Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 2008

Re: The Character Tour

If it wasn’t obvious before, this web ad, entitled “Character Forged By Family,” should leave no doubt as to what John McCain is up to on his “Bio Tour.” There is a reason why some Democrats and many in the Left blogosphere are nervous, really nervous, about the McCain-Obama matchup. (And putting aside politics for a moment, you have to have a heart of stone not to be overcome reading this.)

What if voters do care about patriotism? What if they have been proud for a long time of their country? Worse still, what if they don’t understand why someone would tolerate anti-American vitriol for decades? Could that be a problem? Nah, that would mean Obama’s polling would already be terrible in more rural states with traditional values. Oh,wait . . .

If it wasn’t obvious before, this web ad, entitled “Character Forged By Family,” should leave no doubt as to what John McCain is up to on his “Bio Tour.” There is a reason why some Democrats and many in the Left blogosphere are nervous, really nervous, about the McCain-Obama matchup. (And putting aside politics for a moment, you have to have a heart of stone not to be overcome reading this.)

What if voters do care about patriotism? What if they have been proud for a long time of their country? Worse still, what if they don’t understand why someone would tolerate anti-American vitriol for decades? Could that be a problem? Nah, that would mean Obama’s polling would already be terrible in more rural states with traditional values. Oh,wait . . .

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Power To The People

It’s not just conservative critics who are suggesting that Barack Obama might do well to get those Michigan and Florida delegates seated one way or another. From his blogger fan club comes this:

Barack Obama should call for the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated at the convention — not as a concession to the Clinton camp or because of pressure but as an outside-the-box show of strength.The Illinois senator has several things going for him right now: He has what everyone agrees is an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates; he has an imposing lead in total popular vote; and those facts give him this trump: superdelegates — elected officials and party operators — are not going coronate Mrs. Clinton in the face of all those advantages without a wildly compelling reason. . . But there’s one argument that needs be addressed: Democrats don’t want to go into the fall risking offending voters in a state they need for victory (Michigan) and one they desperately want (Florida).

Ignore for a moment the total lack of concern over the fact that disenfranchising more than 2 million voters would fly in the face of the modern Left’s “count every vote” mantra. And put aside the consideration that Obama will not enjoy a single moment’s peace from Hillary Clinton and her supporters until this issue is decided. The core of the argument seems correct: blocking these delegates seems defensive and weak, and seating them would be a sign of confidence. So why doesn’t Obama do it?

The explanation lies in this (and many other) Obama-philes’ assumption that even if those delegates are seated “Obama would still have an insurmountable delegate lead and a formidable popular vote lead.” Well, maybe not. What if Clinton wins Pennsylvania by a bunch, takes Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana, and makes it close in North Carolina? That delegate lead could shrink. Not all the way to parity, but enough that when the Florida and Michigan delegates are counted their numbers could make the pledged delegate lead trivial.

So as long as Clinton can make it close, I don’t see Obama insisting that every vote count.

It’s not just conservative critics who are suggesting that Barack Obama might do well to get those Michigan and Florida delegates seated one way or another. From his blogger fan club comes this:

Barack Obama should call for the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated at the convention — not as a concession to the Clinton camp or because of pressure but as an outside-the-box show of strength.The Illinois senator has several things going for him right now: He has what everyone agrees is an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates; he has an imposing lead in total popular vote; and those facts give him this trump: superdelegates — elected officials and party operators — are not going coronate Mrs. Clinton in the face of all those advantages without a wildly compelling reason. . . But there’s one argument that needs be addressed: Democrats don’t want to go into the fall risking offending voters in a state they need for victory (Michigan) and one they desperately want (Florida).

Ignore for a moment the total lack of concern over the fact that disenfranchising more than 2 million voters would fly in the face of the modern Left’s “count every vote” mantra. And put aside the consideration that Obama will not enjoy a single moment’s peace from Hillary Clinton and her supporters until this issue is decided. The core of the argument seems correct: blocking these delegates seems defensive and weak, and seating them would be a sign of confidence. So why doesn’t Obama do it?

The explanation lies in this (and many other) Obama-philes’ assumption that even if those delegates are seated “Obama would still have an insurmountable delegate lead and a formidable popular vote lead.” Well, maybe not. What if Clinton wins Pennsylvania by a bunch, takes Kentucky, West Virginia, and Indiana, and makes it close in North Carolina? That delegate lead could shrink. Not all the way to parity, but enough that when the Florida and Michigan delegates are counted their numbers could make the pledged delegate lead trivial.

