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Allahpundit’s post about Rand Paul is a fascinating read, though I have a slight difference of opinion with him. Here’s what he wrote that I disagree with:

When I tweeted out my surprise a few hours ago, a dozen people tweeted back, “Maybe Paul’s just saying what he really believes.” No doubt. But the thing that distinguishes Rand from Ron and what makes him a legit contender for the nomination is that he’s willing to temper his foreign policy positions in order to make himself more appealing to mainstream conservatives. Remember when he complained earlier this year, as things got hairy in Ukraine, how certain Republicans (*cough*McCain*cough*) always seemed to want to “tweak” Russia? That was a fine libertarian/paleocon sentiment. A few weeks later, after Putin had gotten more aggressive and conservatives were demanding that Obama show some muscle, Paul took to Time magazine to demand “strong action” against Russia. Remember when he scoffed at the idea of intervening again in Iraq, with the U.S. effectively serving as “Iran’s air force” by bombing ISIS, only to decide a few months later as conservatives rallied for force that he would seek to destroy ISIS militarily as president? Last month he introduced a bill to formally declare war on the group that would even allow ground troops in certain limited circumstances. Remember when he seemingly endorsed containment of Iran on ABC’s Sunday news show, only to come back the next week after the predictable uproar on the right ensued with an op-ed insisting he was “unequivocally” not for containing Iran? It’s not just conservatives who’ve noticed these reversals. Members of Paul’s libertarian base like Jacob Sullum and others at Reason have noticed them too. And everyone understands what it’s about: Rand’s afraid that if he takes a traditional libertarian line on hot-button foreign policy matters, it’ll be too easy for 2016 rivals to convince tea partiers that he’s just like his old man after all and can’t be trusted to protect America. Watering down his libertarian impulses may be cynical, but it’s smart.

First, it isn’t smart staking out that many contradictory positions on foreign policy/national security issues. It makes Sen. Paul look like a reactionary, not a realist. We’re living with a reactionary foreign policy right now. It isn’t working out that well.

Second, offering that many contradictory positions on important national security issues opens Sen. Paul up to charges that he’s a flip-flopper. There’s little doubt that Sen. Paul would say that he changed his mind when confronted with additional information. That explanation won’t play because we’re looking for a president whose foreign policy is undergirded by intelligent underlying principles.

Third, Paul’s foreign policy instincts are exceptionally dovish. It isn’t just that he’s got libertarian leanings. It’s that he’s utterly reluctant to entertain the thought of force when initially figuring out the proper response to national security crises. It’s one thing to think of military options as the last option. That’s proper. It’s another thing to start from a default position that the use of military force is off the table.

I disagree with this statement, too:

Worst of all, perhaps, Paul’s devoted the past year to building the case that, as a “realist,” he’s actually the true heir to Ronald Reagan on foreign policy, not Rubio and the rest of the superhawks.

President Reagan wasn’t a realist. Period. President Reagan was a visionary. When he took office, the conventional thinking was that the Soviet Union was a superpower and that détente was the best policy. When President Reagan called the Soviets an “evil empire”, realists in DC criticized him, saying that he didn’t know what he was doing while accusing him of starting WW III.

Reagan was undeterred. In fact, he then proposed putting Pershing missiles in Europe. Realists tried repeatedly to sabotage President Reagan’s Tear down this wall speech but couldn’t.

The point is that President Reagan had a foreign policy vision. He also had a strategy to implement that vision and turn it into reality. For the last 2+ years, Sen. Paul has shown that he’s a foreign policy reactionary. It’s impossible to detect a President Paul foreign policy vision with the possible exception of him being a pacifist.

That won’t work in a terrorist-filled world.

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Dana Milbank’s article highlights the Left’s lack of intellectual gravitas.

Rubio’s emotional, and at times inaccurate, response to the policy change shows why Obama’s move to normalize ties to Cuba after more than half a century is both good policy and good politics. It’s good policy because it jettisons a vestigial policy that has stopped serving a useful purpose, and because it is a gutsy move by Obama that demonstrates strong leadership and will help revive him from lame-duck status. It’s good politics because it will reveal that the Cuban American old guard, whose position Rubio represents, no longer speaks for most Cuban Americans.

