Please join us for "The McLaughlin Group" this weekend. Check your local listings for time and channel, or visit www.McLaughlin.com for more information.
It's time for my annual national thank you note. It's called Thanksgiving for a reason, so let's offer our gratitude to the following people, who have made life in America so much richer---and more interesting---this year.
1. The men and women of the United States military.
Against some rough odds---in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular---our armed forces are doing the heavy lifting of freedom. They are the ones who stand between us and the jihad. And they volunteer to do it. They choose to give up their families, friends, better paying---and safer---jobs, and in some cases, their lives to fight America's enemies and to do everything they can to protect our lives and liberty. For your selflessness, sacrifice, bravery, and humility: thank you.
2. President Bush. I know it's not cool to thank President Bush, what with his job approval hovering around 30%, the economy in the tank, and his lame duck status. But this commander-in-chief faced a challenge to this country on September 11, 2001 that was unprecedented in our history. From that day forward, he chose to take the fight to our enemies rather than wait for the enemies to bring it to us. Some of these paths have been controversial. Some have involved grave setbacks. But in their totality, they represent a remarkably comprehensive strategy to deal with a global threat of a particularly ruthless, vicious, and unrelenting kind. History will judge the efficacy of the strategy, but for your gutsy unwillingness to cave to political pressure at home and terrorist pressure abroad: thank you.
3. General David Petraeus. Under his leadership, American-led forces in Iraq have essentially won the war there. Yeah, I said it: they have essentially won the war. Despite being called a "betrayer" by the Far Left, Petraeus has achieved a victory in a place where no one thought it was possible. For changing Iraq from a terrorist hotbed to a secure, democratic country: thank you.
4. Senator Hillary Clinton. The onetime frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination quickly became an also-ran, and then, begrudgingly, the one giving the concession speech. But she continued to run against Obama even after "conceding." Would she stage a floor fight at the Convention? Would she release her delegates? Would she be VP? Would she turn it down if offered? Will she be Secretary of State? Will she turn it down if offered? Will she run against him in 2012? For the sheer entertainment value of your Drama Queen chutzpah: thank you.
5. Former President Bill Clinton. Watching him call Obama's candidacy and positions "the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen" and invoking Jesse Jackson was classic. Watching him trying to perfect the "Nancy Reagan" gaze as he sat bored silly through his wife's speeches was priceless. Watching him seduce an audience and then remember he was seducing them not for himself but for her was heartwarming. Watching him say he'd vote for her even if she weren't his wife was hilarious. Watching him nurture a blind rage toward Obama to this very day is so Clintonian. For all of your amusing gall: thank you.
6. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Under her two-year-long "leadership," Democrats haven't done anything they'd pledged to do in 2006: end the war in Iraq, stop funding for the war, stop the president's terrorist surveillance program, and on and on. Thank goodness she is such a dingbat. She got a new majority this year and a Democratic president, but she's such a screw-up that she constantly sets a new standard for legislative incompetence. For being a nitwit: thank you.
7. Governor Sarah Palin. For showing us that the Republican party still has a pulse: thank you.
8. Former Governor Eliot Spitzer. For reminding us that utter stupidity exists most profoundly in the supposedly brightest people: thank you.
9. OJ Simpson. For reminding rational people of the importance of jury duty. Again.
10. The mainstream media. For finally showing us your true colors: thank you.
In America, every day is a blessing.
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The economic meltdown has consumed everyone's attention: the sitting president, the incoming president, their teams, the media, and the public. The crisis is epic, the responses are, for the most part, bad, and nobody seems to know what they're doing. Confidence at all levels is low and sliding. Multi-billion dollar bailout packages are delivered, while multi-billion dollar stimulus packages are debated. Money is everywhere, and it's nowhere.
Meanwhile, as we're debating dollars and nonsense, our enemies see an opportunity. We're distracted, and weakened. And they are moving stealth-like to exploit it.