So as long as Clinton can make it close, I don’t see Obama insisting that every vote count.

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Raul’s First Mistakes

Starting today, the Cuban government is permitting its citizens to stay in the island’s resorts, which had been restricted to foreign tourists. Havana’s directive ends the hated “tourism apartheid” policy that Fidel Castro introduced in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in order to increase hard-currency earnings. It is also reported that the government will permit Cubans to rent cars.

The hotel order follows Friday’s announcement that Cubans will be allowed to own mobile phones, previously restricted to foreigners and high officials. The Interior Commerce Ministry also permitted them to buy computers, microwaves, and DVD players, which had previously been available only to companies and foreigners. The cellphone order is considered the first major liberalization under the administration of Raul Castro, who succeeded his older brother as president last month. There are rumors that other changes have been implemented.

The Associated Press speculates that the younger Castro–he’s 76–is trying to use these minor reforms to “quell demand for deeper change.” If so, he has obviously fallen behind in his readings on political science. Instead of prolonging his rule by the now-popular changes, he has probably shortened it. “Reform,” Harvard’s Samuel Huntington writes, “can be a catalyst of revolution rather than a substitute for it.” Why? “Patiently endured so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, on the French Revolution. “For the mere fact that certain abuses have been remedied draws attention to the others and they now appear more galling; people may suffer less, but their sensibility is exacerbated.”

Yes, Cubans today may be happy that they are (theoretically) able to stay in the finest hotels their country has to offer. But tomorrow many of them will realize that they cannot afford to do so. In the future, we can expect a thousand little things about their government to irritate the Cuban people. Those annoyances will eventually push them to changing their leaders-and the form of their government. Fidel may never have read Huntington, but he instinctively knew the danger of reform and therefore remained intransigent during his long tenure.

The real destabilizing factor about the cellphone reform is not that the Cuban people can find out about the rest of the world, as commentators have said recently. It is the resulting perception that their government can now be pressured. Raul has just started down a path of change that will, one way or another, lead to the end of communism in Cuba.

“I believe that the ideals of socialism, which are so generous and appeal so much to solidarity and fraternity, will one day disappear,” his elder brother once said. Fidel did his best to keep socialism in Cuba, and his brother has started a sequence of events that will lead to its demise.

Starting today, the Cuban government is permitting its citizens to stay in the island’s resorts, which had been restricted to foreign tourists. Havana’s directive ends the hated “tourism apartheid” policy that Fidel Castro introduced in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in order to increase hard-currency earnings. It is also reported that the government will permit Cubans to rent cars.

The hotel order follows Friday’s announcement that Cubans will be allowed to own mobile phones, previously restricted to foreigners and high officials. The Interior Commerce Ministry also permitted them to buy computers, microwaves, and DVD players, which had previously been available only to companies and foreigners. The cellphone order is considered the first major liberalization under the administration of Raul Castro, who succeeded his older brother as president last month. There are rumors that other changes have been implemented.

The Associated Press speculates that the younger Castro–he’s 76–is trying to use these minor reforms to “quell demand for deeper change.” If so, he has obviously fallen behind in his readings on political science. Instead of prolonging his rule by the now-popular changes, he has probably shortened it. “Reform,” Harvard’s Samuel Huntington writes, “can be a catalyst of revolution rather than a substitute for it.” Why? “Patiently endured so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, on the French Revolution. “For the mere fact that certain abuses have been remedied draws attention to the others and they now appear more galling; people may suffer less, but their sensibility is exacerbated.”

Yes, Cubans today may be happy that they are (theoretically) able to stay in the finest hotels their country has to offer. But tomorrow many of them will realize that they cannot afford to do so. In the future, we can expect a thousand little things about their government to irritate the Cuban people. Those annoyances will eventually push them to changing their leaders-and the form of their government. Fidel may never have read Huntington, but he instinctively knew the danger of reform and therefore remained intransigent during his long tenure.

The real destabilizing factor about the cellphone reform is not that the Cuban people can find out about the rest of the world, as commentators have said recently. It is the resulting perception that their government can now be pressured. Raul has just started down a path of change that will, one way or another, lead to the end of communism in Cuba.

