Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sorry, Newt. Only the debt ceiling will reach the moon

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
January 27, 2012

Had I been asked to deliver the State of the Union address, it would not have delayed your dinner plans:

"The State of our Union is broke, heading for bankrupt, and total collapse shortly thereafter. Thank you and goodnight! You've been a terrific crowd!"

I gather that Americans prefer something a little more upbeat, so one would not begrudge a speechwriter fluffing it up by holding out at least the possibility of some change of fortune, however remote. Instead, President Obama assured us at great length that nothing is going to change, not now, not never. Indeed the Union's state – its unprecedented world-record brokeness – was not even mentioned.

If, as I was, you happened to be stuck at Gate 27 at one of the many U.S. airports laboring under the misapprehension that pumping CNN at you all evening long somehow adds to the gaiety of flight delays, you would have watched an address that gave no indication its speaker was even aware that the parlous state of our finances is an existential threat not only to the nation but to global stability. The message was, oh, sure, unemployment's still a little higher than it should be, and student loans are kind of expensive, and the housing market's pretty flat, but it's nothing that a little government "investment" in green jobs and rural broadband and retraining programs can't fix. In other words, more of the unaffordable same.

The president certainly had facts and figures at his disposal. He boasted that his regulatory reforms "will save business and citizens more than $10 billion over the next five years." Wow. Ten billion smackeroos! That's some savings – and in a mere half a decade! Why, it's equivalent to what the Government of the United States borrows every 53 hours. So by midnight on Thursday, Obama had already re-borrowed all those hard-fought savings from 2017. "In the last 22 months," said the president, "businesses have created more than 3 million jobs." Impressive. But 125,000 new foreign workers arrive every month (officially). So we would have to have created 2,750,000 jobs in that period just to stand still.

Fortunately, most of the items in Obama's interminable speech will never happen, any more than the federally funded bicycling helmets or whatever fancies found their way onto Bill Clinton's extravagant shopping lists in the Nineties. At the time, the excuse for Clinton's mountain of legislative molehills was that all the great battles had been won, and, in the absence of a menacing Russian bear, what else did a president have to focus on except criminalizing toilet tanks over 1.6 gallons. President Obama does not enjoy the same dispensation, and any historians stumbling upon a surviving DVD while sifting through the ruins of our civilization will marvel at how his accumulation of delusional trivialities was apparently taken seriously by the assembled political class.

An honest leader would feel he owed it to the citizenry to impress upon them one central truth – that we can't have any new programs because we've spent all the money. It's gone. The cupboard is bare. What's Obama's plan to restock it? "Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary," the president told us. "Asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense."

But why stop there? Americans need affordable health care and affordable Master's Degrees in Climate Change and Social Justice Studies, so why not take everything that Warren Buffett's got? After all, if you confiscated the total wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans it would come to $1.5 trillion.

Which is just a wee bit less than the federal shortfall in just one year of Obama-size budgets. 2011 deficit: $1.56 trillion. But maybe for 2012 a whole new Forbes 400 of Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs will emigrate to the Hamptons and Malibu and keep the whole class-warfare thing going for a couple more years.

The so-called "Buffett Rule" is indicative not so much of "common sense" as of the ever-widening gap between the Brobdingnagian problem and the Lilliputian solutions proposed by our leaders. Obama can sacrifice the virgin daughters of every American millionaire on the altar of government spending, and the debt gods will barely notice so much as to give a perfunctory belch of acknowledgement. The president's first term has added $5 trillion to the debt – a degree of catastrophe unique to us. In an Obama budget, the entire cost of the Greek government would barely rate a line-item. Debt-to-GDP and other comparative measures are less relevant than the hard-dollar numbers: It's not just that American government has outspent America's ability to fund it, but that it's outspending the planet's.

Who gets this? Not enough of us – which is exactly how Obama likes it. His only "big idea" – that it should be illegal (by national fiat) to drop out of school before your 18th birthday – betrays his core belief: that more is better, as long as it's government-mandated, government-regulated, government-staffed – and funded by you, or Warren Buffett, or the Chinese Politburo, or whoever's left out there.

What of his likely rivals this November? Those of us who have lived in once-great decaying polities recognize the types. Jim Callaghan, Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street in the Seventies, told a friend of mine that he saw his job as managing Britain's decline as gracefully as possible. The United Kingdom certainly declined on his watch, though not terribly gracefully. In last Monday's debate, Newt Gingrich revived the line and accused by implication Mitt Romney of having no higher ambition than to "manage the decline." Running on platitudinous generalities, Mitt certainly betrays little sense that he grasps the scale of the crisis. After a fiery assault by Rick Santorum on Romney's support for an individual mandate in health care, Mitt sneered back at Rick that "it wasn't worth getting angry over." Which may be a foretaste of the energy he would bring to any attempted course correction in Washington.

Newt, meanwhile, has committed himself to a lunar colony by the end of his second term, and, while pandering to an audience on Florida's "Space Coast," he added that, as soon as there were 13,000 American settlers on the moon, they could apply for statehood. Ah, the old frontier spirit: I hear Laura Ingalls Wilder is already working on "Little House In The Crater."

Maybe Newt's on to something. Except for the statehood part. One day, when America gets the old foreclosure notice in the mail, wouldn't it be nice to close up the entire joint, put the keys in an envelope, slide it under the door of the First National Bank of Shanghai, and jet off on Newt's Starship Government-Sponsored Enterprise?

There are times for dreaming big dreams, and there are times to wake up. This country will not be going to the moon, any more than will be the British or French. Because, in decline, the horizons shrivel. The only thing that's going to be on the moon is the debt ceiling. Before we can make any more giant leaps for mankind, we have to make one small, dull, prosaic, earthbound step here at home – and stop. Stop the massive expansion of microregulatory government, and then reverse it. Obama has vowed to press on. If Romney and Gingrich can't get serious about it, he'll get his way.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Obama’s Vision for a Spartan America

The president thinks America would be better if it was no longer America.

By Jonah Goldberg
January 27, 2012

President Obama’s State of the Union address was disgusting.

The president began with a moving tribute to the armed forces and their accomplishments. But as he has done many times now, he celebrated martial virtues not to rally support for the military, but to cover himself in glory — he killed Osama bin Laden! — and to convince the American people that they should fall in line and march in lockstep.

He said of the military: “At a time when too many of our institutions have let us down, they exceed all expectations. They’re not consumed with personal ambition. They don’t obsess over their differences. They focus on the mission at hand. They work together. Imagine what we could accomplish if we followed their example. Think about the America within our reach.”

That is disgusting.

What Obama is saying, quite plainly, is that America would be better off if it wasn’t America any longer. He’s making the case not for American exceptionalism, but for Spartan exceptionalism.

It’s far worse than anything George W. Bush, the supposed warmonger, ever said. Bush, the alleged fascist, didn’t want to militarize our free country; he tried to use our military to make militarized countries free.

Indeed, Obama is upending the very point of a military in a free society. We have a military to keep our society free. We do not have a military to teach us the best way to give up our freedom. Our warriors surrender their liberties and risk their lives to protect ours. The promise of American life for Obama is that if we all try our best and work our hardest, we can be like a military unit striving for a single goal. I’ve seen pictures of that from North Korea. No thank you, Mr. President.

Of course, Obama’s militaristic fantasizing isn’t new. Ever since William James coined the phrase “the moral equivalent of war,” liberalism has been obsessed with finding ways to mobilize civilian life with the efficiency and conformity of military life. “Martial virtues,” James wrote, “must be the enduring cement” of American society: “intrepidity, contempt of softness, surrender of private interest, obedience to command must still remain the rock upon which states are built.” His disciple, liberal philosopher John Dewey, hoped for a social order that would force Americans to lay aside “our good-natured individualism and march in step.”

This is why Obama’s administration believes a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This is why Obama has been prattling about “Sputnik moments” and sighing over his envy of China and its rulers. This is why his spinners endeavored to translate the death of bin Laden as some sort of vindication of his domestic agenda: because he cannot lead a free people where he thinks they should go.