On orders from Vladimir Putin, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is taking a swing through Central America, stopping in for chats with the Castro brothers in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Tiddlywinks are not on the agenda. Instead, they are discussing oil partnerships and new strategic alliances for weapons systems. Medvedev's government announced that Russia will soon begin drilling for oil right off the coast of Cuba, which means right off the coast of Florida. Tina Fey mocked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's proximity to Russia by saying, "And I can see Russia from my house!" Well, pretty soon, Florida Governor Charlie Crist will be able to say the same thing, because there will be Russian oil rigs off the coast of Florida. Barack Obama has indicated he wants to reverse President Bush's executive order allowing offshore drilling. If he does, the Russians and the Chinese will be drilling a few miles off our shores, but we won't be able to.
Speaking of the Chinese, their president, Hu Jintao, visited Cuba last week. He wasn't there for the cigars. Like Medvedev, he wants a new strategic partnership with Cuba, for oil drilling and weapons systems.
Neither Russia nor China have fallen newly in love with Castro or Chavez. They see a hobbled United States, and they want to create a new encirclement of us---while we're not looking.
The current president is too embroiled in the economic mess to focus on what Moscow and Beijing and Havana and Caracas are cooking. And the incoming president doesn't have much of a foreign policy clue. But Obama should fire a shot across the bow now, saying once he becomes president, the United States will not stand for a new cold war-type encirclement. And that he will take forceful actions to repel Russia's and China's new advances in our hemisphere immediately upon taking office.
Unless Obama nips their new aggressiveness in the bud, soon we ALL might be able to see Russia from our houses.
The drama whirling around whether Hillary Clinton will be Barack Obama's first Secretary of State, including her Hamlet-like deliberations, has centered around how willing she may be to give up the independent power base she enjoys in the Senate. This is another way of saying she's still playing with the idea of running against him in 2012, which would be her last shot.
The other focus has been on her lovemuffin, better half, main squeeze: Bill. He's up to his eyeballs in possible conflicts of interest, between his close friendships with over 50 current and past heads of state and the hundreds of millions that have poured into his Foundation from sources both legit and shady.
Obama and Hillary may see their way past all of this and she may, in fact, take the big chair in Foggy Bottom.
But there's another possibility for Clintonian mischief no one seems to be discussing.
When Bill was the 42nd president, he was driven up the wall by the 39th president and National Treasure, Jimmy "My Name is Earl" Carter. Carter, envious of Clinton's natural political gifts and popularity, and smarting from Clinton grabbing the mantle of "the Southern Democratic Governor who became President," routinely did things to drive Clinton crazy. Most offensive to Clinton: when Carter would travel the world, freelancing foreign policy. Carter would go to places like Haiti and talk directly to the leadership, saying things that were not cleared by the Clinton administration, and in many cases, directly contradicting Clinton's standing policy.
Clinton blew a gasket every time Carter went abroad or placed phone calls to foreign leaders---particularly to our adversaries, to whom he'd often give a signal of rapproachement that Clinton had no intention of sending.
The Carter freelancing sent Clinton over the edge.
Ah, but what goes around, comes around. It may be time to "pay it forward."
Clinton feels the same kind of anger, frustration, and envy toward Obama that Carter felt toward Clinton. Being replaced by a younger, more charismatic model isn't easy, especially when the younger version does your politics and style better than you did. The old guy thinks the new whippersnapper must be brought down a peg or two. And that's when the games begin.
With Hillary at State serving a president her husband loathes, the potential for Bill sabotage is enormous. Like Carter, he's got the global contacts. Like Carter, he's a global influencer. Like Carter, he's got the bitter resentment over the new guy. But unlike Carter, he's also got a wife whom he consciously or unconsciously tried to torpedo from taking his special gig. (Shades of what he did and will continue to do to Obama for actually taking his special gig?)
Bill Clinton has never behaved himself, especially when his legacy and image are on the line. Those two things loom large now that a hipper Democrat is about to take the office in which he still revels.
As much as Carter drove him bananas with his foreign policy freelancing, Clinton learned a thing or two about how to undermine a successor you can't stand.
Hillary may go to State, but watch Bill go Carteresque rogue.
Osama bin Laden's deputy gangster Ayman al-Zawahiri is back with a new videotape, and the press went wild with his offensive description of Barack Obama as a "house negro."
