in the aftermath…#2

Following is the second in a series of opinions reacting to Osama bin Laden’s death, which I am sharing.

Bin Laden’s Last Challenge–to Republicans
by William McGurn

Osama bin Laden is dead; New York celebrates a...

Image by Dan Nguyen @ New York City via Flickr

In life, Osama bin Laden‘s ability to elude capture for almost a decade after 9/11 challenged the American claim that no enemy is beyond her reach. In death, the al Qaeda terrorist now presents a new challenge, mostly to Republicans hoping to run in 2012. The message is this: You better have a coherent foreign policy to go along with your fiscal agenda.

It’s not just that Barack Obama is looking strong. For the moment, at least, he is strong. In the nearly 10 years since our troops set foot in Afghanistan, a clear outcome remains far from sight, and many Americans have wearied of the effort. As President Obama reminded us Sunday night, getting bin Laden doesn’t mean our work there is done–but his success in bringing the world’s most hunted man to justice does reinvigorate that work.

It does so, moreover, in a way that few of Mr. Obama’s recent Democratic predecessors in the Oval Office have matched. The killing of bin Laden was no one-shot missile strike on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory suspected of making chemical weapons, as ordered by Bill Clinton. Nor was it a failed hostage rescue in Iran a la Jimmy Carter. Instead, it was a potent combination of American force and presidential decisiveness.

SEALs in from the water.

Image via Wikipedia

First, Mr. Obama authorized a ground operation with Navy Seals far inside Pakistani territory. Second, he did not inform the Pakistanis.

These are the kinds of hard decisions that presidents have to make, where the outcome is likely to be either spectacular success or equally spectacular failure. For taking the risks that would paralyze others, and for succeeding where others have failed, the president and his team have earned the credit they are now getting.

Yes, in the days to come we may learn that the real story is a little more complicated than the one Mr. Obama gave us Sunday night. Did enhanced interrogation play a role in generating vital intelligence? And about that order to the CIA to get bin Laden: Wasn’t that a modification of an order given by George W. Bush after 9/11?

Nevertheless, in going after and getting bin Laden as forcefully as he did, Mr. Obama has just undermined one of the primary narratives against him–that of an indecisive president who worries more about the rights of our enemies than the freedom and safety of our citizens. If Mr. Obama ends up toppling Moammar Gadhafi too, he will look even stronger.

In fact, even weaker policies–e.g., cutting defense, pulling out from Afghanistan, might now be argued from a position of strength: “I said I would get us out of Iraq, and I did–and Iraq is stronger. I said I would prosecute our real enemies in Afghanistan, and I did–and we got bin Laden. It is true that I am reluctant to commit America to overseas conflicts. But when we are engaged I will finish the job.”

Do Republican candidates even have an answer? Apart from Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, few Republicans even talk about foreign policy. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty probably comes closest to offering a coherent vision, having come out for a robust foreign policy that backs up our friends and takes on our enemies without apology.

Within the GOP, however, there remains a strain that is deeply suspicious of U.S. involvement overseas, especially since the end of the Cold War. The irrepressible Ron Paul, of course, has been most explicit. Before announcing he wouldn’t run in the GOP presidential primaries, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour sounded a similar note when he complained about trying to turn Afghanistan into Ireland and suggested we start shrinking our troop presence there.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidates

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

As for the rest, the former governors from last time around (Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee) seem to be hedging their bets. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels served under President Bush, but he would hardly be confused for an advocate of any freedom agenda. For the most part, the Republican hope appears to be that eight-plus-percent unemployment along with six-dollar-a-gallon gasoline will be enough to defeat Barack Obama.

They may be right. Certainly one forceful strike is no guarantee that Mr. Obama will be re-elected, much less that he will follow-up with other muscular acts. But it does make the argument against him weaker. Up to now, Republican candidates seem to have believed they had been gifted with the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

President Obama makes surprise visit to Bagram...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

If Republicans are smart they will recognize that this meme took a big hit when a Navy Seal put a bullet in bin Laden’s head. Along with his decision to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president now has the opportunity to present himself in a way few Democrats ever have: as more hard-nosed about protecting the American people from foreign threats than his Republican opponents.

(Write to MainStreet@wsj.com)

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justin bieber…huckabee rival?

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Image via CrunchBase

Adults are apt to dismiss the young members of society as not having anything of substance to contribute. But I think that’s definitely changing. No longer can we admonish them with “children should be seen and not heard,” as was the golden rule in my younger years. Not that those approaching middle-age were ready to relinquish power without a fight. It’s more that upstarts like Bill Gates and Paul Allen at the tender ages of 13 and 15, respectively, began turning our world on its ear when they sought to create what became a global power, Microsoft. Others followed in time, Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and Facebook’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg. These of course are the more prominent among the brainiacs of their generations. I think it’s safe to say these young men who were probably considered “still wet behind the ears” by their elders, grabbed the world’s attention, never letting go.

I personally have witnessed the power of those younger than me. My 25-year-old daughter continually teaches me about life, its radical highs and lows, as well as its moments of calm and serenity. The tables have turned, where I taught her, she now teaches me. Although sometimes I wonder if she hasn’t been giving me lessons all along, ever since she was a babe in my womb.

