Hillary Clinton is declared the winner in the February 5 New Mexico primary and gets 14 of 26 delegates. Yes, in a sense, it is old news but the timing could not be better for her. Her complaint about Barack Obama ducking debates is silly and gets the back of the hand in an Obama response ad (which also seems to say, “And we do too have specific proposals.”) But she is far from out of the running in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to recent polling, and she has finally hit upon a credible line of attack: talk is cheap, words are a dime a dozen. Now if that fails, there is always a nice knock-down-drag-out fight to the death over delegates. The Clintons will never go away quietly.
Posts For: February 14, 2008
Yesterday John noted an example of TIME magazine’s woeful Middle East reporting. Another example can be found in the regular output of their Beirut-based scribbler, Andrew Lee Butters.
You want to see stupid moral equivalence from one of the worst American journalists in Lebanon? Catch the last few sentences of this Butters dispatch, in which he celebrates the low turnout of March 14 supporters to a rain-soaked rally marking the third anniversary of Rafiq Hariri’s assassination:
The reality is that Lebanon is run by politicians that only really reach out to the people when they need warm bodies to fill central Beirut. But by repeatedly calling people to the street, Lebanon’s politicians risk giving the street a life of its own. Each of these rallies heightens tensions that could spiral into sectarian violence.
Get it? By peacefully protesting the assassination of their leaders and demanding liberation from the Syrian murder machine, the March 14 bloc is provoking violence and civil war in Lebanon–just like Hezbollah. What a jerk.
Lee Smith thinks that part of what Hamas and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran have been working toward is the scuttling of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which remains one of the cornerstones of the American security architecture of the Middle East. Smith writes:
Another way to understand the Gaza breach is as part of Syria and Iran’s war against the regional order imposed by Washington. To be sure, Egypt is scared of Iran and even stands with Washington in supporting the Lebanese government against Hezbollah and against Iranian and Syrian meddling, but having to fight Tehran and Damascus openly on Egyptian soil is something else entirely, especially as Egypt, like many Sunni states around the region, suspects that the Bush administration has gone soft on Iran.
Think about it this way: What if Hamas ends up being able to stage attacks on Israel from the Sinai? This would be brilliant on Hamas’ part, because Israel would be put in the position of having to choose between acquiescing to the opening of a new front against it, or striking back at Hamas on Egyptian soil.
Israel’s dilemma would only be matched by Mubarak’s: allow Hamas, as Lee puts it, to effect the Lebanonization of the Sinai by extending its terror mini-state there, or move in and crush the Hamas presence and be seen by the Arab world, and especially by his own people, killing brother Arabs on behalf of the Jews. A more serious betrayal hardly exists in the Middle East.
These calculations surely have a lot to do with the recent firming up of Egypt’s dedication to ensuring that another breach does not happen.
A short time ago Mitt Romney endorsed John McCain, asking his delegates to support his former rival. Although it is unclear whether the delegates can legally be transferred to McCain (the rules vary by state), the combined total of Romney’s delegates (286) and McCain’s (843) would put him close to the 1191 needed for the nomination. Romney spoke in especially gracious terms, making clear his abiding belief that McCain is the best-qualified person to serve as commander in chief. McCain took the opportunity to note that although they differed on issues, they shared a common conservative philosophy and that McCain would draw sharp distinctions between himself and his Democratic opponent. It was the picture of party unity McCain was seeking. (Romney seemed genuinely at peace with his new role as conservative surrogate.)
On one level, Romney is making good on his pledge to unite the GOP and prevent the Democrats from taking the White House in perilous times. However, he is also amplifying the contrast between himself (high-minded GOP loyalist) with the man who may be his competition in 2012 or 2016, Mike Huckabee. Huckabee seems bent on pursuing his quixotic campaign, perhaps to build a political base or perhaps to enhance his speaking fees. And as if the contrast were not stark enough, Huckabee gives a bitter interview following the Romney endorsement.
Since John Podhoretz has posted an article on John McCain’s son, Jack, at the Naval Academy, I thought I would post an update on Jack’s younger brother, Jimmy. To his credit, John McCain refuses to make political hay out of his family on the campaign trail, so it is possible to overlook this CNN item which notes that Jimmy, a Marine, has just gotten back from serving a seven-month tour in Iraq, safe and sound. That’s great news.