At the end of his address, Obama once again cast the slain bin Laden as the Vercingetorix to his Caesar. (Vercingetorix was the defeated Gaulic chieftain whom Caesar triumphantly paraded through Rome.) “All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves,” Obama rhapsodized.

The warriors on the ground “only succeeded . . . because every single member of that unit did their job. . . . More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other — because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s somebody behind you, watching your back. So it is with America.”

“This nation is great because we worked as a team. This nation is great because we get each other’s backs.”

No. Wrong. It is not so with America. This nation isn’t great because we work as a team with the president as our captain. America is great because America is free. It is great not because we put our self-interest aside, but because we have the right to pursue happiness.

I don’t blame the president for being exhausted with the mess and bother of democracy and politics, since he has proved so inadequate at coping with the demands of both. Nor do I think he truly seeks to impose martial virtues on America. But he does desperately want his opponents to shut up and march in place. And he seems to think this bilge will convince them to do so.

What I can’t forgive, however, is the way he tries to pass off his ideal of an America where everyone marches as one as a better America. It wouldn’t be America at all.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Book Review: "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun"

By Robert VerBruggen - Special to The Washington Times
January 23, 2012

By Paul M. Barrett
Crown, $26, 291 pages

It must be hard to write a corporate history that makes for gripping reading, but Paul M. Barrett has done just that with “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.” Of course, he’s aided by the fact that Glock is no ordinary company; it makes a fascinating and deadly product, and its story features everything from come-from-behind victories to strippers to an assassination attempt. But with a readable prose style, a strong sense of narrative and a knack for brevity - “Glock” weighs in at fewer than 300 pages, index and all - Mr. Barrett offers a penetrating look at a company that revolutionized the firearms industry.

The underdog tale of how Gaston Glock - a 50-year-old radiator manufacturer who’d never made a gun before - won the right to make guns for the Austrian army in the early 1980s and brought the weapon to America with the help of a man who traveled the country selling guns from a recreational vehicle, will warm the heart of anyone who has one. And the engineering particulars will have gun nuts drooling: Mr. Barrett explains, in layman’s terms but with plenty of detail, what makes Glock guns so special.

Glocks are lighter than most other pistols because they are made largely of plastic rather than metal. They have far fewer parts, which means fewer opportunities for malfunction. They are designed to feel more natural in the hand. They have a light, steady trigger pull, and the safety is built into the trigger itself - the mechanism keeps the gun from firing by accident, but a police officer or a citizen faced with an armed attacker won’t forget whether his safety is on or fumble while trying to disengage it.

It’s hardly surprising that Americans went crazy for the product. Police departments began feeling outgunned after a high-profile 1986 Miami shootout left several FBI agents - who had wielded old-school revolvers - dead. They placed large orders, and Glock was happy to give steep discounts to law enforcement. Hollywood featured the guns in countless movies.

Political controversy only helped the fledgling company. Some activists were concerned that Glocks, being mostly plastic, would be difficult to detect via airport security. In arguing for a Glock ban, they touted one experiment in which a man managed to get a disassembled Glock past screeners. Of course, they never bothered to mention that a standard metal weapon made it through in the same experiment - indicating that lazy screeners, not the plastic material of the Glock, had created the problem. American firearms enthusiasts rally to the defense of any gun maker who is threatened with needless legislation, so the uproar was a boon to Glock.

Mr. Barrett lays out all of this - which is one reason the book is such a worthwhile effort. Mr. Barrett is no gun nut, but unlike many journalists who write about firearms, he bothers to nail his facts down before committing words to paper. You won’t catch him implying that the “assault weapons” ban was needed to keep criminals away from fully automatic machine guns. He can sound condescending from time to time - he seems baffled that a law-abiding citizen would want to carry a firearm despite the “small chance of being the unlucky customer paying for a Slurpee when a bad guy attacks” - but these missteps are entirely forgivable given the overall high quality of his reporting.

This is no love letter to Glock, of course. There are sordid elements in the company’s history. Once Gaston Glock hit the big time, he adopted a bizarre lifestyle that blended the personality of a corporate titan (mistresses, expensive meals) with elements of his frugal, humble former self. (He once chewed out a secretary for buying a headset to answer the phone more efficiently.) The company itself developed a reputation for bringing important customers to the Gold Club, an Atlanta strip joint; it even hired one of the dancers to draw attention at gun shows. (When the woman went through Glock’s training course, the company refused to tell her classmates - mostly from law enforcement - who she was. They figured she was CIA.)

Mr. Glock had a shady acquaintance set up shell corporations to avoid taxes; when Mr. Glock discovered that the man was embezzling money, the man hired an assassin, who made a bizarre and unsuccessful attempt on Mr. Glock’s life. Other employees stole as well.

One of the company’s most cynical moves - but also one of its funniest to a gun rights supporter - was its response to a law that forbade companies to sell ammunition magazines that held more than 10 rounds. The law didn’t apply to magazines manufactured before the ban went into effect, which therefore became extremely valuable. So, Glock offered its customer police departments - which also were exempt from the legislation - brand-new pistols to replace their current ones (which often were not more than a few years old). Those old guns and their magazines could be sold legally, and for a significant markup, thanks to the fact that they had been manufactured pre-ban.

It’s rare for a nonfiction book to read like a thriller, but that’s what happens with “Glock.” The book covers an intriguing and important topic, and it does so with panache and accuracy. Anyone interested in guns or gun control should read it.

- Robert VerBruggen is an associate editor of National Review.

Today's Tune: Chris Isaak - Two Hearts (Live)

The president plays small ball

The Washington Post
January 27, 2012

Once upon a time, small ball was not Barack Obama’s game. Tuesday, it was the essence of his State of the Union address. The visionary of 2008 — purveyor of hope and change, healer of the earth, tamer of the rising seas — offered an hour of little things: tax-code tweaks to encourage this or that kind of behavior (manufacturing being the flavor of the day), little watchdog agencies to round up Wall Street miscreants and Chinese DVD pirates, even a presidential demand “that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” Under penalty of what? Jail? The self-proclaimed transformer of America is now playing truant officer?

It sounded like the Clinton years with their presidentially proclaimed initiatives on midnight basketball and school uniforms. These are the marks of a shrunken presidency, thoroughly flummoxed by high unemployment, economic stagnation, crushing debt — and a glaring absence of ideas.

Of course, this being Obama, there was a reach for grandeur. Hope and change are long gone. It’s now equality and fairness.

That certainly is a large idea. Lenin and Mao went pretty far with it. As did Clement Attlee and his social-democratic counterparts in postwar Europe. Where does Obama take it? Back to the decade-old Democratic obsession with the Bush tax cuts, the crusade for a tax hike of all of 4.6 points for 2 percent of households — 10 years of which wouldn’t cover the cost of Obama’s 2009 stimulus alone.

Which is why Obama introduced a shiny new twist — the Buffett Rule, a minimum 30 percent rate for millionaires. Sounds novel. But it’s a tired replay of the alternative minimum tax, originally created in 1969 to bring to heel all of 155 underpaying fat cats. Following the fate of other such do-goodism, the AMT then metastasized into a $40 billion monster that today entraps millions of middle-class taxpayers.

There isn’t even a pretense that the Buffett Rule will do anything for economic growth or job creation (other than provide lucrative work for the sharp tax lawyers who will be gaming the new system for the very same rich). Which should not surprise. Back in 2008, Obama was asked if he would still support raising the capital-gains tax rate (the intended effect of the Buffett Rule) if this would decrease government revenue.

Obama said yes. In the name of fairness.

This is redistribution for its own sake — the cost be damned. It took Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels about 30 seconds of his State of the Union rebuttal to demolish that idea. To get the rich to contribute more, explained Daniels, you don’t raise tax rates. This ultimately retards economic growth for all. You (a) eliminate loopholes from which the rich benefit disproportionately (tax reform) and (b) means-test entitlements so that the benefits go to those most in need.