As I’ve made my way through this, at times overwhelming, internet adventure, 20-year-olds have reached out to help me. Blogger Scriptor Obscura was the first to regularly “like” my posts and leave comments. More recently, author B.C. Young agreed to be interviewed about self-publishing, sharing insight into an area that’s still evolving. In turn he invited me to share a fictional piece of my own on his blog, introducing me to his readers. More than anything this young man gave this senior writer a “hand up.”

Thanks for giving me my first break, Ben. It’s heartwarming to know that there are published writers, like yourself, who will give a hand up to those of us still struggling to have our words read in printed form.

“mahalo”…thank you…millie aka hugmamma.

Yesterday when I volunteered at the office of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, Trevor Barnes, the assistant director, shared encouraging words of support when I expressed doubt that I even belonged among such an elite company of published writers, as per the bios I viewed on PNWA’s website. Trevor assured me that there were thousands of members like me, just looking to write something that would someday be published and read. I left the office with hope. And I got that from someone in his 20s.

One Less Lonely Girl

Image via Wikipedia

So when I saw the following I felt inclined to share it. Why? Because quite simply I was shocked to learn that the young pop idol, Justin Bieber, had something going on under his blonde, mop of hair, than just hip-hop lyrics. I think you’ll be as astonished as I was.

“Go Ahead, America, Leave It to Bieber”
by Joe Queenan (Wall Street Journal, 2/26/11)

Justin Bieber got slammed good last week when he opened his yap about abortion in Rolling Stone. Some people objected to his views, others scorched him for the way he phrased them, still others questioned the very notion of a 16-year-old boy offering his opinion on any serious moral, political or legal question.

Susan Sarandon at the premiere of Speed Racer ...

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The apoplectic response to Mr. Bieber’s comments is not fair. As of Tuesday, when he will be exactly one year short of the age when he can legally vote, drink or kill Taliban, the diminutive Canadian has every right to express himself on any issue he feels passionately about. The idea that youth somehow disqualifies him from speaking out on issues is the very thing young people–now grumpy old Bieber-Bashing Baby Boomers–fought against in the 1960s. After all, Justin Bieber is at least as smart as Susan Sarandon.

But the worst thing about all the Rolling Stone kerfuffle is that it has drawn attention away from other opinions Mr. Bieber has offered on major issues of the day. And in his clear, articulate, reasoned analysis of these issues, Mr. Bieber has shown himself to be that rarest of creatures: the precocious youth whose opinions must be heeded.

It’s Mr. Bieber, for example, who was the first person to warn that spiraling commodity prices would lead to unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Interviewed by the BBC in January, he said: “Once you see that disconnect between pork belly futures and 30-day wheat, look out! When food prices spike–and this goes all the way back to the days when Mark Antony had to import grain from Egypt–there is no way to put a cap on civil unrest back home. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, maybe even Iran. It’s the domino effect.”

Mr. Bieber’s comments did not go down well in the futures markets, where copper and tin immediately tanked. Who died and left this punk in charge? Why should anyone care what a celebrity of any age, gender or height cares about anything important? Don’t you have to be at least as old and gray as George Clooney before anyone starts taking you seriously?

Gaga on The Monster Ball Tour in Toronto

Image via Wikipedia

Generally speaking, this anticelebrity bias is justifiable. Sean Penn is an idiot, Madonna a dope, Christina Aguilera a nitwit. Lady Gaga never says anything that isn’t stupid, obvious or self-serving, and Martin Sheen should have spent less time protesting in the streets and more time in the home parenting. As for Bono, who definitely seems like a sincere, well-meaning sort, exactly how much wisdom can one impute to a man who wrote the music for the Spider-Man musical?

But in Mr. Bieber’s case, the animosity and condescension are not jusfified. Mr. Bieber, after all, was the first person–not the first celebrity, but the first personto warn that Ireland’s economy would implode because of a bloated real-estate market. More recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he was way ahead of the curve when he suggested that cash-strapped states like Illinois and California should simply threaten to default on their debt if it was the only way to get unions to come to the negotiating table.

“Trash the muni market and you’ll see unions fold like a cheap accordion,” he says, “Just look at the yield curve.”

Not everything Mr. Bieber says is astute or prescient. He was wrong when he told a Japanese TV reporter that 3-D TV would take off last Christmas, and he seriously underestimated the ability of Apple’s competitors to respond to the appeal of the iPad. His forecast of a 4.5% GDP growth rate for the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter was way off base. What’s more, he has a lamentable tendency to express his views on topics where he has no expertise whatsoever; whether the Knicks gave up too much to sign Carmelo Anthony, whether learning a second language can help stave off Alzheimer’s, why the next pope should come from Bolivia. But for every target he misses, he hits at least one bull’s eye. And when he speaks out on issues that pertain to the world of music, he is wise beyond his years.

Mike Huckabee's band at the Lincoln Day Dinner...

Image by IowaPolitics.com via Flickr

“If Huckabee doesn’t stop trotting out that stupid bass guitar,” Mr. Bieber told Rolling Stone, “he has no chance in hell of winning the Republican nomination. The American people are not going to elect a president who plays the same instrument as Sting and Flea. Not now. Not ever.”

i have to chuckle…but i also have to…wonder…if out of the mouths of babes?…hugmamma. 

(note: who the heck is “sting and flea?”)