Friday, October 9
February 1st: Nobel nominations close.
......Must have been a busy 10 days. I'd bet the application was filled out before he even took office. What a shame for the Nobel Prize to tarnish after so many qualified recipients.
Friday, September 18
By Dana Milbank
Friday, September 18, 2009
Let's say you're preparing dinner and you realize with dismay that you don't have any certified organic Tuscan kale. What to do?
Here's how Michelle Obama handled this very predicament Thursday afternoon:
The Secret Service and the D.C. police brought in three dozen vehicles and shut down H Street, Vermont Avenue, two lanes of I Street and an entrance to the McPherson Square Metro station. They swept the area, in front of the Department of Veterans Affairs, with bomb-sniffing dogs and installed magnetometers in the middle of the street, put up barricades to keep pedestrians out, and took positions with binoculars atop trucks. Though the produce stand was only a block or so from the White House, the first lady hopped into her armored limousine and pulled into the market amid the wail of sirens.
Then, and only then, could Obama purchase her leafy greens. "Now it's time to buy some food," she told several hundred people who came to watch. "Let's shop!"
Cowbells were rung. Somebody put a lei of marigolds around Obama's neck. The first lady picked up a straw basket and headed for the "Farm at Sunnyside" tent, where she loaded up with organic Asian pears, cherry tomatoes, multicolored potatoes, free-range eggs and, yes, two bunches of Tuscan kale. She left the produce with an aide, who paid the cashier as Obama made her way back to the limousine.
There's nothing like the simple pleasures of a farm stand to return us to our agrarian roots.
The first lady had encouraged Freshfarm Markets, the group that runs popular farmers markets in Dupont Circle and elsewhere, to set up near the White House, and she helped get the approvals to shut down Vermont Avenue during rush hour on Thursdays. But the result was quite the opposite of a quaint farmers market. Considering all the logistics, each tomato she purchased had a carbon footprint of several tons.
The promotion of organic and locally grown food, though an admirable cause, is a risky one for the Obamas, because there's a fine line between promoting healthful eating and sounding like a snob. The president, when he was a candidate in 2007, got in trouble in Iowa when he asked a crowd, "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" Iowans didn't have a Whole Foods.
For that reason, it's probably just as well that the first lady didn't stop by the Endless Summer Harvest tent yesterday. The Virginia farm had a sign offering "tender baby arugula" -- hydroponically grown, pesticide free -- and $5 for four ounces, which is $20 a pound.
Obama, in her brief speech to the vendors and patrons, handled the affordability issue by pointing out that people who pay with food stamps would get double the coupon value at the market. Even then, though, it's hard to imagine somebody using food stamps to buy what the market offered: $19 bison steak from Gunpowder Bison, organic dandelion greens for $12 per pound from Blueberry Hill Vegetables, the Piedmont Reserve cheese from Everson Dairy at $29 a pound. Rounding out the potential shopping cart: $4 for a piece of "walnut dacquoise" from the Praline Bakery, $9 for a jumbo crab cake at Chris's Marketplace, $8 for a loaf of cranberry-walnut bread and $32 for a bolt of yarn.
The first lady said the market would particularly appeal to federal employees in nearby buildings to "pick up some good stuff for dinner." Yet even they might think twice about spending $3 for a pint of potatoes when potatoes are on sale for 40 cents a pound at Giant. They could get nearly five dozen eggs at Giant for the $5 Obama spent for her dozen.
But whatever the socioeconomics, there can be no doubt that Obama brought some serious attention to her cause. Hundreds of people crowded the market entrance on I Street as police directed pedestrians to alternative subway entrances. Hundreds braved a light rain and gave a hearty cheer when Obama and her entourage took the stage. "I can't imagine there's been a day in the history of our country when people have been more excited about farmers markets," Mayor Adrian Fenty, Obama's warm-up act, told the crowd.
The first lady, in gray slacks and blue sweater, marveled that the people were "so pumped up" despite the rain. "I have never seen so many people so excited about fruits and vegetables!" she said. (Must be the tender baby arugula.)
She spoke of the global reach of her cause: "The first thing world leaders, prime ministers, kings, queens ask me about is the White House garden. And then they ask about Bo."
She spoke of the fuel fed to the world's most powerful man: "I've learned that when my family eats fresh food, healthy food, that it really affects how we feel, how we get through the day . . . whether there's a Cabinet meeting or whether we're just walking the dog."
And she spoke of her own culinary efforts: "There are times when putting together a healthy meal is harder than you might imagine."
