North and to the Right

Canadian politics isn't known for excitement, but today's national elections could be more meaningful than usual. For the first time in 11 years, our neighbors to the north may take a turn to the right.

The Liberal Party, currently led by 65-year-old Prime Minister Paul Martin, has dominated Ottawa for more than a decade and has steadily pulled the country in a more European direction on both domestic and foreign policy. But this time Mr. Martin is struggling to hold back a challenge from the rejuvenated Conservative Party led by 45-year-old Stephen Harper of Alberta. The late polls were close, with the possibility that either man could have to turn to smaller, minority parties to form a majority government.

The Conservatives are getting help from a corruption scandal involving Mr. Martin's predecessor, Jean Chretien, who stepped aside last year to widespread national relief. But the challengers are also drawing strength from public doubts about Canada's steady drift to the left.

On foreign policy, this has meant a distancing from America that has sometimes veered into French-like hostility. Mr. Martin has worked to repair the damage done to U.S. ties by Mr. Chretien, but he is also trying to tar Mr. Harper with the charge of being too pro-American, especially because of the Conservative's support for deposing Saddam Hussein. It is true that Canadians distrust American power and want a leader who will stand firm on bilateral issues. But as Christopher Sands of the Center for Strategic and International Affairs says, "Canadians have begun to see the deterioration of U.S. relations as fueling a decline in Canadian influence."

Mr. Harper's response has been to assert that Canada and the U.S. should be "able to disagree without being disagreeable," and he seems unembarrassed to concede that Canada's interests will sometimes coincide with America's. He wants to increase Canada's paltry military spending, expand its military ranks to 80,000 from 60,000, withdraw from the Kyoto protocol, and work with the U.S. on anti-terror operations that include deporting individuals who threaten North American security.

On the domestic front, Mr. Harper is also making headway on taxes and health care. The Liberal-run government of Ontario stuck voters with a tax increase in May, hurting Mr. Martin in the province with a third of Canada's voters. Mr. Harper has tried to capitalize by promising to cut middle class taxes, and he hit the tax issue hard in the campaign's final days.

Perhaps most intriguing is the campaign ferment on the heretofore sacrosanct Canadian health care system. National health care is often described as part of Canadian identity, but the government monopoly is also producing chronic shortages and waiting lines for many services, including radiation therapy and joint replacements. The politically influential can jump the queue, while the well-to-do travel to the U.S. for care -- all of which is blowing apart the pretense of "equality" in socialized health care.

Members of both major parties have recommended private delivery of government-funded medicine to alleviate waiting times. But Mr. Harper has made it part of his platform. Mr. Martin, who famously visits a private clinic himself, pledges to defend the monopoly system as it stands and "fix" it with the usual household remedy: more money. Part of his problem is that he's supported by government unions that pull down higher wages because of their monopoly status and oppose any reform.

Granted, none of what Mr. Harper is proposing adds up to a Reagan or Thatcher revolution. But this is Canada we're talking about. It's remarkable enough that he and the Conservatives have a chance to win at all.


Ready for $60-a-Barrel Oil?

The Iranian election strategy at work.

By Michael Ledeen

So the Iranians seized some British "warships" yesterday, and arrested eight British naval officers. That's what the Iranians announced in the morning, and that's all we've heard. The chatterers were agog. Why would the Iranians do such a crazy thing? Do they really want war (If that isn't a good old-fashioned causus belli, what is?)? Etc.

Yes, they're crazy, no doubt. But they're not stupid. And if an Iranian action seems stupid, you're probably misinterpreting it. There's a perfectly straightforward explanation for the whole episode: The Brits were laying down a network of sensors to detect the movement of ships toward major Iraqi oil terminals. The Iranians considered that a bit of a threat. So they attacked.

And why, you might ask, did the Iranians feel threatened?

Because they were planning to attack (or have their surrogates attack) the oil terminals, silly.

And why attack the oil terminals?

