10 June 2007

Can Democrats Follow through on Ethics Reforms?

Ethics reform, a main theme of the Democrats during the mid term elections, are easier said than done. The Washington Post reports issues from Rep Jefferson's indictment to resistance to creating an independent ethics panel have slowed the march toward reform. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leaders reaffirm their commitment to the promised reforms but decline to set a time line for enactment.

06 June 2007

Immigration Compromise Still Alive

Bipartisan support in the Senate held today for the compromise immigration bill. Liberal and conservative opposition forces introduced amendments in an attempt to break apart the fragile bipartisan coalition supporting the bill. Senator Clinton introduced an amendment that would make it quicker for spouses and children of green card holders to get Visas. The Congressional Budget Office announced that the cost of the bill would be more than offset by increased social security taxes collected from new legal workers however it would only cut down the illegal workforce by 25% ensuring continued debate as it moves forward.

05 June 2007

Republican Debate: Dilemma for the Underdogs

Tonight's debate in New Hampshire begins at 7pm ET and is sponsored by CNN. Ten candidates will share the stage and it will be interesting to see if, like the Democrats, the Republican front runners dominate the evening. The dilemma for the second and third tier candidates is balancing the need to stand out while not seeming desperate. They should review Joe Biden's performance if they want to see how to successfully accomplish that. Third tier candidates will undoubtedly receive less time to get their point across and need to be careful not to provide the colorful soundbite that becomes a target for the rest of the candidates and the media. Front runners like Rudy Giuliani will be looking for another Ron Paul moment to get them into the news cycle and on the front page.

03 June 2007

NATO's Missile Shield

Russian continues to raise strong objections to the deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system that will protect the US and Europe from rogue missile attacks. Secretary of State Rice called Russian objections "ludicrous" and while that may not have been the most diplomatic statement it was certainly accurate. The Russians know full well that the system is designed to protect against a limited number of missiles and would quickly be overcome by the numbers and countermeasures that they could employ. The protection the system provides is against a non-state actor or a rogue state that gets its hands on a few ballistic missiles and tries to use them or hold the western world hostage until some demand is met. This system is a defense against the asymmetric terror threat that New York, Washington, London and Madrid know all to well is real. The Russian sabre rattling is a slight of hand to distract attention away from their slow but steady slide back to authoritarian control. Tony Blair has been a strong supporter of the system, it will be interesting to see if this support waivers when Gordon Brown replaces him.

Iraq: Vital to US National Security

The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that both Democrats and Republicans see Iraq as the most important issue in the 2008 elections. Most people recognize that US national security is tied to an autonomous stable Iraq, however, the best way to achieve this has and will be hotly debated. The current situation in Iraq is bad, no two ways about it. The Bush administration is leaning heavily on military commanders to establish a level of stability that will allow the majority of ground forces to leave and let Iraq start their democratic journey. General Petraeus's May letter to Iraqi's sends a genuine message hope but compels Iraqis to take ownership of their struggle for freedom. We need more of these leadership appeals from across the political spectrum, rather than legislation of arbitrary time lines, to convey a sense of urgency to Iraq without giving those trying to destabilize the country a light at the end of the tunnel to surge toward. The effect of such a strategy will result in increasing support from the Iraqi populace, a tightening noose around elements and their surrogates (Iran, Syria) that want Iraq as a country to fail and fewer coalition and Iraqi casualties. This is the quickest path to get our troops home and preserve our vital national security interest in Iraq.

02 June 2007

Ron Paul Straight Talk?

Presidential candidate Ron Paul, Rep from Texas, publishes a weekly column named Straight Talk. In his 21 May column on the War in Iraq, Paul refuses to take a position for or against the current action in Iraq. Instead he sidesteps the issue and calls for legislation that would end the original authorization to go to war in Iraq thereby forcing Congress to pass a new authorization or update the original. Does Paul seriously think this will be a catalyst for change?
One for the Home Team

As the details of the thwarted terror attack being planned at JFK are coming to light, we can be thankful for the increased vigilance and the institutional changes that have been made since 9-11 that allow us to stop attacks in the planning stages. Terrorists, like Russell Defreitas, whether home grown or international, are going to continue to target the US and the rest of the Western world. We can't relax, we can't forget, the world has changed and we need to accept that fact. Government and society continually balance freedoms with security and this will undoubtedly be an important topic as we decide in 2008 who will run the country. The more security concerns outweigh personal freedom concerns the better for the Republicans. This should give Patriot Act supporters the justification they need to defend this critical piece of legislation.