Particularly when it involves a soundstage, an interpreter for the deaf, three TV satellite trucks and the closing of part of downtown Washington.
Sunday, July 26
Why's that? Well, first, the "health care" debate is not primarily about health, which chugs along regardless of how the debate goes: Life expectancy in the European Union, 78.7 years; life expectancy in the United States, 78.06 years; life expectancy in Albania, 77.6 years; life expectancy in Libya, 76.88 years; life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 78.17 years. Once you get on top of childhood mortality and basic hygiene, everything else is peripheral — margin-of-error territory. Maybe we could get another six months by adopting EU-style socialized health care. Or we could get another six weeks by reducing the Lower 48 to rubble in an orgy of bloodletting, which seems to have done wonders for Bosnian longevity. Or we could lop a year off geriatric institutionalization costs by installing some kook in a pillbox hat as Islamic dictator and surrounding him with a palace guard of Austin Powers fembots. It's as likely to work as anything Congress will pass.
What explains the yawning chasm of these six-month variations? Lack of funding? The United Kingdom spends three times as much money on "health" as Poland and their cancer survival rates are more or less identical. Okay, forget the cash and consider the treatment: Even within the United States, even within the Medicare system, there are regions that offer twice as much "health care" per patient — twice as many check-ups, pills, tests, operations — for no discernible variation in outcome. To one degree or another, any health-care "system" is a giant placebo. Right now, in a fit of mass hypochondria, large numbers of Americans have convinced themselves that they — or, at any rate, their uninsured neighbors — urgently need the magic Euro-cure-all. If they get it, it will improve their health not a whit.
But it will make a lot of other things worse. Government-directed health care is a profound assault on the concept of citizenship. It deforms national politics very quickly, and ensures that henceforth elections will always be fought on the Left's terms. I find it hard to believe President Obama and his chums haven't looked at Canada and Europe and concluded that health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture. He doesn't say that, of course. He says his objective is to "control costs." Which is the one thing that won't happen. Even now, health-care costs rise far faster under Medicare than in the private sector.
By the way, to accept that argument is to concede a lot of the turf: Why is the cost of my health care Barack Obama's business? When he mused recently about whether his dying grandmother had really needed her hip replacement, he gave the game away: Right now, if Gran'ma decides she doesn't need the hip, that's her business. Under a government system, it's the state's business — and they have to "allocate" "resources," and frankly at your age your body's not worth allocating to. Why give you a new hip when you're getting up there and you're gonna be kicking the bucket in a year or two or five or twenty?
There have been two trends in U.S. health care over the last decade. On one hand, a lot of Americans have become, by any rational standard, overinsured: They get tested for things they'll never get. On the other, there has been an abandonment of health insurance by the rich. If you peel the Census Bureau and DHHS figures, of those alleged "45 million uninsured Americans," one-fifth aren't Americans; another fifth aren't uninsured but are covered by Medicare; another two-fifths are the young and mobile (they don't have health insurance, but they don't have life insurance or home insurance, either — they're 22 and immortal and life's a party); and the remaining fifth are wealthier than the insured population. Really. According to a 2006 Census Bureau report, 19 percent of the uninsured have household income of over $75,000. Since the last round of government "reform" in the Nineties, wealthy Americans have been fleeing insurance and opting to bring health care back to being a normal market transaction. And if you look at the "uninsured discount" offered by doctors, one can appreciate that, for everything but chronic disability, it's not an irrational decision to say I'll get a better deal on my broken leg or my colonoscopy or my heavy cold if I just write a check for it.
And if you disagree, so what? In a free society, Mr. Smith should be free to be excessively prudent and overpay to be overinsured, and Mr. Jones should be free to conclude that he wants to pay cash down and get the best price for his broken leg. But a government system usurps both Smith's and Jones's right to calculate his own best interests. Whenever I cite some particularly lurid tale from the front lines of Euro-Canadian health care in National Review Online's "Corner," I get a flurry of e-mails from American readers offering horror stories from U.S. hospitals. And yes, it's true, bad things happen in American hospitals. But the Euro-Canadian stories are not really about the procedure, the operation, the emergency room, the doctor, the nurse. They're about impotence — not in the "Will Obama pay for my Viagra?" sense but in terms of civic dignity and individual liberty. I think of a young man called Gerald Augustin, of Rivière-des-Prairies, Quebec, who went to the St. André medical clinic complaining of stomach pain. He'd forgotten to bring his government medical card, so they turned him away. He was a Quebecker born and bred, and he was in their computer. But no card, no service: That's just the way it is. So he went back home to get it and collapsed of acute appendicitis, and by the time the ambulance arrived he was dead. He was 21 years old, and he didn't make it to 22 because he was forced to accept the right of a government bureaucrat to refuse him medical treatment for which he and his family have been confiscatorily taxed all their lives. "I don't see what we did wrong," said the administrator. "We just followed the rules." No big deal, M. Augustin wasn't anything special; no one in the clinic even remembered giving him the brush.
