Sunday, February 18, 2007


Washington Times
Ralph Hallow

Press accounts seldom name former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the top tier of aspirants for the Republican presidential nomination, despite polls consistently showing he belongs there.

"Newt's invisible to much of the nation's media," said Republican communications strategist Tom Edmonds. "The liberal press doesn't want to acknowledge that he casts a big shadow over the 2008 race.

News stories and opinion columns routinely refer to Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the "top tier" or "first tier" Republican presidential candidates for 2008.

Yet in every recent poll national poll -- as well as in Iowa, a key early caucus state -- Mr. Gingrich leads Mr. Romney among Republican likely voters. And it's not just because of high name recognition alone, conservatives say.

"Everybody here loves Gingrich," said Iowa Republican Party Executive Director Chuck Laudner. "He is a hero."

More than a dozen years after he zoomed to national prominence as the brash leader of the 1994 "Republican revolution," Mr. Gingrich has attained status as an elder statesman among top conservative leaders.

"I don't know how Gingrich would perform if he were elected to the highest office in the land but these days he is responsible in that each time I read one of his policy initiatives I want to stand up and cheer," said Paul M. Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation.

Among the top Republican contenders, Mr. Gingrich is the only one who has neither formed an exploratory committee nor officially declared his candidacy -- and thus is the only one who is not raising money for a campaign.

Mr. Gingrich has said he will wait until September to make a decision on running. Still, in poll after poll, he joins Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain in scoring in double digits.

Late starters, however, may be out of luck this time, with both parties' nominees expected to be known by early February of next year. Federal Election Commissioner Michael Toner has estimated a viable presidential candidate must raise $100 million by the end of this year.

"Does Newt belong in the first tier? Not unless he gets in soon," said Patrick J. Buchanan, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996 before running on the Reform Party ticket in 2000.

"Folks are committing themselves in the early states," he said. "Endorsements are coming. Organizational help is being pledged. Money is being raised. Mailing and e-mail lists and financial supporters are being lined up."

Mr. Buchanan, who challenged the first President Bush in the 1992 Republican primaries, said, "If you wait till fall, you may be able to come off the blocks fast in January, as we did in 1992, but you just don't have the legs to go the distance."

Even Mr. Gingrich's supporters acknowledge that he has liabilities. During his tenure as speaker, his Republican House colleagues twice mutinied against his leadership. Following unexpected losses in the 1998 midterm elections, he left Congress with low approval ratings.

Nevertheless, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway said, Mr. Gingrich remains an important voice for his party and the conservative movement because he "is the same big-ideas generator that led Republicans out of the wilderness in 1994."

His name recognition and conservative credentials largely account for Mr. Gingrich's current standing among Republican 2008 contenders, said pollster John Zogby.

"Gingrich is the most high-profile conservative in the race," Mr. Zogby said. "At the very least he is the conservative place holder. Should Gingrich run, he can get double-digit support and help frame the debate. He is a player."

Mr. Giuliani, however, leads the Republican field in many polls even though he is the most liberal candidate on social issues. He won 34 percent of Republican voters nationally in the latest Fox News poll, with Mr. McCain getting 22 percent, Mr. Gingrich at 15 percent and Mr. Romney at 3 percent. Those numbers roughly mirror results in the latest surveys by Rasmussen (Mr. Giuliani 27 percent, Mr. McCain 25 percent, Mr. Gingrich 13 percent, Mr. Romney 7 percent) and Time magazine (Mr. McCain 30 percent, Mr. Giuliani 26 percent, Mr. Gingrich 14 percent, Mr. Romney 5 percent).

In Iowa, the three latest polls show Mr. Giuliani leading Mr. McCain, with Mr. Gingrich placing third and Mr. Romney fourth. Only in New Hampshire -- next door to Mr. Romney's home state -- does the former Massachusetts governor place ahead of Mr. Gingrich in recent polls.


by Clint Johnson

Courtesy, especially to women, is a Southern virtue. But you know that every real Southern gentleman and good ole boy must shake his head when he sees Hillary. And he sure must pity poor, old Bubba Bill, who made one heckuva big mistake when he went up North and got stuck on the girl with the brains and the glasses.

Hillary is the sort of bossy boots Yankee that has riled up Southerners ever since there's been a North and a South. In previous eras she would have been a Puritan, then an abolitionist, then a suffragette and a feminist.

Now, I'm not saying all those things are necessarily or wholly bad, but Hillary's never met a law or a federal regulation she didn't like, or an aspect of American life she wouldn't like to meddle with. She thinks it's her and the government's business to tell us all how to live our lives. She thinks it takes a village -- or the government -- to raise our kids, while most of us think we do pretty well on our own. And we think it's pretty rich that Hillary can presume to tell us all what to do -- and criticize President Bush for not getting our intelligence right on Iraq -- when she couldn't even manage her husband, and didn't have wits enough, or so she claims, to know about her husband's affairs.

Bubba Bill knew better than to marry a Southern belle; our girls are smarter than that.

