President Obama spoke to the American people, summarizing reports, which he’d ordered, focusing on how a terrorist boarded a plane on Christmas day and tried to blow it up, even though our government had been warned about him.
The attempt to bring down an airliner approaching Detroit reminds us that 2009 saw a remarkable number of terror incidents in the United States. Most of them ended up as foiled plots. One, Fort Hood, was catastrophic. Had the bomb gone off on the airliner yesterday, as planned, it would have been the worst successful terror attack directed against Americans since 9-11.
December 16th is the 65th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Offensive. On December 16th, 1944, Nazi Germany, only months away from defeat, launched a surprise attack on Allied troops on the western front, hoping to drive a wedge in our line and ultimately wreck the Allied advance into Germany. The German attack, after bitter fighting, failed.
We are about two weeks away from the start of 2010, which is shaping up, politically, as the most momentous non-presidential-election year in memory. Never have the stakes been so high. Americans will have a clear choice between a runaway Democratic Party, increasingly contemptuous of public opinion, and a resurgent Republican Party, hardly imaginative in its prescriptions, but responsible enough to try to halt a ten-wheeler that is driving off a cliff.
If you were the enemy in Afghanistan, what would you be thinking this morning? Certainly, you’d be concerned about the 30,000 new American troops heading into your neighborhood, for they are capable, and led by enlightened commanders like Petraeus and McChrystal.
One of the things that struck me in the last week was that the president’s poll numbers were holding pretty firm, despite a string of blunders and setbacks - his weird behavior after Fort Hood, the passage of an unpopular health “reform” bill, and, too late for most polls, his disgracefully deep bow before the emperor of Japan and the announcement that the mastermind of 9-11 will be tried in an ordinary courtroom in densely populated Manhattan.
What we forget about Ronald Reagan is that he was a practical politician. Ideological? Yes, but only to a degree. A party disciplinarian? Yes, but the main discipline he imposed was to dictate that “thou shalt not speak ill of any other Republican” - something that came to be known as the 11th Commandment.
A friend wrote to me recently that he was being punished for his conservative beliefs, and that his business was being affected. Some people in his upscale community have apparently been tipped that he’s not “one of us,” and should be avoided, personally and commercially.
It was probably wrong to idealize baseball in its golden era, but that’s what kids do, and baseball was always for the kids. It’s a great game, sufficiently slow to let us savor each play, sufficiently fast to have the heart pound with excitement.
There’s a lot of chatter on the internet about Obama’s governing style, especially the manner in which he’s approaching decisions on Afghanistan. Michael Gerson reports in the Washington Post, for example, that some military men are impressed by the president’s deliberate approach to military decisions. Others fret that the debate is too public, allowing an enemy to try to influence the outcome by sudden, violent actions.
Why did so many people love Ronald Reagan? It certainly wasn’t because they all agreed with him. In fact, polls taken early in the Reagan administration showed that the president’s policies were decidedly controversial. Even within the Republican Party there were doubters, especially on economic policy. His own vice president, George H.W. Bush, was one of the doubters.
We enter the last two weeks of August, usually the laziest two weeks of the year. It is the time, by tradition, that the nation’s psychiatrists go on vacation, meaning some of the people we cover may seem especially jittery and paranoid during the next two weeks, unless they’ve arranged their prescriptions in advance. In Hollywood, many stars won’t know what to think, or whether to think, or will hire a personal thinker to think for them.
Can anyone actually describe the current foreign policy of the United States? What, for example, is our actual policy toward North Korea? Iran? Do we listen to Joe Biden, who appeared to give Israel a quasi green light to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities if it felt threatened, or to Barack Obama, who firmly said he would not approve such an attack. Do we listen to Hillary Clinton, who said we would absolutely not permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons? Or do we listen to the silence from the White House that followed her statement, when affirmation might have been in order?
On the day that I received my graduate degree from Columbia University, Robert McNamara, then secretary of defense for John F. Kennedy, was receiving an honorary doctorate. It was entirely routine in those days for elite universities to honor men associated with national defense. Most of the people in our universities actually believed in it. That is not necessarily the case today, although, in fairness, we should point out that Princeton recently had Gen. David Petraeus, who holds a Ph.D. from that university, as a graduation speaker.
Is the lure of research grants affecting the quality and integrity of scientific research in our time? Is the dream of being invited to join prestigious societies influencing scientific decisions, including the decision to do research in “acceptable” areas, where grants are available? As we consider the global-warming issue, we must be sensitive to public charges that researchers who do not go along with the “consensus” in the field are denied funding and are often ostracized, called cranks or tools of oil companies.
I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more play, but I suspect it will. Members of Congress, including some of President Obama’s closest allies, recently advised him to place a time limit on talks with Iran, to make clear that our patience is limited, and to be sure Iran doesn’t use the talks to stall any changes in its ongoing nuclear program.
There is something about the concept of a nation “losing” that conjures up pictures - a shredded flag lying on a desolate battlefield, a surrender ceremony aboard a gray battleship, two generals sitting at a small table at Appomattox. We think of losing as something that occurs violently, and at the end of a long, bloody struggle.