Roy Romanow, the Canadian politician who headed the most recent of the innumerable inquiries into problems with the system, defends the state's monopoly on the grounds that "Canadians view medicare [as their system is called] as a moral enterprise, not a business venture." If the St. André clinic were a business venture, they'd have greeted M. Augustin with: "You've got stomach pains? Boy, have we hit the jackpot! Let's get you some big-ticket pills and sign you up for surgery!" But because it's a moral enterprise they sent him away with a flea in his ear. If you have a bad experience in a private system, there's always another doctor, another clinic, another hospital five miles up the road. But when the government monopoly denies you health care, that's it: Go home and wait — or, like M. Augustin, die.
"Morality" is always the justification. Inaugurating Britain's National Health Service on July 5, 1948, the health minister, Nye Bevan, crowed: "We now have the moral leadership of the world." That's how Obamacare is being sold: Even the New York Times reports (in paragraph 38) that 77 percent of Americans are content with their health care. But they feel bad about all those poor uninsured waifs earning 75 grand a year. So it will make us all feel better if the government "does something." Not literally "feel better": We'll be feeling sicker, longer, in dirtier waiting rooms. But our disease-ridden bodies will be warmed by the glow of knowing we did the right thing.
What's so moral about relieving the citizen of responsibility for his own health care? If free citizens of the wealthiest societies in human history are not prepared to make provision for their own health, what other core responsibilities of functioning adulthood are they likely to forgo? Oh, Smith and Jones can still be entrusted to make their own choices about which movie to rent from Netflix, or which breakfast cereal to eat. For the moment. But you'd be surprised how quickly the "right" to health care elides into the government's right to tell you how to live in order to access that health care. A government-directed medical system can be used to justify almost any restraint on freedom: After all, if the state undertakes to cure you, it surely has an interest in preventing your needing treatment in the first place — or declining to treat you if you persist in your deviancy: Smokers in Manchester, England, have been refused treatment for heart disease, and the obese in Suffolk have been told they're ineligible for hip and knee replacements. With a staff of 1.4 million, England's National Health Service is supposedly the third-biggest employer on the planet, after the Chinese army (2.3 million) and Indian National Railways (1.5 million). And those couple of million Chinese and Indians are mere drops in oceans each over a billion strong, not a significant chunk of the adult population of a tiny strip of land in the North Atlantic. But the NHS still has to ration treatment. Patricia Hewitt, the former health secretary, says there's nothing wrong with the state forbidding treatment on the basis of "lifestyle choices." And apparently the "pro-choice" types who jump up and down in the street demanding that you keep your rosaries off their ovaries are entirely relaxed about the government getting its bureaucratics all over your lymphatics.
Ultimately, it's not the nationalization of health care but the nationalization of your body. Right now, if you want an MRI, it's between you and your doctors. In a government-run system, if you want an MRI and you can't get one, it's the government's fault. And the government should do something about it. Not give you the MRI, of course (that's too obvious, as well as too expensive), but at least introduce a new Patient's Bill of Rights, as Gordon Brown's just done, promising every Briton the "right" to hospital treatment within 18 weeks. Or your (tax) money back? Ah, well, no, but the prime minister's charter will also give you "guaranteed access to cancer treatments," as well as "the right to die at home," which sounds a bit as if Mr. Brown were covering himself. Scotland's cancer survival rate is 40 percent, compared with America's 63 percent. So if the other 60 percent of Scots all exercise their right to die at home, that might free up some "guaranteed access" for the remainder. And if it doesn't, the prime minister will perhaps introduce a new helpline — 1-800-PATIENT — in which all you have to do is punch in your postal code and some bureaucrat will come on the line to explain that the new cancer survival targets for your area will be introduced circa 2012 and please call back then if you're not dead.
