Entries from May 2007

The Last Nail In The Gop’s Coffin

David Frum May 26th, 2007 at 12:00 am Comments Off

The Republican party is hurtling toward disaster in 2008. The latest polls report that 61 percent of Americans think that the Iraq war was a mistake. More than 70 percent of Americans think the country is on the “wrong track”–an astonishingly bad number for a non-recession year.

Historically, Democrats have been perceived as the more caring and compassionate party; Republicans as the more honest and effective party.

Yet today, Democrats enjoy a 5:3 advantage over Republicans on the question, “Which party can manage government better?” They hold a 2:1 advantage on integrity and ethics. They even outpoll the Republicans on national security, for the first time since the Johnson-Goldwater race of 1964!

In this hour of gloom and danger for the GOP, the party leaders have just chosen to launch all-out war against the last remnants of their support.

In recent days, Republican and Democratic Senators acting with the support of the White House concocted a deal on immigration that grants amnesty in all but name to the 12 million illegal aliens inside the United States. The deal also proposes large increases in legal immigration, plus a temporary worker program to import hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers for two years at a time.

At a reception Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner eloquently expressed the feelings of many Republicans about the deal the Senators negotiated in secret: “I promised the President today that I wouldn’t say anything bad about . . . this piece of s–t bill.”

But it did not matter what profanities Boehner said or did not say. The voice of protest was taken up by Web sites and radio stations. The President’s poll numbers tumbled to some of the lowest levels seen in his presidency, under 30 percent.

Bush is in trouble because his own party does not trust him to enforce border security.

Of the estimated 12 million illegals in the United States, four million have arrived since he became president. Bush has made clear in hundreds of speeches that he would prefer to solve this problem with an amnesty in all but name for existing illegals–and higher limits on future immigration.

By working so hard for an amnesty, the President sent a powerful signal to would-be migrants all over the planet: Get in while you can, your green card will arrive soon.

The post-2000 surge of illegals has imposed heavy costs all over the United States. The median American worker earns less today than in 2000, in considerable part because of the wage lowering effects of immigration.

Taxpayers have had to bear heavy new burdens. The state of North Carolina paid an estimated $10 million to educate the children of illegals in 1995; $210 million in 2005. Illegals cost every household in the state of California an estimated $300 per year in extra state and local taxes.

Illegals present serious security threats. Between 1990 and 2005, 94 foreign- born terrorists plotted or attempted terrorist attacks inside the United States. Earlier this month, the U.S. government foiled a plot by six Kosovo-born terrorists to attack Fort Dix, NJ.

Above all, illegal immigration raises issues of disrespect for law that deeply offend the conservative values of Republican voters.

President Bush and the Senate Republicans have had ample warning of the deep unpopularity of their approach within their party. They tried to pass similar measures in 2001, 2004 and 2006, and had to give up every time. They are trying again now only because they sense that it will be easier to pass their quasi-amnesty through a Democratic Congress.

They are right on that last point. Hispanics vote Democratic by majorities of 60 percent and up. So, naturally, Democrats are eager to welcome and register as many as possible as fast as possible.

And Democrats also recognize what President Bush would not–that the attempt to pass a quasi-amnesty through Congress would trigger a bitter debate within the Republican party–which would thereby alienate Hispanics from Republicans even further.

All of this has come to pass. Senate Democrats, watching Republicans tear their party apart over this issue, must echo Cleavon Little’s smug comment in Blazing Saddles: “Oh baby, you are so talented–and they are so dumb.”

I spoke yesterday to a Republican congressman. He had been given the thankless task of dialing donors to invite them to the President’s Dinner, the GOP’s biggest fundraising event of the year. “How’s it going?” I asked. “Worst ever,” he answered.

Conservatives think the Republican party has betrayed them. Hispanics–America’s largest and fastest-growing minority–think that the party has turned its back on them. Ordinary voters now say by 2:1 margins that the Democrats care more about “people like them.” All signs point to a GOP debacle in 2008. And this immigration bill looks like the point of no return.