Tax reform and entitlement reform are the really big ideas. The first produces social equity plus economic efficiency; the second produces social equity plus debt reduction. And yet these are precisely what Obama has for three years steadfastly refused to address. He prefers the easy demagoguery of “tax the rich.”

After all, what’s he got? Can’t run on his record. Barely even mentioned Obamacare or the stimulus, his major legislative achievements, on Tuesday night. Too unpopular. His platform is fairness, wrapped around a plethora of little things, one mini-industrial policy after another — the conceit nicely encapsulated by his proclamation that “I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or to Germany.” As if he can command these industries into existence. As if Washington funding a thousand Solyndras will make solar economically viable.

Soviet central planners mandated quotas for steel production, regardless of demand. Obama’s industrial policy is a bit more subtle. Tax breaks for manufacturing — but double tax breaks for high-tech manufacturing, which for some reason is considered more virtuous, despite the fact that high tech is less likely to create blue-collar jobs. Its main job creation will be for legions of lawyers and linguists testifying before some new adjudicating bureaucracy that the Acme Umbrella Factory meets its exquisitely drawn criteria for “high tech.”

What Obama offered the nation Tuesday night was a pudding without a theme: a jumble of disconnected initiatives, a gaggle of intrusive new agencies and a whole new generation of loopholes to further corrupt a tax code that screams out for reform.

If the Republicans can’t beat that in November, they should try another line of work.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

America and the Arab Spring

The US’s rapid fall from regional power is everywhere in evidence.

The Jerusalem Post
January 23, 2012

Egyptian military council supporters set a US flag on fire during a demonstration against US policy outside the American embassy in Cairo - AFP

A year ago this week, on January 25, 2011, the ground began to crumble under then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s feet. One year later, Mubarak and his sons are in prison, and standing trial. This week, the final vote tally from Egypt’s parliamentary elections was published. The Islamist parties have won 72 percent of the seats in the lower house.

The photogenic, Western-looking youth from Tahrir Square the Western media were thrilled to dub the Facebook revolutionaries were disgraced at the polls and exposed as an insignificant social and political force.

As for the military junta, it has made its peace with the Muslim Brotherhood. The generals and the jihadists are negotiating a power-sharing agreement. According to details of the agreement that have made their way to the media, the generals will remain the West’s go-to guys for foreign affairs. The Muslim Brotherhood (and its fellow jihadists in the Salafist al-Nour party) will control Egypt’s internal affairs.

This is bad news for women and for non-Muslims. Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been under continuous attack by Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist supporters since Mubarak was deposed. Their churches, homes and businesses have been burned, looted and destroyed. Their wives and daughters have been raped. The military massacred them when they dared to protest their persecution.

As for women, their main claim to fame since Mubarak’s overthrow has been their sexual victimization at the hands of soldiers who stripped female protesters and performed “virginity tests” on them. Out of nearly five hundred seats in parliament, only 10 will be filled by women.

The Western media are centering their attention on what the next Egyptian constitution will look like and whether it will guarantee rights for women and minorities. What they fail to recognize is that the Islamic fundamentalists now in charge of Egypt don’t need a constitution to implement their tyranny. All they require is what they already have – a public awareness of their political power and their partnership with the military.

The same literalist approach that has prevented Western observers from reading the writing on the walls in terms of the Islamists’ domestic empowerment has blinded them to the impact of Egypt’s political transformation on the country’s foreign policy posture. US officials forcefully proclaim that they will not abide by an Egyptian move to formally abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. What they fail to recognize is that whether or not the treaty is formally abrogated is irrelevant. The situation on the ground in which the new regime allows Sinai to be used as a launching ground for attacks against Israel, and as a highway for weapons and terror personnel to flow freely into Gaza, are clear signs that the peace with Israel is already dead – treaty or no treaty.

EGYPT’S TRANSFORMATION is not an isolated event. The disgraced former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived in the US this week. Yemen is supposed to elect his successor next month. The deteriorating security situation in that strategically vital land which borders the Arabian and Red Seas has decreased the likelihood that the election will take place as planned.

Yemen is falling apart at the seams. Al-Qaida forces have been advancing in the south. Last spring they took over Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. In recent weeks they captured Radda, a city 160 km. south of the capital of Sana.

Radda’s capture underscored American fears that the political upheaval in Yemen will provide al- Qaida with a foothold near shipping routes through the Red Sea and so enable the group to spread its influence to neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaida forces were also prominent in the NATO-backed Libyan opposition forces that with NATO’s help overthrew Muammar Gaddafi in October. Although the situation on the ground is far from clear, it appears that radical Islamic political forces are intimidating their way into power in post-Gaddafi Libya.

Take for instance last weekend’s riots in Benghazi. On Saturday protesters laid siege to the National Transitional Council offices in the city while Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the NTC, hid inside. In an attempt to quell the protesters’ anger, Jalil fired six secular members of the NTC. He then appointed a council of religious leaders to investigate corruption charges and identify people with links to the Gaddafi regime.

In Bahrain, the Iranian-supported Shi’ite majority continues to mount political protests against the Sunni monarchy. Security forces killed two young Shi’ite protesters over the past week and a half, and opened fired at Shi’ites who sought to hold a protest march after attending the funeral of one of them.

As supporters of Bahrain’s Shi’ites have maintained since the unrest spread to the kingdom last year, Bahrain’s Shi’ites are not Iranian proxies. But then, until the US pulled its troops out of Iraq last month, neither were Iraq’s Shi’ites. What happened immediately after the US pullout is another story completely.

Extolling Iraq’s swift deterioration into an Iranian satrapy, last Wednesday, Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps Jerusalem Brigade, bragged, “In reality, in south Lebanon and Iraq, the people are under the effect of the Islamic Republic’s way of practice and thinking.”

While Suleimani probably exaggerated the situation, there is no doubt that Iran’s increased influence in Iraq is being felt around the region. Iraq has come to the aid of Iran’s Syrian client Bashar Assad who is now embroiled in a civil war. The rise of Iran in Iraq holds dire implications for the Hashemite regime in Jordan which is currently hanging on by a thread, challenged from within and without by the rising force of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Much has been written since the fall of Mubarak about the impact on Israel of the misnamed Arab Spring. Events like September’s mob assault on Israel’s embassy in Cairo and the murderous cross-border attack on motorists traveling on the road to Eilat by terrorists operating out of Sinai give force to the assessment that Israel is more imperiled than ever by the revolutionary events engulfing the region.

But the truth is that while on balance Israel’s regional posture has taken a hit, particularly from the overthrow of Mubarak and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, Israel is not the primary loser in the so-called Arab Spring.

Israel never had many assets in the Arab world to begin with. The Western-aligned autocracies were not Israel’s allies. To the extent the likes of Mubarak and others have cooperated with Israel on various issues over the years, their cooperation was due not to any sense of comity with Jewish state. They worked with Israel because they believed it served their interests to do so. And at the same time Mubarak reined in the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas because they threatened him, he waged political war against Israel on every international stage and allowed anti-Semitic poison to be broadcast daily on his regime-controlled television stations.

Since Israel’s stake in the Arab power game has always been limited, its losses as a consequence of the fall of anti-Israel secular dictatorships and their replacement by anti-Israel Islamist regimes have been marginal. The US, on the other hand, has seen its interests massively harmed. Indeed, the US is the greatest loser of the pan-Arab revolutions.

TO UNDERSTAND the depth and breadth of America’s losses, consider that on January 25, 2011, most Arab states were US allies to a greater or lesser degree. Mubarak was a strategic ally. Saleh was willing to collaborate with the US in combating al- Qaida and other jihadist forces in his country.

Gaddafi was a neutered former enemy who had posed no threat to the US since 2004. Iraq was a protectorate. Jordan and Morocco were stable US clients.

