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Michael Ubaldi, July 11, 2007.

At noontime yesterday came the revelation of departures from John McCain's presidential campaign executive staff and its implication for the senator's middling run. The pundit class would be innervated again by a Senate television feed broadcasting a temperamental scene, that of McCain making his first open statements about Iraq since his last visit, by chastising Barbara Boxer. "A lot of us are driven by principle," reads the transcript. "And a lot of us do what we think is right no matter what the polls say."

Estimates on the political wires put the Democratic Party's next interjection of war policy just days or weeks from now. Public dismay surely encourages this, though neither shows defeatism to be politically scandent nor materially observant. Two months of reported gains across Iraq culminated in Ayman al-Zawahiri's remote admission that the front is crucial to al Qaeda. As the New York Post suggested yesterday, all it takes is one man named David Petraeus to substantiate his command's bearing as the object of victory, and request more for soldiers and their mission, to force opposition caucuses into an abandonment not only of the commander-in-chief but American servicemen, too.

What if pessimism can no longer be sustained? The support of a fourth or a third of the country could be in play. If the president is not to which the disaffected could return, he can move stepwise: Your friends and loved ones, under a sterling generalship, have won this campaign. And in characteristic self-deprecation, add, This was always and obviously right and possible — even to me.

Americans will follow the first statesman credible enough to assume leadership in this, the war on Third World fascism. John McCain continued through published remarks — "We cannot walk away gracefully from defeat," he warned — and set the example of a man, dimly prospective for nomination, looking further and higher. Republican presidential contenders in manifest solidarity on the war, behind George Bush, would serve interests of both the one and the whole. Nothing can be had if Iraq and the Near East are lost.

Michael Ubaldi, July 9, 2007.

That the president so preoccupies the disputative passions of the other party makes him, for antagonists, a cincture. Ted Sorensen, aide and counsel to John F. Kennedy, responded ten days ago to an invitation for a Democratic president's January 2008 inaugural address. Had Sorensen penned the same theme for January 1961, President Kennedy would not have offered his "welcome" to "defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger," or the cadence of obligation to "the survival and success of liberty." He rather would have promised to renounce the Eisenhower doctrine, demolish interstate highways, and retract the conferment of statehood to Hawaii and Alaska. Leftists, noted Jonah Goldberg, "get hung up on George W. Bush's mistakes."

Political fortune can swing on the rejection and demise of opposing movements and their leaders, but seldom does unpopularity alone usher in a paradigm. If majorities in the House and Senate had been delivered by the electorate along with a reformative mandate, Congressional approval would not be dropping below twenty-five percent.

Other polls imply where George Bush's detractors could be left behind. A March survey had less than half of respondents rating the president as trustworthy — roughly 45 percent — and the Associated Press noted the declension as a "collapse in the character test." Probity has long been Mr. Bush's saving grace, and yes, its perception is weakened. But rating in the forties after four years of rebukes in which the word "lie" figured first or second means otherwise when President Clinton, in his seventh year, scored about double in job approval — almost 70 percent — while having the trust of one out of four people. In a poll last Thursday, Bill Clinton's favor rested under seven executive peers, just above Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

A friend who voted against the president after working on John Kerry's campaign assured that he didn't "think Bush is a bad man." National expressions corroborate that still, so George Bush may leave partisans with a retiree whom, flaws or failures, Americans find hard to dislike. It is not inconceivable that he will make the quickest transition from beleaguered politician to revered emeritus since Harry Truman.

Michael Ubaldi, July 2, 2007.

Troubles persist at the peace-processing plant. One and one half decades ago Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, was taken at his selectively public word that but for Israeli garrisons, he and his Arab fellows would have independence, nationalism, civility — and detente with the Jewish state beside them.

The effort to rehabilitate terrorists and turn a gangster into a gentlemen was supplied with manpower, resources, and nominal demands of conduct and governance. To Yasser Arafat, of course, one step closer to his patrons' definition of peace was his apprehension of the end of Israel. Western patience became extenuation, and then indiscrimination. The domain comprised of the Palestinian territories was to be the first state built on the cusp of the fanciful "end of history," and instead rose up as an industrial monument to antisemitism. Following the violent takeover of Gaza by Iranian proxy Hamas, it is now a staging ground for total war against American interests and allies.

