Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 12, 2008

Bulletin from the Land Beyond Parody

Is there such a thing as a Rubbernecking Reader — someone who slows down, in horrified fascination, at the scene of a journalistic calamity and takes a good long look? If there is, I am that man. And I am ashamed to admit that I look forward, every week, to the posts of Judith Warner, who writes the Domestic Disturbances blog on the New York Times website, even though I know what I will experience is not a moment’s edification or instruction but rather unknowing humiliation of Judith Warner by her own hand.

Nominally a resident of the Washington suburbs where all radio dials are set to NPR and a toy gun is rarer than a Bush bumpersticker, Warner actually lives in the Land Beyond Parody. Her last post, in which she gamely tries but fails to make fun of herself for her consuming obsession, is about her justifiable anger at two middle-aged married men of her acquaintance fantasizing about what kinds of women they would date if they were single. Warner is horrified to discover that they would want to date hot younger childless chicks — or perhaps one should say she is horrified to discover they would contravene the rules of post-modern Mrs. Grundy feminist correctness and admit aloud that when they allow their erotic imaginations to run free, their male ids hunger for Lake Bell rather than for, say, Judith Warner. There is no sense quoting any individual sentence written by Judith Warner because her work is most glorious in its entirety.

So, for your Rubbernecking Reading pleasure, here is Judith Warner’s “Like a Fish Needs a Donut.”

Is there such a thing as a Rubbernecking Reader — someone who slows down, in horrified fascination, at the scene of a journalistic calamity and takes a good long look? If there is, I am that man. And I am ashamed to admit that I look forward, every week, to the posts of Judith Warner, who writes the Domestic Disturbances blog on the New York Times website, even though I know what I will experience is not a moment’s edification or instruction but rather unknowing humiliation of Judith Warner by her own hand.

Nominally a resident of the Washington suburbs where all radio dials are set to NPR and a toy gun is rarer than a Bush bumpersticker, Warner actually lives in the Land Beyond Parody. Her last post, in which she gamely tries but fails to make fun of herself for her consuming obsession, is about her justifiable anger at two middle-aged married men of her acquaintance fantasizing about what kinds of women they would date if they were single. Warner is horrified to discover that they would want to date hot younger childless chicks — or perhaps one should say she is horrified to discover they would contravene the rules of post-modern Mrs. Grundy feminist correctness and admit aloud that when they allow their erotic imaginations to run free, their male ids hunger for Lake Bell rather than for, say, Judith Warner. There is no sense quoting any individual sentence written by Judith Warner because her work is most glorious in its entirety.

So, for your Rubbernecking Reading pleasure, here is Judith Warner’s “Like a Fish Needs a Donut.”

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Here’s A Good Example

Barack Obama was one of 29 U.S. Senators who opposed cloture on a key Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) vote today. The specific issue: whether to extend immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted the government in terrorist surveillance. John McCain voted in favor of cloture and for immunity along with all other Republicans (Lindsey Graham was absent), the increasingly sensible Dianne Feinstein (she voted to confirm Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick despite the protestations of the civil rights lobby), and a number of Red (e.g. Bayh, Johnson, McCaskill, Webb) and Blue (e.g. Mikulski, Casey) state Democrats. But not Obama. Doesn’t this say something about his noncentrist views on national security? To whom was he “reaching out” on this vote and what new type of politics was he practicing? Or was he voting with the most extreme elements of his party? And what precisely is the rationale for denying immunity to companies which in good faith aided in national security endeavors? This might be a fruitful line of inquiry for the soon to be Republican nominee. (Oh, and Hillary Clinton? She did not vote.)

Barack Obama was one of 29 U.S. Senators who opposed cloture on a key Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) vote today. The specific issue: whether to extend immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted the government in terrorist surveillance. John McCain voted in favor of cloture and for immunity along with all other Republicans (Lindsey Graham was absent), the increasingly sensible Dianne Feinstein (she voted to confirm Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick despite the protestations of the civil rights lobby), and a number of Red (e.g. Bayh, Johnson, McCaskill, Webb) and Blue (e.g. Mikulski, Casey) state Democrats. But not Obama. Doesn’t this say something about his noncentrist views on national security? To whom was he “reaching out” on this vote and what new type of politics was he practicing? Or was he voting with the most extreme elements of his party? And what precisely is the rationale for denying immunity to companies which in good faith aided in national security endeavors? This might be a fruitful line of inquiry for the soon to be Republican nominee. (Oh, and Hillary Clinton? She did not vote.)

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A Secret Deal with ElBaradei?

Yesterday, AFP reported that Mohammed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is embroiled in a disagreement with his staffers on Iran’s nuclear program. “I’ve heard that some of his technical staff are not happy,” said one diplomat. “There’s a concern that most of the big issues are going to be declared as resolved when there’s still a feeling that they’re anything but.”

ElBaradei’s attempt to override his experts comes after his mid-January trip to Tehran. Soon after meeting the head of the IAEA, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped insisting that the Islamic Republic would accept no interference from outsiders in its nuclear program. The fiery Iranian leader said that “Nobody except the International Atomic Energy Agency has the right to make decisions or impose anything on the Iranian nation.”

Why would Ahmadinejad now be willing to accept restraints from the IAEA? And why would the usually meticulous IAEA boss throw caution to the wind and give Iran his seal of approval at this critical moment? Perhaps these reversals of long-held positions are merely the product of coincidence or good fortune, but other explanations are more probable. One of them, for instance, is that ElBaradei has been engaging in unauthorized diplomacy of some sort, maybe a secret arrangement with the mullahs.

Whatever he is doing, it’s not constructive and Washington needs to learn more about it before the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting, scheduled to begin March 3. The United States is already on the defensive, and ElBaradei looks like he is about to deal a mortal blow to Western efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

Yesterday, AFP reported that Mohammed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is embroiled in a disagreement with his staffers on Iran’s nuclear program. “I’ve heard that some of his technical staff are not happy,” said one diplomat. “There’s a concern that most of the big issues are going to be declared as resolved when there’s still a feeling that they’re anything but.”

ElBaradei’s attempt to override his experts comes after his mid-January trip to Tehran. Soon after meeting the head of the IAEA, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped insisting that the Islamic Republic would accept no interference from outsiders in its nuclear program. The fiery Iranian leader said that “Nobody except the International Atomic Energy Agency has the right to make decisions or impose anything on the Iranian nation.”