It apparently didn’t bother Milbank that President Obama didn’t negotiate a deal with Cuba. Apparently, Milbank likes the thought of giving up leverage without getting anything in exchange.

This wasn’t a negotiation. It was a capitulation. It sold out Cubans at a time when Cuba’s supporters were hurting and getting worse. Venezuela’s, Iran’s and Russia’s economies are tanking thanks to $60/bbl oil. That’s way less than they need to keep their economies afloat. Without Russia’s and Venezuela’s support, Cuba’s dictatorship dies the minute the Castros croak.

This paragraph is laughable:

But Rubio was responding with his gut, which has been seasoned by the unwavering dogma of Cuban exiles. He began his remarks with the phrase “As a descendant of Cuban immigrants and someone who’s been raised in a community of Cuban exiles,” and he observed that “Cuba is close to home for me, both because of my heritage, also because of the community I live in.”

Apparently, Mr. Milbank frowns on people with actual expertise, which explains his fawning over President Obama. President Obama didn’t bring expertise on issues. He just brought a cocky attitude and a certainty that, though he was devoid of expertise, he knew how to right America’s wrongs.

By comparison, Sen. Rubio understands the history and plight of the Cuban people. He’s gained valuable insight while sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to supplement the insight he had before joining the Senate. This, in Milbank’s mind, disqualifies him from speaking intelligently on the subject.

This is the perfect illustration of the Left appreciating trash-talking narcissists more than they appreciate people with topical expertise. It’s the perfect illustration of the Left’s foolish priorities.

Marco Rubio’s op-ed utterly demolishes President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. In his op-ed, Sen. Rubio correctly states that President Obama’s decision will have long-lasting, negative consequences — for us and the oppressed Cuban people:

The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways. Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.

The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.

Cuba’s economy has been circling the drain for 2-3 years. Venezuela and Russia, its 2 biggest supporters, have hit tough times, too, thanks to rapidly dropping oil prices. At exactly the time when Cuba is collapsing from within, President Obama threw them a lifeline with this initiative.

Already, a Minnesota representative is planning a trip to Cuba:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Minnesota congressman who has long advocated for changes to the United States’ Cuba policy says a decision to normalize relations with the island country is a “monumental step” in the right direction. Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan praised Wednesday’s announcement that the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic ties to Cuba. Nolan traveled to Cuba in 1977 during his first stint in Congress and was involved in a past deal to release U.S. prisoners held there.

Nolan says he hopes to travel to Cuba next year to meet with officials there.

Another Democratic member of the Minnesota delegation, Betty McCollum, described the announcement as “a new beginning.” She says she would continue working to end a U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. McCollum spent time in Cuba last summer.

Apparently, Nolan and McCollum, like President Obama, are willing to ignore Cuba’s disgusting human rights abuses. Apparently, they haven’t thought things through nor have they put a high priority on human rights. Sen. Rubio has:

While my personal ties to Cuba and its people are well known, this is not just a personal issue. American foreign policy affects every aspect of American life, and our people cannot realize their full promise if the world becomes more dangerous because America retreats from its role in the world. Moreover, the Cuban people have the same rights that God bestowed on every other man, woman and child that has ever lived. All of those who are oppressed around the world look to America to stand up for their rights and to raise its voice when tyrants like the Castros are trying to crush their spirits.

It’s amazing that the ‘party of the little guy’ supports the dictators who trample the little guys for criticizing the Castros’ oppressive dictatorship. What isn’t surprising, though, is that Rick Nolan is ignoring the Castros’ reign of terror. He’s always been soft on human rights and friendly towards oppressive dictators.

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel resigned this morning:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will resign on Monday after just under two years on the job. According to a report by Helene Cooper at The New York Times, President Obama has decided to replace Hagel after coming to the conclusion over the last several weeks that the current Defense chief was not the right person to lead the fight against ISIS.

