Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 29, 2008

Re: Coming To Terms With McCain?

John, I have no doubt McCain will never win the talk show primary, but he has won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Unless something very odd occurs (even more odd than what we’ve seen so far) he will be the nominee. Yes, first there is denial, then anger, next bargaining and depression but finally, acceptance.

John, I have no doubt McCain will never win the talk show primary, but he has won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. Unless something very odd occurs (even more odd than what we’ve seen so far) he will be the nominee. Yes, first there is denial, then anger, next bargaining and depression but finally, acceptance.

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Re: Coming to Terms With McCain?

Jennifer, you say it’s time for conservatives to make their peace with the McCain candidacy. Judging from this post by Michael Graham, who is a very funny radio host in Boston, it’s going to take a few days:

It is over. Finished. In November, we’ll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate vs. to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy. And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.

You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it. Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans. And he is, thanks to Florida, the presidential nominee of the Republican party.

And on that note, I’m off to climb into a bottle of Bushmill’s. It’s going to be a LONG nine months.

Wow.

Jennifer, you say it’s time for conservatives to make their peace with the McCain candidacy. Judging from this post by Michael Graham, who is a very funny radio host in Boston, it’s going to take a few days:

It is over. Finished. In November, we’ll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate vs. to take on Hillary Clinton—perhaps not more liberal than Barack Obama, but certainly far less trustworthy. And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.

You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it. Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans. And he is, thanks to Florida, the presidential nominee of the Republican party.

And on that note, I’m off to climb into a bottle of Bushmill’s. It’s going to be a LONG nine months.

Wow.

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It Wasn’t That Close

McCain will win, it seems, by about five points. He won among Hispanics, seniors, and Independents and got a healthy share of social conservatives. It’s not a landslide, but it is impressive given Romney’s enormous financial advantage.

McCain will win, it seems, by about five points. He won among Hispanics, seniors, and Independents and got a healthy share of social conservatives. It’s not a landslide, but it is impressive given Romney’s enormous financial advantage.

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McCain’s Speech

He is especially complimentary of Rudy, but gracious all around. He understands he must gather in the party faithful and is hitting conservative themes: fiscal sobriety, limited government, low taxes, judges who adhere to judging and the like. McCain has been remarkably disciplined and I think he has the wind at his back. He showed that tonight. Barring an utter personal meltdown, which I think highly unlikely, he will be the nominee. I agree with Victor Davis Hanson that it is a good week for the conservative base to come to terms with that.

He is especially complimentary of Rudy, but gracious all around. He understands he must gather in the party faithful and is hitting conservative themes: fiscal sobriety, limited government, low taxes, judges who adhere to judging and the like. McCain has been remarkably disciplined and I think he has the wind at his back. He showed that tonight. Barring an utter personal meltdown, which I think highly unlikely, he will be the nominee. I agree with Victor Davis Hanson that it is a good week for the conservative base to come to terms with that.

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Re: The Giuliani Concession

John, Rudy’s tactics were completely wrong, of course. He didn’t finish off John McCain when McCain was down by raiding his staff and finance team: absolutely true. As you say, the stories about his wife and Bernie Kerik dried up his late fall steam. True, true. Some will argue that the pro-choice/control issues killed him, but a year of positive polling for him suggests otherwise.

I think the problem lay elsewhere. As an early Rudy supporter, I felt I was always waiting for a big speech, a few new ideas — something that could set the agenda for the post-Bush GOP. That never came. Instead, as just heard Bill Kristol say, this was a very backwards-looking campaign. Take a look
at this ad he was running in Florida:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNxOcKVw9vE[/youtube]

He talks about a return to the values of Ronald Reagan and fighting against
Islamic terrorism. The rest of the spot is a bio ad, focused largely on what he did as mayor — more than a decade ago! I think Rudy really was closer to Reagan’s brand of optimistic conservatism than anyone else in the race. But it so often seemed irrelevant to the race and to the times. Rudy’s failed candidacy is the best evidence that the party needs a post-Reagan message.

John, Rudy’s tactics were completely wrong, of course. He didn’t finish off John McCain when McCain was down by raiding his staff and finance team: absolutely true. As you say, the stories about his wife and Bernie Kerik dried up his late fall steam. True, true. Some will argue that the pro-choice/control issues killed him, but a year of positive polling for him suggests otherwise.