Why would Ahmadinejad now be willing to accept restraints from the IAEA? And why would the usually meticulous IAEA boss throw caution to the wind and give Iran his seal of approval at this critical moment? Perhaps these reversals of long-held positions are merely the product of coincidence or good fortune, but other explanations are more probable. One of them, for instance, is that ElBaradei has been engaging in unauthorized diplomacy of some sort, maybe a secret arrangement with the mullahs.

Whatever he is doing, it’s not constructive and Washington needs to learn more about it before the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting, scheduled to begin March 3. The United States is already on the defensive, and ElBaradei looks like he is about to deal a mortal blow to Western efforts to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

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The Clinton Failure of Imagination

Examiner.com reports that yesterday Bill Clilnton tried to convince a room of 600 Virginia college students that Barack Obama’s candidacy is nothing but “smoke and mirrors.” Sounds more like Obama’s high school years to me, but the more important detail is that while the Clintons have been unable to make this charge (Obama’s lack of substance) work for them, they still continue to hammer it home.

Bill Clinton has literally lost his voice decrying the “fairytale” aspects of Obama’s campaign and it’s merely made the former President look bitter. As Obama’s numbers climbed, Team Clinton never found a new narrative to work with. College-age voters seem least concerned with the make-believe nature of Obama’s pitch. The fact that on this primary day, Bill is trying to convince students of Obama’s lack of substance speaks to a sizable failure of imagination in the Clinton camp. Many Obama voters have signalled that they’re okay with fantasy. Hillary should spend more time offering them a better one.

Examiner.com reports that yesterday Bill Clilnton tried to convince a room of 600 Virginia college students that Barack Obama’s candidacy is nothing but “smoke and mirrors.” Sounds more like Obama’s high school years to me, but the more important detail is that while the Clintons have been unable to make this charge (Obama’s lack of substance) work for them, they still continue to hammer it home.

Bill Clinton has literally lost his voice decrying the “fairytale” aspects of Obama’s campaign and it’s merely made the former President look bitter. As Obama’s numbers climbed, Team Clinton never found a new narrative to work with. College-age voters seem least concerned with the make-believe nature of Obama’s pitch. The fact that on this primary day, Bill is trying to convince students of Obama’s lack of substance speaks to a sizable failure of imagination in the Clinton camp. Many Obama voters have signalled that they’re okay with fantasy. Hillary should spend more time offering them a better one.

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Bookshelf

• One of the smartest decisions the Library of America ever made was to include the complete text of Bill Mauldin’s Up Front in Reporting World War II, its two-volume anthology of World War II journalism. Up Front is the best collection of editorial cartoons ever published by an American, though that flat phrase cannot begin to suggest the true nature of the book’s excellence, much less its formal uniqueness. Not only are the cartoons themselves devastating in the deadpan eloquence with which they sum up the combat soldier’s now-grubby, now-terrifying life (“I’m beginnin’ to feel like a fugitive from th’ law of averages”), but the combination of Mauldin’s brilliantly evocative drawings and plain-spoken accompanying text adds up to something far greater than the sum of its considerable parts. He and Ernie Pyle were without doubt the best newspaper journalists to cover the war, and it is all the more impressive to learn that Mauldin was a smooth-faced boy in his early twenties when he drew the cartoons that went into Up Front—and all the more dismaying to discover that he never did anything remotely as good for the rest of his life.

Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front (W.W. Norton, 352 pp., $27.95), Todd DePastino’s too-admiring but nonetheless illuminating biography of the cartoonist, is interesting for the first two-thirds of its length, in which DePastino describes Mauldin’s troubled youth and the demanding circumstances under which he produced the cartoons that went into Up Front. Much of this story has already been told in Mauldin’s autobiographical writings, but DePastino goes over the same ground with more detachment and detail. It is especially interesting to see reproductions of Mauldin’s early work, which is conventional and devoid of obvious promise—it could have been drawn by any provincial cartoonist—and to watch his familiar style start taking shape as soon as he was shipped out to Europe in 1943. All at once (it is almost as sudden as that) he breaks free from the conventions of early-40’s cartooning and turns into an artist, one whose ability to embody the feel of modern war in individual, lightning-like flashes of candor and grim wit brings him on occasion within spitting distance of Daumier.

Then the war ended, and Mauldin, by now famous, returned stateside and started floundering. He would not be the first prodigy who later proved incapable of producing work comparable in quality to that with which he made his name, though DePastino fails to see what went wrong. The problem was that Mauldin, who had no feel whatsoever for politics, tried to fit his genius into the wrong mold when he attempted to retrofit himself as a political cartoonist. His newly acquired liberal views, which ran to the reflexive, were too obvious to serve as the basis of striking comment on the issues of the day, and the only postwar cartoon of his that continues to be remembered, the captionless caricature of the Lincoln of the Lincoln Monument holding his head in his hands after hearing of the Kennedy assassination, is both crude and mawkish.
Mauldin was largely forgotten by the time he died in 2003, though the publication in 1995 of Reporting World War II (an event of which DePastino inexplicably makes no mention whatsoever) was to introduce his and Pyle’s work to a small but significant number of readers born too young to know how well those two men captured the American experience in World War II. Owners of that invaluable collection will want to read Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front and see for themselves how the horrors of war transformed a confused ne’er-do-well into—briefly—a great journalist.

• One of the smartest decisions the Library of America ever made was to include the complete text of Bill Mauldin’s Up Front in Reporting World War II, its two-volume anthology of World War II journalism. Up Front is the best collection of editorial cartoons ever published by an American, though that flat phrase cannot begin to suggest the true nature of the book’s excellence, much less its formal uniqueness. Not only are the cartoons themselves devastating in the deadpan eloquence with which they sum up the combat soldier’s now-grubby, now-terrifying life (“I’m beginnin’ to feel like a fugitive from th’ law of averages”), but the combination of Mauldin’s brilliantly evocative drawings and plain-spoken accompanying text adds up to something far greater than the sum of its considerable parts. He and Ernie Pyle were without doubt the best newspaper journalists to cover the war, and it is all the more impressive to learn that Mauldin was a smooth-faced boy in his early twenties when he drew the cartoons that went into Up Front—and all the more dismaying to discover that he never did anything remotely as good for the rest of his life.

Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front (W.W. Norton, 352 pp., $27.95), Todd DePastino’s too-admiring but nonetheless illuminating biography of the cartoonist, is interesting for the first two-thirds of its length, in which DePastino describes Mauldin’s troubled youth and the demanding circumstances under which he produced the cartoons that went into Up Front. Much of this story has already been told in Mauldin’s autobiographical writings, but DePastino goes over the same ground with more detachment and detail. It is especially interesting to see reproductions of Mauldin’s early work, which is conventional and devoid of obvious promise—it could have been drawn by any provincial cartoonist—and to watch his familiar style start taking shape as soon as he was shipped out to Europe in 1943. All at once (it is almost as sudden as that) he breaks free from the conventions of early-40’s cartooning and turns into an artist, one whose ability to embody the feel of modern war in individual, lightning-like flashes of candor and grim wit brings him on occasion within spitting distance of Daumier.

Then the war ended, and Mauldin, by now famous, returned stateside and started floundering. He would not be the first prodigy who later proved incapable of producing work comparable in quality to that with which he made his name, though DePastino fails to see what went wrong. The problem was that Mauldin, who had no feel whatsoever for politics, tried to fit his genius into the wrong mold when he attempted to retrofit himself as a political cartoonist. His newly acquired liberal views, which ran to the reflexive, were too obvious to serve as the basis of striking comment on the issues of the day, and the only postwar cartoon of his that continues to be remembered, the captionless caricature of the Lincoln of the Lincoln Monument holding his head in his hands after hearing of the Kennedy assassination, is both crude and mawkish.
Mauldin was largely forgotten by the time he died in 2003, though the publication in 1995 of Reporting World War II (an event of which DePastino inexplicably makes no mention whatsoever) was to introduce his and Pyle’s work to a small but significant number of readers born too young to know how well those two men captured the American experience in World War II. Owners of that invaluable collection will want to read Bill Mauldin: A Life Up Front and see for themselves how the horrors of war transformed a confused ne’er-do-well into—briefly—a great journalist.

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Defeat for Terror in Spain

Having been out of the country over the weekend, I have only now caught up with this fascinating and important New York Times report on a terror plot that has just been busted up in Spain. Acting on a tip from a French informant, Spanish officials arrested fourteen suspected jihadists on January 19; several others are believed to have escaped.

All of the suspects are either Pakistanis or of Pakistani descent, which shows that country’s growing importance as a terrorism hub. While many other terrorism plotters in Europe have previously been linked to Pakistan (including the 2005 London subway bombers) this is apparently the first case where Pakistanis with no links to Europe have been dispatched specifically to carry out such attacks.

They were planning to carry out a series of bombings in Spain and then in other European countries designed to drive NATO troop contingents out of Afghanistan. (Spain has 740 soldiers in Afghanistan.) The Times reports:

“If they didn’t comply, there would be one in Germany,” the informant said, according to a secret transcript of his statements, whose contents were verified by several people with access to the document. “If they didn’t comply, France. If they didn’t comply, Portugal. If they didn’t comply, Britain. There are many people ready there.”

Now where would Al Qaeda get the idea that it could drive foreign troops out of Afghanistan by setting off bombs in Europe? Hmmm. Could it be because precisely that strategy worked in 2004?

On March 11, 2004, jihadists set off a series of bombs on Madrid’s commuter trains that killed 191 people and wounded 1,841. Three days later Spanish voters went to the polls and delivered a victory for the Socialist party which had pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq (and which had been trailing the center-right Popular Party before the bombings). That Al Qaeda is trying with Afghanistan the same strategy that worked for Iraq is simply evidence, if any were needed, that it is impossible to appease terrorists. But that won’t stop some Europeans from trying.

Having been out of the country over the weekend, I have only now caught up with this fascinating and important New York Times report on a terror plot that has just been busted up in Spain. Acting on a tip from a French informant, Spanish officials arrested fourteen suspected jihadists on January 19; several others are believed to have escaped.

All of the suspects are either Pakistanis or of Pakistani descent, which shows that country’s growing importance as a terrorism hub. While many other terrorism plotters in Europe have previously been linked to Pakistan (including the 2005 London subway bombers) this is apparently the first case where Pakistanis with no links to Europe have been dispatched specifically to carry out such attacks.

They were planning to carry out a series of bombings in Spain and then in other European countries designed to drive NATO troop contingents out of Afghanistan. (Spain has 740 soldiers in Afghanistan.) The Times reports:

“If they didn’t comply, there would be one in Germany,” the informant said, according to a secret transcript of his statements, whose contents were verified by several people with access to the document. “If they didn’t comply, France. If they didn’t comply, Portugal. If they didn’t comply, Britain. There are many people ready there.”

Now where would Al Qaeda get the idea that it could drive foreign troops out of Afghanistan by setting off bombs in Europe? Hmmm. Could it be because precisely that strategy worked in 2004?

On March 11, 2004, jihadists set off a series of bombs on Madrid’s commuter trains that killed 191 people and wounded 1,841. Three days later Spanish voters went to the polls and delivered a victory for the Socialist party which had pledged to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq (and which had been trailing the center-right Popular Party before the bombings). That Al Qaeda is trying with Afghanistan the same strategy that worked for Iraq is simply evidence, if any were needed, that it is impossible to appease terrorists. But that won’t stop some Europeans from trying.

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Re-branding Capitulation

The Dutch were arguably the first to harness the capital and military potential of the sea and establish a muscular free-trade empire; England followed, and then the U.S. In accordance with a simple timeline school of history the undoing of Dutch culture should proceed that of England or America. Sometimes history can be frighteningly simple.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports that Dutch Catholics have “re-branded” the Lent fast “Christian Ramadan.” Martin Van der Kuil, director of the Catholic charity Vastenaktie said, “The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent.”

Meanwhile, the second great sea power lays the groundwork. The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has recommended that England formally adopt certain aspects of shari’a law to “help maintain social cohesion.”

Williams’ sentiment is echoed by Van der Kuil, who said of Lent and Ramadan: “The agreements are more striking than the differences. Both for Muslims and Catholic faithful the values of frugality and spirituality play a central role in this tradition.”

As this plays out, former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was forced to flee the Netherlands under Islamist death threats, can’t find her way to the “social cohesion” of an interfaith Europe. She’s going from country-to-country in the hopes of convincing a government to protect her from would-be assassins. Hard to say what her chances are in Denmark, where police just arrested three men plotting to kill a cartoonist who drew a picture of the Prophet Mohammad.