According to the article, there was an ongoing fight between Hagel and some of President Obama’s staff:

Others reportedly questioned his overall leadership of the department, saying he “struggled to inspire confidence” and “had problems articulating his thoughts, or administration policy, in an effective manner.” Sources close to Hagel, however, blame those articulation problems on the White House’s heavy-handed message control. They also told Bloomberg News that the relationship with the White House had soured so much that Hagel no longer spoke in meetings because “White House aides with less experience in military affairs than the wounded Vietnam War veteran often ignored what he said.”

Imagine that. This administration took a dim view of senior administration officials speaking without reciting the administration’s talking points. Who could’ve seen that?

That’s what happens when the administration doesn’t trust its senior officials. That’s what happens when the top figure in the administration, President Obama, is a paranoid, narcissistic control freak. That being said, Hagel was a terrible defense secretary. His first day of testimony at his confirmation hearings were the worst performance I’ve ever seen in a confirmation hearing. Here’s what got Hagel in trouble at his confirmation hearing:

It was the troop surge in Iraq that became a flashpoint between McCain and Hagel during Thursday’s hearing. McCain repeatedly tried to get Hagel to answer whether he was “right or wrong” when he once called the troop surge a “dangerous foreign policy blunder.”

“I’m not going to give you a yes or no; I think it’s far more complicated than that…I’ll defer that judgment to history,” Hagel said, adding that he was referring to both the overall Iraq war, as well as the surge, in that comment

McCain fired back: “I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you’re on the wrong side of it.”

Hagel shouldn’t have been confirmed. It’s only fair that his time at the Pentagon is brief.

Sen. Klobuchar’s op-ed in the St. Cloud Times would be easier to take seriously if she wasn’t MIA on other issues surrounding the military.

With grateful hearts, Minnesotans this month gathered on Veterans Day to honor the brave Americans who have served in uniform to protect our freedom. This day should be about more than just saluting our veterans. It also serves as an opportunity to renew our commitment to serve those who have served us.

After all, that is our responsibility, to do right by those who have stood tall on the front lines so that we can live free. This is especially true for soldiers returning from battle permanently injured and suffering life-altering disabilities.

It’s a bit hollow sounding, not because wounded vets don’t deserve the medical treatment, but because Sen. Klobuchar didn’t speak out when the military started sending out pink slips to officers still fighting in Afghanistan:

In a stunning display of callousness, the Defense Department has announced that thousands of soldiers, many serving as commanding officers in Afghanistan, will be notified in the coming weeks that their service to the country is no longer needed. Last week, more than 1,100 Army captains, the men and women who know best how to fight this enemy because they have experienced multiple deployments, were told they’ll be retired from the Army.

The overall news is not unexpected. The Army has ended its major operations in Iraq and is winding down in Afghanistan. Budget cuts are projected to shrink the Army from its current 520,000 troops to 440,000, the smallest size since before World War II. What is astonishing is that the Defense Department thought it would be appropriate to notify deployed soldiers, men and women risking their lives daily in combat zones, that they’ll be laid off after their current deployment.

Why was St. Amy of Hennepin County silent about this? Shouldn’t the Obama administration treat the men and women still risking their lives on the battlefield deserve better treatment than this?

As one Army wife posted on MilitaryFamily.org, “On some level I knew the drawdowns were inevitable, but I guess I never expected to be simultaneously worried about a deployment to Afghanistan and a pink slip because my husband’s service is no longer needed.”

The thing is that these troops are needed more than ever:

The nation should worry about the increased national-security risk of separating such a large pool of combat-experienced leaders. The separated soldiers are those who carry the deepest knowledge base of counterinsurgency operations. A senior Defense Department official warned: “If the force is smaller, there’s less margin for error. Let’s face it — things are pretty uncertain out there.”

Then again, that’s never worried Sen. Klobuchar. Since her first campaign in 2006, Sen. Klobuchar consistently talked about “ending the war responsibly.” Winning wasn’t important to her.