Hamas Wants War

David Frum May 19th, 2007 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Will Israel be provoked into another war this summer? Hamas in Gaza is desperately trying to start a fight. In mid-April, Hamas ended a six-month pause and resumed firing rockets into southern Israel. Three thousand rockets have landed in the past month; 80 in just the past three days. (Video of the attacks can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/sderot2007)

So far, damage from the rockets has been relatively light: 18 Israelis wounded, property damaged. But twice, Hamas nearly got lucky: on Thursday, a rocket exploded in a high school classroom; another hit a day-care centre on May 7. Both facilities happened to be empty at the time. What if they had been in use?

Israel hit back with five air strikes on Thursday and Friday. But few imagine that these strikes will stop the rockets.

Israel desperately wants not to invade Gaza. Over the past year, Hamas has fortified the region: building bunkers, digging ditches, planting mines. Israelis can recognize a military trap when they see one.

Israelis can also recognize a political trap. For months, Gaza’s political factions have waged war on each other. Some 45 Palestinians have died in the fighting in just the past week. Hamas hopes that an Israeli invasion would unite the Gazans against Israel–and under Hamas.

In hope of avoiding the trap, Israel has relied on indirect tactics.

This week, for example, Israel allowed 500 U.S.-trained Palestinian militiamen to enter Gaza from Egypt, to reinforce Fatah against Hamas. Israeli intelligence may also have helped foil a Hamas assassination plot against Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, although details on that story remain murky and not entirely convincing.

But will these indirect methods succeed? There seems little reason for optimism.

The U.S. has trained Fatah troops before, without much improving their ability to defeat Hamas’s more highly motivated forces.

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It’s not clear that “Fatah” still exists as a political organization. Yasser Arafat’s old terror gang has collapsed into factionalism and warlordism. The troops and arms shipped into Gaza today–for whom are they really working?

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Even if the new Fatah forces do take orders from Abbas, will he really command them to shed bloodto stop Hamas’s rocketing of Israel? Fatah and Hamas are competing politically as well as militarily. Would Hamas not score a huge propaganda triumph if it could accuse Fatah of fighting for Israel?

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Even if Fatah fights well and loyally, even if it sincerely seeks to shut down Hamas’s rockets, will Fatah fight fast?

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The rocket that finally reaches an Israeli day-care centre may be fired tomorrow. Or the next day. And then it will be very difficult for any Israeli government to restrain itself.

The whole world shares an interest in avoiding a summer war in Gaza.

Which means the whole world shares an interest in suppressing Hamas rockets. But if aiding Fatah will not do the job, what will? Here’s one suggestion.

It is a little-known fact that international aid to the Palestinian territories has actually risen since Palestinians elected a Hamas government in January, 2006. According to International Monetary Fund and UN figures, the Palestinian areas received a total of $1.2 billion in official aid in 2006, up from $1 billion in 2005.

America’s contribution rose from $400 million in 2005 to $468 million in 2006. Aid from the European Union and other international organizations also increased handsomely, and the UN has called for still greater increases in aid in 2007.

Look at the incentives that have been created for the Palestinians: vote for terrorism, get an increase in your foreign aid. The Palestinian areas now receive more than $300 per person, per year, making them the most aid-dependent population on Earth. (The people of sub-Saharan Africa receive only $44 per person per year.)

These incentives allow Hamas to present itself both as the unyielding enemy of the Jewish state–and also as a provider of generous social welfare benefits to the Palestinian people.

What if those incentives changed? What if Hamas’s misconduct produced a loss rather than a profit?

Suppose that each Hamas rocket cost the Palestinian Authority $1 million in reduced U.S. and EU aid? The 80 rockets fired over recent days would mean $80 million less in salaries, food, aid, subsidies of all kinds. The next 80 rockets–another $80 million gone.

For the first time, Hamas’s adventurism would exact a serious and predictable cost. Such a cost would do more than any number of U.S.-trained Fatah gunmen to restrain Hamas.

