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Pundit Roundtable

Hello once again! Welcome back to the PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, and sorry for the hiatus - I am your slacker-in-chief Ken McCracken, and here are our topics for this week:

Topic 1: North Korea tested seven missiles this week. What, if anything, can or should be done about Kim Jong-Il, his missiles, and his nuclear program?

Topic 2: How far should the administration push back against leaks by the New York Times and other news outlets? Is the media paying a price with the public for their actions?

Topic 3: What is your favorite place you have been to?

I am pleased to welcome back Pundit Roundtable stalwart Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse. Welcome back Rick, what's on your mind?

"Topic 1: There really isn't that much more we can be doing about North Korea than what we are doing now. China is the key to Kim's heart, being the only thing standing between the NoKo's and total collapse. Beijing supplies Kim with the food and fuel his country needs to survive on a day to day basis. And even with China's help, there are indications that thousands are starving to death every month.

But why should China pull our chestnuts out of the fire? We are currently in a full blown competition with them in east Asia and anything that ties us down is just fine with them. So China plays a very interesting and dangerous game; keeping the fires of crisis stoked at a low level while walking a tightrope with us on one side and the North Koreans on the other. They don't want to appear too uncooperative in getting Kim to give up his nukes while at the same time, it is in their interest for Kim to be threatening Japan, South Korea, and us.

The solution will have to come with us putting a little more overt pressure on China. At the moment, China still needs us a little bit more than we need them. We must use that fact to our advantage and get both Russia and China to knock some sense into the North Korean dictator.

Kim, by the way, is not crazy - not in the sense that he hears voices or wears a lampshade to Politburo meetings. But his society is the most insular in the world and he really has no clue how his pronouncements or actions come off to the rest of us. Former Secretary of State Albright was struck by this fact when she visited in 1997. It's like living on a different planet being in North Korea.

Topic 2: One of the really beautiful things about America is freedom of the press. Unlike Great Britain, we have no Official Secrets Act which makes our press free to publish anything it desires, using only its own conscience as a guide.

I'm not sure why Bill Keller and the Times went with the bank monitoring story. The program was by all accounts legal and that the publishing of it embarrassed people in Europe who were helping us at great personal risk to their own careers and position. My only speculation there is that the Times has decided to take an absolutist position on the Bill of Rights - or at least those portions they feel the Bush Administration is violating. Not an indefensible position but certainly troubling.

As for the leakers, it is past time that there be examples made of them. We need arrests, prosecutions, and jail time for people who flout their oaths and damage our security by circumventing the whistleblowing system we have already in place in our intel agencies and blabbing some of most closely held secrets to the Washington Post or New York Times. If their consciences are bothering them so much about a specific action, there are procedures they can take short of talking to the press that would address their concerns. There simply is no excuse for their actions which leads one to the conclusion that they have ulterior motives in leaking. But personal or partisan, their motivations are irrelevant when we are talking about breaking the law.

Topic 3: Glen Lake, Michigan. It doesn't exist anymore, at least not as I remember it. But when I was a kid, it was as close to heaven as this suburban boy was ever likely to get. There were forests full of deer to explore. There were sailboats and rowboats and swimming all day. There was a picnicking. There was also no TV and no phone which made curling up next to a roaring fire to keep out the northwoods chill with Edgar Rice Burroughs or Alexander Dumas such an utter joy. There was the first kiss as well. The first time I drank coffee. The first time I smoked a cigarette. The last time I saw my grandfather.

When my family started to take vacations there 44 summers ago, there may have been 2 or 3 motor boats on the entire lake. Today, thanks to making the Sleeping Bear sand dunes a national park, there are dozens of developments around the lake, even a high rise hotel. It is no longer the place it was in my youth. But it still exists in my mind as a magical, carefree place where our family was oh so close and where many of the mysteries of growing up were asked and answered.


Glen Lake, in Glen Arbor, Michigan

Next we have returning pundit and author of Ski-Blog.com, Justin B. Justin took me to task this week for being a slacker in not posting the Roundtable the last few weeks. His punishment for this completely justified swipe at me? Why, an invitation to the Roundtable, of course!

"Topic 1: China and Russia at very least refuse to put adequate pressure on North Korea and at worst case are actually enjoying the NK menace since the missiles are not aimed at them and since it diverts US attention off their own Human Rights abuses. And without their cooperation (as we saw in Iraq), North Korea will continue with their plans. In Iraq, Russian Intelligence actually helped Saddam move things from former WMD sites right before the war. The problem is our “allies” are not really allies at all, just as we saw in Iraq. We need to ratchet up the pressure on China and Russia if we are really serious about North Korea, but ultimately that may not be worth the cost. If we are unwilling to do that, then the answer is we are really doing nothing. Everything we say or do is just window dressing unless China and Russia want NK to change their behavior. The UN has an opportunity to actually work and preserve peace; yet again the US is forced to lead via diplomacy or possibly via military action.

Topic 2: The Administration needs to push back hard on the NYT politically and needs to cite Republican leadership in creating Homeland Security, reforming the CIA-FBI-NSA-etc., SWIFT, Patriot Act, Wiretapping, etc. Let the American people know that these programs are why there have been no attacks since 9-11 and put it squarely on the NYT that they have taken away the Administration’s ability for fight the WOT. Choose the NYT and Liberal ACLU types plan on how to protect us, or choose the kind of plans that the NYT keeps outing. This is a repeat of Valeria Plame and Joe Wilson. The Administration cannot defend its record on the WOT and the programs that Bush and the NSA are using to catch terrorists without outing details of the programs, but now that the programs and details are out thanks to the NYT, the Administration can openly talk about them AND TAKE CREDIT FOR THEM. Admit that the Republican Party is the only party that supports looking at bank records and call logs. And the way that the outings worked and the response of the far left and several key Democrats to pander to the far left made it appear that the Democrats don’t support wiretapping and eavesdropping and looking at bank records to keep us safe. The NYT gave the Administration the ability to talk about their own secret programs that are keeping us safe and most American support.

