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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Iraq War

Robert Gates warns: 'We are now in uncharted waters' with our dysfunctional politics

Robert Gates speaks at the National constitution Center 9-22-11

Yes, we are a few days late getting through an accumulated pile of reading. But better late than never in this case.

These are the worthy remarks of Robert Gates, the newly-former secretary of Defense and former numerous other things in government and the intelligence community.

They are not very long, as Washington remarks go. But then Gates didn't give them in Washington. He spoke in Philadelphia on Sept. 22 at the National Constitution Center upon receiving its Liberty Medal.

You should read them because of the man's intelligence, thoughtfulness and long experience in our troubled national capitol. Freed from the team loyalty obligations of serving one administration or another, he speaks more candidly than we've seen him on the Sunday talk shows.

Gates, an Eagle Scout from Kansas who just turned 68, has some pointed observations to make about why Washington has become so dysfunctional. (You can skip over the divisive media part; he obviously doesn't know what he's talking about.)

-- Andrew Malcolm

Liberty Medal Acceptance Speech by Robert Gates, as provided by the National Constitution Center

First of all, I am deeply honored. Thank you, Captain Odierno and Sergeant Graham.

Captain, I’ve had some interaction with your father over time; you follow in a great tradition. And I thank you for both of your service to your country and for the outstanding work of the organizations you represent.

First of all, I would say that this evening is a reminder that astrology exists to give....

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GOP debate: Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney, plus Gary Johnson and some dogs

   Fox-Google-Debate-You-Tube-Logo

If you believe pollster Frank Luntz's focus group in the post-game analysis on Fox News, Mitt Romney did himself a lot of good in Thursday's two-hour Fox News/Google GOP Debate, held in Orlando, Fla.

Nine candidates faced questions from FNC anchors Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly, and from citizens via YouTube and text messages: Gary Johnson, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman Jr.

Baier mentioned Google had provided Fox News with a new "boop" sound to indicate a candidate had run over time, since the former bell raised the ire of dog owners (and apparently the volume of their pets' barking).

Speaking of dogs, former New Mexico Gov. Johnson, who hasn't been in a debate since the first one in May, got in the line of the evening, quipping, "My next-door neighbors' two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration."

It got a lot of laughs even though some people swear they've heard Rush Limbaugh tell the same yarn.

Not to be outdone in the canine arena, Georgia-born businessman Cain criticized....

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Day No. 972: President Obama unveils a deficit reduction plan

Obama talks about the Deficit 9-19-11

"We didn’t need a rating agency to tell us that we need a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction. That was true last week. That was true last year. That was true the day I took office." --Barack Obama, Aug. 8, 2011.

Barack Obama took office Jan. 20, 2009. That was 972 days ago this morning, almost to the hour when he finally offered his newest full-blown deficit reduction plan. (See full Obama text below.)

Or as he put it, "Good morning, everybody. Please have a seat."

If it's Monday, the campaigning president must be issuing a new plan for something (before another $35,800 per ticket fundraiser in New York City). Last week it was his new Monday stimulus package, which was so urgent it's been delayed, as we discussed right here this morning.

Today, it was how to pay for his new stimulus package plus how to start reducing overspending and paying down the $14,000,000,000,000+ in debt that someone else is responsible for accumulating in recent years.

Here's the Washington Democrat's diagnosis:

During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multimillionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit, and that left us with a big pile of IOUs.

Everyone remembers his last deficit reduction plan in April. Back then he was determined "to shrink the deficit as a share of the economy, but not to do so so abruptly with spending cuts that would hamper growth or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet."

Which struck many as suspiciously like not much of a shovel-ready deficit reduction program.

Now that it's autumn, it will surprise only children that the Democrat wants to increase taxes because we aren't paying enough and need more to spend. He also details impressive, large-scale cuts that include $1 trillion that we don't have and he says we won't be spending on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to this line of thinking, our spouse has been informed that we'll be buying a Lamborghini (red) with the cuts we've made in not buying a corporate jet.

"This plan cuts $2 in spending for every dollar in new revenues," the president proclaimed. Reforms to....

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This week's GOP debate: Rick Perry vs everyone else

CNN Tea party debate 9-12-11

As a former Air Force pilot, Rick Perry knows what happens to the leading plane in any dogfight. It's the target for the ones behind.

And so it was Monday night in Tampa as the unlikely partnership of CNN and the Tea Party Express produced another early Republican primary debate.

It was a good debate for moderator Wolf Blitzer, who kept the pace brisk and worked hard to get everyone involved with 30-second rebuttals.

It was also a good debate for beleaguered President Obama, who sent his doomed jobs bill to Congress in the morning with yet another Rose Garden photo op. Obamacare came in for the usual bashing. Just about everyone in the GOP field will repeal the legislative abomination as soon as they walk into the Oval Office after the parade on Jan. 20, 2013.

