Election ’08 Backgrounder

  

Financial Crisis | Iraq | Defense | Background & Character | Judges & Courts | Energy

 

FINANCIAL CRISIS

Quick Facts:

  • Democrats created the mortgage crisis by forcing banks to give loans to people who couldn’t afford them.
  • In 2006, McCain sponsored a bill to fix the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Barney Frank and other Democrats successfully opposed it.
  • Obama was one of the highest recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac donations in Congress.

Related Editorials

 

IRAQ


Quick Facts:

  • When the U.S. was on the verge of losing in Iraq, McCain chose to stand and fight.  Obama chose retreat.
  • Even after the surge succeeded, Obama told ABC’s Terry Moran he would still oppose it if he had the chance to do it all over again.

Related Editorials

 

DEFENSE

Quick Facts:

  • Obama has promised to significantly cut defense spending, including saying “I will slow our development of future combat systems.”
  • John McCain has vowed: “We must continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies.”

Related Editorials

Obama Video: Watch Now

 

 

BACKGROUND & CHARACTER

Quick Facts:

  • Obama voted “present” 135 times as a state senator, and according to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, “gained a reputation for skipping tough votes.”
  • McCain has taken stances unpopular with his own party and/or the public on controversial issues, including immigration, campaign finance reform, judicial nominations, the Iraq War and more.

Related Editorials

 

 

JUDGES & COURTS


Quick Facts:

  • In a 2001 interview, Obama said he regretted that the Supreme Court “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.”
  • In the same interview, Obama criticized the Supreme Court because it “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.”
  • Obama has focused on empathy, rather than legal reasoning and restraint, as his basis for appointing judges, saying, “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy…to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.”
  • McCain opposes judicial activism, saying, “my nominees will understand that there are clear limits to the scope of judicial power.”

Related Editorials

Obama 2001 Interview: Listen Now

 

ENERGY


Quick Facts:

  • McCain has proposed building 45 new nuclear plants by 2030 and is in favor of drilling in sectors of the Outer Continental Shelf.
  • Obama has refused to take a stand, saying only “we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix” and he will “look at” drilling offshore.

Related Editorials

»
McCain: The Energy Candidate

» McCain On Nukes: Yes We Can
» Breaking The Back Of High Oil

 

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The Final Curtain in Venezuela?

The Final Curtain in Venezuela?

By Gustavo Coronel
HumanEvents.com | 8/13/2008

The mood that permeates Venezuela today is one that seems to signal impending doom for autocratic Hugo Chavez. The lyrics of Paul Anka’s “My Way” seem to float in the Caracas air: “And now, the end is near… ”.

Three moves by Chavez, all taken during the last month, comprise his attempt to maintain control over an increasingly frustrated country. The first one is the passing, on the very last day of the period of legislative power granted to him by the National Assembly, of 26 decree-laws that will give him most of the powers that he tried to get, unsuccessfully, through the December 2007 Constitutional referendum.

Defeated by the voters in the referendum, he is now using this blunt force to obtain what the popular vote denied him. No one in the country, except those who drew up the over 2000 articles of the new decrees, knew about them in advance or had a chance to discuss them. In another major move, Chavez used his General Comptroller and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to ban 260 Venezuelans from running for office in the November regional elections. Not surprisingly, several of the best candidates of the opposition, favored to win by all polls, are included in the ban, which openly violates articles 42 and 65 of the current Venezuelan Constitution.

The third move has been his takeover of Banco de Venezuela, the third largest private bank in the country, owned by Spanish Bank of Santander. Chavez characteristically announced this move during one of his TV shows, without any notice made to the owners. Chavez had been in Spain only days before, trying to mend his relationship with the King, but did not disclose his intentions.

Although these moves would seem to indicate overwhelming power and complete political control of the country, a more careful reading suggests them to be attempts at asserting authority by a weakening leader facing increasing opposition from Venezuelan civil society. The ban on opposition leaders is being challenged in the streets, giving rise to popular protests in which the students are once more leading the way. A delegation of MERCOSUR, the free trade organization from the southern cone, has visited Caracas to investigate the ban and finds it undemocratic, which will prevent Chavez from joining the organization.

Public opinion in the U.S. and Europe is beginning to see Mr. Chavez’s tactics in the same category with Zimbabwe’s Mugabe. The reaction against the decree-laws is starting to unfold and could develop into open civil rebellion.