But buried in the tape is something much more important. At two different points, al-Zawahiri seems to be calling out Obama as an apostate of Islam.
"You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America." Later, he claims that Obama shares views with other "traitors" to Islam. Unlike Malcolm X, says al-Zawahiri, Obama is a fraud: the apostate son of a Muslim father who has fallen in with the Jews and the Christians. In al Qaeda's eyes, then, Obama isn't "change" at all.
Under Islam, those born to Muslim fathers are automatically Muslim. In some interpretations, there is a grace period before adulthood when one may leave the religion. After that point, however, one cannot leave Islam, and abandoning the faith is, in many places in the Islamic world, punishable by death.
It is unclear when Obama left Islam. He's talked about how the Reverend Jeremiah Wright brought him to Jesus. He's talked about how that was 20 years ago. He's 47 now, which means he was 27 when the conversion happened. That would be way out of the "grace period" during early adolescence when one might be able to leave Islam with impunity.
Some might argue that since neither his biological father nor his step-father was a particularly devout Muslim (Obama has gone as far as describing his biological father as bordering on athiest), that the rules didn't apply to Obama. That may be true here in the West----but it isn't true in the Muslim world. And it's certainly not al Qaeda's interpretation.
Apostasy is a crime of the highest order in Islam. If the Islamists are of the opinion that Obama is an apostate, how will that factor into their calculations about him----and about us?
Again with the Clintons.
Obama just can't seem to stop skimming the pond scum of the impeached White House for his own administration. Rahm Emanuel. John Podesta. Robert Reich. Robert Rubin. Lawrence Summers. Bill Richardson. And of course, Queen Bee herself.
And now comes word of Eric Holder as a potential Attorney General. Holder was Deputy Attorney General under the renowned Janet Reno, but his biggest claim to infamy is that he was the point man on some of the Clintons' midnight pardons---issued as they were skidding out of office on a banana peel. The most infamous was, of course, the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, which Holder signed off on despite strong objections from rational-thinking people at the Justice Department.
So, here we go again. The ferris wheel of scandal and corruption known as Clintonland is back. So is the stench of low-class thuggery and political amorality that came with the Clintons like Pig Pen's famous cloud.
"They could have just had me," Bonnie says to Clyde.
"And me," he replies.
And we do.
Barack Obama is seeking to stitch together a "broad coalitional government," which would include former opponents such as Hillary Clinton and John McCain and others from the Republican party.
The idea stems from a romanticized notion of what Abraham Lincoln did following his election to the presidency: that people of all ideological stripes could come together to manage the country in crisis.
On paper, it sounds great. In practice, it's more like a recipe for disaster.
First, the reason people were rivals is precisely BECAUSE they disagree on fundamental issues. Setting aside core beliefs and policy approaches is never easy, and it's particularly difficult for established politicians who thought---and still think---they can do the top job better. They will come to an Obama administration chock-full of their own ideas, ways of doing things, and agendas, both political and personal.
Which brings us to the second harbinger of doom. They may be willing to join the "team of rivals," but they're still subject to human nature. Envy, arrogance, and still-alive-and-well presidential ambitions will run rampant. The result will be backstabbing, undermining, and freelancing.
There's a reason why voters elect a president of one party: because they believe they are electing a governing philosophy and a government populated by those who share that philosophy. A crazy quilt government of opposing views will likely lead to internal gridlock and the constant dousing of ego-inflamed fires.
Obama would do well to recall: Lincoln appointed one of his former rivals, Salmon Chase, to be Secretary of the Treasury (such a hot job!). Chase, still smarting over losing the Republican nomination to Lincoln in 1860, threw fits at Treasury and constantly threatened to resign. He also plotted behind Lincoln's back to get the nomination from him in 1864. Lincoln won that volley too, and Chase resigned. Lincoln accepted the resignation, and then, in an extraordinary act of political forgiveness, nominated Chase to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Nice ending. But Obama should beware the sharks, and the sharks should beware that their conspiracies may not end up as favorably as Chase's.