Because they want to defeat President Bush in November, and they figure if they can get the price of oil up to around $60 a barrel, he'll lose to Kerry.

Not to mention a considerable side benefit: At $60 a barrel, they can buy whatever they may be lacking to get their atomic bombs up and running.

It's not that hard to understand the mullahs once you learn to think as they do, and understand their hopes and fears.

What do they hope? That Bush will lose; that the Coalition will collapse; that they can dominate Iraq and create an Islamic republic in the Iranian image. That will expand their power in the region, totally demoralize the internal democratic opposition, and drive America from the Middle East, thereby permitting them to complete their nuclear-weapons program at their leisure. A dream come true.

What do they fear? Above all, their own people. (And a free, relatively stable Iraq would inspire the Iranian people to demand the same freedom for themselves, meaning the end of the mullahcracy). An aggressive American policy in support of democratic revolution in Iran, for the same reason. A collapse in oil prices. The reelection of George W. Bush.

So you see at once the bases of Iranian policy: Drive oil prices up and the Americans out of Iraq, whatever the cost. The Brits were in the way, blocking easy access for saboteurs to the Iraqi oil facilities. Ergo the "crazy" action. Which turns out to be not so crazy at all.

And one other thing: The Iranians figure they've got the Brits under control, because the Brits have lots of contracts with them. Thus far, the Brits have behaved like good little boys, forestalling any effective steps to get in the way of the nuclear program, and lobbying the Bush administration to be "reasonable" and "patient." You can be sure that the British foreign office has every confidence that no harm will come to their officers, and that the incident will be resolved quickly and even amiably.

Not crazy at all. In fact, they're winning.

If anybody cares, it's a good bet that Iranian-sponsored hit squads will be going after lots of oil terminals and refineries in the next couple of months.

But it's hard to find anyone who cares. I guess we can afford $60 a barrel, and I suppose Foggy Bottom and the CIA will be able to manage a nuclear Iran. Right?


A Remembrance of a Great Man

by Joe Giardiello

Ronald Reagan changed my life, as he did so many others, in a profound and fundamental way. So how do you say goodbye to your hero?

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We can preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we can sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children’s children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.
-- Ronald Reagan, 1964

Overcast skies greeted Simi Valley last Sunday morning. Fitting I suppose. But maybe it would have been more appropriate to have one of those brilliant Southern California mornings of sun and mild ocean breezes. Anyway, the gloom that pervaded fit my mood just perfectly. It was still too soon after hearing the news to feel the optimism with which Ronald Reagan looked at life.

You can see the back of the Reagan Library on the hillside just a few miles from my home. The gleaming body of Air Force One, in the midst of being prepared as the library’s newest exhibit, can be seen reaching out over the hillside, still waiting to have its wings reattached to resume its proud service to President Ronald Reagan.

I impulsively pulled off the highway exit that goes past the library. The entrance is just a few miles on the left, and for some reason I felt I had to see it. Already, barely half a day from when the world first learned of the great man’s passing, an impromptu memorial started to appear. Flags, signs, a red, white and blue teddy bear. Handwritten notes -- some pages long -- were already gathered at the entrance to the library’s drive. I stopped and added a small American Flag pin to the collection.

A Political Awakening

I was just fifteen years old when Reagan ran for president in 1980. Coming from a Democratic family, I wasn’t supporting Reagan. Despite what was happening with our hostages in Iran, despite a national economy in freefall, the best hope to restore American pride could not possibly be a cowboy actor from California.

Not that I understood politics at the time. My feeling was simply because our family supported Democrats. Besides, Reagan was a “warmonger” and would almost certainly have had us in a shooting war with the Soviet Union before you knew it. That would make me draft age quite possibly around the time the missiles started flying. The math of a Reagan presidency just didn’t seem to be working in my favor.

The speculation that Reagan would quickly have us in a war with the world’s other superpower is not something we simply remember in hindsight. His opponents really discussed such possibilities as the coming of World War III should Reagan be elected president. Still too young to cast a real ballot, I obediently voted for Jimmy Carter in the student elections.