One year later, the elements of the US’s alliance structure have either been destroyed or seriously weakened. US allies like Saudi Arabia, which have yet to be seriously threatened by the revolutionary violence, no longer trust the US. As the recently revealed nuclear cooperation between the Saudis and the Chinese makes clear, the Saudis are looking to other global powers to replace the US as their superpower protector.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect to the US’s spectacular loss of influence and power in the Arab world is that most of its strategic collapse has been due to its own actions. In Egypt and Libya the US intervened prominently to bring down a US ally and a dictator who constituted no threat to its interests. Indeed, it went to war to bring Gaddafi down.

Moreover, the US acted to bring about their fall at the same time it knew that they would be replaced by forces inimical to American national security interests. In Egypt, it was clear that the Muslim Brotherhood would emerge as the strongest political force in the country. In Libya, it was clear at the outset of the NATO campaign against Gaddafi that al-Qaida was prominently represented in the antiregime coalition. And just as the Islamists won the Egyptian election, shortly after Gaddafi was overthrown, al-Qaida forces raised their flag over Benghazi’s courthouse.

US actions from Yemen to Bahrain and beyond have followed a similar pattern.

In sharp contrast to his active interventionism against US-allied regimes, President Barack Obama has prominently refused to intervene in Syria, where the fate of a US foe hangs in the balance.

Obama has sat back as Turkey has fashioned a Syrian opposition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Arab League has intervened in a manner that increases the prospect that Syria will descend into chaos in the event that the Assad regime is overthrown.

Obama continues to speak grandly about his vision for the Middle East and his dedication to America’s regional allies. And his supporters in the media continue to applaud his great success in foreign policy. But outside of their echo chamber, he and the country he leads are looked upon with increasing contempt and disgust throughout the Arab world.

Obama’s behavior since last January 25 has made clear to US friend and foe alike that under Obama, the US is more likely to attack you if you display weakness towards it than if you adopt a confrontational posture against it. As Assad survives to kill another day; as Iran expands its spheres of influence and gallops towards the nuclear bomb; as al- Qaida and its allies rise from the Gulf of Aden to the Suez Canal; and as Mubarak continues to be wheeled into the courtroom on a stretcher, the US’s rapid fall from regional power is everywhere in evidence.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obama’s Green Robber Barons

By Michelle Malkin
January 25, 2012

Had enough of fat cat Barack Obama, his jet-setting wife and his multi-millionaire Chicago consigliere/real-estate mogul Valerie Jarrett attacking the “rich”? Well, brace yourselves. You’ll be hearing much more from the White House about the “wealthy few” who aren’t paying their “fair share” as Obama’s re-election campaign doubles down on class-war demagoguery.

As usual, there’s always a set of immunity charms for the privileged friends and family of the ruling class. When it comes to all the Green Robber Barons who’ve reaped an obscenely unfair share of billions of tax dollars from the Obama administration, the envy trumpeteers will be quieter than a nest of mute church mice.

Obama’s State of the Union address defiantly pitched a new round of clean energy spending orgies to help the “middle class.” But how have the serial bankruptcies and near-bankruptcies of several federally subsidized solar companies — all under Obama’s watch — helped anyone but an upper-crust elite of eco-crats and their lobbyists and consultants?

Bankrupt Solyndra, billionaire George Kaiser. In the wake of the half-billion-dollar Solyndra stimulus bust, company officials revealed plans to hand out hefty bonuses totaling $500,000. Months before the politically connected solar energy manufacturer went belly up, it was doling out bonus payments of between $40,000 and $60,000 to several executives. Last week, a local CBS News crew caught employees at the Silicon Valley headquarters trashing solar panel glass tubes worth an estimated $10 million.

The now-abandoned Taj Mahal complex cost ordinary Americans more than $733 million. But billionaire Democratic donor and frequent White House guest George Kaiser, whose nonprofit foundation was Solyndra’s biggest investor, is still sitting pretty. He and the other private investors of Solyndra will recoup their losses ahead of taxpayers. And while they blast their GOP opponents, double-standard Democrats will remain AWOL on the glaring tax-avoidance strategies of the wealthy Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bankrupt Beacon Power, fat Democratic coffers. This green energy storage plant filed for bankruptcy last fall after a $43 million injection of Obama Department of Energy loan guarantees. Federal election record filings show that CEO William Capp contributed to the 2008 Obama campaign, as well as several left-wing New England Democratic candidates. Beacon Power lobbyist Steve Wolfe was a former aide to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Beacon sought bankruptcy shelter two days after the White House responded to fiscal watchdogs’ demands for a review of the DOE’s shoddy loan monitoring programs.

Bankrupt SpectraWatt, red-faced Goldman Sachs. A solar cell company based in New York, SpectraWatt went belly up last August despite a half-million-dollar federal stimulus boost and lucrative backing from politically connected Goldman Sachs — whose ties reach deep into the Obama Treasury Department, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, White House National Economic Council and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. itself. The eco-failure was dumped in a fire sale for less than $5 million.

Teetering Nevada Geothermal, cheerleading Harry Reid. Despite $150 million in federal DOE and Treasury Department subsidies — not to mention personal lobbying by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — this alternative energy project is on the brink of failure. A Deloitte and Touche audit grimly concludes that the company “has incurred net losses over the past several years, has an accumulated deficit of $44.0 million and an anticipated inability to retire its long-term liabilities.” According to CBS News, the company’s latest SEC filings warn of multiple defaults.

My scouring of White House visitor logs shows nine visits from another Green Robber Baron, Illinois-based Exelon’s CEO John Rowe, who met with the president and former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel multiple times. As Forbes magazine reported: The clean energy company “has very deep ties to the Obama Administration. Frank M. Clark, who runs ComEd, helped advise Obama before he ran for president and is one of Obama’s largest fundraisers. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, worked as a consultant to Exelon. Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, helped create Exelon” — where he raked in more than $16 million over two years.

Remember: “Fairness” is in the eye of the wealth redistributors.

Paterno's final days: no bitterness, just marveling at his fortunate life

By Joe Posnanski
January 24, 2012

Joe Posnanski is writing a biography about Joe Paterno, called PATERNO, that will be published by Simon & Schuster in September. Posnanski interviewed Paterno and family members multiple times in the last days of Paterno's life. He wrote a short piece for the Jan. 30 issue of Sports Illustrated about those final days and the lack of bitterness he found.

* * *

In the moments after Joe Paterno died, it became common for people to write and say that he died of a broken heart. He did not. Joe Paterno died of lung cancer and the complications it caused. He did not die a bitter or broken man.

I know this because I spent time with Paterno in his hospital room during the last weeks of his life. I am writing a book about Paterno. We spoke different times about many things -- from his days playing stickball in the streets of Brooklyn, to his time in the Army after World War II, through his playing days and his many coaching days, to, yes, the day a graduate assistant coach told him about seeing Jerry Sandusky in the shower with a young boy -- and what stood out above everything else is that Paterno refused to be bitter or sad about the way it all ended.

"In every life," he told me, "there have to be some shadows. Look at me. My life has been filled with sunshine. A beautiful and caring wife. Five healthy children. I got to do what I loved. How many people are that lucky?"

This is how he talked in those final days. Oh, sure, he did not like the way the board of trustees fired him without asking him any questions. He was disappointed that so many people fastened dark motives to the way he handled what he was told about Sandusky, his longtime assistant coach. ("I made a lot of mistakes in my life," he said. "But I thought people could see that I tried my best to do the right things. I tried to do the right thing with Sandusky too.") He was hurt that the program he had spent his life building was in trouble.

But he kept coming back to his own good fortune and the wonder of his career and life. ("I read this book by Joseph Conrad," he said. "That was a mistake. It's depressing.") He watched M*A*S*H quite a lot ("I never got to watch it when it was on -- that's a good show," he said), and he spent most of his time with family, friends and former players. His 85th birthday party in December was a family celebration. He told stories, and he was full of life. Christmas was hopeful. When he would see bald people, like yours truly, he would point at his own head, bald from the chemo, and say, "Hey, at least mine will grow back."

