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Thursday, November 03, 2005

 

Where have I been?

It has been a long time since my last post and a lot has happened for me to comment on. So let's get right to it:

New Orleans - I was all set to go for a conference in New Orleans on the Wednesday following Katrina, but it was fairly evident early on Sunday that my trip was not going to happen. The hurricane expert on The Weather Channel called the events that would follow with eerie accuracy, including the delayed reaction flooding. Does the Crescent City have a future? I would say yes, but mainly as a tourist destination. I think it will see its importance as a port city inevitably decline.

Harriet Miers - the nomination failed not so much because the religious right ganged up on her but because she was a lightweight in the first place, as Bob Bork suggested in the WSJ. Whatever her chops as an attorney, she made no sense as the nominee. As for the current nominee, dubbed "Scalito," he seems to be sufficiently able and his originalist Constitutional prediliction is well known. However, I expect a tough, nasty confirmation process (what else is new?). I think he will ultimately get his seat but maybe not until the end of this year's term. My advice would have been to nominate Sen. Hatch, who also has Conservative credentials but whose nomination would have been confirmed on arrival. Another possibility, for those who believe a woman should have gotten the nod, was Sen. Hutchinson of Texas.

The Social Security Plan - I still owe my readers one more installment on this topic, but there doesn't seem to be any hurry, since SS reform is going nowhere. This country has developed an amazing capacity for procrastination when it comes to important and fundamental reforms that are necessary. Just watch what happens (or doesn't happen) on tax reform. Special interest politics is a major problem for our system right now.

The Bush Slump - A lot is being made of the President's sagging approval ratings, but I can't imagine anything more irrelevant, considering he has run his last election. His only concern now should be to do his job. Unfortunately, in that regard there are real problems. He has failed to veto a single bill in almost five years in office, and the result has been Congressional spending run amok.

To the President's credit, he is a true believer and so has gone after big items - SS and tax reform. Unfortunately, without a mandate, you can't make those kinds of sea changes. Bush won two elections by a hair and has never had a mandate, despite the fact that his party controls (nominally, anyway) Congress. So, to govern effectively, he would have to compromise. That spells drift, and sometimes you are better off not compromising and holding the line. But Bush has not really held the line, especially on spending.

On foreign policy, Bush has been more steadfast, and history will be much kinder to him on that score. His understanding of the axis of evil and radical Islam is proving to be accurate, and gradually, the world is coming around to the grim reality of what it means to eradicate terrorism, despite democrats' foolish attempts to politicize such things. Long wars are never popular, and the fate of second term presidents is often to suffer from the standpoint of popularity. So, no surprises here.

On the plus side, the Bernanke nomination is a winner and the economy has held up pretty well in the face of hurricanes, war, et al. It hasn't been an easy year for investors, but the first two years of the presidential cycle are usually trench warfare at the stock market.

The Plame Wilson affair - If ever there was a non-scandal, this is it, and what a shame it is that Libby has to go through this. Read this week's WSJ column by George Melloane for the right perspective. How can you not find cause to indict for the crime you are investigating (outing Plame) but indict for obstruction of justice? To obstruct justice, there should first be an injustice! As for perjury, even the reporters who took notes couldn't remember what was said by whom. All we have here is the attempted criminalization of politics. In the end, there will be no convictions, just a lot of money wasted. If anything good comes out of this, maybe finally the independent prosecutor law will be repealed. If there is any justice, the real villains of the affair, Wilson and Bob Novak will be the ones who suffer. The other question to come out of this, is when will someone do something about bringing some management and adult supervision to the New York Times? What a mess!

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