One of the new decrees would give Chavez the rank of four-star general, not currently existing, and the pompous title of “Generalissimo” in the same level with dictators like Tito, Franco, and Chiang Kai-Sheck. Another decree will convert the state-owned petroleum company, PDVSA, into an agricultural and industrial conglomerate, and still a third would create a new army, loyal to Chavez and not to the nation.

Leaders of the opposition, including industrialist Rafael Alfonzo and recent Milton Friedman award winner and student leader Jon Goicochea, are calling for a popular rebellion, including, if need be, a general strike against the Chavez regime, while members of his own political coalition are speaking in open disagreement with the measures. The takeover of Banco de Venezuela has pushed the country risk of Venezuela to record highs, now 679 points — highest in the hemisphere. The fear of private investors is turning into terror as some of the decrees, especially one on “food sovereignty,” could justify the takeover of important privately-owned food companies.

Once again, Hugo Chavez has brought Venezuela to the brink of open social conflict. He now seems determined to become an absolute ruler. He is forcing a showdown with the Venezuelan people that he has little chance of winning, given the mood of the country. This time he cannnot expect much solidarity from his allies in the hemisphere since Morales, Kirchner, Ortega, and the Castro dynasty are experiencing similar — if not even worse — problems. As the Venezuelan private sector, the Catholic church, the student movement, the opposition parties, civil society in general and many of the members of his own political coalition take the media and the streets against him, Chavez will be fighting for his political life, weighed down by the burden of ridicule and possibly facing the final curtain. He could probably claim he did it “his way,” but history will say that his way was not the people’s way.


Gustavo Coronel is a petroleum geologist, author and public policy expert, who was elected to the Venezuelan Congress in 1998 before it was dissolved in 1999 following the election of Hugo Chavez as president. Coronel is currently designated as an “enemy” of the Chavez regime.

Chavez Approves Anti-Biofuels Campaign

Chavez Approves Anti-Biofuels Campaign

Venezuela’s leftwing, populist dictator, Hugo Chavez, has personally approved funding for a covert propaganda campaign against alternative fuels, including ethanol and bodiesel. The money will be diverted from Venezuela’s oil revenues; and there is reason to believe Chavez may have sought financial support for the project from Iran, after successfully persuading Cuba’s Communist dictator, Fidel Castro, to condemn biofuels as “capitalist genocide.”

With or without Tehran’s aid, the Crackpot of Caracas aims to discredit the biofuels industry by subsidizing the production and placement of a series of negative articles, essays and TV programs promoting claims that it robs the poor of productive agricultural land, drives up the price of food for humans and animals alike and actually consumes more energy than it produces.

The brunt of the campaign will be directed at Brazil’s thriving ethanol industry. But biodiesel will also be a target. Sources in Venezuela’s capital say Chavez insists that the renewable fuel, which is made from virgin or used (recycled) vegetable oils, be branded “deforestation diesel” because of alleged environmental abuses by the palm oil industry.

The anti-biofuels campaign will naturally ignore the promise of cellulosic ethanol, made from trees and switchgrass, as well as biodiesel produced from Jatropha–a perenneial plant that grows in arid wasteland–and algae. Hydroponic, hothouse cultivation of the latter feedstock could yield thousands of gallons of oil per acre.

Venezuelan IDs help terrorists enter U.S. Chavez provides support to Middle Easterners headed north, charges congressional report

WASHINGTON – Venezuela, whose leader Hugo Chavez has stood with Iran against the U.S., is providing documents that could help terrorists infiltrate the U.S.-Mexico, charges a new congressional report on homeland security.

“Venezuela is providing support – including identity documents – that could prove useful to radical Islamic groups,” says the report of the subcommittee on investigations of the House Homeland Security Committee. “The Venezuelan government has issued thousands of cédulas, the equivalent of Social Security cards, to people from places such as Cuba, Colombia and Middle Eastern nations that host foreign terrorist organizations.”

The documents can be used to obtain Venezuelan passports and American visas, which in turn allow the holder to elude immigration checks and enter the United States.

The report found that the Chavez government has issued thousands of these identity documents that could help terrorists elude immigration checks and enter the United States.

“The potential is certainly there for terrorists to infiltrate the U.S. through Mexico,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chaired the subcommittee. “We apprehended five Pakistanis on the U.S. Mexico border with fraudulent Venezuelan documents.”

The report, “A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border,” says the number of aliens other than Mexican, known as OTM, illegally crossing the border has grown at an alarming rate over the past several years.

