Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Reading Assignments

For starters, Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard has a list of "10 Things President Bush Got Right." For the record, we disagree with #7, the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit. True, the plan has cost less than expected, but it represents yet another triumph for big government--and a springboard for an expanded program under Barack Obama.

We also applaud the selection and confirmation of John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court (number eight on Mr. Barnes' list). But Alito's nomination came only after the Harriet Miers debacle; we're not sure how much credit Mr. Bush deserves for "backing into" the right justice.

As for the rest of Top 10, we heartily concur with Fred Barnes. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Bush ever gets credit for those achievements, even through the prism of history.

The Saturday edition of Opinion Journal has three recommended reads:

In the Journal's weekend interview, Mississippi Governor (and former GOP RNC Chairman Haley Barbour) offers sage advice for reviving the Republican brand. He predicts--correctly--that the GOP resurgence will begin at the state level, where some of the party's brightest stars are now incumbent governors.

Mr. Barbour also emphasized the need to rebuild the GOP's state-level organizations:

Now is our chance when we're out of power to build back up from the bottom, to have a participatory, inclusive process for letting people get involved in our party. Barack Obama proved something that I've seen time and time again: if you'll give people a chance to participate in politics they'll knock your door down. And the Democrats did a whole lot better job of that than us this time."

But that raises a rather obvious question. If the GOP needs strong leadership at the state party level, why is it considering so many candidates (for RNC chairman) from states where brand is almost non-existent (Maryland); in serious decline (Ohio), or in near-collapse (Michigan). By that standard, folks like Michael Steele, Ken Blackman and Saul Anuzis shouldn't be serious contenders. But, with higher-profile pols like Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, we'll probably wind up with Mr. Steele.

As Republican in Maryland, Michael Steele faced an uphill battle in his successful race for Lieutenant Governor. But he only lasted one term, and the Maryland GOP remains in dire straits. As a communicator, Mr. Steele is effective, but the next RNC needs some nuts-and-bolts party-building skills.

That's one reason we like the idea of a modified leadership team, with a General Chairman who can serve as the party's face, and an executive director who can spearhead the rebuilding process. Such an arrangement was tried before (with some success) in the early 1980s, under the direction of Paul Laxalt.

Opinion Journal also has a couple of items on the Barack Obama's efforts to re-shape the intelligence community. "President Gulliver's Lawyer" warns of the potential influence of Dawn Johnsen, the Indian University law professor nominated by Mr. Obama's to lead the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Professor Johnsen has been a fierce critic of the War on Terror, and seems destined to hinder future executive efforts in that area.

Finally, novelist (and former CIA officer) Charles McCarry believes it's time to "Give the CIA its Due." We concur, but only to a point. How much more effective would the agency have been--without the political elements that have warred against the Bush Administration over the past eight years.

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