I spent about a week in Ukraine as a member of the Official Observers' Mission organized by the International Republican Institute (IRI).
Ukraine was cold. Day after day was between -10 and -17 Celsius (14 and 1 degree Fahrenheit). Doesn't sound too awfully bad except Ukraine stays that cold for months at a time so the cold permeates everything: cars, buildings, souls … everything.
The election appeared to be legit. The pro-Russian guy came in first; the blonde Prime Minister came in second; so there will be in the runoff in a couple of weeks.
A country in which, twenty years ago, was a Republic of the Soviet Union and in which the concept of democracy was beyond most people's imagination; which five years ago needed an "Orange Revolution" to overturn a fixed election; last Sunday had an election with 18 candidates and any citizen could vote for whomever he or she wanted.
Pretty good for the people of Ukraine. And pretty good for the young Americans - Republicans and Democrats - who set up shop in places like Ukraine and wrestle authoritarianism to the ground.
Ukraine is seven hours ahead of Eastern time so, when the polls in Massachusetts closed at 8 PM Tuesday, it was 3 AM Wednesday in Kiev. I had set my alarm for 3:15 AM, but I couldn't get to sleep, so I stayed up and followed the guessing game being played out on-line among reporters and other political hacks.
The local TV carried CNN International. As the polls closed, CNN-I led with Kraft Foods' deal to buy Cadbury, which was of no use to me. In the end, I found that the Boston Globe's website was being updated minute-by-minute.
Throughout the counting Scott Brown lead with 52-53-54-52 percent of the vote. While the percentage was pretty constant, his numerical advantage kept creeping up.
I was trading e-mails with friends and reporters. I told one of them that Martha Coakley would concede when the margin of difference between the two candidates topped 100,000.
Sure enough, when the difference hit 102,000, she called Senator-elect Brown to congratulate him. Why? At 100k the difference was too great to ask for a re-count and was also too big for the outstanding absentee and military ballots to change the outcome.
It would not surprise me if it came to light that someone from the White House phoned Coakley and told her it was over and to call it a night.
The other day there were hearings in the U.S. Senate into just how that Nigerian goofball got onto an American flag carrier with a bomb sewn into his smalls even after his father had warned the U.S. that his son posed a potential threat.
In the Detroit Free Press coverage, reporter Todd Spangler wrote that having a name place on the famous "no-fly" list was getting harder and harder to do because of
"too many complaints that too many people were being targeted for inclusion. New standards requiring more scrutiny before putting travelers on the lists were put in place early last year.
"Obama administration officials believed their standards for placing suspected terrorists on no-fly lists had become 'frankly, too legalistic.'"
Whoa! Check please! "Early last year?" Wasn't that during the early Nobel-Peace-Prize-Winning days of the Obama Administration?
Remember when Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet "The System Worked" Napolitano, had this conversation with the German publication Der Spiegel?
SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?
NAPOLITANO: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.
Yeah, well, that "nuance" allowed an al Qaeda-trained terrorist to get on an American airliner in Amsterdam and damned near blow it up over an American city.
Those were the days when Obama really believed that he could charm terrorists into submission.
Welcome, BHO, to the NFL.
LAST (and most important) TOPIC:
Going to places like Afghanistan and Ukraine is useful if only to remind me how blessed I am to have been born in the United States of America.
And it's why I'm always glad to get home.