I think the problem lay elsewhere. As an early Rudy supporter, I felt I was always waiting for a big speech, a few new ideas — something that could set the agenda for the post-Bush GOP. That never came. Instead, as just heard Bill Kristol say, this was a very backwards-looking campaign. Take a look
at this ad he was running in Florida:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNxOcKVw9vE[/youtube]

He talks about a return to the values of Ronald Reagan and fighting against
Islamic terrorism. The rest of the spot is a bio ad, focused largely on what he did as mayor — more than a decade ago! I think Rudy really was closer to Reagan’s brand of optimistic conservatism than anyone else in the race. But it so often seemed irrelevant to the race and to the times. Rudy’s failed candidacy is the best evidence that the party needs a post-Reagan message.

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The Giuliani Concession

I think Giuliani — whom I trumpeted as the best Republican candidate for 2008 in my book, Can She Be Stopped? — looked relieved and happy as he delivered what is surely the final speech of his campaign as a candidate. I think, with no inside knowledge, that he figured his goose was cooked after the story in the New York Daily News in November about his then-mistress being driven around in NYPD vans. His campaign didn’t know how to address the matter, and every time it said something, there was another story in the News advancing it. Even the correcting stories a few weeks later that indicated the whole thing was just an accounting quirk couldn’t help him regain his footing. Rudy was in a reduced condition from that moment forward, and he has now been released from two months of fatalistic anxiety. That has to feel good.

I think Giuliani — whom I trumpeted as the best Republican candidate for 2008 in my book, Can She Be Stopped? — looked relieved and happy as he delivered what is surely the final speech of his campaign as a candidate. I think, with no inside knowledge, that he figured his goose was cooked after the story in the New York Daily News in November about his then-mistress being driven around in NYPD vans. His campaign didn’t know how to address the matter, and every time it said something, there was another story in the News advancing it. Even the correcting stories a few weeks later that indicated the whole thing was just an accounting quirk couldn’t help him regain his footing. Rudy was in a reduced condition from that moment forward, and he has now been released from two months of fatalistic anxiety. That has to feel good.

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McCain’s Week Ahead

As you say, Daniel, now that he has evidently won the state of Florida, which gives him victories in three of the last four serious contests, John McCain is now the unambiguous frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He is not temperamentally suited to being a frontrunner, as his collapse in the first half of 2007 demonstrated. The best hope for Mitt Romney resides in McCain’s psyche. Can he maintain the self-discipline necessary to stay on point rather than go off half-cocked, say something he shouldn’t, crack a media-friendly joke that will give his enemies on the Right new and more potent ammunition? We’ll see.

As you say, Daniel, now that he has evidently won the state of Florida, which gives him victories in three of the last four serious contests, John McCain is now the unambiguous frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He is not temperamentally suited to being a frontrunner, as his collapse in the first half of 2007 demonstrated. The best hope for Mitt Romney resides in McCain’s psyche. Can he maintain the self-discipline necessary to stay on point rather than go off half-cocked, say something he shouldn’t, crack a media-friendly joke that will give his enemies on the Right new and more potent ammunition? We’ll see.

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Rudy’s Concession Speech

He talks of a race “ran”– in the past tense. He talks about his themes of national security, tax reform and expanding the party’s appeal. He is cut short by Romney, who now makes an art of bumping his opponents past or present off the air. Class act. Team McCain sends out an email reminding us that we find out on January 31 how much Romney has spent on his own campaign and saying he is “just hurting the Republican Party with his negative attacks.” We’ll have one nasty week, I suspect.

He talks of a race “ran”– in the past tense. He talks about his themes of national security, tax reform and expanding the party’s appeal. He is cut short by Romney, who now makes an art of bumping his opponents past or present off the air. Class act. Team McCain sends out an email reminding us that we find out on January 31 how much Romney has spent on his own campaign and saying he is “just hurting the Republican Party with his negative attacks.” We’ll have one nasty week, I suspect.

