Monday, May 16, 2011

Huck Shakes Up the GOP Field...By Exiting It

The big news in the grand scheme of things isn’t that The Donald has renounced a bid for the White House.

Though Donald Trump had scored well in early polls, much of that support was comparable to Rudy Giuliani’s “front runner” numbers going in 2008- a mile wide and an inch deep.

The billionaire real estate developer-casino owner-television personality-titan of self-promotion sucked the oxygen out of the room with his high media profile and public heckling of President Barack Obama over his birth certificate.

Despite confident boasting that he would have won the GOP nomination had he sought it, Trump was likely facing a tough fight in the retail political centers of Iowa and New Hampshire, particularly with his aversion to handshaking.

With other candidates struggling for “air” (read: attention/media coverage), Trump’s first appearance in a debate would have been a dog-pile, as little-known contenders would have tried to establish notoriety for themselves by aggressively challenging The Apprentice star to back up with specifics some of his flippant policy positions.

It would have been far more entertaining television watching than La Toya Jackson shuffling about on random tasks.

Embarrassing setbacks in the first two states would have done no favors for the Trump brand, something that has generated loads of money just through the The Donald’s fame.

That said Trump did the GOP a major favor not carrying out his presidential flirtations further.

The big news you won’t read on TMZ is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s decision to not make the race.

While Trump was hogging the spotlight, Huckabee was hogging the social conservatives.

The folksy Baptist preacher is making good money for the first time in his life between his television program on Fox News and book sales. Huckabee also relocated outside of Arkansas and has built a large house in the vicinity of Destin, Florida with a reported $3,000,000 price tag.

A presidential run won’t help him make the money needed to maintain that kind of manse.

Huckabee went from a minor candidate to the front tier of the Republican presidential primary fight with a surprise second-place showing in the 2007 Ames Iowa Straw Poll, a strategic victory that ended the presidential candidacy of Kansas US Senator Sam Brownback, who finished a disappointing third despite a major investment in the political carnival.

A few months later Huckabee overwhelmed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the actual caucuses though the minister failed to parlay that momentum in the New Hampshire primary. Huckabee’s last hope to contend came in the South Carolina primary where he fell short behind US Senator John McCain.

Huckabee was handicapped in that contest by the presence of ex-Tennessee US Senator and actor Fred Thompson, who split the social conservative vote with Huckabee in the Palmetto State.

Huckabee facilitated John McCain’s nomination in 2008 by remaining in the race thereby denying Romney the social conservative voters he needed to overcome the Arizona senator.

Huckabee’s departure from the race opens up the field for social conservative candidates to pursue a critical segment of the Republican electorate he had a major hold on, particularly in the first caucus state of Iowa.

By bailing out, Huckabee erased the likelihood of the primary devolving into a duel between McCain’s main two rivals from the previous election.

With the former Massachusetts governor holding his niche vote from 2008 and Huckabee holding his segment of the Republican electorate, there wasn’t much room for one of the half-dozen or so other presidential candidates break out from the crowd.

Sans Huckabee, a social conservative alternative can now emerge out of Iowa or South Carolina to take on Romney, who is the lead candidate in 2012 for the GOP nod, on Super Tuesday.

By opening the field, Huckabee has done Romney a major disservice, which in a way is appropriate and as there was no love lost between the two from 2008.

Look for Huckabee to support not the candidate with the best social conservative credentials (ex-Senator Rick Santorum) but the candidate with respectable social conservative credentials with the best hope of stopping Romney in the primaries.

A Huckabee endorsement of ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty would help him fend off US Representative and TEA Party favorite Michele Bachmann in Iowa. Huckabee’s support for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels would go a long way towards mitigating the Hoosier’s infamous “truce on social issues” fumble.

Though Huckabee won’t be president, he has the potential to be kingmaker in 2012 if he plays his cards right.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Person of Interest: Rising Tide author John Barry

Concerns about the rise in the Mississippi River and the possible “solutions” to the current test of the river levee system have dominated state news over the past week.

John Barry is a member of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority and has written several books most notably Rising Tide, which chronicles the Great Flood of 1927.

The flood control commission member/author was kind enough to field some questions about the rise in the Mississippi River’s water level, where the water is coming from and the safety of the New Orleans area during this tense situation.

POI: How does the current rise in the Mississippi River compare with that of the Great Flood of 1927?

JB: It's actually considerably less on the lower portion of the Mississippi River. A great deal of the water is coming down is from the Ohio River. In 1927 the Arkansas River added an enormous amount-- currently it's less than 20% that.

POI: Why has there been a delay in the opening of the Morganza Spillway?

JB: I believe they were waiting for the trigger of over 1.5 million cfs to reach there.

POI: Where has all of the water come from, especially since Louisiana has been in the midst of a dry spell?

JB: Mostly from the Ohio River Basin.

POI: So heavy rains in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati affect the river here?

JB: Yes.

POI: Has the sudden rise in the Mississippi River created a need for the creation of additional outlets for the river water or does the current spillway system suffice?

JB: No, the current levee and spillway system is adequate.

POI: Speaking of spillways, who has the authority to open them: the local levee boards, the state or the federal government?

