Saturday, October 06, 2012

Obama Unfiltered

By Andrew C. McCarthy
October 6, 2012

Do you think Barack Obama knows who Ernie Banks is? Count me a skeptic. The purported White Sox fanatic couldn’t name a single player for the home team on the South Side, so I doubt he knows Wrigley Field from his beloved “Cominskey Field.” But even if the president was never gripped by the Cub slugger’s infectious calling card — “Let’s play two today!” — he has now heard the Mitt Romney version: “It’s fun, isn’t it?”

That’s how the GOP nominee bucked up a befuddled Jim Lehrer during Wednesday night’s ground-shifting debate. It was only 20 minutes in, but the moderator was fretting over the clock while the president fretted over Romney. Already, the challenger had the incumbent reminding 70 million viewers of “Bad Bad Leroy Brown,” the last Chicago legend in his own mind to emerge from a decisive brawl looking like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone.

Whatever you may think of the former Massachusetts governor’s politics, there should never have been any hesitation about Romney the man. This is a bright, self-made man, one whose public and private philanthropy, which puts most of us to shame, should be legendary. It is not. That’s because his good works weren’t done to burnish his political credentials and his decency discourages their exploitation toward that end. You don’t have to agree with Romney on everything to see that he is a mensch. He obviously loves the America that is — the land of opportunity that has rewarded his work ethic. Like most of us, he wants that America preserved, not “fundamentally transformed.”

Yet, for months, the Obama campaign has relentlessly portrayed Romney as an inveterate scoundrel: a dissolute shylock — maybe even a felonious one — who fleeced mom-and-pop stores, secreted his ill-gotten gains in offshore vaults, and, in his spare time, tortured his own pooch. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it” — it’s the Alinskyites following their dog-eared rule book.
The problem for our community organizer–in–chief is the debate setting. With no slavish Obamedia filter between the candidates and the viewers, the Obama campaign’s ludicrous distortion of Romney collided, one on one and for all to see, with the reality of Romney. The challenger’s upbeat energy simultaneously effused respect for the president’s office and sheerjoie de vivre at the prospect of laying bare the president’s miserable record — of forcing Obama’s vision of Euro-America to compete with Romney’s traditionally confident, self-determining America.

Romney pounced from the start: the president’s “trickle-down government”; his “economy tax” that is “crushing” ordinary families, forcing them to make do on $4,300 less income; families that were promised their health-care costs would go down by $2,500 but are finding those costsincreased by that amount; a staggering 15 million people added to the food-stamp rolls; millions left unemployed and underemployed; a planned tax hike on small business that will cost another 700,000 jobs; gas prices skyrocketing, along with food prices and electric rates; economic growth slower in each successive Obama year.

On it went, but Romney was not dour and did not rest his case on the Obama torpor. He offered a positive prescription to unshackle the economy: Stop spending money we don’t have, shove the central-planners aside, and put the American people’s unparalleled energy and ingenuity back at the helm. The last part was the best part: a bouncing confidence in what we are, not what we can be engineered into with enough czars and “teachable moments.”

It was a Romney who has appeared in flashes over the years, but then frustratingly veered away. Suddenly, he seemed comfortable and commanding — like he’d finally arrived at where he wanted to be, like he planned to be staying for a while. When his moment came, the biggest in his political life, the guy who “couldn’t connect” knew he was connecting like there was no tomorrow. And maybe there isn’t. He was the very picture of the happy warrior — somewhere, at least for this night, Ronald Reagan and Bill Buckley were smiling.

As Romney cruised along, Lehrer, unable to break the momentum, worried aloud that time was flying by. Romney smiled a winner’s smile: “It’s fun, isn’t it?” Let’s play two today. He pounded on jobs and prosperity and growth for another couple of minutes.
When, at last, his time came to respond, the president slumped. “Jim,” he sighed, “you may want to move on to another topic.” But, Obama being Obama, he then mindlessly rehashed the meme of Romney as George Bush 2.0, making “the same sales pitch that was made in 2001 and 2003, and we ended up with the slowest job growth in 50 years.” Um . . . not exactly: Those bad old days — even after a shocking terrorist attack ripped the nation’s financial capital — featured unemployment rates consistently under 6 percent. Actually, the slowest job growth in 50 years is happening now.
Are voters going to buy Obama’s sales pitch? I don’t think so. To the president’s evident chagrin, the 2012 campaign stretch run is not a 2008 rerun. He is actually being vetted this time. Americans are learning that he is not so much prodigy as media creation: the original “birther,” whose memoir turns up more fiction each time it is scrutinized.
Speaking of fiction, an inconvenient videotaperesurfaced the day before the debate. It was from 2007 in Virginia: Senator Barack Obama, presidential stars in his eyes, speaking to a largely black audience of religious leaders and inciting racial animus.
To be generous, Obama’s performance is disgusting. Cynically adopting the black dialect of the American South, a dialect utterly alien to him, he demagogues against Washington’s supposedly selective waivers of the Stafford Act — legislation that requires communities hit by disasters to match 10 percent of federal aid. They waived it for 9/11, he tells the crowd, and they waived it when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida: Those communities were allowed to keep their one dollar for every ten federal dollars. But when he comes to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the largely African-American population of New Orleans, Obama implies that Congress refused the waiver: “What’s happenin’ down in New O’leans? Where’s yo’ dollar? Where’s yo’ Stafford Act money? . . . Tells me that somehow the people down in New O’leans they don’t care about as much.”
In fact, ten days before Obama gave that speech, Congress had waived the Stafford Act requirement for Katrina. He was well aware of that fact, too. After all, he was one of only 14 senators to vote against the waiver. It was part of a bill to fund the war effort in Iraq. That is, to pander to his Bush-deranged, anti-war base, Obama decided that squeezing New O’leans was a price worth paying. Then, he lied about what happened in order to foment racial resentment — an atmosphere that he calculated would help his presidential bid.
Just as he’s doing today.
It doesn’t matter to me, though. I was already voting against Obama. Now, though, I’m voting for Romney.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at theNational Review Institute and the executive director of the Philadelphia Freedom Center. He is the author, most recently, of Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which was recently published by Encounter Books.

