Thursday, April 16, 2009

 

Fit To A Tea

Rather than just reading the tea leaves, sabermetric poll analyst Nate Silver went, as best he could, for hard counts on the successes of the various "Taxpayer Tea Parties" held around the country yesterday.

Silver estimates a bit over 250,000 people. However, Silver estimates 2,000 at the New York TP, while the Post figures it to be closer to 5,000 -- which might make the actual figure closer to 270,000 (assuming that there are similar under-counts in the rest of the country. In any event, the old boss, Newt was the star attraction at City Hall Park. The parties aren't bad ideas, in terms of trying to get people to focus on out-of-control government spending (in that regard, they are reminiscent of the old Ross Perot/Reform Party/deficit hawks.

However, by focusing on "tea parties," these events remind the public of the Boston Tea Party -- which was a protest over taxes (as opposed to spending). In the minds of many, these are always linked (and, indeed, should be if the nation doesn't want to go bankrupt). But while Obama manages to continue saying that 95 percent of the public will see (or already has seen) a tax cut (even though the actual percentage of wage-earners that pay income taxes at all is barely 50 percent), it's questionable whether the tea parties can spark a real nationwide grassroots revolution.

UPDATE: Of course, dumb statements from people like Rick Perry hardly add much seriousness to these debates. Texas -- seceding? Oh, please make my day!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

 

Barack's Booty-Licious Day

Sept. 19 is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. After this weekend, April 12 might become International Keelhaul A Pirate Day. Or maybe, Int'l Kick Booty Day.

Regardless, with a rescue of captured Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama -- and killing the Somali pirates holding him hostage -- the US Navy created a feel-good Easter story.

Even more significantly in a political sense, President Barack Obama suddenly makes himself look rather different on the national security front than either of his two Democratic predecessors.

When Americans hear the words "hostage," memories inevitably arise of the 444-day ordeal 30 years ago when embassy staff was held captive by Iranian revolutionaries. That stand-off helped destroy President Jimmy Carter's popularity. Adding to the feelings of impotence, were Carter's rescue orders that ended in eight U.S. helicopters crashing in the Iranian desert. Between the national security debacle and the deteriorating economy, Carter looked ineffective all around.

The final humiliation was when the hostages weren't released until Ronald Reagan took the oath of office Jan. 20, 1981.

Even closer to the Somali shoreline where Phillips was taken by pirates, 18 U.S. marines lost their lives in a Mogadishu battle with Somali rebels in October of 1993 -- most after two Black Hawk helicopters were downed by rocket-propelled grenades. The incident was chronicled in the book and movie Black Hawk Down. Following the battle, President Clinton ordered U.S. forces out of Somalia -- a response that Osama bin Laden has referenced as an example that America will back down when confronted.

Though the stakes were much different in this latest hostage situation, President Obama has shown that he's willing to act quite decisively. By giving the go-ahead to the Navy, Obama shows that he is willing to use force -- successfully -- in order to free an American. No U.S. individual was harmed, and the pirates were given a strong message: America under President Obama will not wait forever to negotiate with pirates. It also sends a clear message on how the civilized world needs to react to the expanding pirate presence off the coast of Somalia.

But for Obama, the timing couldn't have been better -- mere days after he returned from a foreign trip offering words of conciliation to the world. There, he apologized for America acting "arrogant." Well, now back in the White House, the president seemed to borrow advice from Teddy Roosevelt: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Or at least an accurate sniper's rifle.

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Return From Boulder

After a fascinating week in Boulder, Colorado, attending the Conference on World Affairs, I'm back in New York City. As much as the Rocky Mountains are beautiful, it's always great to be home.

For those interested in my adventures, I'll have a quick wrap-up in a little while. In the meantime, my panel on "Rebranding Republicanism: Did They Misunderestimate Us" aired on C-SPAN. You can check it out online right here.

Thanks to my favorite -- and longest -- online stalker, Rob (AKA, Rodak) for nudging me to get back to posting!

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