Introducing some reality into the National Security Agency debate: “[We] actually do have confidence in the judges of the National Intelligence Surveillance Court, to which Senator Paul objects. They know all about the prohibition on general warrants, and they have the Supreme Court over them. Much is being made by critics of the fact that the court conducts its hearings in secret and that only the government lawyer is present during the requesting of a warrant. But even in a regular, civilian court, the request and issuance of a warrant is not an adversarial process, at which the man or woman about to be arrested, or searched, is present. Otherwise, they’d vamoose.”

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reacts as she arrives to address delegates during the third session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012 REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice at the Republican National Convention in 2012. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

The beginning of a GOP foreign policy alternative to President Obama’s “leading from behind” is in sight. Condi Rice: “[T]he United States must restore its standing in the international community, which has been eroded by too many extended hands of friendship to our adversaries, sometimes at the expense of our friends. Continued inaction in Syria, which has strengthened Moscow’s hand in the Middle East, and signs that we are desperate for a nuclear agreement with Iran cannot be separated from Putin’s recent actions. Radically declining U.S. defense budgets signal that we no longer have the will or intention to sustain global order, as does talk of withdrawal from Afghanistan whether the security situation warrants it or not. We must not fail, as we did in Iraq, to leave behind a residual presence.” Read the whole thing.

Starting with Ukraine, it’s time to reassert America’s role in the world. “The administration’s failed efforts at reset are now obvious for all but the most deluded to see. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presents the United States and its European allies with what is commonly conceded to be the biggest test of European security since the end of the wars of the Yugoslav succession in 1999. As was the case in Georgia, there will be a strong temptation to find a face-saving agreement that papers over Putin’s gains in order to trumpet the ‘success’ of a negotiated, diplomatic outcome and allow the international community to return to its normal torpor. It can’t be said enough that any outcome that allows Putin to wrest either Crimea or other parts of Ukraine from Kiev’s control should not be acceptable. He should not be allowed to maintain the ill-gotten gains of his aggression.”

Instigating a democratic government on its borders is always a threat to a despotic regime. “Ukraine is the alternative to the Russian authoritarian project.”

Iowa is beckoning Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). “In the new poll, 67 percent of Iowa Republicans think it’s a good idea that he run for president, the highest of the four GOP candidates tested.”

Starting with Ukraine, concern about a properly funded defense budget has been growing. “[T]he new defense budget is a patch constructed on the hope that funding needed to sustain even this administration’s constrained strategic objectives can be found in future years. And what if Mr. Obama is wrong, and the United States is forced into a large land operation — in Syria, Iran, Korea or maybe Eastern Europe? The chances might be small; but if the worst occurs, the United States will not be ready.”

Launching candidates has been their downfall. “That doesn’t mean they won’t revolt again; Ross Perot’s impact on the American electorate didn’t occur all that long ago. The dime-a-dozen outside groups that oversold their influence in Texas and in other states will continue to absorb great gobs of money in more races across the country, by accusing the “Washington establishment” and others of conspiring against them and provoking their losses. They certainly will never admit that their own poor campaign skills or their untested, unvetted candidates might be the real problem. This cycle will end only when voters realize that these are not groups filled with ideological purists willing to do battle because they are true believers. They’re just good-old-fashioned political swindlers.” Precisely right.