The “re-branding” of Lent is really a re-defining of several things: Catholicism, European culture, and the fate of nations. “Re-branding” is one of those weaselly terms common to market-driven societies such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the U.S.. What’s really happening isn’t marketing, but product development: Anglican shari’a and Catholic Ramadan. When some version of this trend hits America, us savvy consumers should at least be able to call it by its name.

The Dutch were arguably the first to harness the capital and military potential of the sea and establish a muscular free-trade empire; England followed, and then the U.S. In accordance with a simple timeline school of history the undoing of Dutch culture should proceed that of England or America. Sometimes history can be frighteningly simple.

Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports that Dutch Catholics have “re-branded” the Lent fast “Christian Ramadan.” Martin Van der Kuil, director of the Catholic charity Vastenaktie said, “The image of the Catholic Lent must be polished. The fact that we use a Muslim term is related to the fact that Ramadan is a better-known concept among young people than Lent.”

Meanwhile, the second great sea power lays the groundwork. The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has recommended that England formally adopt certain aspects of shari’a law to “help maintain social cohesion.”

Williams’ sentiment is echoed by Van der Kuil, who said of Lent and Ramadan: “The agreements are more striking than the differences. Both for Muslims and Catholic faithful the values of frugality and spirituality play a central role in this tradition.”

As this plays out, former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was forced to flee the Netherlands under Islamist death threats, can’t find her way to the “social cohesion” of an interfaith Europe. She’s going from country-to-country in the hopes of convincing a government to protect her from would-be assassins. Hard to say what her chances are in Denmark, where police just arrested three men plotting to kill a cartoonist who drew a picture of the Prophet Mohammad.

The “re-branding” of Lent is really a re-defining of several things: Catholicism, European culture, and the fate of nations. “Re-branding” is one of those weaselly terms common to market-driven societies such as the Netherlands, Great Britain, and the U.S.. What’s really happening isn’t marketing, but product development: Anglican shari’a and Catholic Ramadan. When some version of this trend hits America, us savvy consumers should at least be able to call it by its name.

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Brzezinski to Damascus

Eli Lake has a scoop today in the New York Sun entitled “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski will travel to Damascus for meetings as part of a trip Syria’s official Cham News agency described as an “important sign that the end of official dialogue between Washington and Damascus has not prevented dialogue with important American intellectuals and politicians.”

An important sign indeed, and one that should tell us a lot about what Brzezinski would advise a President Obama to do (Brzezinski is also one of the leaders of the engage-Hamas movement). There is, of course, a lot to talk about with the Syrians, first and foremost being the appalling amount of bloodshed and destruction Assad’s regime enjoys inflicting on Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel through its array of terrorist proxies.

But it is almost inconceivable that Brzezinski would use his visit to confront Assad and lodge a protest on behalf of the civilized world. For the Obama campaign, there is a lesson here: When you bring people like Brzezinski onto your campaign, there is a good chance you’ll have to suffer embarrassing episodes like this. It’s what lawyers call “assuming the risk.”

Eli Lake has a scoop today in the New York Sun entitled “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski will travel to Damascus for meetings as part of a trip Syria’s official Cham News agency described as an “important sign that the end of official dialogue between Washington and Damascus has not prevented dialogue with important American intellectuals and politicians.”

An important sign indeed, and one that should tell us a lot about what Brzezinski would advise a President Obama to do (Brzezinski is also one of the leaders of the engage-Hamas movement). There is, of course, a lot to talk about with the Syrians, first and foremost being the appalling amount of bloodshed and destruction Assad’s regime enjoys inflicting on Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel through its array of terrorist proxies.

But it is almost inconceivable that Brzezinski would use his visit to confront Assad and lodge a protest on behalf of the civilized world. For the Obama campaign, there is a lesson here: When you bring people like Brzezinski onto your campaign, there is a good chance you’ll have to suffer embarrassing episodes like this. It’s what lawyers call “assuming the risk.”

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Huck-a-bore

Yes, Mike Huckabee is literally running out of gas. What is worse, the amusing and puckish Huckabee is being replaced by a surly and sniping character whose new signature attack appears to be that John McCain is not sufficiently pro-life. Based on this last week, I think Huckabee is losing badly to Mitt Romney in the “losing but endearing himself to many in the party” race. McCain, however, may be glad to have him still in the race.

Yes, Mike Huckabee is literally running out of gas. What is worse, the amusing and puckish Huckabee is being replaced by a surly and sniping character whose new signature attack appears to be that John McCain is not sufficiently pro-life. Based on this last week, I think Huckabee is losing badly to Mitt Romney in the “losing but endearing himself to many in the party” race. McCain, however, may be glad to have him still in the race.

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Our Baghdad Bob

What a contrast.

On Sunday Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the success of the “surge” in Iraq. “Are you not worried, though, that all the gains that have been achieved over the past year might be lost?” Blitzer asked.

“There haven’t been gains, Wolf,” Pelosi replied. “The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure.”

Times of London published a story reporting this:

Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year’s mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group’s security structure suffered “total collapse”. These are the words not of al-Qaeda’s enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group’s stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November. The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling. That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20. “We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he says. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.” … The Anbar letter conceded that the “crusaders” — Americans — had gained the upper hand by persuading ordinary Sunnis that al-Qaeda was responsible for their suffering and by exploiting their poverty to entice them into the security forces. Al-Qaeda’s “Islamic State of Iraq is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar”, the unnamed emir admitted.

In one corner, then, we have the Speaker of the House insisting, despite overwhelming evidence, that progress in Iraq is illusory, that there have been no gains, and that the war is irredeemably lost. In the other corner are first-hand accounts by jihadists about the extraordinary crisis al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) faces – a crisis that has been confirmed by a raft of objective metrics during the last year.

The last few weeks we have seen a series of high-profile, deadly bombings that are evidence that AQI is not defeated and that we need to maintain pressure if we hope to succeed. The offensive in the northern city of Mosul, AQI’s last urban stronghold, promises to be difficult and bloody. But to insist that there “haven’t been gains” is to venture into a land of utter delusion.