“I believe that the ideals of socialism, which are so generous and appeal so much to solidarity and fraternity, will one day disappear,” his elder brother once said. Fidel did his best to keep socialism in Cuba, and his brother has started a sequence of events that will lead to its demise.

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Bush: AWOL on Human Rights?

With three European leaders–Angela Merkel of Germany, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic–having now announced that they will not attend the Beijing Olympic games to protest China’s treatment of Tibet, Washington’s near total silence is increasingly troubling.

Where, in particular is President Bush? He came out swinging In November of last year, when police shot peacefully protesting monks in Burma, Speaking before the United Nations, he condemned that country’s “19-year reign of fear” while calling for economic sanctions and announcing “an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.”

The George Bush who briefly broke his silence about Tibet last Friday at a joint White House press conference was by contrast feeble. According to the New York Times it was his guest, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who laid out the case squarely, calling human rights abuses in Tibet “clear-cut,” adding “We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on.” Bush said only “[T]hat it [was] in his country’s interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama–not him, but his representatives.”

Those last five words should be noted. Even as Lhasa burns and reports of atrocities continue to find their way out, the administration still is not urging direct talks with the Dalai Lama himself (as the Europeans and others have done), but rather only with “his representatives.” This careful official evasion manifests a United States unwillingness to contradict directly Beijing’s insistent denunciation of the Tibetan leader. (Most recently official Chinese media reported, contrary to fact, that it was the Dalai Lama who was blocking talks.)

This week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will be heading for Beijing, to talk economics. But be reassured: he will mention Tibet: “All senior U.S. officials do raise our concerns with respect to Tibet and this trip will be no different,” he said. Paulson’s understatement, and the President’s avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration’s initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China’s government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.

That approach is untenable now, as unrest spreads and world indignation grows. How to respond to Chinese oppression of Tibet has become a defining issue. Angela Merkel and her counterparts have firmly taken the lead in doing the right thing. The new question is, when and how will the putative “leader of the free world” follow?

With three European leaders–Angela Merkel of Germany, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic–having now announced that they will not attend the Beijing Olympic games to protest China’s treatment of Tibet, Washington’s near total silence is increasingly troubling.

Where, in particular is President Bush? He came out swinging In November of last year, when police shot peacefully protesting monks in Burma, Speaking before the United Nations, he condemned that country’s “19-year reign of fear” while calling for economic sanctions and announcing “an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.”

The George Bush who briefly broke his silence about Tibet last Friday at a joint White House press conference was by contrast feeble. According to the New York Times it was his guest, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who laid out the case squarely, calling human rights abuses in Tibet “clear-cut,” adding “We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on.” Bush said only “[T]hat it [was] in his country’s interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama–not him, but his representatives.”

Those last five words should be noted. Even as Lhasa burns and reports of atrocities continue to find their way out, the administration still is not urging direct talks with the Dalai Lama himself (as the Europeans and others have done), but rather only with “his representatives.” This careful official evasion manifests a United States unwillingness to contradict directly Beijing’s insistent denunciation of the Tibetan leader. (Most recently official Chinese media reported, contrary to fact, that it was the Dalai Lama who was blocking talks.)

This week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will be heading for Beijing, to talk economics. But be reassured: he will mention Tibet: “All senior U.S. officials do raise our concerns with respect to Tibet and this trip will be no different,” he said. Paulson’s understatement, and the President’s avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration’s initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China’s government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.

That approach is untenable now, as unrest spreads and world indignation grows. How to respond to Chinese oppression of Tibet has become a defining issue. Angela Merkel and her counterparts have firmly taken the lead in doing the right thing. The new question is, when and how will the putative “leader of the free world” follow?

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Life in A Cocoon

A problem for Barack Obama–after living in the womb of the academic Left, running a virtually uncontested Senate race, being welcomed to the Senate as a trailblazer, and then being received by throngs of cheering pundits as the savior of American politics–is that he hasn’t learned to confront criticism. When reporters wanted to quiz him on Tony Rezko, he seemed shocked that they should demand answers to more than eight questions.