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The Republican Race Is Probably Over

Jennifer, if you’re right and Rudy endorses McCain this week, I think the race is pretty much done. Mitt Romney has yet to show that he can really win. But the bigger challenge for the Party will be how all the conservatives make peace with McCain. If Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, they will argue, persuasively, that Romney may have been a better GOP nominee. Against Obama, McCain is the old man versus the young man, the old way versus the new. Romney, at least, can make a much stronger argument against Obama’s soft-headed economics.

But if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, then we really do have one of the great national contests on our hand — and the McCain haters will have no hoice but to get on board.

Jennifer, if you’re right and Rudy endorses McCain this week, I think the race is pretty much done. Mitt Romney has yet to show that he can really win. But the bigger challenge for the Party will be how all the conservatives make peace with McCain. If Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee, they will argue, persuasively, that Romney may have been a better GOP nominee. Against Obama, McCain is the old man versus the young man, the old way versus the new. Romney, at least, can make a much stronger argument against Obama’s soft-headed economics.

But if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, then we really do have one of the great national contests on our hand — and the McCain haters will have no hoice but to get on board.

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McCain Wins

Fox calls it. Mike Huckabee on Fox didn’t sound like he was hanging it up quite yet.

Fox calls it. Mike Huckabee on Fox didn’t sound like he was hanging it up quite yet.

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Rudy To Endorse McCain

According to this it will be Wednesday.

More returns are coming in now, and with over 41% of the votes in McCain is ahead by a little less than three. If that continues and Rudy endorses Mccain, McCain is the prohibitive favorite, but Romney will fight on.

According to this it will be Wednesday.

More returns are coming in now, and with over 41% of the votes in McCain is ahead by a little less than three. If that continues and Rudy endorses Mccain, McCain is the prohibitive favorite, but Romney will fight on.

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Like Old Times

Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have yet to report their votes. Florida’s tradition continues.

Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties have yet to report their votes. Florida’s tradition continues.

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Rudy’s Decision

ABC News has officially called the race as a battle between Mitt Romney and John McCain for first, meaning Rudy is at best a third. I suspect his inclination would be to support the man he said he’d favor if he were not running, John McCain. The most effective way to do that (which of course would avoid the prospect of further losses in New York and New Jersey) would be to do so quickly. Regardless of the outcome tonight, that will further strengthen McCain in the Tri-State area plus Illinois, Minnesota, Delaware and a few other states. There are many strategic and more fundamental reasons one can point to for Rudy’s lack of success, but simply put, McCain and Rudy could not both succeed in this race. Once McCain’s campaign revived and he claimed the national security mantle, Rudy’s campaign had no room for error, which of course is an impossibility in presidential politics.

ABC News has officially called the race as a battle between Mitt Romney and John McCain for first, meaning Rudy is at best a third. I suspect his inclination would be to support the man he said he’d favor if he were not running, John McCain. The most effective way to do that (which of course would avoid the prospect of further losses in New York and New Jersey) would be to do so quickly. Regardless of the outcome tonight, that will further strengthen McCain in the Tri-State area plus Illinois, Minnesota, Delaware and a few other states. There are many strategic and more fundamental reasons one can point to for Rudy’s lack of success, but simply put, McCain and Rudy could not both succeed in this race. Once McCain’s campaign revived and he claimed the national security mantle, Rudy’s campaign had no room for error, which of course is an impossibility in presidential politics.

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Ridiculous Early Analysis

If the Florida results remain as close as the exit polls make it appear, nothing is going to be resolved tonight on the Republican side with the frontrunners. If John McCain wins it by a point or two, he gets all the delegates and the headlines that he is the winner of Florida — which helps going into Super Tuesday. But Mitt Romney has no reason to back off, even though he will have lost four of the five real contests so far. He’s worked successfully now to establish himself as the McCain alternative, and there appears to be enough anger and suspicion of McCain among Republicans to make a Romney win plausible if McCain does something to injure himself.

And if Romney wins by a point or two, McCain just keeps going the same way he has. We’re going into a 21-state vote a week from now, and Romney’s money isn’t going to help him much because even he doesn’t have enough to flood the airwaves everywhere on his own behalf.
The question, now, is how long before Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee decide to drop out. Unless something extraordinary happens in the next two hours, Giuliani stands revealed as a strong candidate who made a clever and compelling effort to game the system and failed. And despite the idea that he was the Next Big Populist Thing, Huckabee can’t buy a non-Christian-identity vote.