The fact that his two sons are following John McCain into military service is not only a tribute to the ethos of service and sacrifice that he inherited from his ancestors, but it also makes it all the harder for Democrats to play the “we only support the troops” game when they call for withdrawal from Iraq. The strongest advocate of the surge is also someone with the deepest possible personal stake in its success.
“Dozens of hardline Islamic students set a Danish flag on fire in Pakistan on Thursday to protest reproduction of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Danish newspapers.”
That’s not a September 2005 quote from an account of the Danish Muhammed cartoon affair, but rather a sentence from today’s Jerusalem Post reporting on today’s Danish Muhammed cartoon affair.
Over a dozen Danish newspapers have reprinted the cartoon showing the Prophet Muhammed sporting a bomb for a turban. On Tuesday, Danish authorities arrested three men suspecting of plotting offending cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard’s murder. The papers chose to run the cartoon in solidarity with Westergaard. This is an undeniable step forward from the cowering stance that found international media apologizing to Islamists all across the Middle East.
Then again, U.S. newspapers are treating the predictably violent response as if Axl Rose skipped out on a Guns N’ Roses concert: Here’s USA Today:
Bands of youths set fire to cars and trash bins overnight in a fourth consecutive night of vandalism mostly in immigrant neighborhoods of the Danish capital, police said.
Anything in particular worth noting about these youths?
Some observers said immigrant youths were protesting against perceived police harassment and suggested the reprinting of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers Wednesday, may have aggravated the situation.
Immigrants, huh? Well, that’s just what some observers say. Let’s here from someone of authority.
“We see different reasons for the rioting,” [Copenhagen police spokesman] Munch said. “We do not know why exactly. It can be because of boredom, it can be because police in recent weeks have stepped up its search for knives, it can be other things too.”
I’m sure they’ll get to the bottom of it.
Herewith the full text of an item today by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard called “Quote of the Day”:
Josh Patashnik writes at TNR:
Marty Lederman is right that it would be nice if McCain would spell out which techniques he thinks are appropriate for the CIA to use–because his anti-torture credibility is sinking pretty rapidly.
And thus a 23 year-old reporter-researcher at the New Republic questions the “anti-torture credibility” of John McCain.
On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin threatened to nuke Ukraine over the deployment of America’s missile defense systems. “It is horrible to say and even horrible to think that, in response to the deployment of such facilities in Ukrainian territory, which cannot theoretically be ruled out, Russia could target its missile systems at Ukraine,” the outgoing Russian president said. “Imagine this just for a second.”
Talk about imagining things. Ukraine is not yet a member of NATO, and Washington has not asked Kiev to host missile shield facilities. Yet it’s not too hard for us to imagine that the Kremlin would raise the prospect of incinerating nearby countries. Putin has already threatened to obliterate Poland and the Czech Republic over their tentative agreements to host missile defense radars and interceptors.
We say missile defense is intended to stop Iran, but the Russians seem to think our ten-interceptor system is aimed only at them and that it can bring down every one of their almost 800 missiles. In order to convince us that we are the ones who are being duplicitous, Moscow is now saying that Iran poses no threat to anybody. Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the Iranians will need ten years to develop a long-range missile. “Our position is based on facts, and the facts are as follows: Iran, which is thought to be the main threat, does not have and will not have missiles from which one has to protect itself in the long term.”
Thanks, Sergei, but Iran hopes to put a satellite into orbit by next March and has been testing its intermediate-range missiles with distressing regularity. And just yesterday you said this: “We do not approve of Iran’s action in constantly demonstrating its intentions to develop its rocket sector and continue enriching uranium.”
So don’t look for consistency in Kremlin pronouncements. Russia, which is helping Iran arm itself with the ultimate weapon, does not want us to try to protect ourselves. In a campaign reminiscent of its efforts to stop the deployment of the Pershing missile in Europe in the 1980s, it is willing to say anything, no matter how ludicrous. It is, therefore, time for the Bush administration to stop trying to placate Putin and force him to make a choice: either accept missile defense in Europe or help us stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program. It is not surprising that he is trying to make inconsistent arguments to get whatever he wants, but it is not acceptable that we let him.