But wouldn’t you know it, the actor won. What kind of world were we in for now, my undeveloped mind wondered. I would soon be taught a valuable political lesson.

People of earlier generations remember where they were when they heard Roosevelt died. Others remember what they were doing when President Kennedy was shot. I remember where I was when I heard of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. I was on a city bus coming home from school when an old, rail-thin gentleman got on the bus. He sat down across the aisle from me with his head down. He suddenly looked up and swiveled his head from side-to-side and said to no one in particular, “Have you heard the president was shot?”

The words ricocheted through me. The president was shot? That didn’t happen anymore. That was something that was read about in the history books.

A rapid discussion ensued between a handful of people on the bus around me. No one seemed to know if the president was still alive. One person said he heard he was. Another said he was certain someone had died, but he didn’t know who. Someone else mentioned Kennedy and said how his assassination had affected him. I sat in dumb silence.

When I finally got home, after the longest bus ride of my life, I sat glued to the television in the kitchen, listening to the newscasters repeat the same information over and over, not really sure how the president was doing, first announcing the death of the president’s press secretary, then changing the story. What kind of bullets were used, were they still in the president. And then there was the speculation that no one wanted to even think about: Was this part of some nefarious grand plan by America’s enemies, possibly the opening act of a preemptive nuclear first strike.

The president’s quips and one-liners from the operating table have now passed into legend. And the Gipper made more than one convert that day. Anyone who would stare into the face of death and laugh was someone I could like. At first, it was the sheer force of Reagan’s personality that won me over. I still didn’t have the first clue about the difference in tax rates or what a medium range ballistic missile was. The knowledge of issues came over time under the long distance tutelage from the White House.

But the blinders were finally removed. I was secure in the knowledge that America was in good hands after all. Then came Grenada.

The Cubans, under dictator Fidel Castro, were trying to set up a client state in the tiny island nation of Grenada in order to export terror and destabilize the region’s democracies. Reagan made the momentous decision to join the Caribbean nations to remove the threat. With minimal loss of life, the ultimate Cold Warrior took the first step in the rollback of international Communism. Hundreds of Cuban military troops and warehouses full of military equipment were found. Construction had already started on a runway that could accommodate long-range Soviet bombers. “We got there just in time,” Reagan told us.

That afternoon, I went to visit the Navy recruiter for the first time, eventually signing up to serve my county and my president as an Intelligence Analyst. A committed Reaganite by the time of his reelection campaign, I was able to watch the returns the night before I reported to begin my Navy service. My mother, a lifelong Roosevelt Democrat, voted for her first Republican that year.

My first duty station was overseas. The only U.S. news access we had was the previous day's airing of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, which played at noon on Armed Forces television. Each day a group of us would gather in the conference room and watch the news. We all came supplied with a handful of rubber bands, which would rain down on the TV with each pronouncement by Mr. Rather about some perceived ill of Ronald Reagan. There were thousand of rubber bands that hit that television over the years.

I also began subscribing to political magazines around this time. National Review, the magazine Reagan read, was the first and most influential in my life. If Reagan gave conservatism a human face; Bill Buckley made it cool.

When I came back stateside after four years overseas, I was stationed in San Diego. Michael Reagan had a local radio show at that time and I was an avid listener. By now out of office for a few years, Reagan was going to be on his son’s show. I called in over an hour early to be able to speak to the president and was able to talk the call screener into letting me stay on hold until the show started.

When it finally became time to take calls, I was first up. I thanked the President for his leadership in ending the cold war. He gave his trademark “Welllll” and said he sure was honored when people said things like that about him and then proceeded to give everyone else credit for the toppling of the evil empire.