Will Big Bird ever leave the government nest?

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
October 5, 2012

Apparently, Frank Sinatra served as Mitt Romney's debate coach. As he put it about halfway through "That's Life":
"I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly ... ."
That's what Mitt did in Denver. Ten minutes in, he jumped right on Big Bird, and then he took off – and never looked back, while the other fellow, whose name escapes me, never got out of the gate. It takes a certain panache to clobber not just your opponent but also the moderator. Yet that's what the killer Mormon did when he declared that he wasn't going to borrow money from China to pay for Jim Lehrer and Big Bird on PBS. It was a terrific alpha-male moment, not just in that it rattled Lehrer, who seemed too preoccupied contemplating a future reading the hog prices on the WZZZ Farm Report to regain his grip on the usual absurd format, but in the sense that it indicated a man entirely at ease with himself – in contrast to wossname, the listless sourpuss staring at his shoes.
Unlike Mitt, I loathe Sesame Street. It bears primary responsibility for what the Canadian blogger Binky calls the de-monsterization of childhood – the idea that there are no evil monsters out there at the edges of the map, just shaggy creatures who look a little funny and can sometimes be a bit grouchy about it because people prejudge them until they learn to celebrate diversity and help Cranky the Friendly Monster go recycling. That is not unrelated to the infantilization of our society. Marinate three generations of Americans in that pabulum, and it's no surprise you wind up with unprotected diplomats dragged to their deaths from their "safe house" in Benghazi. Or as J. Scott Gration, the president's Special Envoy to Sudan, said in 2009, in the most explicit Sesamization of American foreign policy: "We've got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes." The butchers of Darfur aren't blood-drenched machete-wielding genocidal killers but just Cookie Monsters whom we haven't given enough cookies. I'm not saying there's a direct line between Bert & Ernie and Barack & Hillary ... well, actually, I am.
Okay, I may be taking this further than Mitt intended. So let's go back to his central thrust. The Corporation of Public Broadcasting receives nearly half-a-billion dollars a year from taxpayers, which it disburses to PBS stations, who, in turn, disburse it to Big Bird and Jim Lehrer. I don't know what Big Bird gets, but, according to Sen. Jim DeMint, the President of Sesame Workshop, Gary Knell, received in 2008 a salary of $956,513. In that sense, Big Bird and Sen. Harry Reid embody the same mystifying phenomenon: they've been in "public service" their entire lives and have somehow wound up as multimillionaires.
Mitt's decision to strap Big Bird to the roof of his station wagon and drive him to Canada has prompted two counter-arguments from Democrats: 1) half a billion dollars is a mere rounding error in the great sucking maw of the federal budget, so why bother? 2) everybody loves Sesame Street, so Mitt is making a catastrophic strategic error. On the latter point, whether or not everybody loves Sesame Street, everybody has seen it, and every American under 50 has been weaned on it. So far this century it's sold nigh on a billion bucks' worth of merchandising sales (that's popular toys such as the Subsidize-Me-Elmo doll). If Sesame Street is not commercially viable, then nothing is, and we should just cut to the chase and bail out everything.
Conversely, if this supposed "public" broadcasting brand is capable on standing on its own, then so should it. As for the rest of PBS's output – the eternal replays of the Peter, Paul & Mary reunion concert, twee Brit sitcoms, Lawrence Welk reruns and therapeutic infomercials – whatever their charms, it is difficult to see why the Brokest Nation in History should be borrowing money from the Chinese Politburo to pay for it. A system by which a Communist Party official in Beijing enriches British comedy producers by charging it to American taxpayers with interest is not the most obvious economic model. Yet, as Obama would say, the government did build that.
(Full disclosure: Some years ago, I hosted a lavish BBC special, and, at the meeting intended to sell it to PBS, the executive from "Great Performances" said he could only sign off on the deal if I were digitally edited out and replaced by Angela Lansbury. Murder, he shrieked. Lest I sound bitter, I should say I am in favor of this as a more general operating principle for public broadcasting: for example, "A Prairie Home Companion" would be greatly improved by having Garrison Keillor digitally replaced by Paul Ryan.)
The small things are not unimportant – and not just because, when "small" is defined as anything under 11 figures, "small" is a big part of the problem. If Americans can't muster the will to make Big Bird leave the government nest, they certainly will never reform Medicare. Just before the debate in Denver, in the general backstage melée, a commentator pointed out Valerie Jarrett, who is officially "Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs," a vital position which certainly stimulates the luxury-length business-card industry. Not one in 100,000 Americans knows what she looks like, but she declines to take the risk of passing among the rude peasantry without the protection of a Secret Service detail. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has a private jet to fly him home from Washington every weekend.
The Queen of the Netherlands flies commercial, so does the Queen of Denmark. Prince William and his lovely bride, whom at least as many people want to get a piece of as Valerie Jarrett or Leon Panetta, flew to Los Angeles on a Royal Canadian Air Force boneshaker. It is profoundly unrepublican when minor public officials assume that private planes and entourages to hold the masses at bay are a standard perk of office. And it is even more disturbing that tens of millions of Americans are accepting of this. The entitlements are complicated, and will take some years and much negotiation. But, in a Romney administration, rolling back the nickel'n'dime stuff – ie, the million'n'billion stuff – should start on Day One.
Mitt made much of his bipartisan credentials in Denver. So, in that reach-across-the-aisle spirit, if we cannot abolish entirely frivolous spending, might we not at least attempt some economies of scale? Could Elmo, Grover, Oscar and Cookie Monster not be redeployed as Intergovernmental Engagement Assistant Jarrett's security detail? Could Leon Panetta not fly home on Big Bird every weekend?
And for the next debate, instead of a candidate slumped at the lectern like a muppet whose puppeteer has gone out for a smoke, maybe Elmo's guy could shove his arm up the back of the presidential suit.