And one more thing. We need to tell Putin, in public, that he must stop threatening Ukraine—or others—with his nukes. And if he should continue, it is up to us to remind him of our ability and willingness to use all the weapons we possess. The best way to slide into worldwide war is to ignore autocrats when they make unprovoked threats of unimaginable devastation.
A refreshing and very interesting long interview with Jack McCain, the 22 year-old son of the sure-to-be presidential nominee, who is now at the Naval Academy, can be found here.
News that a 38-year old U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant had raped a 14-year old Okinawa girl over the weekend ripped open barely healed wounds from the last time such a tragic crime took place. Back then, in 1995, three Marines were charged with raping a 12-year old, and the resulting political earthquake led directly to decisions to relocate key U.S. bases, change the status of forces agreement, and ultimately consider removing Marines from the island. Since then, local politics has bogged down agreements to lessen the burden of the U.S. military presence on the Okinawan people, but the end goal has long been clear: moving almost all Marines to Guam by the middle of the next decade.
Now, however, all those timelines, and agreements, are at risk. The Marine has been handed over to Japanese authorities, but the political damage is just beginning. Prime Minister Fukuda called the rape “unforgivable” and Foreign Minister Komura was quoted to the effect that the Japanese people have “had enough” of suffering crimes at the hands of American troops. U.S. officials have been apologizing, but the ball really remains in the court of Japanese public opinion. Okinawan activists will seize on this as a way to get the Marines off the island more quickly than has been agreed, and if not handled deftly, the State Department may find itself bailing water out of a sinking rowboat. One key problem: Guam isn’t nearly ready for the 8,000 Marines and roughly 9,000 dependents who would be deposited there. n the other hand, all the plans for shifting bases within Japan, an unsatisfactory solution for the long term in Japanese eyes, are still wallowing in political bickering.
The real problem, of course, is what effect this will have on trust and good-feeling between Japan and America. Knocking U.S.-Japan ties off their stride is just what Pyongyang would like to see, and even Beijing might be happy with some tension between the allies–just enough to divert our energies more into alliance management and less into strategic planning for Asia’s future.
Reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) seems to have stalled and Congressional Democrats have made a calculated decision, unless good sense intervenes, to let it expire, at least temporarily halting surveillance which they acknowledge is essential to national security. This issue seems tailor-made to assist voters in exploring just what Barack Obama means by bringing people together, turning the page on old-style politics and, of course, ”change.” Has he embraced a bipartisan, albeit flawed, bill to allow surveillance to continue? Nope. Has he sided with trial lawyers and the liberal civil rights lobby who are incensed we should grant immunity to telecom companies that assisted the government in the silly expectation they would not be sued for their efforts? Yup. Evidently, the more things “change,” the more they don’t.
Hanna Rosin, writing on Slate’s XX Factor blog (yes, it’s Politics for Women Only) yesterday, after Obama’s victories in Maryland and Virginia and Hillary Clinton’s “I’m-not-listening-la-la-la” campaign rally in Texas:
Last night, despite the hoarse, bordering-on-Howard-Dean-breakdown speech, I felt a wave of gratitude toward Hillary. …And this morning I found myself giving my daughter a spontaneous what-we-owe-Hillary speech on the way to school.
What we owe Hillary?
Never, perhaps, have the invention of the IPod and the headphone seemed quite so sensible.
If conservatives are paying attention to the facts rather than the overheated rhetoric of some on the right, they will find a lot of facts in recent days that ought to allay their unease with John McCain (whose campaign, full disclosure, I advise on foreign affairs).
One of the claims that some conservatives make is that McCain, of all people, is soft on terrorism because he wants to close Guantanamo and not waterboard detainees. But that hardly means he wants to house them in a Hilton, give them a nice robe and comfy slippers, and let them hold back information about plots against the United States and our allies.