Ironically, it was also Ronald Reagan who caused me to leave the service. By 1989 I was a Soviet Surface Forces Analyst. The only problem was there was no longer a Soviet Surface Force to worry about. With the start of the first Gulf War, I requested the opportunity to serve in the Middle East. But in the perverse way of any bureaucracy, they decided I was a Soviet analyst and might be needed in that capacity. Ronald Reagan’s steadfastness in the face of the Soviet threat and some of our own countrymen who opposed his policies had put me out of a job. As the song goes, “After all these years I’ve found, my occupational hazard being my occupation's just not around.”

Conservative Woodstock

“This is like a conservative Woodstock,” my friend Dan said after surveying the thousands of people in the line that snaked through the campus of Moorpark College waiting to get on the bus to take them to the viewing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum.

Woodstock without the drugs and the rain and the music. But the people were there. Oh, the people. Our group decided we would go at 10:00 Tuesday evening to avoid the throngs, figuring the after-work crowd would be thinned out by then. No such luck.

People were sleeping anywhere they could find a spot. Cardboard boxes were used to build makeshift shelters. People even used newspapers as blankets against the cold -- or what passes for the cold in Southern California.

And they just kept coming -- over 106,000 based on news reports. Rumors in the line abounded as to the amount of time it would take. Four hours, seven hours, some even suggested 10 hours. And from the look of the line, nothing would have surprised us. And yet, there was hardly even a suggestion that we should decide not to wait it out. The only people around us who seemed to be leaving were those who had to go to work the next morning and weren’t sure if they would be out of the line in time.

A memorial tent was set up at the college for people to leave their remembrances of the president. Besides the usual flowers and gift there were dozens of handwritten notes and letters. One declared in large letter, “Thank you for helping the people of Guatemala and helping to make us free.” Many thanked the president for making them believe in America again. Someone left one of those familiar Styrofoam hats you see at political conventions, a faded and cracking “Reagan 76” sticker still attached.

“Maintain Silence”

You enter the large front courtyard of the Reagan Library through a gate. In the center is a large fountain. The line to pay last respects formed on the right side as you entered. It was eerily quiet. Through the crowd on the other end of the courtyard you could see the red, white and blue of the flag that adorned the casket.

As you prepared to enter the lobby of the library building, there was a wholly unnecessary sign reminding you to “maintain silence.” But there really was not much of a chance that anyone would violate that rule, sign or no sign. The only sound you could hear were the respectful foot falls on the tiled floor.

The line circled the flag-draped casket. It was surrounded by an honor guard -- representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard -- that was changed every thirty minutes.

Silent eyes remained fixed on the casket as we circled, our heads pivoting as we made the small loop. Eyes moistened, hearts beat a little faster. Minds wandered to that one moment, that one incident that, to you, defined Ronald Reagan. It was an intensely personal experience shared by thousands of souls.

Here and there someone would pause as if to say a silent prayer. Another stopped and saluted his former Commander-in-Chief. The honor guard, all of whom seemed hardly old enough to even remember Reagan as president, stood in reverent silence, the crisp lines of their uniforms a testament to the care and dedication they put into this final tribute.

The temptation for one final look over your shoulder as you approached the door to exit was irresistible. It was real. He was truly gone.

It was all over in about three minutes. Nine hours of waiting for three minutes. And worth every second. I envied those who still had the experience ahead of them in both California and in Washington, D.C.

Ronald Reagan changed my life, as he did so many others, in a profound and fundamental way. So how do you appropriately end an essay that says goodbye to your hero? Maybe by quoting the great man himself on the future of the nation he loved and served so ably:

Some may try and tell us that this is the end of an era. But what they overlook is that in America every day is a new beginning, and every sunset is merely the latest milestone on a voyage that never ends. For this is the land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming. Emerson was right: America is the Land of Tomorrows.

God Bless You, Ronald Reagan. I shall never forget.

Joe Giardiello is the editor of PoliticalUSA.com and district chief-of-staff for California State Senator Tom McClintock. He served in the Navy under Commander-in-Chief Ronald Reagan.



From California Political Review Online

By William E. Saracino

Riordan Rides Again

The ‘No More Reagans’ Initiative

The David Duke primary system repudiates the man and the legacy being celebrated throughout the world.

