Not ready for his close-up

Slate's John Dickerson has written a stinging critique of Bill Richardson's Sunday appearance on Meet the Press. A taste:

"Richardson's many parries and contradictions might have been the work of a candidate who recognizes the world's complexity, but they weren't. He seemed not too thoughtful, but too little prepared. When he tried to explain the contradictions, like his shift on the immigration bill from supporting it to opposing it, his responses were meandering. Sometimes, he contradicted himself within just a few breaths. After explaining why he changed positions on the assault-weapons ban, he broadly asserted, "I don't change my positions." And on one of his core pitch-points — his diplomatic sixth sense for the world and the Middle East in particular — he had to admit that on Iraq, the blockbuster of the day, his skill failed him. For a long-shot candidate with limited opportunities to break through as a fresh new face, he missed his chance wildly."

Gore: Mormonism not a fair issue

Al Gore didn't make much, if any, news on Larry King this week, but at least two of his answers are worth preserving. From the transcript:

"KING: Is (Mitt Romney's) Mormonism a fair issue or not a fair issue?

"GORE: I do not -- I don't think it's a fair issue. I really don't. I would like to think we are past that. People say, well, this is a special case. I don't think it's a special case. I think that he's entitled to his own beliefs.

"And incidentally, Larry, in The Assault on Reason there is a very long hard-hitting section on this that goes back to our founding fathers, goes back to the debates that we had more than 200 years ago about why religion should be kept out of the way in which our decisions are made. Except to the extent that individuals, of course, who are motivated by their religious faith, as I am, as so many people are, are going to make that a part of their decisions. But here's the critical distinction. When America was founded, they -- our founders said, OK look, we are not going to pretend that whoever is elected to office has been ordained by the almighty to be the decision maker. The person who is elected is elected by us, the people of this country. And the divine right of kings was rejected by the founders of the United States.

"And what replaced that, the divine right of individuals in this sense, we believe that we are all created equal. And that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. So the relationship that our founders believed was appropriate for -- between America and God was their belief that every individual has certain rights and has dignity because that person is a child of God.

"Now, for those who don't believe in God, I'm not proselytizing. I'm just telling you what I believe and what our founders believed. But what -- but this has been twisted around in recent times by some people who want to convey the impression that God belongs, if not to a particular political party, that God has a particular political ideology and that those who disagree with a right-wing approach to this or that are against God. That is an anti-American view. That is completely contrary to the spirit of America. It is an American heresy and people in both parties ought to reject that and fight against it."


"KING: Are you disappointed in Joe Lieberman, your former running mate, who has run independent, and is staunchly pro the actions of President Bush in Iraq?

"GORE: Well, I disagreed with Joe Lieberman on his policies toward the invasion of Iraq. But he's entitled to his own opinions. And let me tell you, he has been one of the leaders in trying to get an adequate response to the climate crisis for many years. And there are more issues that I agree with Joe on than those where we find ourselves in disagreement. But, yes, I have disagreed with him on that.

"KING: You would not call him a disappointment then?

"GORE: Well, why would you use a word like that where a friend is concerned? We have had our disagreements and I have stated them. But I would not apply that to a friend."

Ron Paul's reinforcements

In the latest give-and-take between Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani regarding the causes of and appropriate response to 9/11, the former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, joined Paul at the National Press Club today. Paul's campaign issued the following statement:

"Experts, scholars, administration officials and bipartisan investigators all tell us that 50 years of interventionism in the Middle East has compromised the security of America. To deny that bad policy has serious negative repercussions is to deny reality. During our debate in South Carolina, I continued to make the case that we must change foreign policy to secure our nation. Mr. Giuliani attacked me, calling my position 'absurd,' and said that he had 'never heard' such a thing.

"Mr. Giuliani is not really interested in discussing foreign policy. Instead, he wants to shout down anyone who doesn't agree with him. He attacks my patriotism, inferring that if I do not support war, then I do not love America. We have heard these arguments before. They are arguments of ignorance and authoritarianism.

"Today, I stood with Michael Scheuer, the man who spearheaded the CIA's efforts to capture Osama bin Laden, and perhaps the most qualified expert to speak about the blowback caused by American foreign policy. I cited leading scholars, the 9-11 Commission, the CIA and even Paul Wolfowitz. Rudy Giuliani's ignorance on foreign policy is alarming. I hope he pays attention and learns."