The last week or so was filled with pain and goodbyes, but even then Paterno did not falter into self-pity. In the last moment of his life, his son Jay recalled saying to his father: "You've done all you can do." And then Jay saw his father's shoulders shrug and his eyes close, and he stopped breathing. "My father did not have a broken heart," his daughter Mary Kay says. "His heart was too strong. It couldn't be broken."

I asked Paterno at one point in that last month if he hoped that people would come to see and measure his full life rather than a single, hazy event involving an alleged child molester. "It doesn't matter what people think of me," he said. "I've lived my life. I just hope the truth comes out. And I hope the victims find peace."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Joe Paterno's true legacy

By Rick Reilly
January 23, 2012

Adam Taliaferro and Joe Paterno in 2010, 10 years after the player and coach had formed a strong bond in the wake of Taliaferro's horrifying spinal cord injury. (Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News)

Maybe you will never be convinced Joe Paterno was a good man who made one catastrophic mistake, but do you have time for just one story?

In 2000, Penn State freshman defensive back Adam Taliaferro had his spine crushed when tackling an Ohio State player. He lay on that September field paralyzed and panicked.

The first person he saw when he opened his eyes was Paterno, who died Sunday at 85.

"He could see I was losing it, but his eyes stayed totally calm," Taliaferro remembers. "And I remember that familiar, high-pitched voice, going, 'You're gonna get through this, Kid. You're gonna be OK.' And I just trusted him. I believed it."

Taliaferro wound up in a hospital bed in Philadelphia, everything frozen solid below the neck. Doctors said he had about a 3 percent chance of walking again. And every other week, Paterno would fly to Philly to see him.

"He'd bring our trainer and a couple of my teammates," Taliaferro says. "Nobody in the hospital knew he was there." Paterno would tell him all the dumb things his teammates and coaches had done lately. Pretty soon, Taliaferro would be laughing his IVs out.

"I can't tell you what that meant to me," says Taliaferro, now 30. "I'm stuck in that hospital, and here's Coach Paterno bringing a piece of the team to me, in the middle of the season. How many coaches would do that?"

One midnight, Taliaferro moved a toe and the first person his dad called was Paterno. His dad held the phone to Adam's ear and Paterno said, "You're gonna prove 'em all wrong, Kid!"

From then on, every visit, Paterno wanted to see Taliaferro move something new. "I got to where I wanted to be ready. A finger, a hand, whatever. I wanted to perform for Coach Paterno."

One day, five months into it, Paterno walked in and said, "What's new, Kid?" Taliaferro swung his legs over the bed, stood and extended his hand to shake.

"I'll never forget his eyes," he says. "They were already huge behind those Coke-bottle glasses, but they got even bigger." Paterno gave him a 10-second hug and then said, "Kid, ya make me proud."

A man is more than his failings.

I learned a lot about Paterno when I wrote a story about him in 1986 for Sports Illustrated. I've learned a lot about him since. He was a humble, funny and giving man who was unlike any other coach I ever met in college football. He rolled up his pants to save on dry cleaning bills. He lived in the same simple ranch house for the last 45 years. Same glasses, same wife, same job, for most of his adult life.

He was a man who had two national championships, five undefeated seasons, and yet for years he drove a white Ford Tempo. In 46 years as a head coach, he never had a single major NCAA violation.

He was the only coach I've ever known who went to the board of trustees to demand they increase entrance requirements, who went to faculty club meetings to hear the lectures, who listened to opera while drawing up game plans.

He was a Depression kid who wouldn't allow stars on helmets or names on jerseys. And he hated expensive tennis shoes.

He'd see a player wearing Air Jordans and say, "It's not the sneakers, Kid, it's the person in them."

One day Taliaferro wore an entirely different pair into his office, a pair of "Air Paternos" he'd made himself. "He freaked out," Taliaferro remembers. "He was about to call Nike. He thought they were real!"

If a player was struggling with a subject, Paterno would make him come to his house for wife Sue's homemade pasta and her tutoring. One time, he told a high school blue chipper named Bob White he wouldn't recruit him unless he agreed to read 12 novels and turn in two-page book reports to Sue. They were the first books he ever finished. White wound up with two degrees and a job at the university.

Paterno was other things, too, like controlling and immovable. He lingered as head coach when he promised time and again he wouldn't. And when he needed to follow up on what he'd been told about Jerry Sandusky and a child in the shower in 2002, he failed miserably.

But he followed up for thousands of others.

Even though Taliaferro would never play football again, Paterno stayed on him to keep moving. "I came to Penn State to become a lawyer," he told him. "But I never made it. You could, Kid. You're smart."

He got the fully recovered Taliaferro a summer internship with the NFLPA in New York and, before you knew it, Taliaferro was a corporate lawyer in Cherry Hill, N.J. He successfully ran for local office there and is now running for the Penn State board of trustees, where he wants to help his school heal from a scandal Paterno made worse with his neglect.

"The last three months, I've just wanted to go up on a rooftop and shout, 'I wish you knew him like I do!'" Taliaferro says. "I know, in my heart, if he'd understood how serious this situation was, he'd have done more."

I believe that, too. But if you don't, I respect that. I only ask this:

If we're so able to vividly remember the worst a man did, can't we also remember the best?

For more of Adam Taliaferro's memories of Joe Paterno, click here.

Follow Rick on Twitter @ReillyRick

Love the column, hate the column, got a better idea? Go here.

Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "Monday Night Countdown," "SportsCenter," and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "
Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.

Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's latest book, "Sports from Hell."

Joe Paterno: 1926-2012

The hugely complicated problem of remembering a hugely complicated legend

By Michael Weinreb on

"Virgil's ability to plumb the complexity of human affairs is a key to his greatness, a key to his relevance for us today. We live in an age in which simplistic versions of reality — simplified social and political perspectives, philosophical world pictures, moral principles — are privileged over nuanced understanding." — From an introduction to Virgil's The Aeneid, by Fred Will

"There is hypocrisy in me. And a little of the con man and actor, too. Look, I'm not trying to fool anybody. But I want things to be difficult. It's more fun to win with handicaps. If you have the best players and no problems and you win, that doesn't intrigue me." — Joe Paterno, to Sports Illustrated's Douglas S. Looney, 1980

All great football coaches eventually fade into myth. These days, we attend Broadway plays about Vince Lombardi; we romanticize Al Davis as a countercultural icon and Woody Hayes as a Pattonesque disciplinarian raging against the rising tide of hippies. In the frenzy on Bourbon Street leading up to this year's national championship game, Alabama fans born long after Bear Bryant's passing found new and sartorially perplexing ways to appropriate houndstooth as a fashion statement. It is the nature of the job; in order to exert influence, football coaches have to appear larger than life. In death, they become muscular symbols of authority.

This is why it's so goddamned complicated to write an obituary for Joe Paterno: His mythology was grounded in an utter lack of pretense. He was the football coach who lived in a modest house, with a listed phone number, whose preferred method of propulsion was the fullback belly play. He was the football coach who walked to work, who wore Poindexter glasses and flood pants, who became a towering figure because his whole ideal was based in the notion that football coaches should not become larger than life in the first place. Once, in college, a few of us student-newspaper reporters strutted through the locker room on our way to a press conference, and there was Paterno, waving at us from a urinal. We made him extraordinary for being ordinary.

That's what's been so perplexing about these past couple of months, for those of us who grew up around his Penn State football program: The final act of Paterno's career was a fundamental contradiction, a repudiation of all we'd come to believe. We knew he wasn't like us, but he made us think that deep inside he was, and maybe we were naïve for believing it in the first place, but that doesn't make the shock and surprise about Paterno's potential culpability in the Jerry Sandusky child-rape allegations any less real.

