To our right, a man in a suit stood up, identified himself as being from NBC. A reporter, no doubt. The President looked at him and called his name. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt! FDR himself!
The reporter spoke:
“Sir, a report released today by the Department of War notes that last year, 1943, was a record year for deaths of Americans at the hands of both the Germans and the Japanese. If the “war on fascism” is a success as you say, why is it that more acts of fatal aggression are now being committed by the Germans and the Japanese than ever before, after more than two years of war? Why do you think we are winning? How do we measure success?”
The President began to respond. We tried to hold on to the vision, no longer fighting it now. We heard that strong, reassuring voice we only know through old radio and film recordings. We thought we heard something about “being on the offensive” and “engaging the enemy” and fighting “relentlessly until victory,” but it was too late.
Q Your top military officer, General Richard Myers, says the Iraqi insurgency is as strong now as it was a year ago. Why is that the case? And why haven't we been more successful in limiting the violence?
THE PRESIDENT: I think he went on to say we're winning, if I recall. But nevertheless, there are still some in Iraq who aren't happy with democracy. They want to go back to the old days of tyranny and darkness, torture chambers and mass graves. I believe we're making really good progress in Iraq, because the Iraqi people are beginning to see the benefits of a free society. They're beginning -- they saw a government formed today.
The Iraqi military is being trained by our military, and they're performing much better than the past. The more secure Iraq becomes, as a result of the hard work of Iraqi security forces, the more confident the people will have in the process, and the more isolated the terrorists will become.
But Iraq has -- have got people there that are willing to kill, and they're hard-nosed killers. And we will work with the Iraqis to secure their future. A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East is an important part of spreading peace. It's a region of the world where a lot of folks in the past never thought democracy could take hold. Democracy is taking hold. And as democracy takes hold, peace will more likely be the norm.
In order to defeat the terrorists, in order to defeat their ideology of hate, in the long run, we must spread freedom and hope. Today I talked to the Prime Minister of Iraq. I had a great conversation with him. I told him I was proud of the fact that he was willing to stand up and lead. I told him I appreciated his courage and the courage of those who are willing to serve the Iraqi people in government. I told him, I said, when America makes a commitment, we'll stand by you. I said, I hope you get your constitution written on time, and he agreed. He recognizes it's very important for the Transitional National Assembly to get the constitution written so it can be submitted to the people on time. He understands the need for a timely write of the constitution.
And I also encouraged him to continue to reaching out to disaffected groups in Iraq, and he agreed. I'm really happy to talk to him; I invited him to come to America, I hope he comes soon. There are a lot of courageous people in Iraq, Steve, that are making a big difference in the lives of that country.
I also want to caution you all that it's not easy to go from a tyranny to a democracy. We didn't pass sovereignty but about 10 months ago, and since that time a lot of progress has been made and we'll continue to make progress for the good of the region and for the good of our country.
The vision didn't fade last night. There was an answer to the question.
Questions from the reporters' gallery last night were loaded, but Bush handled them pretty well. Actually, he handled them very well, starting with the first one. Right out of the box he gets, "are you frustrated?"
Q Mr. President, a majority of Americans disapprove of your handling of Social Security, rising gas prices and the economy. Are you frustrated by that and by the fact that you're having trouble gaining traction on your agenda in a Republican-controlled Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, we're asking people to do things that haven't been done for 20 years. We haven't addressed the Social Security problem since 1983. We haven't had an energy strategy in our country for decades. And so I'm not surprised that some are balking at doing hard work. But I have a duty as the President to define problems facing our nation and to call upon people to act. And we're just really getting started in the process...
After that effort to draw out some presidential whining fell flat, the next thing was the inevitable question about his standing in some poll somewhere.
Q Is the poll troubling?
THE PRESIDENT: Polls? You know, if a President tries to govern based upon polls, you're kind of like a dog chasing your tail. I don't think you can make good, sound decisions based upon polls. And I don't think the American people want a President who relies upon polls and focus groups to make decisions for the American people.
Bush reply translated: "Do I look like Bill Clinton?" Moving on, we find the press in yet another desperate bid to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq.