Today he got into a bit of a back and forth with a reporter over his Iraq position. What strikes you is that he’s not very good on his feet, hemming and hawing about what forces he would leave there and for how long. (He then resorts lamely to John McCain’s “100 years” comment, feigning ignorance about using the comment out of context.) When everyone you come in contact with agrees with you, and fawns over you to boot, it does not prepare you to defend yourself or answer tough questions. The media fan club so far has done their favorite candidate no favors in that regard.

A problem for Barack Obama–after living in the womb of the academic Left, running a virtually uncontested Senate race, being welcomed to the Senate as a trailblazer, and then being received by throngs of cheering pundits as the savior of American politics–is that he hasn’t learned to confront criticism. When reporters wanted to quiz him on Tony Rezko, he seemed shocked that they should demand answers to more than eight questions.

Today he got into a bit of a back and forth with a reporter over his Iraq position. What strikes you is that he’s not very good on his feet, hemming and hawing about what forces he would leave there and for how long. (He then resorts lamely to John McCain’s “100 years” comment, feigning ignorance about using the comment out of context.) When everyone you come in contact with agrees with you, and fawns over you to boot, it does not prepare you to defend yourself or answer tough questions. The media fan club so far has done their favorite candidate no favors in that regard.

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The Mirage

What if Condoleezza Rice came to Jerusalem, and nobody cared?

When you have been watching the peace process for enough years, you start to wonder whether anything is ever serious. So here was Rice asking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for confidence-building measures, accordingly he announced the removal of 50 West Bank roadblocks and several key checkpoints, leaving the Secretary of State “amazed.” Yet on the same day, he also announced the resumption of building in major settlement blocs, in flat contradiction to his previous commitments.

So Condi is trying to make sure President Bush has some points scored in advance of his upcoming visit to Israel, and Olmert is trying to make sure that both Labor and Shas stay in his government. Does anybody care whether these actions actually mean anything? Whether the removal of roadblocks will result in (a) the significant easing of Palestinian life, (b) the significant facilitating of terrorist activity, with its attendant innocents butchered, or (c) both? Has anyone followed up on whether last fall’s Annapolis bonanza amounted to anything, or what the expansion of settlements means for future borders? Why does this all feel so ephemeral?

Put another way: This story seems to have no point, no thesis, other than its own telling. I’m not saying that nothing real can happen in Middle East diplomacy: The Camp David Accords, the Oslo Accords, and the withdrawal from Gaza — all these things were real, for better or worse. But all of them required extremely dedicated movers, people with a vision, and the guts, political savvy, and wherewithal to carry it out.

Our situation is different: Nobody on either side of the fence really thinks Israel and the PA–which anyway represents only West Bank Palestinians now–are likely to reach any kind of meaningful peace agreement in the next year. Nor does anyone think that the present Israeli government is capable of implementing all the oft-avowed “painful concessions” such a deal would entail. Olmert is no Begin or Sharon. He is, instead, the man who brought you Lebanon II, probably the most inconclusive war in Middle East history. Nor is Bush really looking for dramatic achievements which can backfire on the electoral side and land his successor with a still-deeper mess. This is a dance of shadows, a mirage.

What if Condoleezza Rice came to Jerusalem, and nobody cared?

When you have been watching the peace process for enough years, you start to wonder whether anything is ever serious. So here was Rice asking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for confidence-building measures, accordingly he announced the removal of 50 West Bank roadblocks and several key checkpoints, leaving the Secretary of State “amazed.” Yet on the same day, he also announced the resumption of building in major settlement blocs, in flat contradiction to his previous commitments.

So Condi is trying to make sure President Bush has some points scored in advance of his upcoming visit to Israel, and Olmert is trying to make sure that both Labor and Shas stay in his government. Does anybody care whether these actions actually mean anything? Whether the removal of roadblocks will result in (a) the significant easing of Palestinian life, (b) the significant facilitating of terrorist activity, with its attendant innocents butchered, or (c) both? Has anyone followed up on whether last fall’s Annapolis bonanza amounted to anything, or what the expansion of settlements means for future borders? Why does this all feel so ephemeral?

Put another way: This story seems to have no point, no thesis, other than its own telling. I’m not saying that nothing real can happen in Middle East diplomacy: The Camp David Accords, the Oslo Accords, and the withdrawal from Gaza — all these things were real, for better or worse. But all of them required extremely dedicated movers, people with a vision, and the guts, political savvy, and wherewithal to carry it out.