There is, obviously, nothing inherently surprising about Paterno's death: He was an 85-year-old man with cancer in his lungs who had just endured the worst emotional shock of his lifetime. The Sandusky charges (and Paterno's firing in the midst of the university's reaction to them) were included in the first paragraph of his New York Times obituary; it is an overstatement to say that he was killed by events rather than by biology, but it is a poetically tragic twist for a man who embraced the complexities of Virgil's Aeneid — whose hero values a higher purpose above his own happiness — while a teenager at a Brooklyn Catholic school.

A few months back, before the Sandusky scandal broke, I e-mailed William Peter Blatty, the writer of The Exorcist, who was a couple of years behind Paterno at Brooklyn Prep. Like everything else that was written about Paterno before November 2011, it now seems sadly ironic. "I cannot recall one of my classmates — okay, then, maybe one — who weren't what I now perceive to have been total innocents, including Joe and (his brother) George," he wrote me. "Sad thinking about that, really — where can you find Joe DiMaggio today? I think it stops at Joe Paterno."

I picked up my own version of the Paterno story on August 17, 1978, the day a Bekins moving van angled into the driveway of our new home in State College. I was 5 years old; by then, of course, I was more the innocent than Paterno. I do not remember how long it took me to figure out who he was, but I know it wasn't very long at all. I discovered him at an impressionable age: Even though I never knew him, it's not an overstatement to say that if it wasn't for Paterno and his football teams, I might not have become a writer, and I almost certainly wouldn't have become a sportswriter.

Even then, the coach's likeness was a pervasive presence in store windows downtown, but he was not yet universally beloved. He was a source of both consternation (for his conservative play calling; golf balls with Paterno's likeness were guaranteed to run up the middle three out of four times) and idolatry (for the seeming sincerity of his Grand Experiment, that balance between academics and big-time football). Fourteen days after we arrived in town, he commenced his 13th season as Penn State's football coach, won 11 straight games, and then lost the national championship on a goal-line stand in the Sugar Bowl, a defeat so crushing that it clouded Paterno's vision for several seasons afterward.

But that's when it got interesting: In 1979, Penn State went 8-4, and one player was arrested for rape and another for drunk driving, and several were declared academically ineligible, and star defensive tackle Matt Millen quit the team in the middle of a conditioning drill. The whole Grand Experiment was called into question, not for the first time and (obviously) not for the last. "There are a lot of people who think I'm a phony and now they think they have the proof," Paterno told SI's Doug Looney, and that became the headline of the story.

Yet Paterno somehow righted the program, as he often did. Success transformed his ordinariness into a fable of its own. In 1982, he won his first national championship, and four years later, he won another. His ability to adjust to changing epochs and new generations of college students was remarkable; in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s, he had at least two 11-win seasons. Did he stay too long? Of course he did. Was he often controlling and authoritarian and bitterly afraid of this day coming too soon, the way it had for Bear Bryant shortly after his retirement? Of course he was. This hubris, this encroaching fear, especially in his octogenarian years, was his tragic flaw; it was evident in that heartbreaking final interview with Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, when a man schooled in the classics pleaded ignorance about men and rape.

The ending will simplify the vision for some, but if there's one thing we should take away from the life of Joseph Vincent Paterno, it's that his reality was never as facile as it will become now that he is gone. He may have grown into something larger than life, but he was also the first football coach who truly symbolized complexity and nuance, and in that way, he will always be more man than myth.

Michael Weinreb is a Grantland staff writer and the author, most recently, of Bigger Than the Game: Bo, Boz, the Punky QB and How the '80s Created the Modern Athlete.

Monday, January 23, 2012

For Paterno, Lover of Classics, Tragic Flaw to a Legacy

The New York Times
January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno loved the classics. He quoted Shakespeare to his team, devoured the poems of Virgil and donated his money to help save Penn State’s classics department, even endowing a scholarship in the name of his high school Latin teacher, the Rev. Thomas Bermingham.

With Paterno’s death at 85 from lung cancer on Sunday morning, the final thread of his narrative is one fit for the literary tragedies he adored.

Paterno arrived at Penn State in 1950, and did more than any one person to help the university transform athletically and academically over the ensuing decades, but his final legacy will be indelibly stained by not doing enough.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more,” Paterno said in regard to fulfilling his legal obligation, but not his moral one, when informed that the former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was suspected of sexually assaulting a boy in the shower of the Penn State football facility — one of a number of allegations of abuse levied against Sandusky in a grand jury report.

Classic literature is filled with stories that focus on the tragic hero, cautionary tales of fatal flaws and mistakes. And Paterno’s failure to alert police of Sandusky’s suspected actions in 2002 ultimately ended his coaching career and added a shocking controversy to a legacy that had been stunningly uncomplicated.

“I think this last tragic series of incidents probably took his will to live,” said Larry Foster, a friend of Paterno and his family for 60 years. “It probably bore down on him because it was so opposite to what he was used to. When he made the decision of handling it the way that he did, I think he felt like he was doing the right thing. And it turned out to be the wrong thing. His words, ‘I should have done more,’ I think I’ll keep in my memory.”

What Paterno did on the football field may be unmatched. He won 409 games in his 46 seasons as a head coach, led 5 undefeated teams and 23 times guided Penn State to a top-10 finish. He did so in his own uncompromising style, demanding that his players go to class and achieving consistently high graduation rates long before the N.C.A.A. essentially forced universities to make sure their athletes were being led toward receiving their degrees.

Paterno’s effect on the campus was also outsize. A wing of the library is named for Paterno and his wife, Sue, and he helped Penn State transition from a being a state-centered university with 9,500 students to a booming, internationally renowned institution with nearly 45,000 students. The influence Paterno had on Penn State on and off the field is so vast that it is almost unquantifiable. It is hard to think of the university without picturing Paterno’s dark glasses, unadorned black coaching shoes and khaki pants rolled up over white socks.

The breadth of Paterno’s accomplishments makes it seem even more tragic that he was fired from Penn State while wishing he had done more. Paul B. Harvey Jr., the head of the university’s classics and ancient Mediterranean studies department, said that Paterno helped raise more than $150,000, some of it his own money, for his department over the years, essentially saving it from extinction.

Harvey saw his department grow in direct relation to the support provided by Paterno, who would tell friends looking to donate to the athletic department to give money to Harvey’s department instead. When asked about Paterno’s legacy Sunday, Harvey let out a long sigh. “Boy, that’s the magic question isn’t it?” he said.

Ultimately, Harvey determined that Paterno’s stature on campus would endure longer than his role in the Sandusky scandal.

“I know quite a few of us hoped that he would continue coaching forever,” Harvey said. “Not because his direction of the football team was perfect. But rather, Joe had a standard of academic excellence that he wanted his students to strive for. I don’t see that in too many other universities or college football programs.”

Bobby Bowden, the former Florida State coach, often said half-jokingly at banquets and booster functions that he was not looking to retire because after that, there was only one big event left in life.

In a phone interview Sunday, Bowden pointed out that the legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant died a few weeks after he retired and wondered how Paterno dealt with all the emotion and controversy that surrounded his departure.

“You just have to think that something like this hastens death,” Bowden said. He added of Paterno: “He did it the right way. He graduated his players and ran a real good program. He donated to his university. He’s the perfect example. Then this thing occurs. I just don’t know how he dealt with it.”

Paterno was not perfect. His players, especially for a stretch in the last decade, had too many brushes with the law. E-mails emerged in the wake of the Sandusky scandal that showed how Paterno attempted to bully and manipulate administrators. He had a short temper, cursed frequently and remained the team’s coach for far too long. In his final few years, he had little effect on the day-to-day machinations of the program. Paterno did not work nearly as hard at recruiting as many of his competitors, especially in his later years, but Penn State administrators, knowing what he had accomplished and built, swallowed hard and settled for having a living icon on the sideline.

Considering the scope and success of his career, however, especially amid the ethical morass that is modern college sports, Paterno was the consummate example of how to handle the tricky duality of athletic success and academic integrity.