All of this calls to mind Baghdad Bob. Baghdad Bob, people will recall, was the nickname given to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the buffoonish former Information Minister of Iraq who (to take just one example) claimed on April 7, 2003 that there were no American troops in Baghdad and that the Americans were committing suicide by the hundreds at the city’s gates – even though at precisely that moment American tanks were patrolling the streets only a few hundred yards from the location al-Sahaf’s press conference was held.

Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, has become our Baghdad Bob. And what a spectacle it is. Jihadists in Iraq are testifying to their own failures. At the same time, the Speaker of the House seems to have a deep ideological investment in ours.

What a contrast.

On Sunday Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the success of the “surge” in Iraq. “Are you not worried, though, that all the gains that have been achieved over the past year might be lost?” Blitzer asked.

“There haven’t been gains, Wolf,” Pelosi replied. “The gains have not produced the desired effect, which is the reconciliation of Iraq. This is a failure. This is a failure.”

Times of London published a story reporting this:

Al-Qaeda in Iraq faces an “extraordinary crisis”. Last year’s mass defection of ordinary Sunnis from al-Qaeda to the US military “created panic, fear and the unwillingness to fight”. The terrorist group’s security structure suffered “total collapse”. These are the words not of al-Qaeda’s enemies but of one of its own leaders in Anbar province — once the group’s stronghold. They were set down last summer in a 39-page letter seized during a US raid on an al-Qaeda base near Samarra in November. The US military released extracts from that letter yesterday along with a second seized in another November raid that is almost as startling. That second document is a bitter 16-page testament written last October by a local al-Qaeda leader near Balad, north of Baghdad. “I am Abu-Tariq, emir of the al-Layin and al-Mashahdah sector,” the author begins. He goes on to describe how his force of 600 shrank to fewer than 20. “We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers,” he says. “Those people were nothing but hypocrites, liars and traitors and were waiting for the right moment to switch sides with whoever pays them most.” … The Anbar letter conceded that the “crusaders” — Americans — had gained the upper hand by persuading ordinary Sunnis that al-Qaeda was responsible for their suffering and by exploiting their poverty to entice them into the security forces. Al-Qaeda’s “Islamic State of Iraq is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar”, the unnamed emir admitted.

In one corner, then, we have the Speaker of the House insisting, despite overwhelming evidence, that progress in Iraq is illusory, that there have been no gains, and that the war is irredeemably lost. In the other corner are first-hand accounts by jihadists about the extraordinary crisis al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) faces – a crisis that has been confirmed by a raft of objective metrics during the last year.

The last few weeks we have seen a series of high-profile, deadly bombings that are evidence that AQI is not defeated and that we need to maintain pressure if we hope to succeed. The offensive in the northern city of Mosul, AQI’s last urban stronghold, promises to be difficult and bloody. But to insist that there “haven’t been gains” is to venture into a land of utter delusion.

All of this calls to mind Baghdad Bob. Baghdad Bob, people will recall, was the nickname given to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the buffoonish former Information Minister of Iraq who (to take just one example) claimed on April 7, 2003 that there were no American troops in Baghdad and that the Americans were committing suicide by the hundreds at the city’s gates – even though at precisely that moment American tanks were patrolling the streets only a few hundred yards from the location al-Sahaf’s press conference was held.

Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, has become our Baghdad Bob. And what a spectacle it is. Jihadists in Iraq are testifying to their own failures. At the same time, the Speaker of the House seems to have a deep ideological investment in ours.

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The Final Mission, Part III

ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ – The United States plans to hand Anbar Province over to the Iraqis next month if nothing catastrophic erupts between now and then. The Marines will stick around a while longer, though, and complete their crucial last mission – training the Iraqi Police to replace them.

The local police force would collapse in short order without American financial and logistics support. “The biggest problem they have is supply,” Corporal Hayes said to me in Fallujah. “They’re always running out of gas and running out of bullets. How are they supposed to police this city with no gas and no bullets?”

What they need more than anything else, though, in the long run anyway, is an infusion of moderate politics. Fallujah is in the heartland of the Sunni Triangle. The city was ferociously Baathist during the rule of Saddam Hussein. It is surly and reactionary even today. Even by Iraqi standards. Even after vanquishing the insurgency. Fallujans may never be transformed into Jeffersonian liberal democrats, but young men from New York, California, and Texas are taking the Iraqis by the hand and gently repairing their political culture.

I accompanied Lieutenant Andrew Macak and Lieutenant Eric Montgomery to an ethics class they taught to members of the Anbar Provincial Security Forces (PSF). PSF members are police officers who operate at the provincial level rather than the city level, much like state police in the U.S. The class was held at a station in Karmah, a small city wedged between Fallujah and Baghdad. Coursework included the ethical responsibilities of police officers, the importance of human rights, and the permissible rules of engagement in counterinsurgency operations. The material was the same as that taught by Marines everywhere in Al Anbar – in Fallujah, Ramadi, Hit, and Haditha.

“We’re teaching them about the Law of Armed Conflict,” Lieutenant Montgomery said. “If they become a police state, people are not going to support them.”

Post-Saddam Iraq is not a police state. Even so, while it’s orders of magnitude more moderate and humane than the genocidal and fascistic regime it replaced, many individuals in the government and police departments have rough authoritarian habits that are rooted in Arab culture itself as much as they are legacies from the previous era.

Read the rest of this entry at MichaelTotten.com

ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ – The United States plans to hand Anbar Province over to the Iraqis next month if nothing catastrophic erupts between now and then. The Marines will stick around a while longer, though, and complete their crucial last mission – training the Iraqi Police to replace them.

The local police force would collapse in short order without American financial and logistics support. “The biggest problem they have is supply,” Corporal Hayes said to me in Fallujah. “They’re always running out of gas and running out of bullets. How are they supposed to police this city with no gas and no bullets?”

What they need more than anything else, though, in the long run anyway, is an infusion of moderate politics. Fallujah is in the heartland of the Sunni Triangle. The city was ferociously Baathist during the rule of Saddam Hussein. It is surly and reactionary even today. Even by Iraqi standards. Even after vanquishing the insurgency. Fallujans may never be transformed into Jeffersonian liberal democrats, but young men from New York, California, and Texas are taking the Iraqis by the hand and gently repairing their political culture.