Yet, amidst the otherwise total wreckage of their guy's performance, the Democrats seemed to think that Mitt's assault on Sesame Street was a misstep from whose tattered and ruined puppet-stuffing some hay is to be made. "WOW!!! No PBS!!! WTF how about cutting congress's stuff leave big bird alone," tweeted Whoopi Goldberg. Even the president mocked Romney for "finally getting tough on Big Bird" – not in the debate, of course, where such dazzling twinkle-toed repartee might have helped, but a mere 24 hours later, once the rapid-response team had directed his speechwriters to craft a line, fly it out to a campaign rally and load it into the prompter, he did deliver it without mishap.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Romney by two touchdowns

By , Published: October 4


It was the biggest rout since Agincourt. If you insist, since the Carter-Reagan debate. With a remarkable display of confidence, knowledge and nerve, Mitt Romney won the first 2012 debate going away.

Romney didn’t just demonstrate authoritative command of a myriad of domestic issues. He was nervy about it, taking the president on frontally, not just relentlessly attacking, but answering every charge leveled against him — with a three-point rebuttal.

And he pulled off a tactical coup by coming right out of the box to undo millions of dollars’ worth of negative ads that painted him, personally, as Gordon Gekko — rapacious vulture capitalist who doesn’t just lay off steelworkers but kills their wives — and, politically, as intent on raising taxes on the middle class while lowering them for the rich.

The Romney campaign had let these ads go largely unanswered. But a “kill Romney” strategy can only work until people get to see Romney themselves. On Wednesday night, they did. Regarding the character assassination, all Romney really had to do was walk out with no horns on his head. Confident, smiling and nonthreatening, he didn’t look like a man who enjoys killing the wives of laid-off steelworkers.

Not a very high bar, I admit. But remember: It’s President Obama who set the bar. And succeeded. Romney suffers from unprecedentedly high negatives (50 percent), the highest unfavorability rating at this late date for any challenger in the past three decades.

As to the policy, Romney finally got to explain to the 60 million Americans watching that he intends to lower taxes across the board, particularly for the middle class. As for the rich, he got to explain the difference between lowering tax rates and reducing tax payments. He repeated at least twice that the rich would continue to pay the same percentage of the tax burden, while lower rates would spur economic growth.

His success in doing this against a flummoxed Obama does more than rally the conservative base. It may affect waverers — disappointed 2008 Obama supporters waiting for a reason to jump. They watch Romney in this debate and ask: Is this the clueless, selfish, out-of-touch guy we’ve been hearing about from the ads and from the mainstream media?

And then they see Obama — detached, meandering, unsure. Can this be the hip, cool, in-control guy his acolytes and the media have been telling us about?

Obama was undone on Wednesday in part by his dismissive arrogance. You could see him thinking annoyedly: “Why do I have to be onstage with this clod, when I’ve gone toe-to-toe with Putin?” (And lost every round, I’d say. But that’s not how Obama sees it.)

Obama never even pulled out his best weapon, the 47 percent. Not once. That’s called sitting on a lead, lazily and smugly. I wager he mentions it in the next debate, more than once — and likely in his kickoff.

On the other hand, Obama just isn’t that good. Not without a teleprompter. He’s not even that good at news conferences — a venue in which he’s still in charge, choosing among questioners and controlling the timing of his own answers.

By the end of the debate, Obama looked small, uncertain. It was Romney who had the presidential look.

Reelection campaigns after a failed presidential term — so failed that Obama barely even bothers to make the case, preferring to blame everything on his predecessor — hinge almost entirely on whether the challenger can meet the threshold of acceptability. Romney crossed the threshold Wednesday night.
Reagan won his election (Carter was actually ahead at the time) when he defused his caricature as some wild, extreme, warmongering cowboy. In his debate with Carter, he was affable, avuncular and reasonable. That’s why with a single aw-shucks line, “There you go again,” the election was over.
Romney had to show something a little different: That he is not the clumsy, out-of-touch plutocrat that the paid Obama ads and the unpaid media have portrayed him to be. He did, decisively.
That’s why MSNBC is on suicide watch. Why the polls show that, by a margin of at least 2 to 1, voters overwhelmingly gave the debate to Romney.
And he won big in an unusual way. This could be the only presidential debate ever won so definitively in the absence of some obvious and ruinous gaffe, like Gerald Ford’s “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”
Romney by two touchdowns.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Honey, I shrunk the President