Aliens from “special interest” countries known to harbor terrorists or promote terrorism are routinely encountered and apprehended according to the report. The countries include Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Federal law enforcement personnel told the subcommittee’s staff it is difficult to provide the total number of special interest aliens entering the U.S. because they pay large amounts of money, between $15,000 and $60,000, to employ the more effective Mexican alien smuggling organizations and are less likely to be apprehended.

In August, an Afghani man was found swimming across the Rio Grande River in Hidalgo, Texas. Last July in Jim Hogg County, Border Patrol agents found a discarded jacket with patches from countries where al-Qaida is known to operate. The patches feature Arabic-language martyrdom slogans that read “way to eternal life” and depict a jetliner crashing into the World Trade Center towers.

McCaul is concerned that Chavez is turning Venezuela into a staging area for terrorism in America’s backyard.

“We know that Mr. Chavez in Venezuela has openly embraced the Islamic jihad world,” he said. “We know that Hezbollah operatives have been given safe haven in Venezuela. So the threat is very real.”

Last year, FBI Director Robert Mueller Jr. revealed to members of Congress that “individuals from countries with known al-Qaida connections have attempted to enter the United States illegally using alien smuggling rings and assuming Hispanic appearances.”

He also testified that a Hezbollah cell had been “dismantled” after discovering that the terror organization was smuggling operatives across the U.S. -Mexico border to carry out terror attacks inside the U.S.

The McCaul report also points out that radical Islamic groups that support Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamiya Al Gamat are all active in Latin America.

“Given the ever-present threat posed by al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations – a threat that has been underscored by the recent events in London and the vulnerability of our borders – the need for immediate action to enforce our borders could not be more apparent,” says the report.

Chavez’s Theater of the Absurd

Chavez’s Theater of the Absurd
By Joseph Klein
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 23, 2006

Venezuela is locked in a battle with
Guatemala to take over a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, representing the Latin American region.  While neither country has been able to garner the necessary two-thirds majority from the General Assembly,
Guatemala has soundly beaten
Venezuela in virtually every round of voting to date.  The 35th round of voting ended on October 20th with 103 votes for
Guatemala and 81 for
Venezuela.  Further voting has been put off for several days.  As one reporter put it during a daily press briefing at UN headquarters, the process is morphing into the theater of the absurd.


Venezuela has already served four times on the Security Council, while
Guatemala has never served.  It is time for
Venezuela, the perennial loser in balloting this time around, to either remove itself voluntarily in favor of
Guatemala or a consensus candidate, or to be forced to step aside.  According to the UN Charter, in electing a non-permanent member to the Security Council, the General Assembly is to give “due regard…in the first instance to the contribution of Members of the United Nations to the maintenance of international peace and security and to the other purposes of the Organization.” 
Venezuela fails that test, hands down.

 

There are at least two grounds for disqualifying
Venezuela from further consideration.  First,
Venezuela is committing serious human rights violations today, according to its own regional group’s human rights spokesperson.   
Guatemala’s past human rights record is far from stellar, but its record is improving while
Venezuela’s is rapidly deteriorating.  Second,
Venezuela has demonstrated its contempt for the Security Council’s decisions by actively backing
Iran’s outright threats to international peace and security in defiance of the will of the international community.  
 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States issued a statement on August 31, 2006 condemning the murder of Jesús Rafael Flores Rojas, a journalist of the daily Región, in
Venezuela.  This was no random act of violence.  On the night of August 23, 2006, Rojas arrived at his house in the locality of El Tigre, when an individual shot Rojas eight times in the presence of his daughter before fleeing in an automobile.  He had received prior death threats in response to his investigative political reporting.
 

Nor was the murder of Rojas one isolated case.  It followed two prior murders in 2006. Joaquín Tovar, the editor of the weekly Venezuelan paper Ahora, was shot and killed June 17th, while Jorge Aguirre, a photographer with El Mundo newspaper in
Caracas, was killed April 5th

 

And the violence directed against journalists in
Venezuela continues.  On October 7, 2006, journalist Pedro Bastardo was killed by several shots to the head.  On September 30, 2006, a team of reporters working for news channel Globovisión was assaulted, allegedly by supporters of President Hugo Chávez, during the march of presidential candidate for the opposition, Manuel Rosales, in the state of
Trujillo, eastern
Venezuela.  On September 19th, a reporter, Paulimar Rodríguez of the newspaper “El Nacional”, was also assaulted during a Rosales march, allegedly by Chávez supporters.  We are seeing violence directed at journalists by a bunch of fascist bullies, with Chavez’s regime the obvious beneficiary of a frightened press. 

