Ron Paul’s Concerns and Frank Luntz’s Predictions

Depressed yet?

That was Texas congressman and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul scaring the britches off everybody in the House by expressing "grave concern" for America’s future.

"I have days, growing more frequent all the time, when I’m convinced the time is now upon us that some big events are about to occur," he began. "These fast-approaching events … will affect all of us. They will not be limited to just some areas of our country. The world economy and political system will share in the chaos about to be unleashed."

Mr. Paul warned of an "indeed frightening and an historic event," one that "may even be worse than I first thought … now at our doorstep."

"There are reasons to believe this coming crisis is different and bigger than the world has ever experienced," he said. "The financial crisis, still in its early stages, is apparent to everyone: gasoline prices over $4 a gallon; skyrocketing education and medical-care costs; the collapse of the housing bubble; the bursting of the NASDAQ bubble; stock markets plunging; unemployment rising; massive underemployment; excessive government debt; and unmanageable personal debt.

"Little doubt exists as to whether we’ll get stagflation. The question that will soon be asked is: When will the stagflation become an inflationary depression?"

Hitting bottom

"It’s hard for voters to say that they are proud to be a Republican or proud to be a Democrat," reacts Libertarian Party spokesman Andrew Davis to "single digit" approval ratings for Congress revealed in the latest Rasmussen poll — the worst approval rating for congressional members since Rasmussen began tracking the numbers.

Missed Leno

"I think it is important to let all … know that we worked very hard, late into the night, with significant members of the Senate staff. We worked very hard. In fact, I got home a little bit after midnight this morning, as did others."

— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, letting the American people know that he stayed up past his bedtime on Friday.

BLOOD AND IGNORANCE

In his upcoming book, one of the country’s most respected diplomats will blast President Bush’s war in Iraq as a "zealous pursuit of ideological precepts not grounded in knowledge and coupled with arrogance," one that "trumped the warnings of those in the administration who knew better, but whose voices and expertise were ignored."

"This was a war of choice, not of necessity," writes Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, founding director of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, whose diplomatic career spans the administrations of eight presidents. He played a key role in the U.S.-led coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

His comments are contained in an uncorrected proof of "Danger and Opportunity: An American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East," due in bookstores in September.v A copy was sent to this columnist.

"The Bush administration’s post-invasion policy in Iraq ignored a large body of advice from foreign policy and military professionals, with disastrous consequences," charges Mr. Djerejian, who among his posts was the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

"Those who drove the policy had little understanding of the history, culture, politics and complexity of Iraqi society or the region as a whole," he says, suggesting the administration "should have contained and isolated Saddam Hussein’s regime, as we did with that of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. We had the whole world with us after 9/11. We could have led a comprehensive international sanctions effort against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

"As it turned out, there … was a wrong-headed approach whose unintended consequences have cost us greatly in blood and treasure," concludes the ambassador, who recalls T.E. Lawrence admonishing in 1917: "Do not try to do too much with your own hands. … It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them."

PAY TO LEARN

For the sake of U.S. national security, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says it’s time to consider rewarding what few outstanding math and science students exist in this country.

Writing in the Ripon Forum, Mr. Gingrich suggests offering direct incentives to students to expand their learning beyond what is expected of them by school curriculums.

"A more radical idea is to pay students directly for getting a B or better in their math or science classes," he says. "The idea offends many who either believe learning should be its own reward or don’t think we should place special value on math and science over the arts, humanities and social sciences. …

"Money is a powerful motivator in ever other area of American life. Why should education be any different?"

NO CORONATION

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 bid for the White House was "the worst campaign ever," but don’t look for the New York senator to disappear from the national stage.

So concludes leading Washington political and corporate consultant and pollster Frank Luntz, in an interview with this columnist.

"It was the worst campaign ever," opines Mr. Luntz, who has consulted myriad national political campaigns over the years. "It was a disgrace."

On the same day as the Iowa caucuses, the Washington-based pollster points out, Mrs. Clinton was leading her opponent Sen. Barack Obama by 22 points nationwide, but then her "arrogance" and "viciousness" got the best of her.

Whether in business or politics, explains Mr. Luntz, "if you think you deserve it, you won’t get it. If you think there should be a coronation, they’ll pick somebody else other than you."