So elections dwindle down to a sterile argument over how to "improve" the system: The left-of-center party usually pledges to throw money at it. The right-of-center party is less enthusiastic about that, which generally makes it suspect on the issue, so it settles on some formulation to the effect that it can "deliver" better "services" more "efficiently." In other words, the only viable rationale for the Right becomes its claim to be able to run the leftist state more smoothly than the Left. Every footling reform with any whiff of the private sector about it has the ranks of the great and the good lining up on TV to drone the indestructible cliché that "the NHS is the envy of the world." Years ago, in the Daily Telegraph, I wrote that I'd seen a fair bit of the world and had never met anybody who envied the NHS, although presumably there must be a Bhutanese yak herdsman up-country somewhere who'd be impressed by it. A couple of days later, Mr. Sonam Chhoki, a Bhutanese gentleman, wrote to the paper to say that, while not a yak herdsman himself, he came from good yak-herding stock and, after a bit of grumbling about my outmoded ethnic stereotyping, declared that he certainly didn't envy the NHS. His British parents-in-law "have had to wait more than two years for operations, after being turned away several times for lack of hospital beds. However basic the Bhutanese health service is, it has not yet come to this sorry state."
Yet Mrs. Thatcher, one of the great fearless conservative figures of the age, could do no more than insist to a skeptical public that "the NHS is safe in our hands." In the 2000 Canadian election, Stockwell Day, leader of the allegedly right-wing Alliance party, found himself forced to make similar prostrations in response to entirely unfounded rumors that the party was thinking of "permitting" private health care back into the country. In a televised debate, he wanted to be certain that, whatever questions he was asked, the public got the message that he had no plans to monkey with the government monopoly. So he brought in a little handmade sign and propped it up in front of the microphone to advertise his fealty: "NO TWO-TIER HEALTH CARE." While he was distracted by a question on some inconsequential topic like foreign policy, Joe Clark, leader of the Progressive Conservative party (think RINO squishes with bells on), swiped the little placard and gleefully scored through the "NO" to let viewers in on Mr. Day's hidden agenda: "TWO-TIER HEALTH CARE." This is what it's come to: the leaders of the two soi-disant right-of-center parties competing to see who can grovel most abjectly before the state monopoly. That's the Republicans' future if they collude in the governmentalization of health care — as Democrats well understand.
When health care is the government's responsibility, it becomes its principal responsibility. Because the minute you make government the provider of health care, you ensure that, come election time, the electorate will identify "health" as its number-one concern. Thus, in a democracy, the very fact of socialized medicine seduces the citizenry away from citizenship. Buying health care is no more onerous than buying a car or buying a house — which, pre-Barney Frank, most Americans seemed able to manage. Indeed, most of the complications are caused by existing government interventions. If you were attempting to devise a "system" from scratch, you might opt for insurance for catastrophic scenarios and, for PAP smears and colonoscopies and whatnot, something similar to the tax breaks for a Simplified Employee Pension: C'mon, how difficult can it be? Back in the day, your grampa managed to go to the doctor without routing the admin through Washington. Matter of fact, the doctor came to your grampa. That's how crazy it was.
But the acceptance of the principle that individual health is so complex its management can only be outsourced to the state is a concession no conservative should make. More than any other factor, it dramatically advances the statist logic for remorseless encroachments on self-determination. It's incompatible with a republic of self-governing citizens. The state cannot guarantee against every adversity and, if it attempts to, it can do so only at an enormous cost to liberty. A society in which you're free to choose your cable package, your iTunes downloads, and who ululates the best on American Idol but in which the government takes care of peripheral stuff like your body is a society no longer truly free.
In a nanny state, big government becomes a kind of religion: the church as state. Tommy Douglas, the driving force behind Canadian health care, tops polls of all-time greatest Canadians. In Britain, after the Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a "British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July," a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new "British Day" be July 5, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation.
They can call it Dependence Day.
Thursday, July 16
The Washington Post notes, "it targets those most able to pay" and IBDeditorials points out that the bill explicitly states, "Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law.
I'm not one to flip out over usual policy decisions-after all, politics never go the way you want all the time, but this bill is, as Obama would put it, "a game changer".
Thursday, April 16
What a disgrace. Anyone who's ever served this country in the fight to protect freedom and democracy should be praised and celebrated, not villified. What a sad benchmark for this country--I weep for the clear denigration of honor.
Tuesday, March 31
Anyone ever have trouble with finding the right sentence punctuation--particularly when deciding between an exclamation mark and a period? Sometime the period comes off as condescending but other times the exclamation mark sounds much too enthusiastic or as if you're nearly shouting. I find this is largely the case in online writing like blogs, emails, or even texting.
I hope her hair looks better this time.
I hope her hair looks better this time!
There almost needs to be something between that would connote a strong statement, but not quite to the point of exclaiming it--just purporting it. A purportion point would suffice I should say.