Maybe there's something to be said for clean living after all. Although Mitt Romney is closer in age to the venerable Jim Lehrer than to the callow Barack Obama, it was the Republican nominee who came across in last night's debate as energetic and vigorous. And if Obama looked put upon when the cameras were on, imagine what he must've come home to. You spent our anniversary doing WHAT?!
About the private reaction of Obama's wife, of course, we can only speculate. But many of his lovers went public with their devastation: "I don't know what he was doing out there," wailed Chris Matthews. "He had his head down, he was enduring the debate rather than fighting it." One expected Matthews to burst into song: "The thrill is gone baby / The thrill is gone away / You know you done me wrong baby / And you'll be sorry Election Day."
Associated Press
Even better was Andrew Sullivan: "Look: you know how much I love the guy. . . . But this was a disaster for the president for the key people he needs to reach, and his effete, wonkish lectures may have jolted a lot of independents into giving Romney a second look. Obama looked tired, even bored; he kept looking down; he had no crisp statements of passion or argument; he wasn't there." Cue Shania Twain: "So you got the brain but have you got the touch / Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're all right / But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night."
We could spend hours quoting disparaging reviews of Obama's performances from journalists who were never as head-over-heels as Matthews and Sullivan, but we like to pretend as if we have space constraints, so we'll just take one representative example, also from the Daily Beast, where our friend Tunku Varadarajan writes: "My God, in the four years that we've seen him in the White House, I don't think we've ever seen the president so flaccid, so dull-brained, so jejune, so shifty, so downcast."
This columnist has to disagree. Obama's lame performance last night seemed typical to us. We can think of a few occasions in which we've seen the president less flaccid, less dull-brained, less jejune, less shifty, less downcast. But only a few.
But these qualities--or, to put it another way, this lack of quality--was harder than usual to miss last night because of the contrast with the highly effectual Romney. One reason it came as such a shock to Obama is that it was the first time in his career that he shared a debate stage with a serious opponent.
Think about it: John McCain was feeble. Alan Keyes, whom Obama beat in his 2004 Senate campaign, was crazy. All the Democrats who ran in 2008 were preposterous except Hillary Clinton, and she, as a beneficiary of nepotism, was highly overrated as a politician. He used Chicago-style dirty tricks to dispatch his original opponent in 2004, as well as the state senator he replaced back in the 1990s. The test he failed last night is one to which he had never been put.
But the journalists who are pointing the finger at Obama have three fingers pointed back at themselves. Instead of challenging the president, the press corps--with a few honorable exceptions, like ABC's Jake Tapper and the guys from Univision--have spent the past four-plus years puffing him up and making excuses for him. The American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord explains:
The great James Taranto . . . long ago posited what is called the "Taranto Principle." In short, it means that the liberal media so coddles liberal politicians that they have no idea how to cope outside that liberal media bubble. . . .
Barack Obama has been so totally coddled by the liberal media that he looked absolutely shell-shocked in this debate. Stunned, unhappy, angry, sour--and at some points genuinely incoherent.
Romney has had nowhere near that kind of treatment. He had serious opponents in the primaries--all of whom in their own way forced him to confront his ideas in a serious fashion. Conservatives were on his heels. The Obama media never let up. The man went through the political equivalent of boot camp.
Tonight, the Taranto Principle kicked in. Big time.
Outside the liberal bubble--forced to be alone on a stage with a very serious, very prepared candidate--Barack Obama was in trouble. Big Trouble.
One quibble, on a point of personal privilege: "Great" is not the right adjective. Isn't "inimitable" in the Spectator stylebook?
Otherwise, though, Lord is right. What we saw last night was the real Obama--a bright but incurious and inexperienced man who four years ago was promoted well beyond his level of competency. The Obama that guys like Matthews and Sullivan expected instead was a character in a fairy tale--a fairy tale written by guys like Matthews and Sullivan.
Oh well, at least there are more debates. The last one, on Oct. 22, is on foreign policy, which is Obama's strong suit. Then the handsome prince killed Osama bin Laden, and the ambassador lived happily ever after.
National Journal's Ron Fournier deserves some sort of ironic award for this postdebate commentary:

Call it the curse of incumbency. Like many of his predecessors, President Obama fell victim Wednesday night to high expectations, a short fuse, and a hungry challenger. . . .
To be fair, the deck was stacked against Obama, who came into the debate with a lead over Romney plus the baggage of incumbency.
First, voters expect sitting presidents to win debates and, indeed, polls showed that Obama was favored Wednesday. That benefits a challenger like Romney who grows in stature simply by standing next to the president.
Second, challengers have more time to prepare than do busy presidents. Romney was ready. Finally, incumbents aren't used to being challenged. Obama's thin skin showed more than his Hollywood smile.
Fournier's premise is arguable, if banal; he cites other examples of presidents who've performed weakly in debates (Jimmy Carter in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1992, George W. Bush in 2004).
But as we noted in 2007 and again in 2008, it was Fournier then with the Associated Press, who invented something called "accountability journalism." In an internal AP newsletter, he wrote:
We can be provocative without being partisan. We can be truth-tellers without being editorial writers. We can and we must not only tell people what happened in politics today, but why it happened; what it might mean for our readers and their families; and what it might reveal about the people who presume to be our leaders. Sometimes, they're just plain wrong.
Among his examples was this lead paragraph from a Sept. 2, 2005, piece about Hurricane Katrina:
WASHINGTON (AP)--The Iraqi insurgency is in its last throes. The economy is booming. Anybody who leaks a CIA agent's identity will be fired. Add another piece of White House rhetoric that doesn't match the public's view of reality: Help is on the way, Gulf Coast.
This is atrocious journalism in its own right, for reasons we explicated back then. But if Fournier were consistent he would have put those 2005 problems all down to "the curse of incumbency." Well, if he were consistent in his journalistic philosophy as opposed to his partisan loyalty.
  • "Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney's budget plan. . . . He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney's 47 percent talk, or Romney's 'carried-interest' tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he'd replace and why. And so on."--Robert Reich, Puffington Host, Oct. 4
  • "Obama won on substance."--same article
"Which brings us to tonight's debate. There are so many experts invested in the idea that Romney has no chance against Obama that it will be almost impossible for much of the post-debate analysis to be fair. Even if the Obama in the [racially inflammatory 2007] video linked to above were to reappear in Denver, he would be pushed out of the way to accommodate the hero his sympathizers and apologists want to see. The debates matter, but for many who will be commenting after-the-fact, Obama has already won."--Ed Rogers, Washington Post website, Oct. 3

A reader sends along a column from the Daily Princetonian, an Ivy League student newspaper, with the comment: "She has a future as a New York times columnist with this self-absorbed drivel." That seemed harsh, but our curiosity was piqued, so we clicked through. Here's how the piece, by sophomore Susannah Sharpless, starts:

It is the year 2004 in Indianapolis, Ind., and my friend Ian and I are standing on the playground in the shadow of the monkey bars, yelling at the enemy camp set up behind the tetherball pole.
"My parents are voting for Kerry!" I shout. "We HATE George W. Bush!"
Ian, a little hyperactive, throws a handful of mulch up in the air.
My classmates holler back, "Well, we're voting for Bush! Kerry's bad!"
And just like that, I learned how to talk politics.
There are other gems, such as her observation that "my conservative friends aren't all that soulless or fascist or even really that racist," and this penetrating observation about an Urban Outfitters advertising campaign: "At its core, this is an advertising campaign."
We suppose it's unsporting to make fun of college students, but we never claimed to be sporting. Here's another astonishingly infantile piece:
Imagine a kindergarten with 100 students, lavishly supplied with books, crayons and toys.
Yet you gasp: one avaricious little boy is jealously guarding a mountain of toys for himself. A handful of other children are quietly playing with a few toys each, while 90 of the children are looking on forlornly--empty-handed.
The one greedy boy has hoarded more toys than all those 90 children put together!
"What's going on?" you ask. "Let's learn to share! One child shouldn't hog everything for himself!"
The greedy little boy looks at you, indignant. "Do you believe in redistribution?" he asks suspiciously, his lips curling in contempt. "I don't want to share. This is America!" . . .
That kindergarten distribution is precisely what America looks like. Our wealth has become so skewed that the top 1 percent [blah blah blah] . . .
Only that didn't appear in a college newspaper or even in a high school newspaper. It was written by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Our reader was on to something after all.
"Last night's debate was a bloodbath. . . . We were not seeing 30-second soundbiteshand-picked for us by Obama's journalism cheering squad, or teleprompter-assisted speeches, or dueling press conferences where Romney is grilled but Obama is treated with kid gloves. Up until now, the mainstream press has allowed this president to sit in a bubble, largely unchallenged. Their narrative is that he's likable, he's smooth, he's amazingly cerebral. As for Romney, he's been branded as stilted, out-of-touch, and phony. Amazing how that conventional wisdom collapses when you peel away theselective lenses and the outside chatter, leaving two men alone on a stage, armed with just their own words."--Alana Goodman, Commentary website, Oct. 4

"Don't Blame Jim Lehrer"--headline,, Oct. 4

"Al Gore Blames Obama's Poor Debate Performance on High Altitude"--headline,, Oct. 4

"Obama's 5 Best Debate Lines"--headline,, Oct. 3

"i can't believe i'm saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter"--tweet, @billmaher, Oct. 3

"Mitt Romney Wins a Reprieve at Presidential Debate"--headline,, Oct. 4

"Obama, Romney Didn't Consider Hispanics in Debate, Experts Say"--headline, El Paso Times, Oct. 4

"Romney: 'I love Big Bird' "--headline, Yahoo! News, Oct. 3

"Tribe Profitable With Las Vegas Management Team"--headline, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct. 3

"After Colombians, Police Deal Blow to Nigerian Cocaine Trafficking Ring"--headline, Malta Today, Oct. 4

"L'Oréal Seeks Women in Unlikely Place: On Xbox"--headline,, Oct. 4

"Why Was a Sheep in a Seattle Police Car?"--headline, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Oct. 3

"Seamus McGraw: For Democrats, It's a Dismal Post-Debate Morning"--headline,, Oct. 4

Questions Nobody Is Asking
  • "What Do the Amish Think of a Mormon Presidential Candidate?"--headline, The Economistwebsite, Oct. 3
  • "Is Climate Change the Sleeper Issue of the 2012 Election?"--headline,,Oct. 3
  • "What Does It Feel Like to Be a Smart Person?"--headline,, Oct. 2
"Romney's Strong Debate Showing Puts Europe on Edge"--headline, Reuters, Oct. 4

"CHART OF THE DAY: Solar Power Has a Long, Long Way to Go to Be Competitive"--headline,, Oct. 3

"Pelosi's Troops Not Measuring the Drapes"--headline,, Oct. 4

"A uniform-free 'dress-down' day at Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond turned into a public dressing down for a student who chose to wear a pink T-shirt supporting Mitt Romney for president," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Port Richmond is a neighborhood not far from Fishtown:

Samantha Pawlucy, a sophomore at Carroll High, said her geometry teacher publicly humiliated her by asking why she was wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt and going into the hallway to urge other teachers and students to mock her.
"I was really embarassed and shocked. I didn't think she'd go in the hallway and scream to everyone," Pawlucy said. "It wasn't scary, but it felt weird."
Pawlucy said she decided to wear the shirt after researching the candidate and President Obama and concluding that she's a Romney supporter. Her father, Richard Pawlucy, said she was especially interested in Romney's opposition to partial-birth abortion. . . .
During the incident, Samantha Pawlucy said the teacher told her that Carroll High is a "Democratic school" and wearing a Republican shirt is akin to the teacher, who is black, wearing a KKK shirt.
That explains why Barack Obama is always saying he wants to raise "an army of teachers."
(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to Ed Lasky, T. Young, Eric Jensen, Paul Dyck, Michele Schiesser, Hillel Markowitz, James Trager, Evan Slatis, Greg Bandy, Jared Silverman, Pat Rowe, Dan Goldstein, Steve Thompson, Randy Smith, Norman Lauver, John Williamson, Rand Costich, Keith Cummiskey, Rod Pennington, Joel Engel, Abraham Oseroff, Philip Ellison, Jeryl Bier, Michael Smith, David Fortney, John Bobek, Michael Britton, Taryl Giessel, Ethel Fenig, Tim Vande Zande, Arlene Ross, Keith Pennock, Jonathan Spetner, Michael Nunnelley, Mike Galiger, Kyle Kyllan, Miguel Rakiewicz, Mark Finkelstein, Bruce Goldman, Michael Throop, Tristan Pinnock, Mark Nicholas and Dan Tracy. If you have a tip, write us at, and please include the URL.)