I accompanied Lieutenant Andrew Macak and Lieutenant Eric Montgomery to an ethics class they taught to members of the Anbar Provincial Security Forces (PSF). PSF members are police officers who operate at the provincial level rather than the city level, much like state police in the U.S. The class was held at a station in Karmah, a small city wedged between Fallujah and Baghdad. Coursework included the ethical responsibilities of police officers, the importance of human rights, and the permissible rules of engagement in counterinsurgency operations. The material was the same as that taught by Marines everywhere in Al Anbar – in Fallujah, Ramadi, Hit, and Haditha.

“We’re teaching them about the Law of Armed Conflict,” Lieutenant Montgomery said. “If they become a police state, people are not going to support them.”

Post-Saddam Iraq is not a police state. Even so, while it’s orders of magnitude more moderate and humane than the genocidal and fascistic regime it replaced, many individuals in the government and police departments have rough authoritarian habits that are rooted in Arab culture itself as much as they are legacies from the previous era.

Read the rest of this entry at MichaelTotten.com

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Vox Pakistan

Two new surveys of public opinion in Pakistan deliver generally good news about the future of that country—and bad news for the future of administration policy, which has been tied so closely to President Pervez Musharraf. That policy seems increasingly untenable, with a new poll sponsored by the International Republican Institute finding that 75 percent favor his resignation and only 16 percent are opposed.

His approval ratings were positive not long ago; now they are about as low as you can go, and falling fast. That message is reinforced in another survey from Terror Free Tomorrow which found that 70 percent of Pakistanis want Musharraf to resign immediately.

But while turning against Washington’s favorite, Pakistanis are also increasing disenchanted with Islamist extremists. Terror Free Tomorrow reports that Al Qaeda and associated groups have lost half of their support in the past six months:

In August, 46 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s down to 24 percent now, while Al Qaeda has dropped from 33 to 18 percent, the Taliban from 38 percent to 19 percent, and other related radical Islamist groups from nearly half of the Pakistani public with a favorable view to less than a quarter today. Significantly, if Al Qaeda were on the ballot as a political party in the February 18th election, only 1 percent of Pakistanis would vote for them. (The Taliban would draw just 3 percent of the vote.)

The survey reveals that support for the extremists has even dropped in the North-West Frontier Province where they had been previously been making gains: “Favorable opinions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province have dropped to single digits. And while in TFT’s last survey, 70 percent in the NWFP expressed a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s now plunged to only 4 percent.

Far from flocking to the extremists, the surveys reveal, the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis support one of two relatively moderate opposition parties—the Pakistan People’s Party that was led by the late Benazir Bhutto and the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, with the former enjoying more than twice the support of the latter.

The bad news is that most Pakistanis still oppose taking an active role in the War on Terror. According to the IRI poll: “only 33 percent of Pakistanis supported the Army fighting extremists in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas and just nine percent felt that Pakistan should cooperate with the United States in its war on terror.” (The results appeared to be inadvertently flipped in a chart published in the Washington Post.)

It is results like that which have led the Bush administration to not push very hard for democracy in Pakistan. Yet our supposedly close ally, Musharraf, has failed to stop the terrorists from making major gains; indeed there is considerable evidence that members of his own intelligence service conspire with the Taliban and other extremists. Notwithstanding the opposition to close cooperation with the United States, the overall picture painted in this surveys should make us more sanguine about the return to democracy. The more that extremists have carried out attacks within Pakistan itself, the more they have lost support. A government with more popular legitimacy than Musharraf now enjoys could potentially also have more success in harnessing popular sentiment to take action against the fanatics.

That’s far from a certainty. What is certain is that it will not be possible to stick with Musharrar too much longer given his continuing loss of support, which may accelerate if he is seen to tamper with the results of an election that will be held next Monday.

Two new surveys of public opinion in Pakistan deliver generally good news about the future of that country—and bad news for the future of administration policy, which has been tied so closely to President Pervez Musharraf. That policy seems increasingly untenable, with a new poll sponsored by the International Republican Institute finding that 75 percent favor his resignation and only 16 percent are opposed.

His approval ratings were positive not long ago; now they are about as low as you can go, and falling fast. That message is reinforced in another survey from Terror Free Tomorrow which found that 70 percent of Pakistanis want Musharraf to resign immediately.

But while turning against Washington’s favorite, Pakistanis are also increasing disenchanted with Islamist extremists. Terror Free Tomorrow reports that Al Qaeda and associated groups have lost half of their support in the past six months:

In August, 46 percent of Pakistanis had a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s down to 24 percent now, while Al Qaeda has dropped from 33 to 18 percent, the Taliban from 38 percent to 19 percent, and other related radical Islamist groups from nearly half of the Pakistani public with a favorable view to less than a quarter today. Significantly, if Al Qaeda were on the ballot as a political party in the February 18th election, only 1 percent of Pakistanis would vote for them. (The Taliban would draw just 3 percent of the vote.)

The survey reveals that support for the extremists has even dropped in the North-West Frontier Province where they had been previously been making gains: “Favorable opinions of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province have dropped to single digits. And while in TFT’s last survey, 70 percent in the NWFP expressed a favorable opinion of Bin Laden—that’s now plunged to only 4 percent.

Far from flocking to the extremists, the surveys reveal, the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis support one of two relatively moderate opposition parties—the Pakistan People’s Party that was led by the late Benazir Bhutto and the faction of the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, with the former enjoying more than twice the support of the latter.

The bad news is that most Pakistanis still oppose taking an active role in the War on Terror. According to the IRI poll: “only 33 percent of Pakistanis supported the Army fighting extremists in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and tribal areas and just nine percent felt that Pakistan should cooperate with the United States in its war on terror.” (The results appeared to be inadvertently flipped in a chart published in the Washington Post.)

It is results like that which have led the Bush administration to not push very hard for democracy in Pakistan. Yet our supposedly close ally, Musharraf, has failed to stop the terrorists from making major gains; indeed there is considerable evidence that members of his own intelligence service conspire with the Taliban and other extremists. Notwithstanding the opposition to close cooperation with the United States, the overall picture painted in this surveys should make us more sanguine about the return to democracy. The more that extremists have carried out attacks within Pakistan itself, the more they have lost support. A government with more popular legitimacy than Musharraf now enjoys could potentially also have more success in harnessing popular sentiment to take action against the fanatics.

That’s far from a certainty. What is certain is that it will not be possible to stick with Musharrar too much longer given his continuing loss of support, which may accelerate if he is seen to tamper with the results of an election that will be held next Monday.