Monday, March 30
Obama has come into office having won the popular vote by seven percentage points, along with a 79-seat edge in the House, a 17-seat edge in the Senate, and massive public demand for change. But it's already clear he is receiving less, not more, deference from his own party. Democrats have treated Obama with studied diffidence, both in their support for the substance of his agenda and (more importantly) their willingness to support it procedurally.
It really makes one wonder where the President's focus really is.
Thursday, March 26
Wednesday, March 25
By: Ben Smith
Geithner, at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the U.S. is "open" to a headline-grabbing proposal by the governor of the China's central bank, which was widely reported as being a call for a new global currency to replace the dollar, but which Geithner described as more modest and "evolutionary."
"I haven’t read the governor’s proposal. He’s a very thoughtful, very careful distinguished central banker. I generally find him sensible on every issue," Geithner said, saying that however his interpretation of the proposal was to increase the use of International Monetary Fund's special drawing rights -- shares in the body held by its members -- not creating a new currency in the literal sense.
"We’re actually quite open to that suggestion – you should see it as rather evolutionary rather building on the current architecture rather than moving us to global monetary union," he said.
"The only thing concrete I saw was expanding the use of the [special drawing rights]," Geithner said. "Anything he’s thinking about deserves some consideration."
The continued use of the dollar as a reserve currency, he added, "depends..on how effective we are in the United States...at getting our fiscal system back to the point where people judge it as sustainable over time."
President Obama flatly rejected the notion of a new global currency at last night's press conference.
UPDATE: Evidently sensing a gaffe, moderator Roger Altman told Geithner that it would be "useful" to return to the question, and asked if he foresaw a change in the dollar's centrality.
"I do not," Geithner said, adding several forceful promises, including, "We will do what's necessary to say we're sustaining confidence in our financial markets."
Wednesday, February 11
Several generations of corrupt governors have plagued Illinois’ history with scandal; nearly, “20% of the state's chief executives [have been] indicted or convicted of felonies in the past century.” With a century of foul politics, Blagojevich couldn’t avoid joining in on the fun. Nonetheless, the former governor touts his innocence, and he’s repeatedly refused to accept any guilt or wrong-doing.
Blagojevich—a man no taller than 5’8”—is easily recognizable by his boyish face and mop of floppy 1970’s news anchor hair. He always carries a black hairbrush. He likes long morning jogs. He’s the son of a Serbian immigrant. He’s led the state of Illinois since 2003 after taking office on the promise to clean out the state’s corrupt bowels.
Blagojevich wanted to help the people of his state; the people received help; therefore, the people were helped by him. Unfortunately for the former governor, evidence suggests he only wanted to help himself. Mentioning things like, “We should have been more selfish, not selfless,” does not seem to bolster his case. The former governor was referencing the trips Lt. Governor Pat Quinn has taken in the past for trade meetings—Blagojevich felt he should have gone further to abuse his position’s power. Beyond disinterest in helping the state, he instead harmed the citizens he claimed he’d try to support. In a practical sense, he wasted taxpayer funds like a child throwing pennies into a pond—except the pond was a tollway along the lakefront and the pennies were thousands of dollars.
Nearly a half-million dollars were spent on signs over the Illinois tolls; the governor had his name on the 32 large blue signs across the state as a testament to himself and his power. Illinois owes Blagojevich something, or so he felt. In the wiretap recordings discussing the sale of the senate seat, he displays his boldness stating, “I’ve got this thing and it’s [sic] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [sic] nothing.” It’s a miracle the man could even fit through a doorway with the ego he carries and an even greater miracle that anyone could stand to live with him.
His displaced entitlement devoured his relationships and as with all thoroughly corrupt politicians, he managed to anger the relatives of his wife in the process. It would seem that the family would be a last-bastion of support and defense but naturally, Blagojevich managed to lose his final supporters. Chicago Alderman Dick Mell is the father of Blagojevich’s wife, Patti. Several years back, he went public, “claiming Blagojevich was trading positions for money—a charge that surely caught the attention of prosecutors.” While the Alderman recanted his statement, the relationship between the governor and the ‘governor-in-law’ had been forever changed.
To consider Blagojevich’s case, there are a few potential explanations for his claims of innocence. The first is the simplest: he’s so sure he did everything with the best of intentions that he’s convinced himself he’s innocent. He ought to consider applying this option on the senate jury—could prove useful. The second alternative is less likely, but perhaps more believable: he meant there to be money in the state budget that didn’t exist when he used fiat for every program imaginable, and therefore, wouldn’t have wrecked the state’s finances. While that still has nothing to do with the sale of President Obama’s previous senate seat, it couldn’t hurt in the courtroom.