JB: The federal government.

POI: What area of the state is of the greatest concern right now with the sudden rise in the river level?

JB: The people most threatened are those that will be affected by the opening of the Morganza Spillway, especially those outside Morgan City.

POI: Is the New Orleans area in serious danger with the rising river level?

JB: Actually New Orleans is the safest area because of all of the diversions that can steer the water away from it.

POI: Let’s assume the worst happens. How would officials cope with the collapse of a section of the Mississippi River levee?

JB: They probably couldn’t. Closing a crevasse would be a nearly impossible task with a tiny sliver of opportunity to close a breach. That said once a breach got rolling, it could flow for weeks creating an enormous disaster.

POI: What effect will the opening of the Bonnet Carré spillway have on Lake Pontchartrain?

JB: Mostly the proliferation of algae blooms, changes in the lake’s salinity and fish populations. However the lake will recover rapidly.

POI: What effects will the opening of the Morganza Spillway have on south Louisiana communities?

JB: It would be hard for me to paint a scenario.

POI: How predictable is a crest in the Mississippi River?

JB: The Army Corps of Engineers has good estimates based upon when the crest passes each point along the river. When the level begins to drop, the decline will be slow. A river flood crest is not like one big wave; it's gradual.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Justice Is Achieved in Bin Laden's Final Moments

On September 11, 2001 Osama Bin Laden brought his fanatical Islamist war against the West in an unprecedented attack on our shores.

Almost ten years later, the United States brought the war of vengeance to his living room in Pakistan.

Americans have not celebrated the death of an individual with such jubilation since Adolf Hitler’s suicide in the fuhrerbunker.

Osama Bin Laden wasn’t just an enemy; he personified evil, the greatest villain in the first decade of the 21st century.

When then-President George W. Bush launched a war of retribution against al-Qaeda and the Afghan regime that offered him safe harbor, Bin Laden had to live the life of a fugitive.

It appears Bin Laden wasn’t exactly roughing it as his last surroundings were not in a cave in the wilderness near the Afghan-Pakistani border but in a comfortable well-protected mansion in an upscale urban area not far from Islamabad.

For that our Pakistani “friends” have a great deal of explaining to do and exemplifies the need for the United States to take unilateral action and deal with the politics of upsetting diplomatic sensibilities later.

Apparently Pakistani officials were not so much concerned with an injury to national pride through the violation of their sovereignty but uncovering their complicity to aid and abet an international criminal.

Had Bin Laden not possessed a Leona Helmsley-like mentality that “only the little people” martyr themselves for Allah, he would have made a point of being taken alive and thus given his greatest forum yet to encourage uprisings and inflame the hearts of his fellow Islamic radicals.

The Navy SEAL team that killed Bin Laden spared Americans the specter of a circus trial that would have followed. Where should it have been held? What rights would he have had? Should Bin Laden appear before an international tribunal or an American military court? Not to mention establishing procedure.

Bin Laden did the world a favor by resisting capture and justifying the use of lethal force.

Bin Laden’s guilt was beyond doubt; he needed no trial, just a swift execution and a quick disposition of his remains in a place in an inaccessible location. Dropping his body off into the sea was ideal, though it’s a shame his body was afforded any religious courtesies en route to splashing down to a watery grave. Bin Laden’s remains should not have been shown the least shred of dignity.

Relatives of those who died on September 11th and Americans in general should take some satisfaction in this: moments before the fatal bullet hit him, the al-Qaeda terrorist mastermind experienced something similar to that of his organization’s victims on the top stories of the World Trade Center: absolute terror.

Those trapped between the jet fuel-fed flames that engulfed the Twin Towers’ midsections and the buildings’ roofs experienced the anguish that they would be dead in a matter of minutes before escaping the inferno raging around them by leaping to their death over a thousand feet to the concrete plaza below.

There’s the real justice: not just that Bin Laden was killed but that he was overcome with the same dread that a condemned man feels en route to the gallows. Bin Laden knew what was going to happen and that an American was going to have the honor bagging the trophy.

Also Bin Laden died with the knowledge that he did not get away with his crimes, that he suffered a brief spate of mental hell before transitioning to an eternity of spiritual hell.

While almost all Americans would have settled for a quick air strike if it would assure Bin Laden’s demise, President Barack Obama was right to authorize this particular action and wise to not pay a courtesy call to Pakistani officials.

The operation carried great risk and could very well have turned into another Desert One. The president should be credited for having the guts to pull the trigger.

Two decades of terrorist attacks and video taped taunts were trumped by American perseverance and military might. Though the pursuit was met with years of frustrations and feelings of futility, we didn’t give up and kept hunting.

While Bin Laden is dead, the al-Qaeda network isn’t. That said, its members and affiliates are more convinced today that the United States will relentlessly pursue them across the globe and charge into their legally protected sanctuaries. And that has to make people who claim a willingness to die for a cause to think twice.

America’s enemies should pay heed to the results of the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound.

Islamist terrorists might not understand western civilization, they comprehend determination and power and the United States projected both in the ten-year pursuit in the hunt for the terrorist mastermind.