Scheuer is the author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror and Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America. He was a prominent figure in Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Recently he wrote this op-ed to rebut ex-CIA director George Tenet's memoir.

Heating up the debates

A reader who was disappointed that global warming wasn't given more attention at the Republican debate in South Carolina suggests the topic would be well received if it's seriously addressed when the candidates debate in New Hampshire:

"I wagered that global warming would be a topic in Tuesday's S.C. debate -- instead it was whittled to one question, and that to Tancredo. He doubts the science, but at least he's willing to look at global warming through a lens familiar to him: national security. Maybe we'll see a bit more attention on June 5; after all, a December 2006 poll of likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters said global warming was a serious issue, likely caused by humans and needed attention. And if many if not most of the 160+ towns that passed a climate change resolution in March lean right (most voted for Sununu in 2002 and Bush in 2004), the candidates stand to gain points by paying attention and offering their solutions."

Earmarxism or eyewash?

If you care about the debate over pork-barrel spending and the size of the federal government, this piece and this piece make for an excellent pro/con.

A new twist on old Al Gore

"If you think Al Gore’s nutty preoccupation with what he calls 'the climate crisis' is going to turn people off, you’re not paying attention. Global warming is not just a new fad for liberals and the liberal-inclined; it’s also a welcome refuge from the previous fad, 'diversity,' just as that previous fad is starting to grow fungus and smell bad.

"The Left always needs a Grand Cause, and global warming is a perfect fit for the liberal mentality. It allows you to feel good without actually inconveniencing yourself overmuch, demands massive new government powers and corresponding taxation, is open-ended enough to, in theory, go on forever, makes capitalism look bad, and offers endless opportunities to feel warm throbs of guilt while gazing on pictures of poor, dark people suffering pitiably in remote places.

"Al knew all that before you did. He’s a smart cookie. He has a fine presidential jaw, massive celebrity support, full campaign experience, tens of millions of aggrieved supporters who feel they were swindled out of their last shot at a Gore presidency, and the ability to swiftly gin up lotsa cash."

If Derb isn't your style, Time magazine tries to "tempt" you here.

"I'm looking for Jack Bauer"

The full transcript of GOP debate no. 2 is here. You have to read close to the end to find Tom Tancredo's 24 reference, responding to a hypothetical terrorist attack. UPDATE: Video in eight parts here.

John Derbyshire rounds up some of the key moments with commentary here. He starts like this:

"Ron Paul was asked: 'Are you running for the nomination in the wrong party?' I forget what he said, but the actual answer is 'Yes.' Ron should be the candidate of the Constitution party. The Republican party is not a reliably conservative party. It is a slightly right-of-center party that American conservatives vote for grudgingly, because they believe that only the two big parties can ever win the presidency, and Republican administrations are very slightly more likely to very occasionally enact conservative measures than are Democratic administrations."

On Rudy v. Hillary v. Bloomberg

Or, "a three-way race between three moderately liberal to leftist New Yorkers running for president in a right of center country with no even moderately conservative candidate."

-- Tony Blankley, holding nothing back.

No surer way . . .

. . . to build buzz for your book(s) than to re-encourage speculation about running for president.

Hillary - in Bill's words

"In my first term, Hillary was, in effect, the face of America."

- Bill Clinton, in a nearly 5-minute video in support of his wife's presidential campaign.

Rudy's potential for growth

Continuing its series of white papers on presidential candidates, the Club for Growth criticizes parts of Rudy Giuliani's record but finds more to like than dislike. From the conclusion:

"From his support for extending income tax surcharges, to his affinity for corporate welfare projects, to his vocal opposition to NAFTA, there are undoubtedly some stains on Giuliani's fiscal record. However . . . Giuliani was able to significantly cut taxes; hold spending increases down below the rates of inflation and population growth; overhaul the welfare system; deregulate and privatize many local government services; and join the fight for school choice. . . . Some of his local positions are worrisome and some of his federal positions are still unknown. Nonetheless, one cannot help but conclude that if Giuliani could accomplish the pro-growth record he did in the hostile environment of New York City, the potential for him to accomplish even more amid the more politically balanced federal government is great."