The final possibility is a stretch, but not altogether impossible: “Potty Mouth Patti” has been the one in control the whole time and is letting Rod take the fall for her plan after hearing rumors of his sexual indiscretions. Ultimately, none of these scenarios would be able to change the fact that he was voted America’s ‘least favorite governor’—even before the recent investigation began. That’s the kind of title you engrave on your headstone with pride, The Best at Being the Worst.
With the many rumors of corruption, Illinois residents were quickly convinced the former governor would soon be caught, and yet 6 years passed with his name on the tolls. Then, residents were certain that United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation would quickly cause Blagojevich to resign. Once again, the investigation went on for months while Blagojevich continued to govern. Residents were assured that the senate would never accept an appointment by Blagojevich to the vacant seat, and then Roland Burris happened.
In the final gasps of power, Blagojevich managed to wield his remaining power to appoint his man to the seat. Fatefully, the Secretary of State Jesse White rejected Burris, despite court rulings that the appointment was legal. If there’s any pattern that can be interpolated from this mess, it becomes clear that Illinois is one screwy place for politics.
The argument could be taken further that maybe Blagojevich is actually a really great politician. He’s recognized that the usual rules of politics do not apply in Illinois and went full steam ahead with the hope that his innocence plea could actually work. All possibilities considered, he incredulously sticks to his claims of innocence. Maybe he really is.
Perhaps the Illinois house is on the wrong side of the issue; 65% of Illinoisans are on the wrong side; everyone in the media and blogosphere are on the wrong side. When the impeached governor can finally get past the facts, his name will surely be restored to its previous dull luster—befit of recent Illinois governors. Realizing the impeachment stripping his right to government vehicles, he muttered, “I wonder if we’ll have to hitchhike home. Maybe we could take the bus.”
Friday, January 30
I digress. Blago's gone! Though his departure was bittersweet with his successful maneuvering of his guy into the Senate seat, worse could've happened and at least he's finally OUT. AWESOME!
Saturday, January 24
Thursday, January 22
By Karl Rove
Its call sign has always been Air Force One. But on Tuesday, it was Special Air Mission 28000, as former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura returned home to Texas on a plane full of family, friends, former staff and memories of eight years in the White House.
A video tribute produced warm laughter and inevitable tears. There was no bitterness, but rather a sense of gratitude -- gratitude for the opportunity to serve, for able and loyal colleagues, and above all for our country and its people.
Yet, as Mr. Bush left Washington, in a last angry frenzy his critics again distorted his record, maligned his character and repeated untruths about his years in the Oval Office. Nothing they wrote or said changes the essential facts.
To start with, Mr. Bush was right about Iraq. The world is safer without Saddam Hussein in power. And the former president was right to change strategy and surge more U.S. troops.
A legion of critics (including President Barack Obama) claimed it couldn't work. They were wrong. Iraq is now on the mend, the war is on the path to victory, al Qaeda has been dealt a humiliating defeat, and a democracy in the heart of the Arab world is emerging. The success of Mr. Bush's surge made it possible for President Obama to warn terrorists on Tuesday "you cannot outlast us."
Mr. Bush was right to establish a doctrine that holds those who harbor, train and support terrorists as responsible as the terrorists themselves. He was right to take the war on terror abroad instead of waiting until dangers fully materialize here at home. He was right to strengthen the military and intelligence and to create the new tools to monitor the communications of terrorists, freeze their assets, foil their plots, and kill and capture their operators.
These tough decisions -- which became unpopular in certain quarters only when memories of 9/11 began to fade -- kept America safe for seven years and made it possible for Mr. Obama to tell the terrorists on Tuesday "we will defeat you."
Mr. Bush was right to be a unilateralist when it came to combating AIDS in Africa. While world leaders dithered, his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative brought lifesaving antiretroviral drugs to millions of Africans.
At home, Mr. Bush cut income taxes for every American who pays taxes. He also cut taxes on capital, investment and savings. The result was 52 months of growth and the strongest economy of any developed country.
Mr. Bush was right to match tax cuts with spending restraint. This is a source of dispute, especially among conservatives, but the record is there to see. Bill Clinton's last budget increased domestic nonsecurity discretionary spending by 16%. Mr. Bush cut that to 6.2% growth in his first budget, 5.5% in his second, 4.3% in his third, 2.2% in his fourth, and then below inflation, on average, since. That isn't the sum total of the fiscal record, of course -- but it's a key part of it.