Yesterday the Senate voted, 51-45, to pass a Democratic-crafted bill that would force the CIA to use only the 19 approved interrogation methods in the Army field manual. McCain voted no. Here is a news article that explains his position:
Sen. McCain voted against the measure and said the law he negotiated with the Bush administration in 2006 allows some government agencies to use “some additional techniques” along with those in the Army Field Manual. “I’ve made it very clear that I believe waterboarding is torture and illegal,” Sen. McCain said. “But I will not restrict the CIA to only the Army Field Manual. That’s my position, and that’s been my position.”
On a related note, while he wants to close Guantanamo because rightly or wrongly it has become an international embarrassment, McCain also wants to transfer the detainees to the maximum-security prison at Fort Leavenworth where their living conditions would probably be more grim. And as this horrified post by a liberal blogger notes, he would not grant detainees the constitutional rights of normal criminal defendants; he would proceed with trials under the military tribunal system.
The day before casting his vote on the interrogation bill, McCain voted on the wiretap bill the administration has sought. As this editorial notes, he voted in favor of giving telecom companies immunity for their cooperation with the government, while his likely opponent, Barack Obama, voted against immunity (Hillary Clinton was not present). In short, McCain supports maintaining the electronic surveillance that has kept us safe, notwithstanding the caterwauling of some self-appointed civil libertarians.
Meanwhile, this excellent op-ed by Kevin Stach demolishes attempts to paint McCain as a tax hiker or an opponent of tax cuts. Stach shows that he has had a careerlong devotion to tax cuts which led him to, among other things, vote against the 1990 budget deal crafted by the George HW Bush administration. So why would he vote against the 2001 tax cut plan put together by the George W. Bush administration?
Stach explains that:
what is not remembered is that, two weeks earlier, Mr. McCain voted to approve the final version of the Budget Resolution — the blueprint used by congressional committees for spending and tax bills — which included $1.35 trillion in tax cuts (the Bush proposal) coupled with a $661 billion cap on discretionary spending. When the promised spending cap never materialized, Mr. McCain denounced the wasteful earmarks and pork-barrel spending that he felt jeopardized the budget, and lodged the now famous protest vote against the tax cuts.
This is hardly the record of a liberal.
In lending her activist services to the Muslim Brotherhood, Cindy Sheehan has finally embraced the core of Islamist terror and the true nature of her own passions. Sheehan, had she wanted to get behind a group of serial human right violators, had a number to choose from, even in Egypt. But she chose one of the most virulently anti-Western and anti-Israel group of terrorists in the region. This, however, should only come as a revelation to those who’ve never read this statement from Sheehan:
Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full well that my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agendas after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy . . . not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.
The anti-war crowd has had to adapt to a succession of debunked myths: blood for Israel, blood for oil, blood for Halliburton, Bush lied, the war is lost, etc. With Sheehan declaring her support for some of the most committed jihadists around, the Cindy-Sheehan-as-sympathetic-hero meme is no longer sustainable. Which isn’t quite the same thing as saying it won’t be sustained.
As noted by Rachel Donadio in her recent post on the New York Times’s Paper Cuts blog, the Muslim political thinker Tariq Ramadan has joined the chorus of voices calling for the boycott of Turin’s book fair. Turin’s book fair has invited Israel as the guest of honour for this year’s edition–something that triggered the ire of all the usual suspects. In a recent interview given to the Italian news agency AKI-Adnkronos, Ramadan was quoted as saying of the book fair that the time has come to “declare in a clear fashion that one cannot accept anything that comes out of Israel.” Ramadan argues that, because Israel’s policies are so oppressive, Israel should not be given the place of honor. This at least is what he said in a press release when his initial statement was extensively quoted across Italian and European media.
Does that mean that the Turin Book Fair should also not invite, say, Egypt, and its writers? Not even if one of them won the Nobel Prize for literature? Apparently not. Egypt, it seems, gets a free pass on Ramadan’s universal values. In offering factual background of the story, Ramadan suggests that Egypt was the original guest of honour, but the organizers somehow dis-invited the Arab country, preferring the Jewish state instead.The truth is that Egypt is the guest of honour for next year, whenTurin is also having a special round of events on Ancient Egypt. The combination of two such cultural highlights, the Egyptian and Italian governments thought, would increase attendance and exposure. But these minutiae are beside the point. How can Ramadan lament the (imaginary) exclusion of Egypt in favour of “a country that refuses to respect the rights and the dignity of peoples,” given Egypt’s abysmal record on human rights, the way it represses dissidents, persecutes the opposition, and treats religious minorities?