Arafat is dead; his deranged beliefs still dwell. From Washington, the word is that calls for any reckoning are importunate: confidence in anyone but Arafat's protége is too much worry, and, too, the supplementary guns have already shipped out. Were President Bush to have the political strength or will, he might think about methods used to piece together neighborhoods, then societies, of good men — as accomplished in Mosul, Ramadi, and Tal Afar. American troops would move into the Palestinian slums and kill or capture every man who serves Fatah or Hamas. Then they would establish and safeguard a parliament attended by bookkeepers, streetsweepers, greengrocers, and all other manner of the mistreated, deluded people who have known the forced choice between one thug and another thug first as righteousness and then as democracy.

As in Iraq and Afghanistan, our forces and those governing in Ramallah would be under exceptional assault by the opponents of liberalism, but then, whither Oslo? For the greatest chance for peace in Palestine now: send in the Marines.

Michael Ubaldi, June 29, 2007.

Twenty minutes before last Friday's departure from Charlotte to Cleveland, I made an observance as part of my irregular flying tradition — stepping into a nearby bookstore to purchase a copy of Discover magazine.

Cover story: "Science and Islam." In it Zaghloul El-Naggar, an Egyptian geologist and Islamist, establishes the theme through a series of statements. First, that a Muslim's practice of the scientific method is spiritually licit; second, that Western modernity has caused the Near East's degradation; four pages on, that the human archetype, Adam, is authenticated in the academy, rather than the mosque, by the word of Mohammed. "What proof?" asks the reporter. "It's written," answers El-Naggar, "in the Koran."

A Tunisian geneticist, next page, complains of difficulties in her obstetric exposition to people living under sharia mores, "giving them bad news that may also go against what they believe." Implication is clarified by the comparatively liberal brother of the dictator of Jordan, El Hassan bin Talal. "Are we talking Islam or Islamism?" He says that when the Ottomans fell and the empire was shattered, "we shifted to being dogmatic," and grew benighted.

The error to commit, turning from the last page of the article, is to regard religion with secular determinism, look at Europe half a millennium aforehand and perceive causation between the wane of the church and the wax of worldly knowledge. Fathers of Islamism — El-Banna, Qutb, Mawdudi, scholars and not holy men — wrote doctrine sharing the most with the twentieth century's implacable collectivism. Provisions of the Prophet's teachings were mostly decorative.

A contemporary obtrusion, something titled "post-normal science," is borrowed in the apologetics for curtailing industry, subduing consumers and even driving out unbelievers literally as "Holocaust deniers," all on the suspicion that every year — especially if July really heats up — is the last before climatic doomsday. It is tendered by one of its authors because "the traditional 'normal' scientific mind-set fosters expectations of regularity, simplicity and certainty in the phenomena and in our interventions. But these can inhibit the growth of our understanding of the new problems and of appropriate methods for their solution." Translated: science is a drag on the revolutionary force.

There is not a trace of religiosity in this new crusade. So, we look more closely, and — matching fingerprints on Islamist and militant environmentalist white papers are from the hoary hands of the totalitarian.

Michael Ubaldi, June 27, 2007.

One week ago, the Tribune-Chronicle reported a third and fourth appointee to the office of the Ohio Attorney General whose acquaintance with state counsel Marc Dann appeared more personal than professional. Advice to demur in a letter to the editor would not have been apt for the message Dann twice delivered to the filing reporter a day later, inasmuch as it is unprintable.

Appointment One was of a Youngstown detective sergeant, dismissed over a remunerative impropriety; Appointment Two, the editor of a small newspaper once employing Dann's wife, as yet sustained. Appointment Three is of the wife-to-be of a political contributor, and Appointment Four is the one whose journalistic mention prompted Dann's cursing and, according to a press secretary, resolution on having rightly paid in kind by "responding as a father."