He was right to have modernized Medicare with prescription drug benefits provided through competition, not delivered by government. The program is costing 40% less than projected because market forces dominate and people -- not government -- are making the decisions.
Mr. Bush was right to pass No Child Left Behind (NCLB), requiring states to set up tough accountability systems that measure every child's progress at school. As a result, reading and math scores have risen more in the last five years since NCLB than in the prior 28 years.
He was right to stand for a culture of life. And he was right to appoint conservative judges who strictly interpret the Constitution.
And Mr. Bush, a man of core decency and integrity, was right not to reply in kind when Democratic leaders called him a liar and a loser. The price of trying to change the tone in Washington was to be often pummeled by lesser men.
Few presidents had as many challenges arise during their eight years, had as many tough calls to make in such a partisan-charged environment, or had to act in the face of such hostile media and elite opinion.
On board Special Air Mission 28000, I remembered the picture I carried in my pocket on my first Air Force One flight eight years ago. It was an old black-and-white snapshot with scalloped edges. It showed Lyndon Johnson in the Cabinet Room, head in hand, weeping over a Vietnam casualty report. George Christian, LBJ's press secretary, gave it to me as a reminder that the job could break anyone, no matter how big and tough.
But despite facing challenges and crises few others have, the job did not break George W. Bush. Though older and grayer, his brows more furrowed, he is the same man he was, a person of integrity who did what he believed was right. And he exits knowing he summoned all of his energy and talents to defend America and advance its ideals at home and abroad. He didn't get everything right -- no president does -- but he got the most important things right. And that is enough.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
Wednesday, January 21
0630: The Marines chosen to participate as representatives of the United States Marine Corps Reserve arrive at the unit stationed at Washington's Naval District. They have been selected from the Distribution Liaison Company, 4th Supply Battalion, 4th MLG and the 4th Civil Affairs Group, Marine Force Reserve.
0730: As Marines, preparation is everything--whether readiness for war or the celebration and honoring of a new president. This day will be spent preparing and practicing the drill movements to be used in the parade march. The primary drill movements include bringing the rifles to the left shoulder, the right shoulder, and port arms where the rifle is held in front of the Marines.
The formation is actually split into 3 platoons in columns of 3--each with their own platoon sergeants and platoon commanders, but to the viewer, it appears as a solid block of a 9-by-9, 81 Marine formation.
0930: The drilling continues throughout the morning and the ceremonial 8th and I Marines show up to practice with us. The 8th and I Marines appear in state ceremonies, Marine Corps Advertisements, and many other faces of the Corps but are perhaps best known for being responsible for the Silent Drill Platoon that performs all across the country.
1300: The preparation culminates in final practicing that lasts several hours on the parade deck. Having a chance to talk to the 8th and I Marines, we all joke around about and share our experiences in the Corps.
1800: Practice for the day is completed and square-away time is given to allow us the chance to inspect and fine-tune our uniforms for the following day.
0430: We awake early to eat some quick morning chow of eggs, sausage, and pancake squares (not quite as appealing as it sounds, trust me) then get dressed in our uniforms.
0630: We load the buses and head out with our rifles to the "dirty" site where our buses will be inspected and we will pass through Secret Service security checkpoints equipped with magnometers and K-9 units. Following security and on our way to the "clean" staging area, crowds cheered as the Marines went by and I was astounded by the hundreds of thousands of people that made a lawn over the mall--each person a mere blade of grass it seemed.
1000: We finally arrive at the tents where we will wait until our group is called to line up. As Division 2, 5th element, we will be at the front portion of the parade which carries 6 divisions with many elements in each.
1300: We line up outside where we quickly find that the cold is pervasive and ceaseless in its attempts to wear us down but we're reassured by our commanders that Marines have been through worse many times in the past and come through victoriously nonetheless.
Finally, several hours later, we make the start of the parade route after having marched several blocks already and stood in the cold much longer than anyone anticipated. I thought my feet might never thaw--fortunately they warmed up after we began marching and were saved from being frostbitten.
After marching for block after block, I could see the Presidential Viewing Stand approaching. What a rush to know that the President, Vice President, their families, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and many other would watch us as we smartly marched past. Being on the direct close edge of the formation to the President, I glanced from the corner of my eye and there they were, not 20 feet away, looking on proudly to those that they would command. It was humbling to know the power that that man wields and also gave me a lot of pride to know that we would make history together in the coming years--the new President and an ever-ready Marine Corps.