The organizers wrote back to Ramadan—who has been their guest in the past—reminding him that “the true guest of honour is . . . Israel’s free culture, because it is on culture, and nothing else, that one measures a country’s honour.” Ramadan informed his interlocutors that he did not buy into their distinction between culture and government. One assumes he’ll be coherent enough to call for a boycott of Egypt next year, on the same grounds.
Ramadan wishes to boycott a book fair because Israel’s literature—one that rightly deserves a place in the sun—is being honoured. The organizers’ cowardly and disingenuous efforts to distance themselves from Israel’s policies and draw a line between government and culture were clearly not right response. But if a country’s honor can be measured on its culture, the honor of an intellectual is clearly measured on his rigor and honesty. And if these be the parameters, it is hard to see how Ramadan can qualify.
The Clintons are indeed the great uniters. Consider the variety of Americans who’ve come together in response to the words and deeds of Bill and Hillary:
In Nevada, blacks turned on them. In Virginia, Hispanics, white males, women, and older voters decided they had enough, too. In Maryland, the unity was evidenced as well and Democrats across all social and economic strata made their common cause known.
I daresay the U.S. hasn’t seen such singularity of purpose since being attacked over six years ago. These disparate Americans have in some sense responded to Bill’s Harlem office, Hillary’s black southern accent, Hillary’s Hispanic Nevada strategy, and the like: They’ve walked away en masse from the Clinton identity shell game. In so doing they have ushered in a new age of American politics defined by voters who actually vote beyond considerations of race, creed, and gender.
So, in fact the Clintons have done an historical service to the cause of bridging demographic divides. Not—as they’d have it—because Bill sets up shop in Harlem, or because Hillary jams three black people into the front row of events, or because she claims to have “found her voice,” or because Bill was “the first black president,” but because Democrats of all stripes have agreed that they’re sick of the pandering and manipulation. Bill and Hillary have managed to close the gender gap, the generation gap, the wealth gap, and the racial divide. Like all great figures, their contribution has come at great personal cost. Let’s hope the two of them can find some measure of peace with the magnitude of their success.
Michael Scheuer, the former head of the Osama bin Laden desk and now a leading media “expert” on counterterrorism, has two faces.
When he is talking to or writing for the non-mainstream media, he heads for zany territory. One only has to read his diatribes on antiwar.com or listen to him on antiwar radio talking about Israel’s covert-action programs in this country to get a good sense of what kind of crackpot he is.
But when Scheuer talks to the mainstream media, he strives to make sense. Even though he incessantly punctuates his speech with the word “sir,” — giving himself a military patina, although he has no military service in his background — he seldom dives off into cloud-cuckoo land. One exception was when he spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations and accused Israel of mounting a clandestine operation in the United States through the Holocaust museum on the Washington mall. But mostly he sticks to more defensible themes, usually hammering away on his principal point: that al Qaeda hates us because of what we do, not who we are.
Scheuer has a new book out, Marching Toward Hell. In it, he seems to have allowed his two sides to converge, freely mixing up his more reasonable (if arguable) themes with his whacko ones. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but my favorite point so far is Scheuer’s disquisition on free speech in the United States.
Scheuer begins by ticking off a long and eclectic list of people whom he deems “reliable Israel-firsters.” In addition to me, he names James Carroll, Max Boot, Steven Simon, Alan Dershowitz, David Gergen, Christopher Hitchens, Marvin Kalb, and Eliot Cohen. “These are all dangerous men,” he writes, “who, in my judgment, are seeking to place de facto limitations on the First Amendment to protect the nation of their primary attachment.”