The attorney general's relationship with Mavilya Chubarova is reportedly one of guardianship; Chubarova recently graduated with a bachelor's of fine arts and occupied both a creative and associative position in Dann's campaign last year. Working for the state, under Dann, she will earn the salary of a beginning schoolteacher.

There is nepotism and there is jobbery, and then there is employing relations because, when an elected official chooses on a basis of qualifications and character, they are the first to come to mind. Can Chubarova manage an executive role in the communications department? The present author, as one who holds a B.F.A. and went to work six years ago for someone he knew quite well, would commit that deliberation to the province of enterprise.

It's Attorney General Dann who can confirm that "constituent coordination" is not a sinecure. He could also explain the ferocious anger in having to clarify what, we are to assume he believes, was a commensurate hire.

Michael Ubaldi, June 25, 2007.

The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, may run for president, and former White House political director Ed Rollins, writing in Sunday's Washington Post, thinks that could "turn out to be a good thing for American democracy." Rollins, to show us why, engages in good-natured sophistry; as former Republican administration officials do when they are convinced that Ronald Reagan's political heir presumptive is someone to the left of Walter Mondale.

Why Bloomberg? Rollins begins factually. The mayor is, indisputably, serving a second term. And? He enjoys wide public approval that, when he was still a Republican, was given strongly by opposition voters. And? He is "one of the least ideological." Here Rollins infers, wrongly, that an independent registration implies pragmatism. If "unaffiliated" does not mean "indifferent," a very deliberate choice has been made. Ideologues eschew parties precisely because they interrupt the flow from notion to policy.

Speaking of beliefs, Rollins attempts a convertend: a favorite axiom of the fortieth president's into one of the would-be forty-fourth's. "There is no limit to what a man can accomplish," Reagan espoused, "if he doesn't care who gets the credit," and that speaks to civic and personal humility. Bloomberg says, "Working together, there's no limit to what we can do," which could mean stock options for a five-year contract and a non-disclosure agreement. Similar statements, suggests Rollins — well, at least they are homophonic.

Mayor Bloomberg's watchword is "control." He has raised taxes and allowed city hall to promulgate so restrictively that statutes include the expunging, from food, of a certain type of grease. The actor minimized government; the entrepreneur exalts it to a desideratum. "An energizer, a force that gives other unaffiliated and justifiably frustrated citizens a candidate to support" — for what, the liquidation of those frustrating, consecutive daily choices?

Another quality Rollins attributes to Bloomberg is that Bloomberg isn't H. Ross Perot. Now, Perot would have treated the United States like a miniskirted stenographer, yes, but Bloomberg's misconception would simply be different. Based on his own tenure, the mayor should run the country like an apartment: payment on first of month, approved furniture and appliances on premises, two cats maximum. On that, we have no guarantee that Landlord Bloomberg will allow rent control.

Michael Ubaldi, June 15, 2007.

Where were you when Senator Harry Reid derogated the war effort? Depending on how busy you are, several different places.

There was the time Reid assumed that because a commander-in-chief is not above reproach he is liable to calumny, and called President Bush a "loser." In April, the senator personally conceded Iraq to Syria, Iran and all of the resident enemy. On Wednesday, Reid was one signatory of a letter denying the credibility of both General David Petraeus and the Gregorian calendar, asserting the failure of an Iraqi counterterrorist strategy that a) could not be evaluated before autumn, especially since b) it is actually producing tactical successes. The day before, it was reported, Reid said that he called another general, Peter Pace, an "incompetent" sycophant.

Asked about his latest run of expressions, Senator Reid, as he has done before, gainsaid. Strangely, a number of the leftist constituents to whom Reid spoke about Pace, who want to hear more of that stuff on Capitol Hill, claimed not to have overheard the story. Why would they fib? There isn't a good reason. It has been suggested that Reid really spoke, and no one remembers.

How? The human mind is sensitive to transience, while imperceptive to graduation. Strike a snare drum softly and then heavily: the difference is easily appreciated. Play a roll that grows louder over ten seconds or so, and listeners might be surprised by the magnitude in volume finally registering.

