to applause.

He said when the United States asked Schroeder to support its decision to go to war in Iraq "he told us where to go."

"I referred to him as a political prostitute, now that he's taking big checks from (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. But the sex workers in my district objected, so I will no longer use that phrase," Lantos said.

After leaving office in 2005 Schroeder became chairman of the North Europe Gas Pipeline, which is 51 percent owned by the Russian state natural gas company Gazprom.

Lantos' remark prompted scattered laughter and applause from the audience.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, once Schroeder's chief of staff, said Lantos' comments overstepped "the limits of political decency."

He said Lantos' comment "insults not only the former chancellor but also the great majority of German people."

Lantos said Chirac "should go down to the Normandy beaches. He should see those endless rows of white marble crosses and stars of David representing young Americans who gave their lives for the freedom of France."

He said under the successors of Schroeder and Chirac, Angela Merkel in Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy in France, relations with the United States "will take a very positive turn"

Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary, and sent to a Nazi labor camp when he was 16. He is the only survivor of the Holocaust ever to have served in Congress.
Click here for full article

Freedom, not climate, is at risk

This from Vaclav Klaus, president of The Czech Republic (once one has spent a lifetime under the fascistic boot of communism, one recognises its current wearer, eh?)...T

We are living in strange times. One exceptionally warm winter is enough – irrespective of the fact that in the course of the 20th century the global temperature increased only by 0.6 per cent – for the environmentalists and their followers to suggest radical measures to do something about the weather, and to do it right now.

In the past year, Al Gore’s so-called “documentary” film was shown in cinemas worldwide, Britain’s – more or less Tony Blair’s – Stern report was published, the fourth report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was put together and the Group of Eight summit announced ambitions to do something about the weather. Rational and freedom-loving people have to respond. The dictates of political correctness are strict and only one permitted truth, not for the first time in human history, is imposed on us. Everything else is denounced.

The author Michael Crichton stated it clearly: “the greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda”. I feel the same way, because global warming hysteria has become a prime example of the truth versus propaganda problem. It requires courage to oppose the “established” truth, although a lot of people – including top-class scientists – see the issue of climate change entirely differently. They protest against the arrogance of those who advocate the global warming hypothesis and relate it to human activities.

As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.

The scientists should help us and take into consideration the political effects of their scientific opinions. They have an obligation to declare their political and value assumptions and how much they have affected their selection and interpretation of scientific evidence.

Does it make any sense to speak about warming of the Earth when we see it in the context of the evolution of our planet over hundreds of millions of years? Every child is taught at school about temperature variations, about the ice ages, about the much warmer climate in the Middle Ages. All of us have noticed that even during our life-time temperature changes occur (in both directions).

Due to advances in technology, increases in disposable wealth, the rationality of institutions and the ability of countries to organise themselves, the adaptability of human society has been radically increased. It will continue to increase and will solve any potential consequences of mild climate changes.

I agree with Professor Richard Lindzen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who said: “future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age”.

The issue of global warming is more about social than natural sciences and more about man and his freedom than about tenths of a degree Celsius changes in average global temperature.

As a witness to today’s worldwide debate on climate change, I suggest the following:

■Small climate changes do not demand far-reaching restrictive measures
■Any suppression of freedom and democracy should be avoided
■Instead of organising people from above, let us allow everyone to live as he wants
■Let us resist the politicisation of science and oppose the term “scientific consensus”, which is always achieved only by a loud minority, never by a silent majority
■Instead of speaking about “the environment”, let us be attentive to it in our personal behaviour
■Let us be humble but confident in the spontaneous evolution of human society. Let us trust its rationality and not try to slow it down or divert it in any direction
■Let us not scare ourselves with catastrophic forecasts, or use them to defend and promote irrational interventions in human lives.

The writer is President of the Czech Republic
Click here for full article