Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is It a Lock?

President Obama announced yesterday that he would nominate US appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter. With the composition of the Senate favoring the Democrats, Republicans and conservatives seem to be resigned to having Sotomayor breeze through the confirmation process with only marginal resistance.

Yet, I'm not so sure it's as much of a fait accompli as the Right wants to make it. In fact, it's entirely possible that Sotomayor may see pressure from the Right...and the Left. Whether it will be enough to derail the Sotomayor nomination has yet to be seen, but the possibility is still out there.

One of the Left's cornerstone political issues is abortion. They use it to raise money, scare up votes, and determine who to support for office and judicial appointments. Yet, if the reports I've read are accurate, one issue that Sotomayor hasn't addressed yet or frequently enough to note is...abortion. If she doesn't come down in favor of abortion, Leftists will be presented with an ideological Gordian knot: support a Hispanic woman for the High Court, or sell out on abortion.

If Senate Republicans are smart (which I grant you is a stretch), it's this unknown quantity that they'll discuss during Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. If it's done correctly, the Republicans can stir up the Left's abortion wing and get them to put pressure on her from the Left. This may be enough to get Democrat Senators to think twice about confirming Sotomayor, even if they would normally confirm her based on her existing record.

There is a risk involved with this tack, however. If Sotomayor can come up with a plausible legal opinion on abortion that the Left accepts and/or understands, it may backfire. Having said that, it's a gambit that the Senate Republicans should not take off the table just yet because it can have a bigger payoff than they think.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Sound of Silence

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi came out recently and said that she would answer no more questions about her charge that the CIA lied to her and to Congress about the use of waterboarding, the controversial technique that some believe is torture. Regardless of whether you agree with the notion that waterboarding is torture, this is incredibly arrogant of Pelosi, especially given the number of times she's already spoken on the subject previous to her "no more statements" statement.

Beyond the "waterboarding is torture" debate, the issue at hand is whether the CIA lied to Pelosi and the members of Congress. If Pelosi is telling the truth, the CIA not only has some explaining to do, but it also has members of the organization that are guilty of a serious crime. Given the nature of their work, I don't discount the possibility that they may have lied to Congress. Even if the alleged lies were for the purpose of national security, lying to Congress is a no-no.

Having said that, Pelosi may not be the best person to bring those charges against the CIA, given that she's lied. When your story changes from "I wasn't briefed" to "I was briefed, but I wasn't there" to "I was there, but I was lied to" within the span of a couple of weeks, you have an issue with the truth. Watching Pelosi stumble through the delivery of her statement that the CIA lied told a different story: she wasn't being honest. Her body language reflected the idea that she wasn't comfortable saying the words she needed to say at that point in time to try to get her out of trouble.

When someone is telling the truth, their body language and delivery are far different. The delivery is much more smooth and had an undercurrent of personal strength to it that lends credibility to the claim. Then, there's the physical presentation to consider. When someone tells the truth, even under stressful conditions, their body takes on a rigidity that comes from steeling one's resolve to get the truth out there for public consumption. Pelosi had neither of these going for her.

So, we're left with a central question: did the CIA and Pelosi lie? At this point, I'm confident that Pelosi did. I'm less confident that the CIA did, but I haven't eliminated the possibility. And now that Pelosi has tried to close the door on further questions into her statements that the CIA lied to Congress, we're left with the central question hanging in the silence.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just Because You Have a Title...

As some of you know, I am a member of Toastmasters International, an organization that promotes the development of public speaking and leadership skills through its member clubs. Through Toastmasters, I have learned what it takes to be a good leader.

And, unfortunately, Barack Obama has shown himself not to be a good leader.

Recently, Obama gave a speech the same day that former Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech on international terrorism and our efforts to combat it. (Whether this was by design or by accident is unimportant.) Two different men and two different speeches showed a difference in leadership.

We'll start with Cheney because, well, it's my blog. I heard bits of his speech and what struck me was how direct and plain-speaking he was. Much like the man he served as Vice-President, Cheney doesn't rely on lofty rhetoric to make a point. He says what he wants to say and sticks to the facts. Some think Cheney's approach is blunt, and it is, but sometimes you just need to be blunt.

Now, let's switch to Obama. I heard bits of his speech and he was a mirror image to Cheney. His rhetoric may have been loftier, but the risk with doing that is that you may not say anything with any rhetorical heft. And in Obama's case, he didn't say very much in spite of saying a lot of words. There are times when you need to inspire people, and times when you need to lay it on the line. When it comes to international terrorism, the latter is almost always necessary.