People know what Senator Reid said because one commentator affirmed the remark. Yet he did so with a scrupulous qualification of anything to do with President Bush or the Iraqi campaign. Indeed, "incompetent" was the word but boy, did he ever agree. Almost metrical, with "disastrous" this and "lies" that, the man's writing read like a Mad-Lib.

Unwinding from the left for four years now has been a tapestry of billingsgate. It won't be cut off soon, which is the worst that can be done to enlistees who intend to be shipped to the front; so if the rest of us continue to notice the slights and insults, we at least know we haven't too been coarsened.

Michael Ubaldi, June 13, 2007.

Invoking the Vietnam War these days mostly serves politics, and did even back when Iraq was simply a foreign country to which American troops might go. Because the memory of that campaign in southeast Asia is domiciled in reductionism and plain ignorance, it is rather easy to persuade that anything claimed about Vietnam presages what happens in Iraq; when in fact very little does, except the inhumanity and stifling that will follow American retreat, though that has occurred everywhere, from the Philippines in 1942 to Somalia in 1993.

President John Kennedy, almost fifty years ago, chose the former French colony — then ruled by the strongman Ngo Dinh Diem — as a rampart against Communist advance. Military participation, at first secret, increased gradually and was to preserve a state that wasn't totalitarian, be it despotic or otherwise, before its intended withdrawal. President George W. Bush formally and publicly sent the armed forces into Iraq to replace Saddam Hussein with a democrat after the dictator spent a decade boasting to have what wasn't allowed by his own signature, and began to show all signs of associating with those with whom he shouldn't have. But come on — on topic, the one name connotes the other.

Meanwhile, a kind of Ngo Dinh Diem is going white-knuckled over sovereignty that isn't legitimate but which he wants to keep very badly; who is a circumstantial and irksome ally of the United States; and whose northwest frontier is being swallowed up by fascist paramilitaries who lack popular support yet face no patriotic resistance, either. Therein we have Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

In March, General Musharraf defamed and ejected the chief magistrate on grounds that Musharraf is in charge of Pakistan because he says he is. An uproar followed, and protests have flecked the country in the months since, one in particular dissolving into bloody riots. If the citizenry's demands and Washington's urges prevail, there will be an executive referendum soon — an authentic one that could attract liberals from exile.

Since late 2001 Pakistan has been, for certain pragmatists, a good model for "fighting terror" without entanglement in the "distractions" that are civil society and the election of democratists. Why not do business with whomever is answering? That question was taken by the Kennedy administration to be rhetorical, though its implicit meaning would change within two years, as Henry Cabot Lodge, John Kennedy's legate, sent cable after cable elaborating on his damnation in August 1963, stating that "there is no possibility, in my view, that the war can be won under a Diem administration."

A misbegotten regime is weakening under Musharraf, leaving a nation to be taken advantage of by the enemy, and all without the supposedly upsetting and occluding impositions of democracy. Forty-four years ago, Washington turned to the soldiers who had Ngo Dinh Diem and his adjutant brother executed. It cannot be argued that this careful reliance on the native idiom was prudent.

Trouble is ahead, of course. Islamabad has flirted with parliaments but the Pakistanis are encumbered by the inter-services intelligence, or ISI — which, not unlike the intra-war German army, is apart from the state and a reservoir for the will to govern by clandestinity and repression. Several political parties look and sound like al Qaeda and the Taliban, fit for Western cynics who will say that elections must include the inimical, too. Musharraf's decline nevertheless stimulates the conversation on the origins of tyranny: where exactly, violent ideologies come from and how the men who live by them can be beaten.

Michael Ubaldi, June 6, 2007.

Circannually, a good friend and I can agree, and this time it was over a bill just passed by the New York State Assembly. Legislators in Albany wish to succeed where their colleagues elsewhere in the Union repeatedly fail, and, too, without rectifying what courts rule as lapses in constitutional observance. "Dissemination of violent and indecent video games to minors," states a bill known innocuously as Number A08696, could earn one so convicted the same sentence as a rioter, or voyeur, or a bomb-hoaxer. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft would be required by law, through hardware or software, "to prevent the display of violent or indecent video games."