That’s why her op-ed rings hollow. This isn’t just about health care for wounded vets. It’s about giving them the resources they need to accomplish their mission. That mission is to defeat and destroy the terrorists before they attack again.

Based on this article, things are looking grim for the Democrats holding Tom Harkin’s Senate seat:

Joni Ernst is back to “hogging” Iowa airwaves, as she barrels into Election Day with another pig-themed ad, a slight edge over her Democratic rival in the polls and a significant fundraising advantage.

This race is Ernst’s to lose. Thus far, I haven’t seen anything that suggests she’ll mess up. Ernst’s latest ad is fantastic. Here’s the transcript:

It’s a mess. It’s dirty, noisy and it stinks. Not this lot. I’m talking about the one in Washington. Too many typical politicians hogging, wasting and full of — well, let’s just say bad ideas. It’s time to stop spending money we don’t have and balance the budget. I’m Joni Ernst and I approve this message because cleaning up the mess in Washington is going to take a whole lot of Iowa common sense.

The thing that people haven’t talked about yet is the two parties’ GOTV operations. At this point, Republicans are outdistancing Democrats:

The latest good omen for Republicans was in early voting and absentee ballots, where the party says more registered Republicans than Democrats are voting early for the first time in modern-Iowa election history.

For days, I’ve heard Democrats talking about how their GOTV was a major reason why they still had hope of keeping their Senate majority. If Iowa is a bellwether, then some of the polling that we’re seeing won’t pick up the Republicans’ strength until the polls close.

That certainly isn’t something that Democrats want to think of as a possibility.

David Yepsen, director of the Southern Illinois Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and former chief political reporter for the Des Moines Register, said Ernst would be wise to campaign on issues like President Obama, foreign policy, the economy, and jobs and stay away from social issues.

“She needs to stay on a soft conservative message,” said Yepsen, adding he thinks the Ernst campaign will stay fairly quiet on them for the remainder of the race. “Social issues aren’t a winning issue for Republicans as they used to be, so don’t talk about it.”

To that end, Republicans have been hitting Braley on foreign policy, especially on the Islamic State threat. Ernst, a member of the Iowa National Guard who has served in Iraq, said in a press release that Braley is “disengaged” and “he doesn’t even know what he’s voted on,” when it came to airstrikes in Syria. Ernst also called Braley “wishy-washy” on the issue of ISIS during a campaign stop. Braley’s campaign has fought back on these claims.

Pardon the pun but this isn’t the battlefield that Braley wants to fight on. He wants to fight on the ‘War on women battlefield’. Frankly, I don’t see that gaining traction. It hasn’t thus far. Why think it’ll change right before the election?

This race will be decided by the GOTV operations and Joni Ernst being the most likable, most approachable and, most importantly, most qualified candidate in the race.

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True to his 1970s-style anti-war activist days, Rick Nolan is still a pacifist:

In a statement issued to KBJR, Rep. Rick Nolan said U.S. intervention in “thousands-year-old Middle East war” has cost the U.S. trillions in blood and treasury.

“The arms we supply to any one of these groups inevitably end up being used against us, because we have no friends in this conflict,” Rep. Nolan said. “Our involvement is bankrupting us and making us a target for retaliation, and it’s time to put an end to it. These monies are needed for deficit reduction and rebuilding America.”

That’s frightening. ISIL is definitely a threat to the United States. Similarly, there’s no question that Stewart Mills’ assessment is right:

“He (Rep. Nolan) is advocating for us not to have involvement in Iraq or in Syria,” Mills said in an interview in late September. “But the consequences of us not having involvement in there is that we create a vacuum. And that vacuum is filled up with bad people doing bad things and eventually that will wash up on our shores, probably sooner rather than later.”

That isn’t just Mills’ opinion. It’s an opinion he shares with Leon Panetta, President Obama’s former Defense Secretary:

By not pressing the Iraqi government to leave more U.S. troops in the country, he “created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country to better protect itself, and it’s out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed,” Panetta told USA Today, referring to the group also known as the Islamic State.