“He’d talk about the university and Penn State before he’d talk about football,” Foster said. “He always had the broader vision of improving the education programs, he was so involved in the libraries. I think that the people who criticized him after his departure from the university need to understand that the university came first.”

In the end, Paterno leaves a portrait of contrasts. He was a coach fired by the board of trustees, the same board that now wants to honor him. He was an academic respected on his own campus in an era when the separation between faculty and athletics has never been greater.

Ultimately, Joe Paterno, after decades of what had appeared to be the most straightforward and laudable of careers, leaves a complicated legacy, an epic tragedy seemingly penned by one of the writers whom Paterno himself so adored.

Requiem for the soul of Penn State

By Phil Sheridan
The Philadelphia Daily News
January 22, 2012

A woman pays her respects at a statue of Joe Paterno outside Beaver Stadium on the Penn State University campus in State College, Pa. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

When time does what it does, and the full measure is taken, Joe Paterno’s legacy will be a fine and remarkable thing. It will be very close to what the great man hoped and dreamed during his decades as a college professor whose discipline happened to be football.

Paterno was a winner, on the field and in almost every area that mattered.

He was not perfect, which was true before the terrible Jerry Sandusky story broke. That dreadful scandal may have robbed Paterno of the appropriate end to his coaching career, and almost certainly sped up the end of his life, but it will not ultimately rob him of his reputation. That was built carefully, brick by brick, over decades of hard work, uncommon decency and unyielding integrity. It is a sound structure that was rocked, but not destroyed, by the hurricane that has blown through State College since November.

Death and mercy came to Joseph Vincent Paterno Sunday. Surrounded by his beloved wife Sue and their family, the coach was carried off on the phantom shoulders of the hundreds, even thousands, of young men whose lives he enriched over six decades at Penn State.

Death comes to us all. It is mercy when it eases pain too great to bear. For Paterno, the pain of what transpired over the past few months was surely as great as the cancer that officially claimed him. He is free from that pain now.

There was pain over the loss of his job, of course, and over the inability to leave it on his own terms after such a long and stellar career.

But his deepest pain was for the university to which Paterno devoted his life. To say he was the Nittany Lions football coach would be to say Steve Jobs worked in computers, or that Walt Disney was a cartoonist. The man was larger than the university where he worked, than the sport that he coached.

That was both his greatest achievement and, in the end, part of his downfall. If you appreciated Paterno for assuming his position as a much needed conscience of college sports, and for his singular status as the most important man in Happy Valley, then you had to be disappointed by his failure to meet his own standards when confronted with Sandusky’s heinous alleged behavior.

This is not a contradiction. Indeed, you got the distinct impression that Paterno was disappointed in himself. He said in an early statement that he wished he had “done more.” His interview with Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post last week – which turns out to be his final say on the matter – was tinged with sadness and with regret. If you cared about Paterno, if you believed in him, you detected sorrow in every word.

This is the third and final time Sandusky’s name will appear in this column. It is unfortunate that his name is linked with Paterno’s at all. There is no getting around the connection – not after the breathtaking sequence that began with the release of the grand jury report, the dismissal of Paterno, the housecleaning in the PSU administration, the revelation that Paterno had lung cancer and now, with shocking finality, his death.

For decades, Paterno made time stand still in State College. His team dressed and (sometimes to its disadvantage) played as if the calendar still said 1965. Paterno conducted himself like a courtly gentleman of some previous era. He wore the same thick glasses, sported the same thick black hair, ran onto the field in the same high-water khakis.

Nothing ever changed. And then everything did. Suddenly, cruelly.

It is possible to believe that Paterno could not continue representing Penn State as its head coach and also believe that he’d done so with great distinction for an incredibly long time.

It is possible to believe he should have done more when confronted with real evil and also believe that he was a good and decent and admirable human being.

It is impossible to turn back time and give everyone involved a do-over. Joe Paterno, the man, is gone now. It is sadly true that much of what he believed in and represented was already gone from college sports and society at large. But quite a bit of what remains does so because he instilled it in lives he influenced directly and indirectly, in former players and Penn State alums and those who admired him and his teams from afar.

Joe Paterno was a force for good for most of a long and wonderful life. When the full measure is taken, that will outweigh the terrible events of these last few months.

Penn State already has hired a new football coach. It will never have another soul. That was Paterno. That is Paterno. Time will take care of the rest.

Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844,, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at Read his past columns at

Paterno was PSU, heart and soul

Monday, January 23, 2012

There was a common belief in the college football world that Joe Paterno was haunted by Paul Bryant, determined to break the legendary Alabama coach's records because he never beat the Bear and worried about walking away because of Bryant's death a month after retirement.

If only Paterno could be remembered by his pursuit of excellence at Penn State, the way Bryant is at Alabama. Today, we would be talking about his 409 career victories, seven undefeated seasons, two national championships and, more importantly, his philanthropic and philosophic impact on sport.

Six words separate Paterno from such a legacy:

"I wish I had done more."

Joseph Vincent Paterno succumbed to lung cancer Sunday morning, two months after Penn State fired him following the release of those six words in his statement amid a child sexual abuse scandal that shook the foundation of the football program with which he was both sacrosanct and synonymous.

For critics, those six words should serve as an epitaph for Paterno. Supporters believe Paterno should be measured by all that he did during 61 years at Penn State, not what he failed to do when told of heinous allegations against the former defensive coordinator and architect of Linebacker U.

Take into consideration what Paterno, whose relationship with the media ranged from amiable to acrimonious, told the Tribune-Review in June 2008 about the "COMM 497G: Joe Paterno, Communications and the Media" class offered to Penn State students regarding the revered coach:

"I'd tell them to have a little pride in their writing, try to be accurate and don't go in with a slanted attitude. I'd tell them to be fair and open-minded."

After 85 years, Paterno deserves as much in death. There never will be another like him, for reasons good and bad. No coach will last six decades at one university, like Paterno did at Penn State. Nor will they be allowed to with such absolute authority, like Paterno had at Penn State.

The university capitalized on Paterno's name, brand and image, making him an iconic figure on its campus and around the country. Penn State sold everything from cardboard cutouts to coffee mugs in his likeness. The Creamery named an ice cream flavor, Peachy Paterno, in his honor. His statue stands outside Beaver Stadium, whose capacity expanded from 46,284 to 107,282 in the five decades he strolled the sidelines in cuffed khakis, white socks, black cleats and those trademark Coke-bottle glasses.

"Penn State lost its heart," former Nittany Lions cornerback Adam Taliaferro told ESPN, adding via Twitter: "Joe is and always will be Penn State."

There is danger in deifying a man, even one with great accomplishments. No one is infallible.

Too often, we looked at Paterno through only a narrow prism — deity or devil, depending on your rooting interest — that turned one of college football's charismatic characters into a caricature.

He was either the grandfatherly figure who donated millions to the library and symbolized his "Grand Experiment" by holding his players to a higher standard and demanding they get a degree. Or he was the sanctimonious figurehead whose refusal to retire left most of his loyal assistants jobless when he was handed a note with a number and fired by phone.

In truth, Joe Paterno was all of these things. He was a husband, a father of five, a grandfather of 17, a father figure to the thousands of players he coached at Penn State and a beloved coach to Nittany Lions fans. He also could be unforgiving and vindictive to those who crossed him.

In the end, Paterno made a decision that many deem unconscionable. He either followed protocol, by taking Mike McQueary's eyewitness account of Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in the showers of the Lasch football building to his superiors. Or he did only what was required by law, minimizing McQueary's allegations and passing off the problem when he should have called the police himself and reported the crime.

Either way, he stayed silent until an alleged cover-up became public.

That's as much a part of his legacy as winning more games than any coach in the history of major college football. Paterno was so successful because he held himself and his players to a higher standard: success with honor. Yet, when faced with the most critical choice of his career, Paterno failed to live up to the standard he set.