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Britain’s Olympic Kowtow

Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests. “I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard,” said Sun Weide, spokesman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Sun’s statement came in the midst of an uproar over the attempted gagging of British athletes.

On Saturday, the Mail, the London paper, reported that athletes qualifying for the British Olympic team would be required to sign a contract preventing them from speaking out on “any politically sensitive issues.” Athletes not agreeing to the ban of the British Olympic Association would not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Those who broke the ban while at the Olympics would be shipped home on the next available plane. On Sunday, British Olympic chief Simon Clegg said, in the face of widespread condemnation, that he would review the wording of the contract and agreed that the proposed language “appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.”

The Olympic Charter forbids demonstrations or propaganda at Olympic sites, but the British ban would have gone further, especially if viewed in the context of China, where most topics are considered “political” and virtually everything is “sensitive.” A British competitor could have found himself on the first flight home for commenting on, for instance, polluted air or tainted food.

Up to now, only Belgium and New Zealand have prohibited political opinions from their Olympic athletes. Clegg’s hasty retreat means that, unlike in 1938 when the British soccer team was forced to give the stiff-armed Nazi salute in Berlin, the British will not, in the words of former sports minister David Mellor, be “sucking up to dictators.”

Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can engage China’s rulers without being compromised by them. At least there is now one reason we can thank the craven and utterly reprehensible British Olympic Association. Simon Clegg and his colleagues show us that sometimes the price of good relations with bad leaders is much too high.

Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests. “I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard,” said Sun Weide, spokesman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Sun’s statement came in the midst of an uproar over the attempted gagging of British athletes.

On Saturday, the Mail, the London paper, reported that athletes qualifying for the British Olympic team would be required to sign a contract preventing them from speaking out on “any politically sensitive issues.” Athletes not agreeing to the ban of the British Olympic Association would not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Those who broke the ban while at the Olympics would be shipped home on the next available plane. On Sunday, British Olympic chief Simon Clegg said, in the face of widespread condemnation, that he would review the wording of the contract and agreed that the proposed language “appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.”

The Olympic Charter forbids demonstrations or propaganda at Olympic sites, but the British ban would have gone further, especially if viewed in the context of China, where most topics are considered “political” and virtually everything is “sensitive.” A British competitor could have found himself on the first flight home for commenting on, for instance, polluted air or tainted food.

Up to now, only Belgium and New Zealand have prohibited political opinions from their Olympic athletes. Clegg’s hasty retreat means that, unlike in 1938 when the British soccer team was forced to give the stiff-armed Nazi salute in Berlin, the British will not, in the words of former sports minister David Mellor, be “sucking up to dictators.”

Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can engage China’s rulers without being compromised by them. At least there is now one reason we can thank the craven and utterly reprehensible British Olympic Association. Simon Clegg and his colleagues show us that sometimes the price of good relations with bad leaders is much too high.

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Tom Lantos, R.I.P

Congressman Tom Lantos died yesterday morning at the age of 80. A Hungarian survivor of the Nazi death camps who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, there was perhaps no other member of Congress who better understood the promise and potential of America. Lantos lost most of his family during the Holocaust, and unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, he experienced genocidal totalitarianism–and the consequences of appeasing it–first hand.

As such, Lantos was the most vociferous advocate on behalf of international human rights in the House of Representatives, spending much time and effort drawing the body’s attention to crises around the world from Burma to Darfur. While Lantos was a fervent critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq, he never apologized for his decision to vote in favor of the United States overthrowing a murderous dictator. He was also a strong supporter of Israel during his near three-decade tenure in Congress.

This report in the San Francisco Chronicle covers some of Lantos’s many achievements in the House.

Upon announcing his retirement from Congress last year, Lantos issued a statement which read, in part:

It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust … could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.

Few people in public life better embodied, or conveyed, the American immigrant experience than Tom Lantos. This country–and the world–is a lesser place without him.

Congressman Tom Lantos died yesterday morning at the age of 80. A Hungarian survivor of the Nazi death camps who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, there was perhaps no other member of Congress who better understood the promise and potential of America. Lantos lost most of his family during the Holocaust, and unlike the vast majority of his colleagues, he experienced genocidal totalitarianism–and the consequences of appeasing it–first hand.

As such, Lantos was the most vociferous advocate on behalf of international human rights in the House of Representatives, spending much time and effort drawing the body’s attention to crises around the world from Burma to Darfur. While Lantos was a fervent critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the post-invasion reconstruction of Iraq, he never apologized for his decision to vote in favor of the United States overthrowing a murderous dictator. He was also a strong supporter of Israel during his near three-decade tenure in Congress.

This report in the San Francisco Chronicle covers some of Lantos’s many achievements in the House.

Upon announcing his retirement from Congress last year, Lantos issued a statement which read, in part:

It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust … could have received an education, raised a family and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.

Few people in public life better embodied, or conveyed, the American immigrant experience than Tom Lantos. This country–and the world–is a lesser place without him.

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Delegate Numbers

No matter which delegate count you use, Barack Obama is ahead. After the Potomac primary’s votes are counted he will be farther ahead. (When you have to assure supporters that the race is not “slipping away,” you can be sure the race is slipping away.) Two days after the February 19 Wisconsin primary there will be another debate, co-sponsored by CNN and Univision. It may be Hillary Clinton’s last chance before the March 4 contests (including the perhaps all important Texas primary) to change the storyline or come up with one of her own before a large national audience. (Obama’s “change” is pretty thin gruel, but what exactly is her theme?)

On the GOP side, McCain has at least 729 delegates (likely more than that when the remaining California delegates are finally doled out) and after the trio of primaries will likely have at least 848 delegates. His margin of victory may not be as impressive as the polling numbers, since it becomes increasingly difficult to turn out voters when the media and voters recognize that the race is essentially sewn up. However, with a 600 delegate margin and endorsements rolling in from party favorites like Jeb Bush, he can spend his time working on how he is going to deal with

an electorate that seems oddly indifferent to conventional norms of preparedness for the job of commander-in-chief — and which appears even more indifferent to the existence (or absence) of detailed policy prescriptions despite the grave problems confronting the nation.

That, and beefing up his domestic agenda, rather than trying to assuage the remaining unhappy elements on the Right (who are mightily trying to leverage their perpetual dissatisfaction with McCain into demands on policy and a VP pick) would seem a better use of his time.