Being a pacifist in the 1970s helps inform Rick Nolan’s views on national security. We’re living in a totally different world, especially after 9/11. If Rick Nolan doesn’t want to fight terrorists before they reach America’s shores, then he isn’t qualified to be in Congress.

Nolan’s type of thinking is what helped create the conditions for 9/11 and for ISIL to take over much of Iraq and Syria. We can’t afford not to pay attention to ISIL. In fact, we can’t afford not to do everything we can to utterly demolish ISIL and other terrorist groups.

Whether Nolan will admit it, the truth is that ISIL and al-Qa’ida are at war with us. The only question left is whether we’ll wage war with them. If Stewart Mills is elected to Congress, he’ll vote to fight terrorists. If Nolan is re-elected, God forbid, he’ll vote for taking a pre-9/11 position.

That’s unacceptable.

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This article talks about Mark Udall’s latest campaign ads. Either Udall has found the special elixir to fix his failing campaign or he’s just desperate. Here’s one of Udall’s ads:

Here’s the intro into the ad:

“There’s a reason women and families are front and center in this campaign,” Udall says in the ad, in which he attempts to pivot to other issues of importance to women.

There’s a reason why “women and families are front and center” in Sen. Udall’s campaign but it isn’t the what he says it is:

“It’s not just about respecting every woman’s fundamental rights and freedoms. It’s that everyone deserves a fair shot at success…with affordable student loans, equal pay for women in the workforce and equal treatment when it comes to what men and women pay for their health care.”

Talk about a focus group-tested line. That’s the first time I’ve heard that people were worried that men and women weren’t getting “equal treatment” for what they “pay for their health care.” That’s what you call contrived.

The truth is that Sen. Udall doesn’t want to talk about how dysfunctional HealthCare.gov is or how expensive health insurance premiums are or how much premiums and out-of-pocket expenses are going up each year. Sen. Udall certainly doesn’t want to talk about how networks have gotten restricted.

I can’t imagine Sen. Udall wants to talk about the economy either, especially considering how a major manufacturing company left the state after Gov. Hickenlooper signed Colorado’s gun grab laws.

I can’t imagine Udall’s other ad playing that well in Colorado:

Here’s the transcript:

NARRATOR: A barbaric terrorist threat met by a respected national leader on national security, Colorado’s own Mark Udall. Intelligence Committee member, chair of the subcommittee on strategic forces. Determined to defeat ISIS with full support for airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. No wonder military leaders call him a champion of an effective, common sense approach to fighting terrorism. Mark Udall, Colorado’s senator.

Colorado has tons of retired Air Force personnel. It’s also home to the Air Force Academy. They know that you can’t defeat ISIS with just air power. This is what it sounds like when a dovish senator panders for military votes.

I don’t know if Sen. Udall is a “respected leader on national security” but I’m certain that he isn’t serious about defeating ISIS or he isn’t telling Coloradans that ISIS can’t be defeated without ground troops before the election.

That’s what it sounds like when you’re caught betwixt and between.

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This article presents this year’s vulnerable Democrats as hawkish:

Democrat Kay Hagan didn’t mince words about the Iraq War during her 2008 Senate campaign against Republican Elizabeth Dole. “We need to get out of Iraq in a responsible way,” Hagan declared in May of that year. “We need to elect leaders who don’t invade countries without planning and stay there without an end.”

Hagan is striking a different chord these days. Locked in a tough reelection battle, the first-term senator boasts that she’s more strongly supportive of airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants than her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, and says she’s been pressing the Obama administration to arm Syrian rebels since early last year.

“This is the time for us to come together, Democrats and Republicans, to confront the challenges that are facing our nation,” she said this month.

What’s interesting (noteworthy?) is that the terrorists haven’t changed their belief that the infidels must be killed or put into servitude. I’m confident that these doves haven’t changed their opinion of war, either. I’m certain that they’re acting hawkish now…to an extent.