He says his consulting firm — Luntz Maslansky Strategic Research — examined the speech patterns of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama during the primary campaigning and determined the Illinois senator and now-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee issued a negative attack or statement almost every three minutes.

Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, issued an attack "every 50 seconds."

"The American people don’t like the way things are going, but they really are fed up with all the negativity," says Mr. Luntz. "This woman just hates: she hates Republicans, she hates [George W.] Bush, she hates corporate America, she hates insurance companies, she hates pharmaceutical companies, she hates oil companies. And a lot of people do, but they don’t want to always hear what’s wrong; they want to hear what’s right."

That said, Mr. Luntz does not see Mrs. Clinton riding off into the sunset, anytime soon at least. In fact, the opposite is true.

"I’ve heard it said she could be a Supreme Court nominee; I’ve heard her talked about for attorney general, which I don’t believe," he adds. "She could do in the Senate what Ted Kennedy did" after coming up short in the 1980 presidential primary, when he was the "expected nominee" like Mrs. Clinton.

"He went on to be a great senator," Mr. Luntz notes. "And make no mistake, she’s not going away, and should Obama lose [either the presidential election or a potential re-election] she becomes the front-runner for 2012."

The pollster does not see her becoming Mr. Obama’s vice presidential running mate.

No guts, no glory

"Practice a little daring," encouraged Tony Snow in May 2007, four months before stepping down as White House press secretary because of his recurrence of cancer. He was delivering the 118th annual commencement address to students of Catholic University of America in Washington.

"Something that’s tantalizing because it raises the question of whether this particular activity and goal lies inside or outside the limit of your abilities," he explained. Mr. Snow spoke from experience, for in reality there were few things in life he did not test.

"Last summer, we were in Crawford, Texas, with the president," he recalled. "And you know the president has this love of riding a bicycle off-road. It’s a treacherous and crazy thing, plunging down the hills, over seeming cliffs, ravines, up rocks. He loves it …

"So the first time out at the ranch, he said, ‘Snow, you ready to ride?’

"I looked around and said, ‘Well, I don’t have any shorts, sir.’

"And so he said, ‘Hey, Jerry, do you got shorts?’

"’Yes sir.’ Hands out a pair of shorts.

"’Well, all I have are these running shoes,’ I protested.

"’They’ll do.’

"He hands off a T-shirt, so off we go," he recalled. "But there was always that lingering fear. At one point he says, ‘OK, you’re going to need your brakes here. It’s straight down, it’s boulders. Oh, and the other side, it’s a cliff. Watch out.’

"We finally get to this place where the road parts. You go off-road, and there’s a drop of about 15 or 20 feet, it rises up again and then goes around the curve. The president goes down and goes ‘Woo hoo!’ Person behind him goes down and goes ‘Woo hoo!’ I’m in the back and I go ‘Waaaah.’ But there I am.

"OK, where am I? The limits of the abilities." Mr. Snow continued. "Well, I go down. It’s great! I’m going full-speed. And then all of a sudden coming up a tree appears right in the middle of the path. ‘Ooof!’ Everybody hears it.

"’Snow, you OK back there?’

"’Yes, sir. Just hit a tree.’

"’OK, well come on then.’

"I made the rest of the trip with a wobbly front tire which had been bent up in the encounter. The point’s simple. When a chance presents itself, take a prudent and interesting risk. If it doesn’t work out, that is OK. Don’t worry about that, either. You see, God presents blessings in unexpected packages. Don’t overlook them. Remember: no guts, no glory."

PREVIOUS LEAKER

You can’t say President Bush holds grudges.

That’s former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who recently blasted one-time boss George W. Bush by saying the president relied on "propaganda" to sell the Iraq war, still leading a video tour of the West Wing posted on the official White House Web site.

"I’m pleased to be your tour guide," begins the once-loyal aide to the president, his presentation titled "Life in the White House."

In the video tour, Mr. McClellan describes his morning "gaggles" with the White House press, an off-camera session where he provided those "messages we want to get across that day."

Hmmm.

"Then later in the afternoon … is the daily White House press briefing … about [items] of news interest the White House wants to get out to the public," he continues.

Gotcha.

At one point during the 12-minute tour, Mr. McClellan is seen walking into a glass-enclosed cubicle occupied by a broadcast network, where a sign on the door reads: "Unnamed Sources With Leaks Welcomed Here."


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