Q Your top military officer, General Richard Myers, says the Iraqi insurgency is as strong now as it was a year ago. Why is that the case? And why haven't we been more successful in limiting the violence?
THE PRESIDENT: I think he went on to say we're winning, if I recall.
Not once did Bush back down, make an evasive answer, or indicate in any way that he was open to compromise on his goals. Here we glimpse a reporter's hope that Bush will give up on the idea of providing voluntary personal accounts with Social Security.
Q Getting back to Social Security for a moment, sir, would you consider it a success if Congress were to pass a piece of legislation that dealt with the long-term solvency problem, but did not include personal accounts?
THE PRESIDENT: I feel strongly that there needs to be voluntary personal savings accounts as a part of the Social Security system. I mean, it's got to be a part of a comprehensive package. The reason I feel strongly about that is that we've got a lot of debt out there, a lot of unfunded liabilities, and our workers need to be able to earn a better rate of return on our money to help deal with that debt.
Secondly, I like the idea of giving someone ownership. I mean, why should ownership be confined only to rich people? Why should people not be allowed to own and manage their own assets who aren't the, you know, the so-called investor class? I think everybody ought to be given that right. As a matter of fact, Congress felt so strongly that people ought to be able to own and manage their own accounts, they set one up for themselves...
Meanwhile, the loyal opposition at the Washington Post, in a wild flight of the imagination, were doing their best to portray this as a risky move, one that may end with Bush in a lame duck presidency. Here are Dana Milbank and Jim VandeHei in an article entitled A Gambler Decides to Raise the Stakes.
President Bush made a huge gamble last night in a bid to restore momentum to his flagging proposal to restructure Social Security -- and to his presidency.
With two in three Americans disapproving of the way Bush has handled Social Security, many political observers thought it would be prudent for Bush to cut his losses and negotiate a bipartisan compromise on Social Security, perhaps without the personal accounts he has promoted for the past several months.
Instead, Bush held a prime-time news conference and doubled down on his bet. He continued to press for private accounts while adding a proposal that would cut Social Security spending by $3 trillion over 75 years -- openly defying the longtime belief that proposing cuts in the beloved program is bad politics.
Talk about wishful thinking. I'm going to make a prediction. Judging from the tone of this press conference I'd say some moderate feet are going to be held to the fire over the next couple of weeks. It ought to be real interesting.
None of this, however, quite explains the depth of hostility that Mr. Bolton inspires. The deeper explanation is that he set out to explode the consensus views of the foreign-policy establishment--and succeeded.
This was the consensus that held, or holds, that North Korea and Iran can be bribed away from their nuclear ambitions, that democracy in the Arab world was impossible and probably undesirable, that fighting terrorism merely encourages more terrorism, that countries such as Syria pose no significant threat to U.S. national security, that the U.N. alone confers moral legitimacy on a foreign-policy objective, and that support for Israel explains Islamic hostility to the U.S. Above all, in this view, the job of appointed officials such as Mr. Bolton is to reside benignly in their offices at State while the permanent foreign service bureaucracy goes about applying establishment prescriptions.
Ten years ago this month, a controversial "concealed- carry" law went into effect in the state of Florida. In a sharp break from the conventional wisdom of the time, that law allowed adult citizens to carry concealed firearms in public. Many people feared the law would quickly lead to disaster: blood would literally be running in the streets. Now, 10 years later, it is safe to say that those dire predictions were completely unfounded. Indeed, the debate today over concealed-carry laws centers on the extent to which such laws can actually reduce the crime rate.
To the shock and dismay of gun control proponents, concealed-carry reform has proven to be wildly popular among state lawmakers. Since Florida launched its experiment with concealed-carry in October 1987, 23 states have enacted similar laws, with positive results.