The two of us thought this, in my friend's words, "asinine." However ambiguous the legal definition of obscenity — a bequest of the last century's Supreme Court that set distasteful creative work within bounds of protected speech — entertainment has been fairly evaluated by the citizen, not the statesman, for decades. And the judiciary recognizes this, to say nothing of a parent's injunctive disconnection of a television set. Statutes in at least eight other states have been struck down, and yet the political class believes that it is charged to denude the social stations of those whom elected it.

If, I opined, the state senate were to pass the measure and send it to an approving Eliot Spitzer, the law might be enforceable for a day or two before a court kept it in suspension for its eventual review and rejection. My friend chose to accept the open civic invitation of his state representatives, and sent each one a reproving letter.

New York's junior United States Senator, Hillary Clinton, has stood out in front on federal regulation of video games. Unlike her fellows — such as Joe Lieberman, who is an assiduous moralist — she is categorical in her regulatory designs. As Clinton campaigns, Clinton talks, and when she does that Clinton's little wheels turn, and Clinton waxes imperious.

"Let's do some reality shows about innovation," she said the other day. "And let's have some cash prizes out there to try to get young people to start thinking that way. I've long said if we could have some have some really good programming about math students and engineers that would get people excited and, you know, they could walk around in great looking clothes and be really attractive, you know, more people — " all available transcripts imply what Clinton meant to say next, as the senator's beatitude was either complemented by applause or from that point ineffable in the senator's likely state of rapture.

The question, Why doesn't Hillary go to Hollywood? was answered before the end of March 1993. Shall H.R. Clinton's Washington command the production of edifying breakfast cereal? Probably. Hyperbole is redundant. Now, my friend would prefer to vote straight-ticket Democrat, but one has to wonder where he — or any one of the many like voters his age — is going to put his particular intolerance for bureaucratic immoderateness when it comes time to vote, for or against statism, in a primary, maybe a general election. He did not, this time, include in the mail drop a letter to Clinton's office.

Michael Ubaldi, June 3, 2007.

The flagellantism of Republicans, like any proclivity, is taken to in a crisis. A president with spare authority collaborates with an eager, elder lawmaker of the opposition. They wish to change laws governing borders and immigration. Democrats have Congress. Republicans in the upper chamber work in concert with the majority and approach a final bill. In the lower chamber, the minority murmurs of trying legerdemain with rules of order, anything to stop passage.

Via radio, television, web: whom do voters on the right seek vengeance against? Their own party.

Equanimity holds at a premium. William F. Buckley, Jr. called the legislative work "a mess" — but added, "Messes are a part of democratic rule." Michael Barone admonished the effort. Polls show skepticism of the diminishing returns of "reform" of this kind, and that Americans "must be convinced first that this time border security is for real." Most other commentary is fustian and angry, as if George Bush and his phalanx were to be exiled in the tradition of Greek mythos.

David Frum spent a few days last week publishing letters. One writer, a doctor, declared that he, a member of the "active grass roots," was "leaving the Republican Party." I wrote to Frum: however understandable the frustration, where would people like this fellow go? "I think," Frum replied, "the fear is that they will be demoralized and stay home, like in 1974."

Why is immigration policy commensurate to the resignation of Richard Nixon, to a president culpable of a perversion of the rule of law? The Republican malcontent may argue that abetment of citizenship granted to intruders, however earnest, is unforgivable inasmuch as it is ideologically unsound. But if disgruntled doctors and their wives renounce volunteering and voting, and both federal and state Democratic majorities increase, won't ensuing legislation be that to which they even more strongly object?

The vexed rightist might then claim voters' prerogative to define a party, chastening whomever is remiss. Yes, but that is carried out locally, and delicately, and within the party, not by walking away from it. So in denouncing the whole party, a fraction of a fraction of the electorate may, over a single domestic issue for which it currently has no other advocates, deepen the punishment of Republicans in the meantime? Of course! is the rejoinder — after all, up from discord ascended Ronald Reagan.

Yes, but Ronald Reagan once proposed to "improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows," to wit, illegal aliens. He — how do you say? — had to compromise. This is an unfortunate opportunity: no matter what Democrats do, Republicans will fault Republicans.