For more politically incorrect news and views, check out the latest installment in the bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide™ series "The Politically Incorrect Guide™to the South (and Why It Will Rise Again)" by author Clint Johnson.


Democrats have struggled for a generation to escape the crippling public perception that they are soft on national security. Majority Democrats in the House of Representatives have now revived their party's electoral curse.

The House vote Friday for a Democratic leadership resolution opposing President Bush's plan to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq was lopsidedly partisan. Nearly all Democrats voted for it. All but a relative handful of Republicans voted against it.

MAYA ALLERUZZO / Associated Press
An American soldier stands guard during a search operation last week in Baghdad.
Yes, it is a nonbinding resolution, meaning it has no force in law. Bush is free to ignore it, as he already has said he will. And, yes, it contained political cover language expressing support for American troops in Iraq. Thus, as virtually all Democrats proclaimed during the House's four days of debate on the resolution, Democrats can claim that they “support the troops.”

But House Democrats are now on record as formally opposing the troops' mission – a potentially decisive effort to stop the violence in Baghdad and defeat the Sunni insurgency in Anbar province.

It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of the entire American campaign in Iraq rides on this mission, and on the parallel effort to prompt political reconciliation among Iraqi factions. Unless U.S. and Iraqi forces can at least greatly diminish the terrorist carnage convulsing Iraq's capital city, the paramount U.S. objective of creating a stable, democratic Iraq won't be achieved. The complementary struggle in Anbar province is equally decisive. Defeating the Sunni insurgents and their allies, the terrorists of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is vital to the hopes of stabilizing Iraq sufficiently to permit American forces to begin withdrawing.

The Democrats' passage of a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop reinforcements that Bush and his Iraq commander, Army Gen. David Petraeus, say are essential to American success is damaging enough. If Democrats now use their power over appropriations to defeat the troop surge before it can be fully implemented, the political risk to Democrats will be greatly compounded.

Starkly put, Democrats risk making “Bush's war” their war, and then losing it.

If you think Democrats wouldn't be that foolish or reckless, think again.

Rep. John Murtha, the blustery Pennsylvania pol and anti-war ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is already pledging to use his power as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's appropriations subcommittee on defense to stop the surge by restricting the deployment and funding of U.S. forces.

Here's what Murtha said in an interview Thursday with the Web site, which represents a coalition of anti-war groups:

“They (the troops) won't be able to continue. They won't be able to do the deployment. They won't have the equipment, they don't have the training and they won't be able to do the work. There's no question in my mind ... we're going to stop this surge.”

Does Pelosi, smarter and smoother than Murtha, agree?

“I fully support that,” Pelosi said of Murtha's remarks.

What's building, then, is not only a political crisis for the Democratic Party but a constitutional clash over the president's, any president's, express powers as commander in chief of America's armed forces.

The Constitution wisely vests the power to command the armed forces in the president, not Congress. That's especially true in time of war. If Bush decides that sending another 21,500 troops to Iraq is necessary, that's his call under the Constitution. Congress' constitutional authority lies in deciding how much to appropriate for the military. Deputizing 435 House members and 100 senators as armchair generals to micromanage the movement of troops and the military conduct of a war isn't in the Constitution for a reason. It couldn't possibly work and would be folly to attempt.

But that, apparently, is what Pelosi, Murtha and the House Democratic leadership intend. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, scrambling Friday to push a comparable resolution in the Senate, seems to be similarly misguided.

Have the Democrats learned nothing from history?

In 1973, a heavily Democratic Congress voted to prohibit U.S. air support for Cambodia's pro-American army, then desperately fending off the communist Khmer Rouge insurgents. In early 1975, Congress cut off all U.S. military aid for Cambodia.

Predictably, Cambodian government forces were soon defeated by the Khmer Rouge, then backed by Communist China and North Vietnam.

What followed was one of the great horrors of the 20th century – the genocidal slaughter by the Khmer Rouge of 2 million Cambodians, roughly 40 percent of Cambodia's population.

In 1974-75, an even more heavily Democratic Congress drastically cut U.S. military and economic assistance to our ally South Vietnam, even as the Soviet Union was illegally flooding North Vietnam with heavy weapons. The subsequent North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam overran our ally, took Saigon, and promptly imposed a Stalinist dictatorship that resulted in the deaths and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese.

The bipartisan Iraq Study Group, constantly, but selectively, invoked by Democrats last week as a blueprint for a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, also lent support to a “temporary surge” in U.S. forces if deemed necessary. In addition, the ISG report warned ominously of the dire consequences – Iraq as a failed, terrorist state, a destabilized Middle East, and spreading regional conflict – of a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq that many Democrats favor.

If Pelosi, Murtha and Reid succeed in crippling the U.S. military effort in Iraq, and thereby contribute to defeat and disaster, Democrats would spend another generation rightly deemed weak and feckless on national security.

Caldwell is editor of the Insight section and can be reached via e-mail at


The week's news from Iraq: According to the state television network, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was wounded in a clash with security forces just north of Baghdad. A senior deputy was killed.