Links to similar evaluations of John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback here.

Rudy, abortion and the GOP

You don't have to agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial board's view of the Democratic Party to agree with its conclusion regarding Rudy Giuliani and the consequences of an intramural Republican fight over abortion (updated with link):

"As for the politics of 2008, the last thing the GOP needs is another intramural abortion brawl. As a resurgent Democratic Party advances all manner of misguided proposals for the economy, taxes, national security, health care, energy and the environment, voters need Republicans to revive their own reform agenda. An abortion fight will make the party seem irrelevant to the main voter concerns, or captive to its litmus test interests.

"Mr. Giuliani has his strengths and weaknesses, but he shouldn't be disqualified for the nomination because of his views on a single issue that a President can't do much to change other than through the courts. The only victor in a drawn-out GOP abortion donnybrook will be the Democrat who winds up in the White House."

More on the subject in today's Monitor from Charles Krauthammer.

UPDATE: Sunday's Capital Beat included much discussion among New Hampshire Republicans on this topic. Part of the story is Fran Wendelboe's decision to start the New Hampshire Regan Network, which will work to recruit and train GOP primary candidates who are committed to the party's platform. NH GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen, who was elected in a race against Wendelboe, said: "We already have a Reagan organization in New Hampshire. It's called the Republican Party." To which Ed Mosca replies: "Nice try, Fergus, but no cigar. Reagan Republicanism is anathema to the majority of the NH GOP. . . . Surely, Fergus was misquoted. He must have said Rockefeller organization."

Is Bill Richardson overqualified?

Two new Richardson ads again mix humor and seriousness.

Commentary so far includes this rave:

"I think the ads are fantastic on some deep existential level. Especially the first one deftly shine attention on the absurd predicament Richardson is in: that interviewer is a lovely allegorical embodiment of the DC punditocracy: aware of, but blithely contemptuous of, his amazing record of achievement, disrespectful of the man, basically uninterested, still wanting to know what makes him think he can be president. Richardson, brilliantly, calls attention to this but shows he can take it in stride and laugh about it.

"At the same time, they show him in a position of job-supplicant that will be familiar to and resonate with so many voters. If Richardson is half as smart as these ads, he'll make a great president."

But also this:

"He doesn't look presidential. Yeah, the ads are entertaining but is the purpose of the ads to win awards or for Bill Richardson to become President?"

Tough love for the GOP

David Frum explores the under-performance of the Republican candidates here. Key excerpts:

"Rudy Giuliani — a leader once legendary for his intensity, focus, and mastery of detail — has been running an improvised, unbriefed, unprepared campaign.

"Mitt Romney has ignored and denigrated his two greatest political achievements — his health-care success and his trans-party victory in Massachusetts — in order utterly implausibly to position himself as a social-issues crusader.

"John McCain, Mr. Bipartisan, now presents himself as a red-meat conservative.

"Shall I go on? . . .

"I wish somebody at the Reagan Library had said: 'Ronald Reagan was a great leader and a great president because he addressed the problems of his time. But we have very different problems — and we need very different answers. Here are mine.' . . .

"If we want to win, we have to offer the American voter something fresh and compelling. I think most of us understand that. And yet at the same time we are demanding that our candidates repeat formulas and phrases from two and three decades ago."

UPDATE: Other takes here (Daniel Henninger saw signs of smart debate last week) and here (Should Fred run for Veep?).

Requiem for Obama

"If you listen closely, the silent dog whistle is already blowing for the Obama candidacy, and the tune it is playing is taps."

For the record, Alex Beam said on May 8, 2007, that Barack Obama won't be elected president in November 2008.

Beam calls Obama "the BradleyDeanBabbittTsongas of the 2008 election cycle" and, borrowing a line he has used before, writes:

"I wouldn't mind living in a country where Barack Obama is president. Brains; candor; charisma; ambition hitched to a work ethic; I admire those qualities. But frankly, the people who've ponied up $4,600 for Obama in this election cycle might as well have piled the money on the kitchen table and set fire to it. Or donated it to the Audubon Society, which has a lot better chance of being in business a year from now than Obama's presidential campaign."

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