“We will have no more of those candidates who are pledged to the same goals as our opposition and who seek our support. Turning the Party over to the so-called moderates wouldn’t make any sense at all.”

— Ronald Reagan, 1965

A small cabal of millionaire Republicans, tired of losing GOP primaries because they are out of step with GOP voters, has decided to change the rules. They are bankrolling a November ballot proposition that would force California to adopt the election system used by that paragon of civic virtue: Louisiana.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, former Assemblyman Brooks Firestone, and the usual suspects from the “new majority” plutocracy want California to adopt the system that produced Klansman David Duke as one of two final choices for Louisiana governor. Sounds crazy, but there is method to their madness.

The wannabe oligarchs’ system has all candidates of all parties appear on the same ballot for all voters in the “first” (primary) election. The top two vote getters for each office, regardless of party, would then advance to a “run-off” (general) election. The predictable result: urban voters would see November elections with two Democrats as their only choices, while elsewhere in the state voters would find two Republicans as their only choices. The plan effectively guarantees that third party candidates would never again appear on a general election ballot.

Initiative supporters want to bypass unfavorable internal GOP arithmetic. Most Republicans are conservative, so conservatives win most Republican primaries. Therefore most Republican office holders are conservative. To achieve their goal — eviscerating the conservative GOP base — these nabobs must elect more Republicans who talk and vote like Democrats. To do this, they must do away with primaries in which Republican voters choose their own standard bearers. Voila: the Louisiana system, allowing Jane Fonda, Cruz Bustamante, and Susan Sarandon a voice in reshaping the Republican Party.

This plan is fatally flawed in many ways. But Republicans serious about their Party’s future can focus on just one: had it been in place in 1966, Ronald Reagan would never have become governor, and, of course, would never have become president.

The political forbearers of today’s moderates tried mightily to defeat Reagan in ’66, something they now conveniently forget. In Brooks Firestone’s case his literal forbearer — father Leonard — followed up his 1964 exertions against Barry Goldwater with a 1966 primary effort warning the GOP that dangerous, intolerant extremists were attempting to take over the party. Care to guess who Leonard Firestone and his fellow ’60s moderates had in mind?

Happily for America and the world, Republicans rejected the scare tactics and ideological pabulum to launch Reagan’s career. But a Louisiana primary system in effect in 1966 would have brought far different results. San Francisco Mayor George Christopher, Reagan’s primary opponent, would have moved heaven and earth to win Democrat votes with a plea to help derail the wild-eyed radical Reagan. Big labor, already furious with the former union (Screen Actors Guild) president’s “anti-labor” positions, would have trooped their voters to the polls for Christopher to punish Reagan. The November election most likely would have been George Christopher vs. Pat Brown, and Ronald Reagan would never have been heard of again.

This scheme, too late to stop Ronald Reagan, takes direct aim at future Reagans and all conservatives of principal. Truth-in-advertising should dictate that this measure be labeled the “no more Reagans” initiative. That is precisely what it is.

Reagan’s words from 1965 ring true today. Republicans need no more candidates pursuing the same goals as their opposition. Turning their Party over to opponents of its platform makes no sense. The “no more Reagans” initiative repudiates Ronald Reagan’s legacy. Republicans who value that legacy might remember one of its most potent slogans: win this one for the Gipper.



From Dan Weintraub's blog...

Schwarzenegger did say, for the first time, that he would consider some Democrat proposals to eliminate tax breaks.



Ronald Wilson Reagan - 1911-2004

Today was a sad day for freedom, as we lost a true hero, my hero - Ronald Reagan. But yet I go to sleep tonight confident and comfortable in knowing that tomorrow and forever his memory, his philosophy, and his ideals will live on...Tonight we should all say a prayer and thank God for the man that won the Cold War, revitalized the American economy, and once again made us believe that it was 'Morning in America'...Rest In Peace, Mr. President.