 

Chávez has also railed against privately owned television stations, whose licenses are due to expire in 2007, charging that they broadcast content designed to “divide” the country.  With Presidential “elections” in
Venezuela coming up this December, the policy of press intimidation is obvious.   

 

Chavez has not confined his intimidation to the press.  He also has jailed political opponents.  In ordering the trial of four civil society leaders on dubious charges of treason, a Venezuelan court has assented to government persecution of political opponents, Human Rights Watch declared in July 2005.   “The court has given the government a green light to persecute its opponents,” said José Miguel Vivanco,
Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting people for treason when they engage in legitimate electoral activities is utterly absurd.”  

 

Coupled with
Venezuela’s deplorable human rights record at home is Chavez’s demonstration of contempt for the United Nations itself.   Perhaps his personal denunciations of President Bush as the “devil” before the General Assembly last month can be dismissed as the grand-standing of a lunatic buffoon.  But his unswerving apologia for
Iran’s defiance of the Security Council cannot be so easily excused.    Last February,
Venezuela joined
Cuba and
Syria in opposing the referral of
Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions.   
Iran ignored the Council’s August 31st deadline to freeze its uranium enrichment program and continues to call the Security Council “illegitimate” as it finally prepares for possible sanctions against the rogue regime.   Chavez continues to serve as
Iran’s perfect lackey, supporting
Iran’s nuclear ambitions and promising to thwart any international consensus toward sanctions against
Iran.   Parroting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Israel tirades before an adoring crowd at

Tehran
University during a recent visit to
Iran, Chavez accused
Israel of “terrorism and pure fascism.”  And Chavez’s trade with Iran, now in excess of $1 billion, may include lethal materials being brought into
Venezuela, including nuclear technology.  Like
Iran’s leaders, Chavez denies any intention of developing nuclear weapons.  Yet his government has reportedly signed agreements on nuclear energy and sought to buy a nuclear reactor, with no involvement of the civilian Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research.  A prominent Venezuelan physicist has suggested that his country may indeed be embarked on a path to join the Nuclear Club along with North Korea and
Iran.

 


Iran awarded Chavez its highest state medal in gratitude for his “support for
Iran‘s stance on the international scene”, according to an Iranian station.   In contrast to
Venezuela’s complicity in undermining the authority of the very same Security Council that it wishes to join,
Guatemala has actively supported that institution’s decisions.  It contributed personnel for UN peacekeeping operations in each of the years 2006, 2005 and 2004. 
Venezuela has not contributed a single person during any of those years.

 

Chavez fancies himself as Castro’s successor, leading the world’s “oppressed” against the capitalist imperialists of the West.   Maybe, he does deserve the title.  After all, he has been Castro’s loyal puppet for many years.  Now he is adding Ahmadinejad as another puppeteer.  In his pathetic campaign for relevance on the world stage, Chavez is diverting oil revenues from meeting the needs of the poor back home in order to buy his way onto the Security Council.   He should be soundly rebuffed as a fraud who wants to sabotage the Security Council for his buddies, to the detriment of international peace and security. 

 

As a group of self-described “Venezolanos suffering (no peace, no prosperity, no hope) from Chavez lies” recently commented on the Internet (but would dare not write in any local Venezuelan newspaper for fear that they would end up like the murdered journalists): “We are Venezolanos living in Venezuela that want to apologize to the American People for the entropy that HUGO wants to create. He only has created fear and mistrust among the Venezuelan people and wants to do the same all around the world.”  The people suffering under Chavez’s yoke know him best and detest him.

 

In its previous four elections to the Security Council,
Venezuela received over 90% of the votes and was elected in the first round.  This time, it appears that less than half of the countries of Latin America are currently supporting
Venezuela.  Some of these countries have expressed resentment at Chavez’s interference in their elections.  They know their neighbor better than any country could outside of the region and do not trust him.

 

It is time for the President of the General Assembly to end Chavez’s theater of the absurd immediately and call for the election of a member state from the Latin American region that meets the minimum qualifications for a seat on the Security Council.