Perry wondered last week if he'd become the pinata. But this debate the forceful Mitt Romney, the game Jon Huntsman, the irascible Ron Paul, the earnest son of an Italian immigrant Rick Santorum and the increasingly aggressive Michele Bachmann aimed their fire at the tall Texan whose 30 short days in the race have changed everything and vaulted him into a substantial lead.

Which maintains the appearance of an ongoing race but means absolutely nothing this early. just ask Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, who lead at this time four years ago.

Bachmann, who rode her tea party leadership to victory in the Ames Straw Poll, was virtually invisible in last week's Reagan Library debate, rhetorically and sartorially. This time she came back in red and went after fellow tea party fave Perry at every chance, mainly over his admitted and aborted mistake of seeking to vaccinate sixth grade girls against the human papilloma virus.

Santorum hit Perry's government mandated vaccination too. And they hit Perry for championing in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants and for opposing a border fence with Mexico as not realistic.

Perry, as usual did not back down, but he needs to get smoother in his answers, whose pauses suggest uncertainty. "We were clearly sending a message to young people regardless of what the sound of their last name is that we believe in you," the governor said, adding it's the American way.

Marc Antony, oh, no, it was Mitt Romney actually, was full of praise for Perry's job creation record that grew employment just like his predecessors Democrat Ann Richards and Republican George W. Bush, only fewer, and with the help of oil reserves, Republican courts and Republican legislators.

Asked what he would bring to the White House, pizza exec Herman Cain said a sense of humor, which brought the evening's lone laughter. Along, of course, with his 9-9-9 plan--9% business, income and national sales taxes.

Newt Gingrich kept his criticism aimed at Obama, the main target in previous GOP debates.

Ron Paul again showed why his disciples love him and why he can never win this party's nomination. He is very consistent and firm in his strict constitutionalism themes and isolationism, which earned him boos from the audience of 1,000 conservatives. As he did with Giuliani last cycle, Paul lured Santorum into a fight by suggesting the United States invited the 9/11 attacks by aggression against other lands.

Romney pursued Perry like a prosecutor on Social Security, calling the Texan's Ponzi scheme comment over the top. Bachmann was relentless. She's seized on the inoculation of "little girls" as a violation of freedoms, parental rights and suggested a connection among a drug company, a former Perry aide there, campaign contributions and Perry's executive order.

It's a theme she carried into the post-debate interviews and a somewhat puzzling fundraising email immediately after titled "I'm offended."

Bachmann may also have set a modern debate record for mixed metaphors, talking about the Federal Reserve Bank:"They have got to be shrunk back down to such a tight leash that they're going to squeak."

There are some signs of desperation in the Bachmann camp since Perry's entry and her poll slump. She's cutting back South Carolina campaigning to focus on Iowa and her email solicitation asked for "a special emergency donation" without explaining what the emergency is. Money?

Earlier in the day, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal endorsed Perry and ex-candidate Tim Pawlenty endorsed Romney. Coincidentally, Romney will help pay down Pawlenty's campaign debts.

Speaking of campaign dropouts, the GOP field will winnow in coming weeks from the surviving eight. The next Republican set-to isn't for another nine days, which is about how long it will take you to read Monday's full CNN transcript over here.

RELATED:

Perry's debate debut gives MSNBC top ratings so far

The Reagan debate: The most awkward, unexpected and weirdest moments

Mitt Romney: 'We can't lead the world by hoping our enemies will hate us less'

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

A moment of music to ponder those taken on 9/11 and since

For the fallen of 9/11 and all those since, a musical moment to remember and ponder with one of our favorite songs and one of our favorite voices, Anthony Kearns:

 

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9/11 a decade later: Most Americans now expect it to happen again

911 sunrise over washington capitol and damaged pentagon 2001 9-13-01

As most Americans pause at least a moment Sunday to remember 9/11/2001 and what they were doing on that deadly day that so fundamentally scarred the national psyche, an overwhelming majority have also told pollsters they think another mass attack will happen again before 9/11/2021.

Americans now believe that Al Qaeda as a global terrorist organization is weaker today, thanks to the extermination in May of Osama bin Laden and the less noticed elimination of hundreds of his associates by various violent means in recent years.

This year 50% of Americans say they believe Al Qaeda is weaker. That's double the percentage who thought that the previous two autumns.

Although, interestingly, a third (32%) still think the disparate terror group has managed to maintain its strength. Understandable. What's your first thought when you see an airliner low over any downtown?

However, according to this weekend's fresh Rasmussen Reports survey, despite all the country's sometimes controversial enhanced security precautions, a substantial majority of Americans (61%) still believe a similar-scale attack is at least somewhat likely to occur on the homeland during the next 10 years.