Much like a jeweler's cloth, Cheney's speech exposed the flaws in Obama's approach to fighting international terrorism. Soaring rhetoric won't stop a terrorist who is intent on killing Americans; all it does is take our minds off the terrorist, giving him an opening to complete his task. President Obama would be best served to learn that just because you have a title of a leader, it doesn't make you a leader by default. You actually have to show your leadership sometimes.

The clock is running, Mr. President. Time to be a leader.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Better Late Than Never?

After much speculation and public discussion, President Barack Obama has decided not to release pictures of alleged torture done at Abu Ghraib. On the surface, this is a good move because their release would serve no legitimate or positive results, as Obama himself said.

But is it too late?

Although the Abu Ghraib situation has been debated for years, the possibility that the photos from it would be released is relatively recent. At first, the Obama Administration came out and said that they would release the photos. This, in turn, created a firestorm of criticism from the right, and cheers of excitement from the left. While the two ideologies battled over the issue, the Obama Administration made a huge mistake by not taking control of the situation more forcefully. A simple statement, not unlike the Executive Order issued that would review next year whether to close Gitmo, would have gone a long way towards keeping some semblence of peace and would have given Obama time to think through the situation.

Instead, he declared a side early, only to have to reverse field later upon further review. I don't mind the flip-flop so much as I mind the length of time it took Obama to come to the right decision. That gave people on both sides the opening they needed to take control of the issue and take the decision out of Obama's hands. No matter what he did, it was irrelevant.

And that's the last thing Obama needed with this controversial subject.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Quick Hits

Things are bound to get slower eventually, but until then, here are some more quick hits!

- I happened to catch President Obama's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night. Boy, what a performance. I was thoroughly underwhelmed at Obama's delivery of such unfunny jokes. But the audience howled with laughter nonetheless. Anyone else need further proof that the press are in Obama's back pocket?

- After reading the results of the government's "stress tests" on banks, I have a question. Are there any competent people in the government to audit the banks? In their attempt to restore confidence in the banking system, I get the feeling they set the bar too high initially, only to have to scale it back after some banks complained. Wouldn't it have been better to set the bar lower, but have it be more realistic? The way it looks now, the adjustment made after the banks complained makes it appear that the banks were sure to fail, so they strongarmed the government into lowering the standards. And believe me, the Obama Administration is all too willing to let a financial institution take the blame for the government's bad job. Just ask AIG.

- A piece of advice for you, Nancy Pelosi. Drop the lying. We know you were briefed on waterboarding, and the more you try to spin your way out of it, the more foolish you look. Just admit you knew about it and agreed with the policy and be done with it. No one, except for your own party, will take issue with it. And since they're already mad at you for not impeaching George W. Bush...

- ACORN is back in the news, kinda. Seems there are employees in 14 states that have either been indicted or convicted of criminal activity, including...voter fraud. As much as ACORN tries to dismiss these charges as the actions of "rogue employees," the fact is someone had to hire them, and given some of the backgrounds of the people being hired, there should have been some red flags raised. Unless, of course, these "rogue employees" were hired specifically for the skill sets their past crimes provided them.

- Going back to ACORN for a moment, there is a group called the ACORN 8 who have been trying to fight the corruption within the organization. They're facing a lot of pressure from the national board to stay quiet, but they're refusing because they see what the organization has become and want to stop it from being lost forever. Usually the Left is all over stories of whistleblowers facing pressure from superiors to stay quiet. Wonder why it was someone like Glenn Beck who had to uncover this group of whistleblowers and not the mainstream press...

- Someone mentioned this in a chatroom recently, and it bears repeating. Have you noticed that the media aren't doing the daily death tolls from Iraq and Afghanistan anymore? Now that it's Obama's war, I guess the troop deaths don't matter as much to the people who followed every death (or seemed to) when it was Bush's war.

- I saw the new "Star Trek" movie yesterday. Well worth the price of admission and then some.

- Gas prices are starting to creep up again. Now that Bush isn't in office anymore, who will the Left blame? Will they claim Obama's trying to make more money for his Big Oil buddies?

And finally...

- As much as the Left loves to mock the Tea Parties, the fact they're still doing it while simultaneously trying to convince others (or themselves) that the Tea Parties were ineffective tells a vastly different story. There's a real fear on the Left that the Tea Parties aren't just disgruntled Republicans and conservatives, but Americans of all stripes that will stand against them. Let me confirm it for you. Your fear is real, and it's based in the fact that you've scammed the American people for 2 straight election cycles by promising change and delivering nothing. Feel free to start delivering if you want to make it through the 2010 election cycle with your control of Congress intact.