This is a timeline of what it took a single group to prepare and enter the parade route. Many groups from all over the country were on-site including bands from Delaware who followed us in the line-up. I don't doubt all groups that proudly marched in the parade practiced and prepared for many hours and equally felt the impact of the cold January day in Washington.
As a Marine, I was greatly honored to be able to participate in the celebration of our nation's 44th president. It is a rare opportunity and but as a Marine, I know the value of freedom and peaceful transitions of power which many countries around the world do not enjoy as readily as ours.
Wednesday, January 7
I've just gotten word that sketchy Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, was caught up in infidelity with the riding instructor of his older daughter. His wife and Chicago Alderman Dick Mell's oldest daughter, Patti "Pottymouth" Blagojevich, is notorious for being caught ranting on the wiretaps. Silly Blago lost the Alderman as a friend when he cheated on his daughter--I guess they don't call him 'The Rod' for nothin!
Late Saturday, thousands of Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.
-- Associated Press, Dec. 27
WASHINGTON -- Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.
Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis -- 6,464 launched from Gaza in the last three years -- deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.
This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage -- or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb -- will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.
For Hamas the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. And deeply perverse, such as the Hamas TV children's program in which an adorable live-action Palestinian Mickey Mouse is beaten to death by an Israeli (then replaced by his more militant cousin, Nahoul the Bee, who vows to continue on Mickey's path to martyrdom).
At war today in Gaza, one combatant is committed to causing the most civilian pain and suffering on both sides. The other combatant is committed to saving as many lives as possible -- also on both sides. It's a recurring theme. Israel gave similar warnings to Southern Lebanese villagers before attacking Hezbollah in the Lebanon war of 2006. The Israelis did this knowing it would lose for them the element of surprise and cost the lives of their own soldiers.
Monday, January 5
The Western doctrine of just war, echoed in the articles of international law, moreover demands that the Israelis finish what they've started. It doesn't say "never fight," as the ignorant suppose. On the contrary, it says if you must fight, be sure to win; that victory should be achieved as promptly and humanely as possible, while observing the various formal conventions. To those who refuse to observe the conventions, it offers no quarter. Those who, for instance, fire rockets at civilian targets while themselves masquerading as non-combatants are entitled to no consideration, as prisoners of war or otherwise. Those who use civilian "shields" are responsible for their fate.
Sunday, January 4
Farming and Agriculture: Food prices are on the rise and people are still hungry. High demand, low supply.
Raw Building Materials: Despite world economic declines, developing economies are still building at mind-boggling rates and copper, iron, basically all the raw materials, are going up.
The Tech Sector: Never underestimate the tech sector in a world that is the tech sector.
As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to rage on, theres a few things to keep in mind as noted in a recent LA Times article:
Hamas is attempting to portray the Israeli invasion as a war against the Palestinian people. Television viewers are being presented with heartbreaking images of dead and injured children and supposedly indiscriminate devastation. Palestinian doctors claim that Israel has blocked the supply of vital medicines, and humanitarian organizations warn of imminent starvation. In fact, many of those claims are exaggerated.
Though civilians have, tragically, been hurt, about three-quarters of the 400 Palestinians killed so far have been gunmen -- an impressive achievement given that Hamas fires rockets from apartments, mosques and schools and uses hospitals as hide-outs.
Israel has recently allowed nearly 200 truckloads of food and medicine to enter Gaza, even under shellfire. It is in Israel's urgent interest to minimize civilian suffering and forestall international criticism. For that same reason, Hamas welcomes the suffering of Palestinian civilians. According to a BBC report on Dec. 30, dozens of ambulances were dispatched by Egypt to its border with Gaza, only to remain empty because, according to Egyptian authorities, Hamas wasn't allowing wounded Palestinians to leave.
The reality of Israel's actions and what's being portrayed doesn't always match up. I say look for the true reality with Israel--the Israelity.
Friday, January 2
The peace is tentative but the American part in the war is over. Power and control are being handed over and it's in the hands of the Iraqis. Now they live in a country where they're able to vote and not fear being thrown out if a plane for "crimes." Someone did something right it seems.
For anyone returning to Baghdad after spending time here during its darkest days two years ago, when it was paralyzed by sectarian hatred and overrun by gunmen sowing despair, the conclusion seemed inescapable.
"The war has ended," said Heidar al-Abboudi, a street merchant.The war in Iraq is indeed over, at least the conflict as it was understood during its first five years: insurgency, communal cleansing, gangland turf battles and an anarchic, often futile quest to survive.