What may help McCain is the prospect that Giuliani and Huckabee will both endorse him this week before Super Tuesday, which will allow McCain to argue that he is unifying the party by unifying his rivals behind him. If McCain could pull off getting Fred Thompson this week as well, he will have the best answer to the increasingly agitated conservative rage radiating toward him from the radio speakers and a browser near you.

If the Florida results remain as close as the exit polls make it appear, nothing is going to be resolved tonight on the Republican side with the frontrunners. If John McCain wins it by a point or two, he gets all the delegates and the headlines that he is the winner of Florida — which helps going into Super Tuesday. But Mitt Romney has no reason to back off, even though he will have lost four of the five real contests so far. He’s worked successfully now to establish himself as the McCain alternative, and there appears to be enough anger and suspicion of McCain among Republicans to make a Romney win plausible if McCain does something to injure himself.

And if Romney wins by a point or two, McCain just keeps going the same way he has. We’re going into a 21-state vote a week from now, and Romney’s money isn’t going to help him much because even he doesn’t have enough to flood the airwaves everywhere on his own behalf.
The question, now, is how long before Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee decide to drop out. Unless something extraordinary happens in the next two hours, Giuliani stands revealed as a strong candidate who made a clever and compelling effort to game the system and failed. And despite the idea that he was the Next Big Populist Thing, Huckabee can’t buy a non-Christian-identity vote.

What may help McCain is the prospect that Giuliani and Huckabee will both endorse him this week before Super Tuesday, which will allow McCain to argue that he is unifying the party by unifying his rivals behind him. If McCain could pull off getting Fred Thompson this week as well, he will have the best answer to the increasingly agitated conservative rage radiating toward him from the radio speakers and a browser near you.

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More Data

Here are some additional exiting polling nuggets. The number that jumps out: McCain leads Romney 38% to 34% among those for whom the economy is the top issue. This was the case in New Hampshire as well. I speculated previously that as counterintuitive as this is, people may not believe that a corporate turnaround executive is uniquely qualified to oversee the U.S. economy. Since the economy was overwhelmingly the top issue of concern to Florida voters according to the exit polling, the McCain folks are likely pleased by this news. All caveats about exit polling and margins of error are duly noted.

Here are some additional exiting polling nuggets. The number that jumps out: McCain leads Romney 38% to 34% among those for whom the economy is the top issue. This was the case in New Hampshire as well. I speculated previously that as counterintuitive as this is, people may not believe that a corporate turnaround executive is uniquely qualified to oversee the U.S. economy. Since the economy was overwhelmingly the top issue of concern to Florida voters according to the exit polling, the McCain folks are likely pleased by this news. All caveats about exit polling and margins of error are duly noted.

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The Polls Close In An Hour

Some information from the Florida exit polls has been released. From additional sources I can only say that the race is extremely tight for the top spot. We’ll have much more as the evening goes on.

Some information from the Florida exit polls has been released. From additional sources I can only say that the race is extremely tight for the top spot. We’ll have much more as the evening goes on.

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The UN’s “Great Step Forward”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has recently endorsed the newly ratified Arab Charter on Human Rights. Arbour called the Charter “an important step forward,” and on January 24 she released a statement saying she “is committed and stands ready to support the States Parties to the Charter in ensuring that core values of human rights are upheld.”

“All forms of racism, Zionism and foreign occupation and domination constitute an impediment to human dignity . . . all such practices must be condemned and efforts must be deployed for their elimination,” says the document Arbour heartily endorses. The Charter, like the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, was created by the Arab League of States specifically to make-up for the lack of Sharia-inspired anti-Semitism in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The organization UN Watch has asked Louise Arbour to clarify her endorsement. “”We trust that Ms. Arbour was not aware of [the charter’s contents], but this must be made clear, and the responsible person in her office must be held fully accountable,” said Hillel Neuer, the body’s executive director. Neuer must be trying to shame Arbour with his feigned ignorance. Louise Arbour is a professional flatterer of tyrants and anti-Semites. Like the Human Rights commissions of her native Canada, she applies an Orwellian version of human rights promotion: the grossest violators are offered impunity under the umbrella of “Islamophobia” protection. She took the side of vengeful imams in the Danish cartoon affair and recently enjoyed the company of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a Human Rights conference in Tehran. In Arbour’s universe, the ratification of this disgraceful charter is, in fact, “an important step forward” in legitimizing the institutional anti-Semitism of the Council of the Arab League of States.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has recently endorsed the newly ratified Arab Charter on Human Rights. Arbour called the Charter “an important step forward,” and on January 24 she released a statement saying she “is committed and stands ready to support the States Parties to the Charter in ensuring that core values of human rights are upheld.”