The success of RTC laws -- Florida`s in particular -- was well known to legislators and the general public. According to the most recent data available from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports at the time of the VPC attack, states with RTC laws had significantly lower overall violent and firearm-related violent crime per capita rates than other states:
Florida`s homicide and handgun homicide rates had dropped 22% and29% since adopting RTC in 1987, even as national rates had risen 15% and 50%. Anti-gun groups often try to malign Florida`s RTC law by noting that its total violent crime rate has increased since the law took effect, but an examination of violent crime data only supported RTC advocates` arguments -- since 1987, Florida`s violent crime rate had risen less (17.7%) than the U.S. as a whole (22.3%), and only 30% of Florida`s violent crimes involved firearms.
Now, Florida has expanded the right of self defense to allow the use of deadly force outside the home if a person is attacked and in danger of injury or death. The New York Times unsurprisingly weighs in against the legislation. Here is our first clue.
MIAMI, April 26 - Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill on Tuesday giving Florida citizens more leeway to use deadly force in their homes and in public, a move that gun-control groups and several urban police chiefs warned would give rise to needless deaths.
Prior to passage, victims of attack were required to flee rather than fight back. The bill's signing was immediately followed by dire predictions from the gun control advocates.
John F. Timoney, Miami's police chief, called the bill unnecessary and dangerous. Chief Timoney, who has successfully pushed his police officers to use less deadly force, said many people, including children, could become innocent victims. The bill could make gun owners, including drivers with road rage or drunken sports fans who get into fights leaving ball games, assume they have "total immunity," he said.
In an apparent moment of weakness the Times surrendered to a rare urge for balanced reporting and let drop this little nugget.
The Florida House of Representatives voted 94 to 20 in favor of the bill earlier this month, while the Senate passed it 39 to 0. The measure codifies in state law what many courts have already ruled in Florida: that a citizen need not try to escape an intruder in his home or workplace before using deadly force in self-defense.
Diwaniya is one of a new crop of Iraqi blogs. Here is a short passage from an open letter to the New Iraqi President.
This is the first time I have spoken to a president, and the first time I have written a letter to someone I do not know. What I have to say is extremely important to many Iraqis. I am asking you to listen to me before you settle into your chair in the palace that was built from our bones and painted with our martyr's blood.
Your Excellency. We don't want to see you more than one minute per day. Respect our private lives, houses, and holidays. Don't hang your portrait on the wall. Don't put your statues in the squares. We don't want to see you wearing a headcord or some other thing whenever we turn around. We don't want to listen to your news on TV welcoming someone, saying farewell to someone else, holding a meeting, or anything else that reminds us you exist. We don't want any of this, Your Excellency.
We want to feel you in our children's health, or while sleeping deeply in peace. We want to feel you in the bread filling our dishes, in the pure water that we drink every day, and in electricity that doesn't switch off every two hours.
Let your slogan be Iraq is for the Iraqis. Iraqis should always be first, not second or tenth or last. And when I say ??Iraqis ?? I mean Kurds, Arabs, Azoreans, Armenians, Chaldeans, Turkmen, and Jews.
Let's hope things continue to go according to plan, and his vision is realized. This comes by way of Iraq the Model.
I've been umimpressed by Senator Frist. It remains to be seen if he'll do anything to change that, but so far I'd say he's been ineffectual. Sunday he spoke to the Family Research Council about the "nuclear option".
To ensure Justice Owen and other judicial nominees get a vote, I've been trying to work out a compromise that would do just that. It's not easy. My Democratic counterpart, Senator Reid, calls me a radical Republican. I don't think it's radical to ask senators to vote. I don't think it's radical to expect senators to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities. I don't think it's radical to restore precedents that worked so well for 214 years.Now if Senator Reid continues to obstruct the process, we will consider what opponents call the "nuclear option." Only in the United States Senate could it be considered a devastating option to allow a vote.Most places call that democracy.
Perhaps there is room for hope, but the idea that he's been trying to work out a compromise isn't very encouraging.
The Bolton nomination is going to be the real test for Frist. If he's unable or unwilling to bring his Republican colleagues into line on this, and get the President his man at the UN, he should just stop the charade. What would be the point of continuing the masquerade as Senate Majority Leader?
Last Wednesday Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill into law creating Civil Unions for gays, while at the same time defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. The law, which takes effect in October drew, praise from human rights advocates.
WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign praised Connecticut legislators for passing a civil union bill that will offer all the state-level rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples and their families.
“Connecticut has taken a significant step giving families the rights and protections they need,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "This is an important law that will strengthen all families in Connecticut. Thanks to the Legislature and Governor Jodi Rell, as well as Love Makes a Family and thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the state, Connecticut families are significantly more protected today than they were yesterday.”
HARTFORD, Conn. Apr 24, 2005 — About 3,000 protesters gathered at the state Capitol Sunday to denounce lawmakers who voted in favor of legislation last week that made Connecticut the second state to offer civil unions to gay couples.
Brian Brown, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, urged opponents of the bill to vote against lawmakers who supported it in next year's elections.
"Civil unions are merely a stepping stone to redefining marriage," he said at Sunday's rally. "Anyone who voted for this bill voted for same-sex marriage."
And at the other end of the spectrum,
Meanwhile, about 80 gay rights activists took part in a mock wedding ceremony on the Capitol lawn Sunday, criticizing civil unions as second-class citizenship. Many said they were happy the state approved civil unions but wished lawmakers had given gays and lesbians full marriage rights.
Janet Peck and Carol Conklin, plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit challenging the state's marriage laws excluding same-sex couples, said they have always dreamed of marrying each other. They said they don't know if they'll get a civil union.
"We just see ourselves holding hands, looking into each others' eyes, pledging our love and commitment," Peck said. "It's a vision we've had for 29 years."
Truth be told I'm not surprised the bill has drawn protest. It's exactly the outcome Bush wanted from a Constitutional amendment.
The amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage.
If Dubya approves, it can't be good. And for Connecticut to do something so sensible is, quite frankly, astounding.
Despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban last September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons' sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several metropolitan police departments.
Is anybody surprised? No, not really. Not even the Violence Policy Center.
"The whole time that the American public thought there was an assault weapons ban, there never really was one," said Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, a gun-control group.
What's more, law enforcement officials say that military-style weapons, which were never used in many gun crimes but did enjoy some vogue in the years before the ban took effect, seem to have gone out of style in criminal circles.
At BanAssaultWeapons.org VPC's ticking clock reads "0 days until the federal assault weapons ban ends-- unless President Bush and Congress act." There you will also find a web page describing "the problem". Oddly enough the problem described is not crime. At VPC the problem was never crime, the problem was that assault weapons exist. Should there actually have to be a reason to ban them? While the folks at VPC could hardly be expected to notice a drop in crime rate, we find Senator Dianne Feinstein clinging to her illusions.
"In my view, the assault weapons legislation was working," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, a chief sponsor of the new bill. "It was drying up supply and driving up prices. The number of those guns used in crimes dropped because they were less available."
But the Times counters,
Assault weapons account for a small fraction of gun crimes: about 2 percent, according to most studies, and no more than 8 percent. But they have been used in many high-profile shooting sprees. The snipers in the 2002 Washington-area shootings, for instance, used semiautomatic assault rifles that were copycat versions of banned carbines.
Gun crime has plummeted since the early 1990's. But a study for the National Institute of Justice said that it could not "clearly credit the ban with any of the nation's recent drop in gun violence."
And the last words go to the Second Amendment side, from Stuart at TargetMaster and small arms manufacturer Taurus International Manufacturing Inc.
The only thing Clinton ever did for us was drive up the price of magazines," said a weapons specialist named Stuart at TargetMaster, a shooting range and gun shop in Garland, Tex. (He declined to give his last name.) "A 17-round Glock magazine crept up to $150 during the ban. It's $75 now."
Since September, the Web site of Taurus International Manufacturing Inc., a major maker of small arms, has celebrated the demise of the prohibition on magazines, flashing in red letters, "10 years of 10 rounds are over!"
Perhaps for the Times it's really desperate cry for help, ending their story this way. But for Dianne Feinstein and the folks at Violence Policy Center the Times might be consider guilty of the worst of sins -- balanced reporting. How could they! And on an issue of such importance!