This includes nearly a third of Americans (29%) who think such a deadly repeat assault is very likely.

RELATED:

Here's how Obama wants 9/11 observed

Rudy Giuliani warns hasty troop drawdowns could help terrorists

President George W. Bush remembers what that 9/11 day was like

911 New York City Smoke plume as seen from ISS astronaut Frank Culbertson NASA 250 miles up

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the re-Tweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends

Photos, from top: Sunrise on Sept. 13, 2001, on the U.S. Capitol and the damaged Pentagon; New York City 9/11 smoke plume as seen from the International Space Station, 250 miles altitude. Credits: Luke Frazza / AFP /Getty Images; Frank Culbertson / NASA.

Sunday shows: Giuliani, Rumsfeld, Brennan, McCain

Several of the Sunday mnorning programs have been preempted this week by coverage of the Sept. 11 anniversary memorial services in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani walks the streets in the hours after the 9-11 attacks

Bloomberg's "Political Capital with Al Hunt:" Sen. Michael E. Crapo (R-Idaho).

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Donald Rumsfeld and Obama advisor John Brennan.

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Rumsfeld, Giuliani, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Brennan, Michael Chertoff, Paul Wolfowitz and Gen. Jack Keane, with Brit Hume, Bill Kristol, Dana Priest and Juan Williams.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Why wait until Sunday for politics? Click here now to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle now. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share this item with friends.

Photo: Associated Press (Giuliani, Sept. 2001).

Rick Perry grins, shrugs and swings away at Reagan Library GOP debate

  Reagan-Library-Plaque-Presidential-Oath
Texas Gov. Rick Perry came under fire as Republican aspirants to Ronald Reagan's old job gathered under the wings of his former Air Force One tonight, for another debate aired on national TV.

Fresh from surveying wildfires in his home state, Perry was the shiny new toy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. It was his first presidential debate, and moderators Brian Williams of "NBC Nightly News" and Politico editor-in-chief John Harris called on him at most every opportunity.

And he didn't disappoint, particularly in pointed exchanges with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was the presumptive front-runner until Perry entered the race on Aug. 13, the day of the Ames straw poll in Iowa.

Consider this exchange on the question of job creation:

Perry: "Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt." (A grin and a "whaddya Rick-Perry-Mitt-Romney-GOP-Debate-Reagan-Library gonna do?" sort of shrug followed.)

Romney: "George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor."

Perry: "That's not correct."

Romney: "That is correct."

Williams: "Nice to see that everybody came prepared for tonight's conversation."

Or, when Rep. Ron Paul of Texas said Perry wrote a letter in the '90s "supporting Hillarycare."

Perry countered that he was his state's agriculture commissioner during the Clinton administration and that he was urging Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the first lady, not to forget rural healthcare in her proposal to overhaul healthcare policy. Then he looked at Paul and said, "I was more interested in the one you wrote to Ronald Reagan, saying, 'I'm going to quit the party because of the things you believe in.' "

"Oh," said Paul, "I need an answer on that!"

He went on to explain how he'd supported Reagan in 1976, and supported his....

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Tonight's Republican debate may really be between 2 Texans, Rick Perry and Ron Paul

Republicans Governor Rick Perry and Representative Ron Paul of Texas

Eight Republicans will line up for the debate in the shadow of Ronald Reagan's Air Force One in his presidential library this evening.

But the most interesting debate dynamic will likely be between the two Texans onstage with the same pair of initials -- Rick Perry, the governor, and Ron Paul, the representative.

This was supposed to be the second GOP panel for Perry, the late-comer and new front-runner. But he pulled out of Sen. Jim DeMint's values forum in South Carolina Monday to fly home and be governor during the giant state's wild wildfires.

Tonight, everyone will pay verbal tribute to Ronald Reagan, who might have some trouble winning the presidential nomination of the new Grand Old Party these days. The debate will be carried live on MSNBC at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman will be asked about their jobs plans. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich will chime in. For an interesting look at the surviving GOP field, check out Chris Stirewalt's perceptive rundown here.

Obama will be a certain target but less so because Republican House Speaker John Boehner saved the Democrat from himself. Obama wanted to talk jobs tonight too to a joint session of Congress. Boehner suggested Thursday was better and the president acquiesced.

Cross-state rivals Perry and Paul have already been sniping at each other. The 11-term congressman has criticized the nation's longest-serving governor as not a real conservative and dismissing him as more of the status quo.Texas Republican governor Rick Perry listens to wildfire victim Cindy Cruz in Bastrop 9-5-11

Tuesday Perry's surprisingly well-organized camp fired a salvo at Paul, citing his 1987 resignation letter from the Republican Party in which he criticized the president now entombed just steps from tonight's debate site.