The Night Liberalism Died

By Roger L. Simon
PJ Media
October 3, 2012

It was a bad twentieth wedding anniversary night for Barack and Michelle Obama. Twenty-five should be better. No irritating debates to deal with. It won’t even be an election year. Maybe they can celebrate with a Mai Tai or two in their new beachfront home on Oahu.
All the networks agreed last night, even the court eunuchs on MSNBC, as did the polls and the focus groups, that Romney won the debate. Obama looked like a warmed-over version of Richard Nixon, shifty and evasive in his answers. But Nixon was always infinitely more prepared than our current president and considerably more informed.
The fuddy-duddy liberal choir of the mainstream media looked shell-shocked. But secretly some of them may actually be relieved. Anyone with an IQ in triple digits knows that Romney would be a better president than Obama with the country and the world in the situation they are. And that probably includes Obama himself, considering the level at which he debated.
If Romney is elected, dad would be back and they (the media) would get to be kids again, living la vida loca while protesting until blue in their collective faces everything Romney does in the coming years. They get to be “against the man” once more. They don’t have to defend the man, such as he is.
A few of these media folks may even subtly throw Obama under the bus – a just deserts since he has done that favor to so many others. We’ll have to see. It did seem to me while watching the debate that even moderator Jim Lehrer, try as he might to help the president, was starting to realize Romney was the better man. Even Ed Schultz and Bill Maher apparently tweeted that Romney had won, not that they would ever change their views short of a waterboarding — or even then.
But, in defense of Obama, there is a more significant reason he did so badly in the debate than his own relative ineptitude and dyspepsia. Liberalism, his ideology, is economically indefensible. It doesn’t work. He had, in reality, no response when confronted by Romney’s positions. When it comes to liberalism, there’s no there there (hence the outcry on the Left that he should have insulted Romney more, about the 47% etc.).
If Obama and/or his minions begin to think or realize that, they are really doomed. This will not be a normal election. Their world will be upended. But if they do continue and win, it will be even worse, because the country, and even Western civilization, will unravel quite quickly thereafter.
But I am more optimistic. What we may have witnessed on October 3, 2012, is the death of liberalism. And it deserves to die because it is a greedy and self-centered ideology masked under the pretense of generosity and guarded fiercely by wannabe media potentates like Chris Matthews who had the next thing to an aneurysm at the performance of his onetime idol.
Liberalism will come back, of course, under one or more of a million names. But for now Mitt Romney has administered it a serious body blow.
For much of the debate he seemed to be teaching the basics of economics to a recalcitrant and not particularly bright undergraduate.
This is not entirely surprising to those who remember 2008, when Obama seemed so clueless when queried about taxation and the Laffer curve by Charles Gibson of ABC.
Next debate will probably be different. Humiliations this extreme don’t happen often in politics and rarely twice in a row. But the first blood drawn between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama will most likely be remembered above all.
One suspects the electorate wearies of these things fast. The first half hour of the first debate is usually about as much as most people can take, especially that odd and sought after group known as the “undecideds.”
We know who won that. For now the Peggy Noonan naysayers can go back in their holes. Mitt Romney is riding high. Let’s hope he stays there.
Bigger Winners from Bebate: Bibi Netanyahu, Chris Christie.
Big Losers: Innocent citizens of Libya. Watch out below!

Romney left Obama on the ropes

By Jeff Jacoby
October 4, 2012

BARACK OBAMA hasn't been in a high-stakes, nationally televised presidential debate in nearly four years. Mitt Romney was in plenty of them over the past 18 months. Last night, it showed.

Heading into yesterday's encounter at the University of Denver, polls showed that voters by a wide margin were expecting Obama to win the three debates that he and Romney have agreed to. But not only did the president fail to knock out his challenger last night, there were long stretches when it wasn't even clear he had remembered to lace up his gloves. On issue after issue, in exchange after exchange, Romney was focused, clear, interesting, and engaged, while Obama repeatedly came across as distracted, irritated, and vague. The former Massachusetts governor was plainly enjoying himself. The president seemed to want nothing more than to run out the clock and bring a painful evening to an end.

I didn't hear any devastating zingers, but Romney came equipped with memorable lines. The Obama economic philosophy, he said early on, amounts to "trickle-down government." The tens of billions of dollars the administration has sunk into failed "green" energy companies, he quipped, shows that "you don't pick winners and losers, you just pick the losers." To the president's repeated claim that Romney's tax proposals would inevitably result in higher taxes on middle-class earners, the GOP nominee replied affably that as a father of five sons, he was used to people saying something untrue over and over in the hope that repetition would make it more convincing.

When asked for examples of federal spending he would like to cut, he cheerfully cited subsidies for PBS. "Sorry, Jim," he smilingly told moderator Jim Lehrer, who is practically a PBS icon. "I like PBS. I like Big Bird – I even like you!" A humorless Obama, by contrast, snapped at Lehrer when he thought the moderator had cheated him out of five seconds of response time.

Romney channeled Muhammad Ali last night, floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee. He left Obama on the ropes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Smearing of Fast and Furious Whistleblower John Dodson

By Katie Pavlich
October 3, 2012

On December 15, 2010, ATF Special Agent John Dodson’s life changed forever when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in the Arizona desert. At least two of the guns left at the scene were linked to Operation Fast and Furious. Before Terry was killed, hundreds had been killed in Mexico as a result of the program, leaving only blood stained concrete and horror behind.

For a year prior to Terry’s murder, Dodson worked as part of ATF Phoenix Gunrunning Group VII, the group assigned to carry out the bulk of Fast and Furious. He was told for months to allow thousands of AK-47 style guns to walk into Mexico. He was instructed to watch straw purchasers illegally buy weapons, but not to arrest them. Dodson asked his superiors on multiple occasions if they were prepared to deal with the consequences of their actions and the tactics used throughout the operation.

“I asked them if they were prepared to go to the funeral of a Border Patrol agent over this or Cochise County deputy – if they were prepared to watch that widow accept that folded flag because that’s exactly what was going to happen. So they can't claim that was an unforeseen consequence,” Dodson asserted on Fox News. He said the same thing during congressional testimony on June 15, 2011.