Joe Paterno is gone, and with him so is Penn State's heart.

If not its soul.

Reaction to Paterno's death

From a former U.S. president to a former Penn State president, notable people offered their perspectives on Sunday:

"I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Joe Paterno. He was an outstanding American who was respected not only on the field of play but in life generally -- and he was, without a doubt, a true icon in the world of sports. I was proud he was a friend of mine." — Former President George H.W. Bush

"I am saddened to hear about the death of Joe Paterno. He did so much for the game of football, and he was a good person with integrity who cared for so many people. I considered him a dear friend." — Dan Rooney, Steelers chairman emeritus and ambassador to Ireland

"We grieve for the loss of Joe Paterno, a great man who made us a greater university. His dedication to ensuring his players were successful both on the field and in life is legendary, and his commitment to education is unmatched in college football. ... The university plans to honor him for his many contributions and to remember his remarkable life and legacy." — Rodney Erickson, Penn State president

"It was my privilege and honor to work with Joe Paterno for more than 16 years. He was a distinguished American, a legendary coach and Penn State's greatest ambassador. He provided unprecedented leadership for academic advancement, philanthropy and athletic excellence and integrity for more than 60 years." — Graham Spanier, former Penn State president

"Dottie and I would like to convey our deepest sympathy to Sue and her family. Nobody will be able to take away the memories we all shared of a great man, his family and all the wonderful people who were a part of his life. ... Joe preached toughness, hard work and clean competition. Most importantly, he had the courage to practice what he preached." — Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State defensive coordinator

"Words cannot express the sorrow my family and I feel. Joe has been an integral part of my life for more than 35 years. Joe coached me, mentored me, taught me what it meant to compete with integrity and honor, and above all demonstrated with each day that he lived, the power of humility." — Tim Curley, former Penn State athletic director

"I had the sincere honor and distinct pleasure to work with Joe for many, many years at Penn State. No one loved Penn State more than Joe. We will all miss him." — Gary Schultz, former Penn State vice president

"The terms 'icon' and 'legend' have been often used to describe Joe Paterno. ... But to those of us who played for him, to those of us who coached with him and to those of us who had the privilege to call him a friend, Joe Paterno was much more. ... Coach Paterno never believed that his role as 'Coach' ended after practice, or when the fourth quarter wound down or when a student-athlete graduated. He was a coach for life. I am deeply grateful to have had Coach Paterno in my life. He was the epitome of class, and his spirit will live on in all of us who had the great honor of knowing him." — Tom Bradley, former Penn State interim head coach

"His legacy as the winningest coach in major college football and his generosity to Penn State as an institution and to his players stand as monuments to his life. As both man and coach, Joe Paterno confronted adversities, both past and present, with grace and forbearance. His place in our state's history is secure." — Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania governor

"On behalf of alumni here in Pittsburgh I would like to thank Joe for all he has done for Penn State the past 62 years. ... I promise we alums will fight FOREVER to defend this great man's good name and honor." — Daniel Byrd, president of Penn State Alumni Association Greater Pittsburgh chapter

"To Sue and the Paterno children: Thank you for so unselfishly sharing your husband and father with so many of us for so long. Through him, we all witnessed and learned lessons of respect, loyalty and, of course, 'Success with Honor.' Further, he taught us how to be elite without being elitist. ... The most significant tribute to Joe Paterno is the millions of fans -- everyday men, women and children — he not only entertained but inspired to be better human beings. When we lead our lives with generosity, commitment and humility, we carry on the legacy of Joseph V. Paterno." — Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship

"The Penn State football program is one of college football's iconic programs because it was led by an icon in the coaching profession in Joe Paterno. There are no words to express my respect for him as a man and as a coach. To be following in his footsteps at Penn State is an honor. Our families, our football program, our university and all of college football have suffered a great loss." — Bill O'Brien, Penn State football coach

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Joe Paterno. His passing marks a tremendous loss for Penn State, college football and for countless fans, coaches and student-athletes." — Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner

"Joe Paterno's impact on the game of college football was great, as was his influence on the countless number of players who called him 'Coach.' The University of Pittsburgh offers its heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones." — Statement on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh

"One of the greatest college coaches of all time and a great man." — Jimmy Johnson, former Miami coach

"Joe Paterno was an icon above icons in the football coaching profession. What he accomplished as a football coach will never ever, ever, be threatened. When you think of a word to describe Joe Paterno and what he did at Penn State, the word 'unimaginable' comes to mind. That a man could give that much of himself to coach football and shape young men's lives at one school for that many years speaks volumes for what that man is about." — Don Nehlen, former West Virginia coach

"He loved college football & coached with commitment to excellence. He loved his players & his players loved him." — Lou Holtz, former Notre Dame coach (via Twitter)

"I've coached around 300 college games, and only once when I've met the other coach at midfield prior to the game have I asked a photographer to take a picture of me with the other coach. That happened in the Citrus Bowl after the '97 season when we were playing Penn State. ... I still have that photo in the den at my house. That's the admiration I have for Joe Paterno." — Steve Spurrier, South Carolina coach

"Keep the Paterno family in your prayers during this tough time. To the greatest R.I.P Joe P" — Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers center (via Twitter)

"Deeply saddened about the loss of my coach & mentor, Joe Paterno. You have been a positive influence to so many young men on & off the field" — Derrick Williams, former Penn State wide receiver (via Twitter)

"At a loss for words... One of the most influential men in our nations history. By his passing PSU nations grows even stronger. Love you Joe" — Jordan Norwood, former Penn State wide receiver (via Twitter)

"R.I.P Coach. I owe you so much! My prayers are with the Paterno family and the Penn State Family." — Kermit Buggs, former Penn State assistant coach (via Twitter)

"RIP Joe...thank you" — Derek Moye, Penn State senior receiver (via Twitter)

"RIPJoePaterno Nothing but love and gratitude!" — Nate Stupar, Penn State senior linebacker (via Twitter)

"Rest In Peace Coach. You have been my idol. You are a one of a kind man. Words cannot express all my feelings." — Graham Zug, former Penn State wide receiver (via Twitter)

"We should not be discourage by his death but encouraged by his would be a blessing to impact others the way he did" — Devon Still, Penn State senior defensive tackle (via Twitter)

"I had the great opportunity to meet and get to know Joe Paterno through college recruiting and he truly was an amazing person." — Brian Cushing, Houston Texans tight end (via Twitter)

"So sad to hear the news of Joe Pa's passing! What an impact he made on college football! Many prayers for the family" — Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys tight end (via Twitter)

Joe Paterno by the numbers

409: Career victories (all at Penn State, the most in Division I history)

247: Players drafted into NFL

78: First-team All-Americans

62: Years as a coach at Penn State (46 as head coach)

49: Academic All-Americans

37: Bowl appearances (all-time record)

35: Teams that finished in the Top 25

33: First-round selections in the NFL Draft

25: Appearances in New Year's Day bowl games

17-8: Record in New Year's bowl games

24: Bowl victories (all-time record); 24-12-1 overall

24: Times that Penn State won the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy, emblematic of Eastern football supremacy

23: Finishes in the top 10 of the national rankings

12: U.S. presidents, starting with Harry Truman, who have served since he joined Penn State's coaching staff

8: Former players in the College Football Hall of Fame (John Cappelletti, Keith Dorney, Jack Ham, Ted Kwalick, Lydell Mitchell, Dennis Onkotz, Mike Reid and Curt Warner)

7: Undefeated regular seasons

6: Fiesta Bowl victories (Paterno never lost the game)

5: AFCA Coach of the Year honors

5: Undefeated, untied seasons (1968, 1969, 1973, 1986 and 1994)

4: Former players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Ham, Franco Harris, Lenny Moore and Mike Munchak)

3: Big Ten titles (1994, 2005 and 2008)

2: National championships (1982 and 1986)

1: Heisman Trophy winners (Cappelletti)