“All forms of racism, Zionism and foreign occupation and domination constitute an impediment to human dignity . . . all such practices must be condemned and efforts must be deployed for their elimination,” says the document Arbour heartily endorses. The Charter, like the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, was created by the Arab League of States specifically to make-up for the lack of Sharia-inspired anti-Semitism in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The organization UN Watch has asked Louise Arbour to clarify her endorsement. “”We trust that Ms. Arbour was not aware of [the charter’s contents], but this must be made clear, and the responsible person in her office must be held fully accountable,” said Hillel Neuer, the body’s executive director. Neuer must be trying to shame Arbour with his feigned ignorance. Louise Arbour is a professional flatterer of tyrants and anti-Semites. Like the Human Rights commissions of her native Canada, she applies an Orwellian version of human rights promotion: the grossest violators are offered impunity under the umbrella of “Islamophobia” protection. She took the side of vengeful imams in the Danish cartoon affair and recently enjoyed the company of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a Human Rights conference in Tehran. In Arbour’s universe, the ratification of this disgraceful charter is, in fact, “an important step forward” in legitimizing the institutional anti-Semitism of the Council of the Arab League of States.

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The Primary Follies

It’s too early to tell who either party’s nominee will be this year, but it’s not too early to say that the front-loading of the primary process has been a disaster for both parties—turning the primaries into a dizzying rollercoaster ride that has not helped the base or elites of either party much.

This year’s primaries not only started earlier than ever (in 2000, only Iowa voted on January 24th; this year six states had voted by that point), but were also pushed together far more tightly than in previous years. Most observers, and most of the party and state officials responsible for the change, expected the new calendar to shorten the process and hasten the selection of a nominee. “Cutting the length of the primary season by more than half by jamming the contests together raises the likelihood of a bandwagon developing for the candidate who wins the first few contests,” Karl Rove wrote in December, and “this would allow a candidate to sweep to victory in the subsequent contests that rapidly follow because all that voters will see is his (or her) face on the evening news and in the papers.” Expecting only the early states to matter, every state fought to stake out an early spot, which made the overcrowding all the worse.

But far from bringing about a quick decision, the process has left both parties contemplating the possibility of a brokered convention for the first time in many decades. The early states produced a surprising variety of winners—failing precisely to yield a bandwagon or momentum effect—and it is far from clear that the massive super-primary on February 5th will do much better. It increasingly looks like the later states, those that didn’t crowd the January calendar, and that therefore feared they would be left only to rubber stamp a settled matter, will turn out to play the truly pivotal role in both party’s contests. Virginia and Maryland suddenly look shrewd, if only by accident.

It is too soon to think about how to avoid such a fiasco in the future—we haven’t finished working through the fiasco just yet. But it’s not much too soon. In the Republican party, for instance, changing the primary process requires an arduous four-year rigmarole, which for the 2012 cycle would need to begin with this April’s meeting of the RNC’s rules committee. The Democrats are a little more flexible, but both parties would need the state legislatures to follow their lead, and that’s far from assured after this year’s apparent debacle.

All of which proves some old conservative maxims: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; and if you try to fix it, don’t imagine you can predict how things will turn out.

It’s too early to tell who either party’s nominee will be this year, but it’s not too early to say that the front-loading of the primary process has been a disaster for both parties—turning the primaries into a dizzying rollercoaster ride that has not helped the base or elites of either party much.