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Latin America’s Leftist Menace

Latin America’s Leftist Menace
By Frank J Gaffney Jr.
The Washington Times | October 18, 2006

America’s preoccupation with the crises du jour — the rising terrorist menace to the liberation of Iraq, the Iranian regime’s determination to acquire the means to act on its genocidal threats against Israel and the United States and, most recently, North Korea’s nuclear coming-out party — has left Washington ill-prepared to deal with one of tomorrow’s major security challenges: the rise of the radical anti-American left in Latin America. The emergence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as the oil-rich heir to Fidel Castro’s revolutionary ambitions has translated into a mortal threat to liberal democracy, freedom and economic opportunity in much of the hemisphere. With Mr. Chavez’s money and Mr. Castro’s coaching, the two have adapted the longstanding Cuban revolutionary program of violent overthrow of elected governments to meet present circumstances. Today, virulent leftists are seeking, and frequently succeeding at, obtaining power through the ballot box then using it to destroy their government’s constitutional processes and any checks on that power.

The United States government has paid scant attention as Bolivia and Argentina have moved squarely into the Chavez-Castro orbit. A similar disastrous outcome was narrowly averted in Peru but may well be in the offing at this writing in Ecuador. 

The region’s largest country, Brazil, is in the hands of a long-time Castro ally, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Despite his differences with Mr. Chavez and generally moderate approach to economic policy, Lula can be expected to make renewed common cause with the leftist agenda if he is re-elected on Oct. 29. 

Particularly appalling, the region’s Axis of Evil is poised, all other things being equal, to return Nicaragua — the country Ronald Reagan did so much to help free from the Sandinistas’ communist rule — to the tender mercies of their long-time authoritarian comandante, Daniel Ortega. 

Washington’s inattention may also encourage the most strategically important reversal sustained to date by the Chavez-Castro axis to be substantially undone. Despite its concerted and well-heeled efforts to ensure the election as president of Mexico of an ideological soul-mate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the results of a remarkably clean election gave the victory to a pro-American conservative, Felipe Calderon. There is, as a result, an unprecedented opportunity for constructive relations between the U.S. and Mexican governments. 

Unfortunately, this opportunity — with all it portends for economic prosperity, sensible immigration policies and a common front against the hemisphere’s radical left — could be squandered if Mr. Calderon yields to pressure to make the same mistake as his predecessor, Vicente Fox. That will be the effect if the new president of Mexico restores to office Mr. Fox’s first foreign minister, Jorge Castaneda. 

As a new analysis by Fredo Arias-King just released by the Center for Security Policy makes clear, Mr. Castaneda and his team (including such figures as Mexico’s former consul in New York, Arturo Sarukhan, Mr. Castaneda’s controversial half-brother Andres Rozental and Ricardo Pascoe, former Mexican ambassador to Cuba) are themselves radical leftists who did grave harm to U.S.-Mexico relations the last time around — and will surely do so again if given the chance. 

For example, they were instrumental in withdrawing Mexico from the decades-old mutual defense pact known as the Treaty of Rio, a decision announced ironically just days before the September 11 attacks in 2001. They seemed determined to find occasions to work at cross-purposes with the United States — notably, in connection with our effort to hold Saddam Hussein accountable to various Security Council resolutions. 

Most troubling, however, was the Castaneda cabal’s efforts to convert the initially pro-U.S. Fox and his government into friends of the hard left throughout Latin America. 

Mr. Castaneda personally engineered closer ties to the Castro apparatus in Cuba, encouraged the narco-terrorist FARC in Colombia and strove to rehabilitate Danny Ortega and his Sandinista Party in Nicaragua. It is not hard to assign responsibility for these initiatives, since they were abandoned immediately after Mr. Castaneda left the foreign ministry. 

As a result not only of their ideological bent but their incompetence, Mr. Castaneda and his team blew the opportunity afforded when the newly inaugurated George Bush assigned top priority to what he called a “special relationship” with Mexico and traveled there as his symbolic first trip abroad. Mexico dropped in the priority list for Washington, even before September 11, and has never recovered since. 

The possibility that the likes of Jorge Castaneda might return to power is especially dangerous for both Mexico and the United States at a moment when Mr. Ortega may triumph over a divided democratic-right in Nicaragua and the Chavez-Castro axis is making inroads in so many other places. Under Mr. Castaneda or his cabal, it is unimaginable that the Mexican government would play the constructive role it might otherwise perform in the post-Castro transition in Cuba. 

It would be a tragedy if, at this critical juncture — and despite the preferences a majority of Mexicans expressed at the ballot box, Felipe Calderon were to squander the chance for Mexico to serve as a bulwark against the combined dangers of Chavismo and Fidelismo and to enjoy a strong, constructive and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. It is in the interests of both of our countries that President Calderon’s vision of a freedom-loving and -supporting Mexico be represented at the foreign ministry, not that of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Jorge Castaneda.