Meanwhile, the punk cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided that discretion is the better part of mullahs and has temporarily relocated to Iran. That's right: The biggest troublemaker in Iraq is no longer in Iraq. It may be that his Persian vacation is only to marry a cousin or two and consult with the A-list ayatollahs, but the Mookster has always had highly sensitive antennae when it comes to his own physical security -- he likes being the guy who urges martyrdom on others rather than being just another schmuck who takes one for the team. So the fact that urgent business requires him to be out of town for the Big Surge is revealing at the very least of how American objectives in Iraq are not at the mercy of forces beyond their control; U.S. military and political muscle can shape conditions on the ground -- if they can demonstrate they're serious about doing so.

Which these days is a pretty big "if." Reporting the sudden relocation, the New York Times decided -- in nothing flat -- that it was yet another disastrous setback. In Iraq, no news is good news, and Sadr news is badder news:

''With the new American offensive in Baghdad still in its early days, American commanders have focused operations in the eastern part of the city, a predominantly Shiite area that has long been the Mahdi Army's power base.

''If Mr. Sadr had indeed fled, his absence would create a vacuum that could allow even more radical elements of the Shiite group to take power.''

As my National Review colleague Rich Lowry marveled: ''So now we need to keep Sadr in Iraq because he's such a stabilizing influence!'' Of course! As Hillaire Belloc wrote, ''Always keep a hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse'' -- and, even when Nurse Sadr is blowing up the kids in the nursery every day, it's best to cling to her blood-drenched apron strings because the next nurse will be an even bigger psycho. America is a big helpless baby who's blundered into a war zone he can never hope to understand.

According to a report by the New York Sun's Eli Lake last month, Iran is supporting Shia insurgents in Iraq and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. In other words, it's on both sides in the so-called civil war. How can this be? After all, as the other wise old foreign-policy "realists" of the Iraq Study Group assured us only in December, Iran has "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq.''

Au contraire, the ayatollahs have concluded they have a very clear interest in fomenting chaos in Iraq. They're in favor of Sunni killing Shia, and Shia killing Sunni, and if some vacationing Basque terrorists wanted to blow up the Spanish Cultural Center in Mosul, they'd be in favor of that, too. The Iranians don't care who kills whom as long as every night when Americans turn on the evening news there's smoke over Baghdad. As I say in my book, if you happen to live in Ramadi or Basra, Iraq is about Iraq; if you live in Tehran, or Cairo, or Bei-jing, Moscow, Pyongyang or Brussels, Iraq is about America. American will. American purpose. American credibility.

There was a TV station somewhere -- was it Thunder Bay, Ontario? -- that used to show a continuous loop of a roaring fireplace all night, and thousands of viewers would supposedly sit in front of it for hours because it was such a reassuringly comforting scene. The networks could save themselves a lot of money by adopting the same approach: Run a continuous loop of a smoking building in Baghdad all night while thousands of congressmen and pundits and think-tankers and retired generals run around Washington shrieking that all is lost. America is way out of its league! A dimwitted tourist in a fearful land of strange people who don't watch "American Idol." Iraq is so culturally alien that not a single Sunni, Shia or Kurd has come forward claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole's baby!

Get a grip, chaps! In Iraq, everyone's a tourist. This al-Qaida honcho, al-Masri, is an Egyptian. His predecessor, Zarqawi, was a Jordanian. Al-Sadr is a Persian stooge. For four decades, the country was a British client. Before that, it was a Turkish province. The Middle East is a crazy place and a tough nut to crack, but the myth of the unbeatable Islamist insurgent is merely a lazy and more neurotic update of the myth of the unbeatable communist guerrilla, which delusion led to so much pre-emptive surrender in the '70s. Nevertheless, in the capital city of the most powerful nation on the planet, the political class spent last week trying to craft a bipartisan defeat strategy, and they might yet pull it off. Consider this extraordinary report from the Washington Post:

"Democratic leaders have rallied around a strategy that would fully fund the president's $100 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but would limit his ability to use the money. . . . The plan is aimed at tamping down calls from the Democrats' liberal wing for Congress to simply end funding for the war.

"The Murtha plan, based on existing military guidelines, includes a stipulation that Army troops who have already served in Iraq must be granted two years at home before an additional deployment. . . . The idea is to slowly choke off the war by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat."

So "the Murtha plan" is to deny the president the possibility of victory while making sure Democrats don't have to share the blame for the defeat. But of course he's a great American! He's a patriot! He supports the troops! He doesn't support them in the mission, but he'd like them to continue failing at it for a couple more years. As John Kerry wondered during Vietnam, how do you ask a soldier to be the last man to die for a mistake? By nominally "fully funding" a war you don't believe in but "limiting his ability to use the money." Or as the endearingly honest anti-war group put it, in an e-mail preview of an exclusive interview with the wise old Murtha:

"Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president's foreign and national security policy."

"Undermining"? Why not? To the Slow-Bleed Democrats, it's the Republicans' war. To an increasing number of what my radio pal Hugh Hewitt calls the White-Flag Republicans, it's Bush's war. To everyone else on the planet, it's America's war. And it will be America's defeat.