Al Franken still doesn’t want boots on the ground, though he wants ISIL defeated. That’s what a focus grouped response sounds like. That isn’t a substantive answer. It’s a political answer aimed at getting him through this election. Without angry men with rifles, ground can’t be take and terrorists can’t be defeated.

We don’t need idiots in the Senate fulfilling faux advise and consent responsibilities. That’s what the Democrats are providing and it’s disgraceful. I’m betting that Sen. Hagan couldn’t have explained the definition of getting out of Iraq “in a responsible way” meant then. I’m positive that Sen. Franken can’t explain how to decapitate ISIL without putting boots on the ground. Sen. Franken is a policy lightweight and a political rubberstamp.

The only thing more frightening than getting lectured about national security by President Obama is the thought that Al Franken and Kay Hagan are giving President Obama advice on how to decapitate ISIL.

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James Taranto eviscerated Thomas Friedman’s article in this column. Still, this part of Friedman’s column needs more evisceration:

These days there is a lot of “if-only-Obama-could-lead-like-Reagan” talk by conservatives. I’ll leave it to historians to figure out years from now who was the better president. But what I’d argue is this: In several critical areas, Reagan had a much easier world to lead in than Obama does now.

I don’t need years to decide who the better president was. President Obama is the worst modern president, worse than even Jimmy Carter. Friedman’s argument that “Reagan had a much easier world to lead in than Obama does now” isn’t serious stuff. Obama’s world isn’t tougher to lead. It’s that President Obama won’t lead.

It’s shameful, too, that Friedman has forgotten the catastrophe that President Reagan stepped into. During the last half of Carter’s administration, it was fashionable for pundits to talk about how the world had grown too demanding for a president to handle it himself. The fashionable talk then was the need for a co-presidency. Friedman’s column didn’t dismiss this information. Friedman ignored it entirely.

When Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire”, doves like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Joe Biden criticized Reagan as being utterly naïve. Their opinion was that détente was the only way to manage the Soviet Union.

President Reagan emphatically disagreed. President Reagan was right.

The chief reason why Friedman can look back and say that President Reagan had it easy is tied directly to the quality of President Reagan’s decisions. In hindsight, it’s easy to see the wisdom of President Reagan’s strategy. President Reagan’s strategy was revolutionary and contrarian to everything that the establishment thought. The Soviet empire couldn’t be defeated, the realists told us. President Reagan will get us into WWIII with that Neanderthal thinking, they told us.

President Obama’s world is complicated, too, partially because his attachment to a failed ideology has informed him that being liked is more important than being feared. President Obama said that his administration’s first responsibility was to end wars, which sounds great until you think things through.

George Will recently said that the fastest way to end a war is to lose it. President Obama unilaterally repeatedly declared that war will be part of the past during his 2012 campaign. ISIL didn’t get the notice.

Shortly after 9/11, a reporter told Mayor Giuliani that, on 9/11, terrorists declared war on the United States. Giuliani’s response was that that isn’t true, that terrorists had been at war with the US for years, if not decades. It took 9/11 for us to finally confront the terrorists.

This paragraph needs dismantling:

Obama’s world is different. It is increasingly divided by regions of order and regions of disorder, where there is no one to answer the phone, and the main competition is not between two organized superpowers but between a superpower and many superempowered angry men. On 9/11, we were attacked, and badly hurt, by a person: Osama bin Laden, and his superempowered gang. When superempowered angry men have more open space within which to operate, and more powerful weapons and communication tools, just one needle in a haystack can hurt us.

That’s why President Obama’s strategy to pull our troops out of the world’s biggest hotspot was instantly viewed as foolish. That’s why President Bush’s strategy of taking the fight to the terrorists where they live was instantly seen by serious people as the right option. The Commander-in-Chief can’t afford to let “superempowered angry men” have “open space within which to operate.”

President Reagan understood the importance of confrontationalism in fighting the Soviet empire just like President Bush understood the importance of confronting terrorists in their sanctuaries.

It isn’t that Reagan had it easy. It’s that he knew what he was doing. President Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s the chief difference between presidents.

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