No matter which delegate count you use, Barack Obama is ahead. After the Potomac primary’s votes are counted he will be farther ahead. (When you have to assure supporters that the race is not “slipping away,” you can be sure the race is slipping away.) Two days after the February 19 Wisconsin primary there will be another debate, co-sponsored by CNN and Univision. It may be Hillary Clinton’s last chance before the March 4 contests (including the perhaps all important Texas primary) to change the storyline or come up with one of her own before a large national audience. (Obama’s “change” is pretty thin gruel, but what exactly is her theme?)

On the GOP side, McCain has at least 729 delegates (likely more than that when the remaining California delegates are finally doled out) and after the trio of primaries will likely have at least 848 delegates. His margin of victory may not be as impressive as the polling numbers, since it becomes increasingly difficult to turn out voters when the media and voters recognize that the race is essentially sewn up. However, with a 600 delegate margin and endorsements rolling in from party favorites like Jeb Bush, he can spend his time working on how he is going to deal with

an electorate that seems oddly indifferent to conventional norms of preparedness for the job of commander-in-chief — and which appears even more indifferent to the existence (or absence) of detailed policy prescriptions despite the grave problems confronting the nation.

That, and beefing up his domestic agenda, rather than trying to assuage the remaining unhappy elements on the Right (who are mightily trying to leverage their perpetual dissatisfaction with McCain into demands on policy and a VP pick) would seem a better use of his time.

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Two Out of Three Isn’t Bad

Hillary Clinton thinks Fox News is fairer than MSNBC and says of Barack Obama: “You never hear the specifics. It’s all this kind of abstract, general talk about how we all need to get along.” However, she also declares, “Luckily, I agree with my party more than Senator McCain agrees with his party.” The latter sounds a bit like the Karl Rove theory of infinitely expanding your base and forgetting about Independent voters. I thought that was out of fashion now.

Hillary Clinton thinks Fox News is fairer than MSNBC and says of Barack Obama: “You never hear the specifics. It’s all this kind of abstract, general talk about how we all need to get along.” However, she also declares, “Luckily, I agree with my party more than Senator McCain agrees with his party.” The latter sounds a bit like the Karl Rove theory of infinitely expanding your base and forgetting about Independent voters. I thought that was out of fashion now.

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Out of Iraq Now

Barack Obama has a plan to the end the war in Iraq. Since he may well be the next President of the United States, let’s give it a respectful hearing. Here is the sum and substance of it, as presented in an issue paper posted on his website:

Bring Our Troops Home: Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.

Hillary Clinton also has a plan to the end the war in Iraq. Even though her chances of becoming President are diminishing by the day, she is still in the race, so let’s give her plan a respectful hearing, too. Here is the sum and substance of it, as presented in an issue paper posted on her website:

Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary’s First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary’s plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq’s civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary’s first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration.

Obama is promising a faster withdrawal than Hillary. although Hillary has also said, “Our message to the President is clear. It is time to begin ending this war — not next year, not next month — but today.”

For those Americans who want to end the war as rapidly as possible, should we vote for him or for her?

There can be only one answer: neither.

When the United States was contemplating the invasion, Colin Powell memorably enunciated the Pottery Barn doctrine: “you break it, you own it.” Both Hillary and Obama want to walk out of the shop with the crockery in pieces and without paying. Indeed, the main issue between them is which will exit the shop faster.

This leaves Connecting the Dots with two questions: 

1.  Is there anything more shameful than their blithe indifference to the fate of the Iraqi people?

2.  Is there anything more shameful then their insouciant disregard of the iron-clad logic of events: that if the U.S. withdraws without a credible security system in place, our forces will have to fight their way back after one or another ruthless Islamic group terrorizes its way into power?

Last night I listened to Henry Kissinger speak at a dinner (honoring Norman Podhoretz for his new book) that was put on by the amazing trio running Power Line. He made one point that struck me with special force: American withdrawal from Iraq will be an unmistakable American defeat, and the consequences will not be long-term, they will be immediate and grave.

No one can predict the future, but Kissinger’s analysis and warning seems irrefutable. Is that what America wants? This election is shaping up to be even more critical than the Carter-Reagan choice of 1980. Am I correct in thinking that, of the post-war elections, only the Nixon-McGovern race in 1972 had more riding on it?

 

Barack Obama has a plan to the end the war in Iraq. Since he may well be the next President of the United States, let’s give it a respectful hearing. Here is the sum and substance of it, as presented in an issue paper posted on his website:

Bring Our Troops Home: Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.

Hillary Clinton also has a plan to the end the war in Iraq. Even though her chances of becoming President are diminishing by the day, she is still in the race, so let’s give her plan a respectful hearing, too. Here is the sum and substance of it, as presented in an issue paper posted on her website:

Starting Phased Redeployment within Hillary’s First Days in Office: The most important part of Hillary’s plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq’s civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary’s first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration.

Obama is promising a faster withdrawal than Hillary. although Hillary has also said, “Our message to the President is clear. It is time to begin ending this war — not next year, not next month — but today.”

For those Americans who want to end the war as rapidly as possible, should we vote for him or for her?

There can be only one answer: neither.

When the United States was contemplating the invasion, Colin Powell memorably enunciated the Pottery Barn doctrine: “you break it, you own it.” Both Hillary and Obama want to walk out of the shop with the crockery in pieces and without paying. Indeed, the main issue between them is which will exit the shop faster.

This leaves Connecting the Dots with two questions: 

1.  Is there anything more shameful than their blithe indifference to the fate of the Iraqi people?

2.  Is there anything more shameful then their insouciant disregard of the iron-clad logic of events: that if the U.S. withdraws without a credible security system in place, our forces will have to fight their way back after one or another ruthless Islamic group terrorizes its way into power?

Last night I listened to Henry Kissinger speak at a dinner (honoring Norman Podhoretz for his new book) that was put on by the amazing trio running Power Line. He made one point that struck me with special force: American withdrawal from Iraq will be an unmistakable American defeat, and the consequences will not be long-term, they will be immediate and grave.

No one can predict the future, but Kissinger’s analysis and warning seems irrefutable. Is that what America wants? This election is shaping up to be even more critical than the Carter-Reagan choice of 1980. Am I correct in thinking that, of the post-war elections, only the Nixon-McGovern race in 1972 had more riding on it?

 

Read Less




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