This year’s primaries not only started earlier than ever (in 2000, only Iowa voted on January 24th; this year six states had voted by that point), but were also pushed together far more tightly than in previous years. Most observers, and most of the party and state officials responsible for the change, expected the new calendar to shorten the process and hasten the selection of a nominee. “Cutting the length of the primary season by more than half by jamming the contests together raises the likelihood of a bandwagon developing for the candidate who wins the first few contests,” Karl Rove wrote in December, and “this would allow a candidate to sweep to victory in the subsequent contests that rapidly follow because all that voters will see is his (or her) face on the evening news and in the papers.” Expecting only the early states to matter, every state fought to stake out an early spot, which made the overcrowding all the worse.

But far from bringing about a quick decision, the process has left both parties contemplating the possibility of a brokered convention for the first time in many decades. The early states produced a surprising variety of winners—failing precisely to yield a bandwagon or momentum effect—and it is far from clear that the massive super-primary on February 5th will do much better. It increasingly looks like the later states, those that didn’t crowd the January calendar, and that therefore feared they would be left only to rubber stamp a settled matter, will turn out to play the truly pivotal role in both party’s contests. Virginia and Maryland suddenly look shrewd, if only by accident.

It is too soon to think about how to avoid such a fiasco in the future—we haven’t finished working through the fiasco just yet. But it’s not much too soon. In the Republican party, for instance, changing the primary process requires an arduous four-year rigmarole, which for the 2012 cycle would need to begin with this April’s meeting of the RNC’s rules committee. The Democrats are a little more flexible, but both parties would need the state legislatures to follow their lead, and that’s far from assured after this year’s apparent debacle.

All of which proves some old conservative maxims: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; and if you try to fix it, don’t imagine you can predict how things will turn out.

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State of the Union: Iran

Last night President Bush, in his State of the Union address, had a message for Tehran’s ayatollahs: “Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin.” Then he demanded that they “come clean” about their “nuclear intentions and past actions.” What were missing were two essential words: “Or else.”

The omission is all the more significant because the President used tougher language for Iran on another topic. After listing a series of Iranian transgressions including the funding and training of militias in Iraq, he said, “But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops.”

I love ringing language from American presidents, but it’s time to examine its effect on Iranian leaders. If I were a mullah in Tehran, the word that would be going through my mind is the Farsi equivalent of “hollow.” After all, I know that I have been helping to kill American troops in Iraq for the past several years and President Bush hasn’t done anything of particular significance to me. Would I be right in concluding that he will not be doing anything more in the future? And if he won’t do anything about my killing more Americans, then why, in light of his use of “above all,” should I think he will do anything about my nuclear program?

President Bush may be coming to the end of his second term, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning, “even a lame duck President has more power to influence events than anyone else on the planet.” So he does not have an excuse. If he thought there is a diplomatic solution, he should have said so last night. If there is not—and none is in sight in my view—then he needed to tell the Iranians what is the price they will have to pay for their conduct. This morning John Bolton, interviewed by Bill Hemmer on the Fox News Channel, said that there were only two options left: regime change and the use of force. Agree with him or not, Bolton is one person who is talking about “or else.”

Last night President Bush, in his State of the Union address, had a message for Tehran’s ayatollahs: “Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment, so negotiations can begin.” Then he demanded that they “come clean” about their “nuclear intentions and past actions.” What were missing were two essential words: “Or else.”

The omission is all the more significant because the President used tougher language for Iran on another topic. After listing a series of Iranian transgressions including the funding and training of militias in Iraq, he said, “But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops.”

I love ringing language from American presidents, but it’s time to examine its effect on Iranian leaders. If I were a mullah in Tehran, the word that would be going through my mind is the Farsi equivalent of “hollow.” After all, I know that I have been helping to kill American troops in Iraq for the past several years and President Bush hasn’t done anything of particular significance to me. Would I be right in concluding that he will not be doing anything more in the future? And if he won’t do anything about my killing more Americans, then why, in light of his use of “above all,” should I think he will do anything about my nuclear program?

President Bush may be coming to the end of his second term, but as the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning, “even a lame duck President has more power to influence events than anyone else on the planet.” So he does not have an excuse. If he thought there is a diplomatic solution, he should have said so last night. If there is not—and none is in sight in my view—then he needed to tell the Iranians what is the price they will have to pay for their conduct. This morning John Bolton, interviewed by Bill Hemmer on the Fox News Channel, said that there were only two options left: regime change and the use of force. Agree with him or not, Bolton is one person who is talking about “or else.”