Dodson was vocal within ATF throughout 2010 about his concerns, and on March 3, 2011, he exposed Fast and Furious and its connection to Brian Terry’s murder on national television to CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

By this point, Dodson was used to retaliation within ATF, specifically for speaking out against Operation Fast and Furious and its tactics. He had been screamed at by supervisors, reassigned and even had his weapons taken away without valid cause. Raising questions about a program he knew would leave hundreds dead was unacceptable -- and outside of ATF’s chain of command protocol. After he made the lethal realities of Fast and Furious public, things got worse.

The same month Dodson put a face on the scandal, then ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson told the Baltimore ATF Field Division in a town hall style meeting Dodson was merely a “disgruntled” employee and alluded to him being a nut case.

A month prior, Senator Charles Grassley received a letter from Justice Department officials flat out denying the existence of gunwalking and essentially called Dodson a liar.

"At the outset, the allegation described in your January 27 letter--that ATF “sanctioned” or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons to a straw purchaser who then transported them into Mexico--is false.”
The same letter (which was eventually withdrawn due to falsehoods and lies) promised Grassley retaliation would not be taken against whistleblowers.
I also want to assure you that ATF has made no attempt to retaliate against any of its agents regarding this matter. We recognize the importance of protecting employees from retaliation relating to their disclosures of waste, fraud and abuse. ATF employees receive annual training on their rights under the Whistleblower Protection Act, and those with knowledge of waste, fraud, or abuse are encouraged to communicate direcvtluy with the Department’s Office of Inspector General. These protections do not negate the Department’s legitimate interest in protecting confidential information about pending criminal investigations.”
Despite this promise, former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, who resigned in August 2011 amid Fast and Furious fallout, admitted to leaking memos with a specific purpose of smearing Dodson.
Former Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke came forward Tuesday to take responsibility for his role in leaking a memo used to cast aspersions on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who had blown the whistle to Congress about a botched gun-trafficking operation. Burke, who left the Justice Department in August as congressional scrutiny over Operation Fast and Furious intensified, acknowledged his actions on the same day Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, pressed the attorney general about who "smeared" agent John Dodson. Grassley said the leak may have violated the Privacy Act and run afoul from repeated warnings from lawmakers not to go after whistleblowers at ATF. Chuck Rosenberg, a lawyer for Burke, told NPR that "Dennis regrets his role in disclosing the memo but he's a stand-up guy and is willing to take responsibility for what he did. It was absolutely not Dennis's intent to retaliate against Special Agent Dodson or anyone else for the information they provided Congress."
In an effort to silence him, Dodson was put under the control of ATF Public Affairs Chief Scott Thomasson, who made it clear in witness accounts he didn’t care if gunwalking allegations were true, he wanted to “f*&%” Dodson and other whistleblowers, regardless of the wrong doings of the bureau as a whole throughout the operation.
He allegedly stated, "All of these whistleblowers have axes to grind. ATF needs to f--k these guys," and "we need to get whatever dirt we can on these guys and take them down"

When Thomasson was asked about the allegations against him of whistleblower retaliation were true, he allegedly said he "didn't know and didn't care," according to Oversight Committee investigators.
Throughout the past 18 months, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa and Senator Grassley have sent multiple warnings to ATF and the Justice Department about their retaliation toward whistleblowers exposing corruption. Those warnings didn’t seem to phase new Acting ATF Director Todd B. Jones. In a recent ATF webcast video, Jones warned ATF Special Agents not “jump their chain of command” or there would be “consequences.”
“I want to close out this first set by talking about quite frankly a less pleasant topic but one that is critical to the functioning of any organization, particularly one with a public safety mission like ATF’s and that’s choices and consequences. When I’m talking about choices and consequences, I’m talking about the disciplinary process. Our last change cast laid out some clear expectations about organizational discipline, one ATF, everyone working together, exemplifying one of the pieces of our leadership philosophy, that being teamwork. I want to make it clear in this last change cast before we start doing specific topics what my expectation is as the acting director when it comes to the disciplinary process. Choices and consequences simply means that as an employee of ATF should you decide not to abide by the standards of conduct or the rules of the road, should you decide that you’re not going to play by the rules, there will be consequences. We’ve spent over the last six months reinvigorating our PRB. AD Torres has worked very diligently to make sure our office of professional responsibility and our Internal Affairs Unit responds quickly to hot spots around the country and in headquarters when they find something wrong. Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership there will be consequences because we cannot tolerate, we cannot tolerate an undisciplined organization. I wanted to make this very clear to everyone as we turn the page.

In June, Fortune Magazine contributor and former Clinton staffer Katherine Eban published a storytitled, “The Truth About Fast and Furious.” In the piece, Eban portrayed corrupt ATF Supervisor David Voth and Fast and Furious Case Agent Hope MacCallister as innocents trying to do the right thing for their bureau and public safety, while penning searing and untrue words against Dodson and other whistleblowers. Eban went to great lengths to destroy Dodson's reputation, even calling his ex-wife to dig up dirt. When she couldn't find any, however, she failed to report the good things that were said.

Dodson, 41, arrived one day before Voth from a two-man outpost of ATF's Roanoke field office, where he'd worked since 2002. He had joined the ATF from the narcotics section of the Loudoun County sheriff's office in Virginia, where his blunt, even obnoxious manner did not earn him friends. He's "an asshole sometimes—there is no other way to put it," says his former partner, Ken Dondero, who served as best man at Dodson's wedding. "He's almost too honest. He believes that if he has a thought in his head, it's there to broadcast to everyone."
Voth, MacAllister, and a third agent, Tonya English, were quintessential by-the-book types. By contrast, Dodson and two other new arrivals, Olindo "Lee" Casa and Lawrence Alt, seemed to chafe at ATF rules and procedures. Dodson's faction grew antagonistic to Voth. They regularly fired off snide e-mails and seemed to delight in mocking Voth and his methodical nature. They were scornful of protocol, according to ATF agents.
Dodson would show up to work in flip-flops. He came unprepared for operations—without safety equipment or back-up plans—and was pulled off at least one surveillance for his own safety, say two colleagues. He earned the nickname "Renegade," and soon Voth's group effectively divided into two clashing factions: the Sunshine Bears and the Renegades.
Last week, Dodson sent a letter through his attorney to Fortune Magazine Managing Editor Andrew Serwer, accusing Eban of not only failing to look for the facts surrounding Fast and Furious, but of parroting Justice Department talking points. Dodson is seeking a retraction.
As you are likely aware, the Justice Department Inspector General has now issued his exhaustive report about Operation Fast and Furious (the “IG Report”). Given its findings, it is clear that Ms. Eban’s purported finding of “the truth” was far from it, and in fact is demonstrably false in many respects. A retraction is in order to correct the record.
The House Oversight Committee has also called for a retraction of the story.