What Scheuer is referring to is not an attempt by me or any of these individuals to amend the Constitution, or to silence him through the courts, or to repeal his right to spout nonsense. Rather, he is merely talking about our criticism of him. To which one can only answer: Sir, criticism of you for your nuttiness and your anti-Semitism is our right under the First Amendment. To quote your writings to demonstrate that you are a crackpot, sir, is not to deny you your First Amendment right to speak or scribble as you please.
A particularly amusing aspect of all this is the way certain individuals in the mainstream media continue to take Scheuer seriously. Today’s interview with Scheuer in Newsweek, on the occasion of the publication of his new book, is a case in point. John Barry conducted that interview, and his journalistic laziness should win him a Pulitzer. Either Barry did not crack open Scheuer’s book, or he cracked it and is affecting not to notice what was staring him in the face.
My question of the day is: how long will this charade last?
For previous posts about Michael Scheuer, click here.
For all of the horrible press she is getting, Hillary Clinton (so far) is holding her own in Wisconsin and Ohio polling. Now, it may be that the full impact of her February 12 losses have not been fully felt and another few days of gloom and doom media accounts will send her into a permanent downward spiral. But it could be that all those “lunch bucket” Democrats are unimpressed with Obama-mania and don’t much care about the tales of meltdown within Hillaryland. At the very least she has lowered expectations for Wisconsin and a respectable showing might boost her chances in Ohio. But it would help if she spent some time there.
She does have two debates, on February 21 and 26, which come too late for Wisconsin, but in plenty of time to make some news before the March 4 primaries. To make some headway, she, I suspect, will have to put away the smiles and go after her opponent. She must plant the seeds of doubt: what has he done, what does he really want to do, and how will he hold his own against John McCain? The risk is that the screechy, nasty Hillary re-emerges and makes things worse. But at this point she has little to lose.
A young army officer of my acquaintance has recently made a terrific suggestion on the Warlord Loop (an online forum for the discussion of military affairs), which he has agreed to let me pass along to a wider audience. He proposes to resurrect the practice of sending American officers to observe other conflicts around the world first hand.
This used to be quite common. For instance, a young Jack Pershing traveled with the Japanese army during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05. And in the 1930s and early 1940s the U.S. Marine Corps sent officers to China to observe the fighting against Japan; they spent time with both Nationalist and Communist forces and learned some valuable lessons that were applied in the island-hopping campaign. But the U.S. military no longer sends its officers to watch foreign conflicts; too many of them are stuck instead in paper-pushing jobs at the Pentagon or on other staffs around the world.
This young officer writes:
I firmly believe that a cadre of mid-level and senior leaders who had, among other things, witnessed first hand Africa’s world war and other conflicts of the 1990s would have avoided many of the missteps of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Military observers have as long and storied (and, admittedly, troubled) history as military advisors. Perhaps serving as a military observer as a senior NCO or field grade would be a good pre-requisite for ongoing service in a MAAG [Military Assistance Advisory Group] or its newfangled equivalent.
A contemporary military observer might not only be limited to observing for one armed force or another. A number of inter-governmental organizations (particularly the UN) and possibly NGOs if done out of uniform could possibly be a platform (I realize how sticky, although certainly not impossible, the latter might be). The peace-keeping mission by the AU [African Union] in Darfur also might present opportunities to observe from a “neutral status.”
Classical country intelligence and relationship building would be an adjunct to two other key results of reinstating military observers:
1) increasing the breadth of experience of field grade officers
2) increasing understanding throughout the military of the evolving nature of conflict through their contributions to journals, etc.
While I think we do an excellent job with the FAO [Foreign Area Officer] program, we also commit FAOs to that line of work almost indefinitely. Military observers should return to jobs as infantrymen, in intelligence, civil affairs, information operations, armor, etc. rather than remain in a FAO field.
I heartily agree.
…sits atop the New York Times‘ story on Mugniyah:
Bomb in Syria Kills Militant Sought as Terrorist
A militant who was sought as a terrorist? What the heck does that mean? Is the Times saying that Imah Mugniyah was not, in point of fact, a terrorist? Is there a person in the world who does not more perfectly deserve that appellation, or has the Times joined Reuters in refusing to use it? Sloppy thinking and sloppy writing. They go together.