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Not Quite a Knight

Ted Kennedy’s endorsement has sent the political and pundit class swooning. In a typically over-the-top comment, the Washington Post anoints Barack Obama as “Camelot’s New Knight”. But will this knight do any better than the original standard bearer?

John F. Kennedy has been enveloped in a halo since his assassination, but it is important to recall how unimpressive his presidency looked before his tragic demise. Kennedy did not distinguish himself in dealing with foreign policy crises early in his term, notably the Bay of Pigs and the erection of the Berlin Wall. (Khrushchev got the idea that he could be rolled, and the result was the Cuban Missile Crisis.) Mercifully the world escaped
without a nuclear war, but it was a close-run thing. Kennedy also began to get America embroiled in the Vietnam War. In retrospect, many were left pining for the steady, sober leadership of the more proven Eisenhower, who had led vast armies before occupying the Oval Office.

The knock on JFK was that he was just a kid without high-level leadership experience. And that was true. He had not been vice president for eight years like his 1960 election opponent. But he was considerably more experienced than Obama. By the time he became President, Kennedy had fought in a world war and spent 15 years in Congress. Obama, by contrast, has spent seven years in the Illinois state Senate and just three years in the U.S. Senate. His military and foreign policy experience is essentially
nonexistent.

Ted Kennedy tried to wave away objections about Obama’s inexperience:

There was another time, when another young candidate was running for President and challenging America to cross a New Frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic President, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed “someone with greater experience” – and added: “May I urge you to be patient.” And John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do…It is time for a new generation of leadership.” So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now.

Notwithstanding the “fierce urgency of now” (whatever that means), a new generation of leadership isn’t necessarily to be preferred if it doesn’t know what it’s doing. Obama could turn out to be an extraordinarily competent president—more competent even than JFK. But there is nothing in his record or background to suggest that he is, as Ted Kennedy says, “ready to be President on day one.” The Obama learning curve could be steep and the country could pay the price, just as it did when Ted’s older brother took office.

Ted Kennedy’s endorsement has sent the political and pundit class swooning. In a typically over-the-top comment, the Washington Post anoints Barack Obama as “Camelot’s New Knight”. But will this knight do any better than the original standard bearer?

John F. Kennedy has been enveloped in a halo since his assassination, but it is important to recall how unimpressive his presidency looked before his tragic demise. Kennedy did not distinguish himself in dealing with foreign policy crises early in his term, notably the Bay of Pigs and the erection of the Berlin Wall. (Khrushchev got the idea that he could be rolled, and the result was the Cuban Missile Crisis.) Mercifully the world escaped
without a nuclear war, but it was a close-run thing. Kennedy also began to get America embroiled in the Vietnam War. In retrospect, many were left pining for the steady, sober leadership of the more proven Eisenhower, who had led vast armies before occupying the Oval Office.

The knock on JFK was that he was just a kid without high-level leadership experience. And that was true. He had not been vice president for eight years like his 1960 election opponent. But he was considerably more experienced than Obama. By the time he became President, Kennedy had fought in a world war and spent 15 years in Congress. Obama, by contrast, has spent seven years in the Illinois state Senate and just three years in the U.S. Senate. His military and foreign policy experience is essentially
nonexistent.

Ted Kennedy tried to wave away objections about Obama’s inexperience:

There was another time, when another young candidate was running for President and challenging America to cross a New Frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic President, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed “someone with greater experience” – and added: “May I urge you to be patient.” And John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do…It is time for a new generation of leadership.” So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now.

Notwithstanding the “fierce urgency of now” (whatever that means), a new generation of leadership isn’t necessarily to be preferred if it doesn’t know what it’s doing. Obama could turn out to be an extraordinarily competent president—more competent even than JFK. But there is nothing in his record or background to suggest that he is, as Ted Kennedy says, “ready to be President on day one.” The Obama learning curve could be steep and the country could pay the price, just as it did when Ted’s older brother took office.

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