The Republican Party wins when it runs on a platform that keeps the WOT front and center. If an attack happens, it is because the NYT and the left did not allow water boarding at GITMO, outed SWIFT and eavesdropping, and the NYT made all these details public. And if an attack does not happen, it is because Republicans are keeping you safe. Either way, it again gives Americans the choice between a party that has plans and ideas and a track record of keeping us safe, and an opposition party of the ACLU, NYT, Pelosi, Dean, Moore, etc., who want to shut down GITMO and Abu Ghraib and not listen to terrorist’s phone calls or track their bank records.

Topic 3: Seattle. I mean, sure there is a homeless heroin addicted kid with dreadlocks panhandling left and right, a hippie working at Starbucks on every corner, and it rains all the time. It is as blue of a city as there is where they protest every WTO or World Bank meeting and chain themselves to trees to save owls. But you go there and you just walk around in anonymity and people watch and it makes for great entertainment. Add in the fact that you can sit in a boat on Puget Sound at basically sea level and look 60 miles away at Mount Rainier just dominating the skyline, the near perfect weather (if you like mid-60’s and rain), and the heart of 1990’s Grunge Metal and you have just an awesome city. I always stay in a hotel right downtown where you can walk everywhere worth going and where there is always a concert worth seeing or a football or baseball game.


Seattle, Washington

The Host's Last Word: as far as North Korea goes, I think Rick has half the story. China has an interest in keeping us tied down there, surely, but the other half of the story is that China cannot risk the entire population of North Korea flooding into northeast China, which is exactly what would happen if the Pyongyang regime collapses. South Korea still has the DMZ and its billion or so mines there keeping out any unwanted refugees. China has no such buffer, and already has a refugee problem from North Korea. (China would like their trains back, however).

China also dreads the idea of a united Korea. South Korea alone has the world's seventh-largest economy - reunification would hamper the South for a while, but only for a while, and then Korea could become a direct economic threat to China as a whole. There isn't a lot of love lost between the Chinese and Koreans in any event.

Thus, political realities limit the effectiveness of China as a mediating influence on Kim Jong-Il.

The emerging key element is Japan. The threat of Japan becoming a military and possibly nuclear power seems to be the only thing that chills Kim Jong-Il at the moment, and there seems to have been more to Koziumi's Graceland visit than meets the eye - Japan and the U.S. have not been this close diplomatically since the Cold War.

Rearming Japan is the best way to deal with North Korea. Japan is no longer a nascent imperial power just waiting for the right moment to reconquer East Asia. And could any nation be trusted to understand the responsibility of having nuclear weapons more than Japan? Japan has dealt with all six powers in good faith in my estimation, and they have proven themselves to be a dependable ally. They have even more to lose than we do, because Kim might actually be able to hit them with his missiles (it is no accident that Kim's missile tests are usually aimed at Japan).

As for the New York Times, the SWIFT story presents a great political opening for prosecutions. It is of great concern that Bill Keller and the Times lack the basic judgement to know when national security trumps the public's right to know - it is of greater concern that some CIA employees lack this basic judgement also. Finally, at long last, at least one of these CIA leakers needs to be prosecuted to set an example. The Department of Justice needs to empanel a Grand Jury to find the leakers - and then prosecute the Times as well, if the law allows it. There simply is no immunity for journalists in this type of case - though a sort of precedent of immunity is being set by a DoJ that until now has done nothing to stop these leaks (Plame, not being a real 'leak' implicating actual national security concerns, is quite beside the point). Our national security is too important for this type of 'immunity' to solidify into ongoing practice. Enough is enough.

My favorite place? It ain't glamorous, it ain't chic, but I love my hometown of Downers Grove, Illinois. I've been around the world, I've seen some crazy stuff, but I always end up at or near my home in the western 'burbs.

That's it kids! Come back next time for another edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 9 July 2006 01:51 PM


It seems pretty universal that the problem with North Korea is not lil' Kim, but rather China. It was in 1950 and it remains so. It is a proxy fight with the Americans just like Vietnam was.

I think it makes sense to take this one step further and ask what to do about China. I believe they are on the verge of impending chaos, but the world is doing everything we can to prevent it. Three Gorges displaced 100M people who are all pissed off and who live in a police state. Collectivism does not work and sooner or later people get sick of sacrificing for someone else's good. (See the USSR) China's media is almost as good at supressing things as Cuba or North Korea, but there is an undercurrent of discontent.

This is not going to get solved until China gets off the fence and decides whether to embrace Democracy AND CAPITALISM or to remain a Communist nation and follow Mao, Stalin and Marx over the edge. North Korea is a true test of where they stand, and so far, the results should scare the entire rest of the world.

Posted by: Justin B at July 9, 2006 02:09 PM

Downer's Grove?!?


I will admit, at great risk to my reputation, that I like the Cote d'Azur in July. Beautiful weather, beautiful topography, beautiful flora, beautiful towns, beautiful women, and unbelievable food. It is the best place in the entire world to hang for a couple of weeks.

Posted by: TigerHawk at July 9, 2006 10:00 PM