"There is no credibility left for the Republican Party as a force to reduce the size of government," Paul wrote near the end of Reagan's second term before Paul ran for president on the Libertarian ticket. "That is the message of the Reagan years."

“It will be interesting," a Perry spokesman suggestively suggested, "to hear Rep. Paul explain why Reagan drove him from the party at tomorrow’s debate on the grounds of the Reagan Library."

Recent polls have confirmed Perry's rapid surge to the front of the Republican field. He appears to have most hurt Bachmann, another tea party favorite who can be expected to attack. A Gallup Poll this week found Perry and Romney to be about equally well-liked among Republicans (seven-out-of-ten).

But Gallup's intensity score gives Perry twice the rating of Romney, 25-12.

A larger question many ask is how good is Perry at debating? Put another way, how bad can he be? He's never lost an election.

It's still almost a year out from the GOP convention in Tampa. Ahh, Florida in August. Who wouldn't want to wear funny hats in that weather?

But this month is already crucial. It's the last in the second quarter of campaign fundraising. We'll soon see how big a money bump Bachmann got for winning the Ames Straw Poll. If Paul's $1.6 money-bomb was a one-day explosion?

And how big are the bundles being assembled by Perry's reputed hundreds of newly-recruited, enthusiastic bundlers, including some well-connected folks in California, where Perry will forage for cash all day Thursday.

RELATED:

Here's how President Obama wants 9/11 observed

77% of Americans say Obama leads nation down wrong track

Obama's approval now lower than his uncle's blood-alcohol level

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle.Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: David J. Phillip / Associated Press (Perry, left); Mary Ann Chastain / Associated Press (Paul); Alberto Martinez / Associated Press (Perry listens to wildfire victim Cindy Cruz in Bastrop, Sept. 5).

Obama: 'America’s military is the best that it’s ever been'

Obama addresses the American Legion in Minneapolis 8-30-11

Coincidence or not, President Obama and a Republican front-runner who would replace him, Mitt Romney, gave dueling speeches to American veterans today. Romney to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Obama to the American Legion in Minneapolis.

As we often do, we are publishing the full texts of both addresses so that Ticket readers can see for themselves the scope and nuance of the men's spoken words. Gov. Romney's address is now available in excerpt and full text form by clicking here.

Now, some Obama excerpts:

There are some special guests here I want to acknowledge. They may have already been acknowledged, but they're great friends so I want to make sure that I point them out. First of all, the wonderful governor of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, is here. Two senators who are working on behalf of veterans every single day -- Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.  Congressman Keith Ellison -- this is his district. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a great friend....

We’re still digging out from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. It’s taking longer and it's been more difficult than any of us had imagined. And even though we’ve taken some steps in the right direction, we've got a lot more to do....

We Americans have been through tough times before, much tougher than these. And we didn’t just get through them; we emerged stronger than before. Not by luck. Not by chance. But because, in hard times, Americans don’t quit....

We salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 Generation -— the more than 5 million Americans who've worn the uniform over the past 10 years....

We see the wages of war in those patriots who never came home. They gave their all, their last full measure of devotion, in Kandahar, in the Korengal, in Helmand, in the battles for Baghdad and Fallujah and Ramadi. Now they lay at rest in quiet corners of America, but they live on in the families who loved them and in a nation that is safer because of their service....

America’s military is the best that it’s ever been. We saw that most recently in the skill and precision of our brave forces who helped the Libyan people finally break free from the grip of Moammar Qaddafi....

We’ve still got some work to do.  We got to break the backlog of disability claims.  I know that over the past year, the backlog has actually grown due to new claims from Agent Orange. But let me say this -- and I know Secretary Shinseki agrees -- when our veterans who fought for our country have to fight just to get the benefits that you’ve already earned, that’s unacceptable. So this is going to remain a key priority for us....

We’re facing some tough choices as we put our fiscal house in order. But I want to be absolutely clear: We cannot, we must not, we will not, balance the budget on the backs of our veterans....

I’ve proposed a Returning Heroes Tax Credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans and a Wounded Warrior Tax Credit for companies that hire unemployed veterans with a disability. When Congress returns from recess, this needs to be at the top of their agenda....

Now, the full Obama text:

President Obama's remarks to the American Legion, as provided by the White House

THE PRESIDENT: Hello Legionnaires! It is wonderful to see all of you. Let me, first of all, thank Commander Foster for your introduction and for your lifetime of service to your fellow Marines, soldiers and veterans. On behalf of us all, I want to thank Jimmie and I want to thank your entire leadership team for welcoming me here today. Thank you very much.

Your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; your Executive Director, your voice in....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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