But if the aid continues–if the world continues a policy of sending money to the Palestinian territories, no matter what the Palestinian government does–Israel, Gaza and the world stand just one well-aimed rocket away from war.

Some Advice For Three Leading Republicans

David Frum May 12th, 2007 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Walking on a beach shortly after leaving the White House, former Bush aide Karen Hughes looked up and spotted a little plane towing an advertising banner. The banner said, approximately: “Jill, please come back. I am nothing without you. Jack.” She thought: “Wrong message. It’s too much about you, not enough about her.”

A shrewd observation, and one that sums up pretty much everything that is going wrong with the 2008 Republican presidential candidates. Republicans are talking about what excites them. But what about the rest of the country?

Yet each Republican candidates has a powerful national message available to him. They just are not using it. My suggestions:

For Mitt Romney: Nine out of 10 Americans believe the U.S. health care system needs radical reform. Two-thirds of Americans believe the government must guarantee health care for all. Most polls show health care to be one of Americans’ two top domestic policy concerns, the other being the overall state of the economy.

You are the man, who as governor of Massachusetts, introduced universal private sector health care without a tax increase. Make universal private sector health care your great national cause! Quit running as the social conservative you manifestly are not, and run as the superb manager and problem-solver you have proven yourself to be.

For John McCain: Just this week, Americans learned that the six jihadists who plotted to murder soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J., had collected between them 54 citations for driving without a licence, speeding or other infractions. One of them had been caught with drug paraphernalia, another with marijuana. And yet, in all these dozens of encounters with police, nobody had ever discovered that they were present in the United States illegally.

You have vigorously attacked the sluggish and inept U.S. national security bureaucracy and the poor planning for the Iraq war.

But it’s not just homeland security and Iraq that have been botched. Hurricane Katrina revealed the unpreparedness of U.S. disaster agencies. George Bush’s costly “No Child Left Behind” initiative has done little or nothing to improve the performance of U.S. schoolchildren or to close the large gap between white and minority student achievement. And every knowledgeable observer, Republican as much as Democrat, worries about the low quality of Bush’s personnel choices.

In 2000, you ran as a reformer at a time when most voters paid little attention to government ineffectiveness. Today that problem pervades everything. You were ahead of your time then–but you could be right on time now.

For Rudy Giuliani, right: America faces a seemingly hopeless, intractable problem in Iraq and the larger Middle East. Many Americans have lost heart altogether. They are tilting to the “quit now” message of the Democrats.

New Yorkers turned to you at a similarly hopeless time. America’s greatest city was suffering more than 2,000 murders per year when you took office. Your policies helped reduce the murder level to under 700 per year. You cut the overall crime rate by 44%. When you finished, you left New York the safest big city in the United States.

You moved 340,000 people from welfare to work, stanched the flow of jobs out of the city and restored the City University as a great pathway of upward mobility for immigrants and the poor.

Your critics say that you are abrasive and aggressive. So what? “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” as an old advertising slogan used to go. It takes an even tougher man to defend the free world from the planet’s thugs, bullies and terrorists.

As for the abortion issue, say this: “I will appoint judges like John Roberts and Sam Alito. I do not want to see abortion outlawed, but I am glad that the national abortion rate has declined by 30% over the past 15 years. And we all would like to see individuals make positive choices that will lead to abortion becoming even more rare in the years ahead.” Then? stop talking!

For all: You all admire Ronald Reagan. But remember, Ronald Reagan was great because he was a man who addressed the problems of his time. America today has new problems. It needs new answers.

Taiwan’s Dangerous Game

David Frum May 5th, 2007 at 12:00 am Comments Off

Listen children, and I will tell you a tale of long, long ago.

Once upon a time in China there lived a man named Chiang Kai-Shek. He led a Chinese political party, the Kuomintang, that fought China’s communists. The Kuomintang lost the fight, and Chiang and his followers took refuge on the island of Taiwan, 100 miles off the coast of China. For the next quarter century, Chiang and his heirs claimed to be the “real” government of China and ruled Taiwan.