Most recently, we’ve seen the undeniable collaboration between the Soros funded left-wing smear machine Media Matters and DOJ Public Affairs Chief Tracy Schmaler to attack journalists. Coincidentally, Schmaler is suspected of leaking information about Dodson in an effort to save her boss Eric Holder and to destroy his credibility. Eban obtained Dodson’s confidential personnel file for her Fortune story; Schmaler is suspected to be the one who gave it to her.

The Department of Justice Inspector General report released three weeks ago about Fast and Furious vindicated only one group of people: Whistleblowers. John Dodson was one of them. His supervisors, who heard his concerns about Fast and Furious loud and clear but did nothing, were referred for disciplinary action inside the Justice Department and may face criminal charges as a result of their actions. The Department of Justice is being exposed for their blood soaked, carnage ridden and massacre riddled program Fast and Furious thanks to their courage to do the right thing.


House Committee: Security requests denied in Libya

(Ben Curtis/AP)
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, left, was killed Sept. 18 in Benghazi.
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press
US News & World Report
October 2, 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite two explosions and dozens of other security threats, U.S. officials in Washington turned down repeated pleas from American diplomats in Libya to increase security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador was killed, Republican leaders of a House committee asserted Tuesday.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee said their information came from "individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya."
Issa, R-Calif. and Chaffetz, R-Utah said the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was the latest in a long line of attacks on Western diplomats and officials in Libya in the months before Sept. 11.
The letter listed 13 incidents, but Chaffetz said in an interview there were more than 50. Two of them involved explosive devices: a June 6 blast that blew a hole in the security perimeter. The explosion was described to the committee as "big enough for forty men to go through"; and an April 6 incident where two Libyans who were fired by a security contactor threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence.
"A number of people felt helpless in pushing back" against the decision not to increase security and "were pleading with them to reconsider," Chaffetz said. He added that frustrated whistleblowers were so upset with the decision that they were anxious to speak with the committee.
The lawmakers said they plan a hearing on Oct. 10. They asked Clinton whether the State Department was aware of the previous incidents, and whether the level of security that was provided to the U.S. mission met the security threat, and how the department responded to requests for more security.
The State Department has declined to answer questions about whether extra security was sought by officials in Benghazi ahead of the Sept. 11 attack.
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday that Clinton has received the letter and will reply Tuesday.
Nuland refused to answer questions on whether requests for extra security in Benghazi were denied — but insisted that the department intends to cooperate fully with Congress.
"We share the same goal," Nuland told reporters. "We want to get to the bottom of precisely what happened and learn any lessons that we need to learn from it. We're taking this very, very seriously."
Referring to the Sept. 11 attack, the letter said, "It was clearly never, as administration officials once insisted, the result of a popular protest."
In the days immediately after the attack, the Obama administration said it believed it was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islamic video. Since then, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and White House press secretary Jay Carney have called the incident a terrorist attack. President Barack Obama has not used those precise words, though he has referred to the attack in the context of "acts of terror."
Republicans have lashed out at Obama and senior administration officials over their evolving description of the deadly Sept. 11 attack, a late campaign-season broadside.
Republicans sensed a political opportunity in Obama's apparent reluctance to utter the words "terrorist attack" as well as the varying explanations emerging from the administration about the assault in Benghazi.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told Fox News recently: "I think it's pretty clear that they haven't wanted to level with the American people. We expect candor from the president and transparency."
Clinton discussed security on Sept. 18, when asked whether measures were appropriate.
"Let me assure you that our security in Benghazi included a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world," she said.
"In addition to the security outside the compound, we relied on a wall and a robust security presence inside the compound," she said. "And with all of our missions overseas, in advance of September 11th, as is done every year, we did an evaluation on threat streams."
Clinton also said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence "has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent."
She added that diplomats "engage in dangerous work, and it's the nature of diplomacy in fragile societies and conflict zones to be aware of the necessity for security but to also continue the important diplomatic work that has to go on.
"There is risk inherent in what we do and what these brave men and women representing the United States are up against every single day," Clinton said, "and we do our very best to limit that risk by ensuring that our security protocols reflect the environments in which diplomats work and the threats that they are presented with."
Chaffetz said in an interview that if the Benghazi security was typical of the protection in other dangerous places, "that's frightening." He said Benghazi is "one of the most awful and volatile areas on the planet. A reduction in the security profile doesn't seem consistent with the threat that was on the ground. That's why we have whistleblowers anxious to speak with us."
Among the incidents cited in the Issa-Chaffetz letter to Clinton:
—Just weeks before the attacks, the unarmed Libyan guards at the consulate, employed by British contractor Blue Mountain Group, were warned by family members to quit their jobs because there were rumors of an impending attack.
—In April, a gun battle erupted about two miles from the consulate between an unidentified armed group and forces loyal to the transitional government.
—In June, a posting on a Facebook page mentioned Stevens' early morning runs around Tripoli along with members of his security detail. The page contained a threat against Stevens and a stock photo of him. Stevens stopped the runs for about a week, but then resumed.