In those final days, Chiang Kai-Shek and his regime became objects of ridicule and resentment among left-wing people all around the world. Imagine Ariel Sharon and Ahmed Chalabi rolled into one, and you get some idea of the intensity of the anti-Chiang feeling. Right-wingers revered Chiang as an icon of anticommunist resistance.

Chiang died, and was succeeded by his son, who relaxed Chiang’s martial law regime. Environmentalists, feminists, human rights activists could organize. In the mid-1980s, these groups protested the construction of a nuclear reactor project. Out of these protests emerged a new political party, the Democratic Progress Party. The DPP wanted no part of Chiang’s “reconquer the mainland” grandiosity; they were satisfied to be citizens of a small island with no pretensions to great power status.

Even as Taiwan democratized, the two parties continued to carry the impress of their origins: the KMT appealing most strongly to voters who valued traditional Chinese culture, to military veterans, to rural and older voters and above all to refugees from mainland China; the DPP appealing most strongly to the young, to the urban, to the less tradition-minded and to the long-settled Taiwanese.

So here’s an ideological Rorschach test: Which of these two parties would you describe as the more “right wing” party and which as the more “left wing”? Got your answer? OK–now let me make things more complicated.

The Chinese of course refuse to recognize Taiwan’s right to self-government. They fired missiles across the Taiwan Strait in 1996 to protest Taiwan’s first free presidential election. In 2000, the Chinese threatened to attack Taiwan if voters elected a DPP president. When the Taiwanese defied China’s threats and voted DPP anyway, China accelerated its build up of missiles aimed at Taiwan. It aimed only 50 missiles against the island in 1996; it deploys almost 1,000 today.

The two parties have responded to this security challenge in very different ways. The “left-wing” DPP has proposed to purchase American warships, surveillance craft and interceptor missiles. It presses the U.S. to engage in joint training exercises with Taiwanese forces, to allow U.S. naval vessels to call at Taiwan ports and to change current policy so as to allow serving generals and admirals to visit Taiwan.

The “right-wing” KMT prefers detente. It has used its majority in Taiwan’s parliament to stall the DPP’s arms purchases. It advocates closer contacts with China even if China refuses to recognize Taiwan. Some of its members voice rising doubts about the relevance of the U.S.-Taiwan alliance. Leading KMT members have travelled to Beijing to hold party-to-part talks with leading Chinese Communists.

You can get dizzy trying to follow the ideological kaleidoscope twists of the modern world! The right-wing party is the party of detente; the left, the party that wants to buy new weapons. The right-wing party tilts toward communist China; the left, to George Bush’s United States. How can this be?

The KMT is above all things the party of Chinese nationalism. It desperately wishes to avoid conflict with fellow-Chinese. The KMT also recognizes that Taiwan must inevitably do business with China. If doing business means a little symbolic submission, well, small nations have to make practical compromises.

The DPP is above all things the party of Taiwan autonomy–and as China grows stronger and more menacing, the DPP has discovered new enthusiasm for selfdefence and the U.S. security guarantee. It recognizes that symbolic submission today may invite demands for actual submission tomorrow.

As usually happens in a democracy, there’s much truth in each party’s distinct point of view. And as also often happens, outsiders may feel that the two parties agree at least as much as they disagree.

But few democracies live under such threat and pressure as Taiwan. And the most worrying question about the island’s future is this: will the disagreements between the parties open opportunities for China to meddle in the island’s affairs? One hears persistent rumors in Taiwan that the Chinese Communists pressure Taiwan businessmen with interests on the mainland to make campaign donations to their ancient enemies in the KMT. China ranks among the most corrupt countries on Earth. Young democracies are vulnerable to external corruption.

I traveled to Taiwan worried that the Chinese might try to invade the island. I returned worrying that China will try to buy it.