Our situation is different: Nobody on either side of the fence really thinks Israel and the PA–which anyway represents only West Bank Palestinians now–are likely to reach any kind of meaningful peace agreement in the next year. Nor does anyone think that the present Israeli government is capable of implementing all the oft-avowed “painful concessions” such a deal would entail. Olmert is no Begin or Sharon. He is, instead, the man who brought you Lebanon II, probably the most inconclusive war in Middle East history. Nor is Bush really looking for dramatic achievements which can backfire on the electoral side and land his successor with a still-deeper mess. This is a dance of shadows, a mirage.

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Hamas’s Puppets

On March 30, Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV aired a children’s puppet show in which a child puppet stabs a George W. Bush puppet to death. Here’s the child’s indictment of Bush:

Child: “You killed daddy in the Iraq war. It’s true, you killed him in the Iraq war. As for my mom – you and the criminal Zionists killed her in Lebanon. You and the criminal Zionists also killed my younger and older brothers in the Gaza holocaust. I’m an orphan, you criminal!”

I have to admit, I love the Bush puppet’s Larry David-esque response:

Bush: “What are you talking about? Where did you come from? Don’t I have enough troubles already? Where did you come from?”

Good question. But this much is clear: If his father is Iraqi, his mother Lebanese, and his brothers Palestinian, the Democrats would champion him as being even better than Obama at leading America into a post-racial future.

Of course, the kid is an amalgam of all the Muslim victims of American and Zionist imperialism. Which sheds a curious light on the scene’s final exchange:


Child
: “You are impure, Bush, so you are not allowed inside the White House.”

Bush
: “What are you saying?! Why am I not allowed into the White House?”

Child
: “Because it has been turned into a great mosque for the nation of Islam. I will kill you just like Mu’az killed Abu Lahab. I will kill you, Bush, because that is your fate.”

Child stabs Bush repeatedly

Child
: “Ahhh, I killed him.”

But Abu Lahab was killed for rejecting Islam. These righteous anti-imperialists have the darndest time staying on message!

On March 30, Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV aired a children’s puppet show in which a child puppet stabs a George W. Bush puppet to death. Here’s the child’s indictment of Bush:

Child: “You killed daddy in the Iraq war. It’s true, you killed him in the Iraq war. As for my mom – you and the criminal Zionists killed her in Lebanon. You and the criminal Zionists also killed my younger and older brothers in the Gaza holocaust. I’m an orphan, you criminal!”

I have to admit, I love the Bush puppet’s Larry David-esque response:

Bush: “What are you talking about? Where did you come from? Don’t I have enough troubles already? Where did you come from?”

Good question. But this much is clear: If his father is Iraqi, his mother Lebanese, and his brothers Palestinian, the Democrats would champion him as being even better than Obama at leading America into a post-racial future.

Of course, the kid is an amalgam of all the Muslim victims of American and Zionist imperialism. Which sheds a curious light on the scene’s final exchange:


Child
: “You are impure, Bush, so you are not allowed inside the White House.”

Bush
: “What are you saying?! Why am I not allowed into the White House?”

Child
: “Because it has been turned into a great mosque for the nation of Islam. I will kill you just like Mu’az killed Abu Lahab. I will kill you, Bush, because that is your fate.”

Child stabs Bush repeatedly

Child
: “Ahhh, I killed him.”

But Abu Lahab was killed for rejecting Islam. These righteous anti-imperialists have the darndest time staying on message!

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Brzezinski and Me

CONTENTIONS readers might be interested in my exchange in the Washington Post with Zbigniew Brzezinski over the merits of a pullout from Iraq. His article is here and my reply is here. And, no, it’s not my fault that this article carries the same headline as a much longer article I did for COMMENTARY last August. Blame it on the Post editors, who may not read COMMENTARY quite as religiously as they should. Of course, even at roughly 950 words, my riposte does not begin to exhaust all the problems with Brzezinski’s reasoning. I’m sure this site’s readers will have plenty of other thoughts to offer.

CONTENTIONS readers might be interested in my exchange in the Washington Post with Zbigniew Brzezinski over the merits of a pullout from Iraq. His article is here and my reply is here. And, no, it’s not my fault that this article carries the same headline as a much longer article I did for COMMENTARY last August. Blame it on the Post editors, who may not read COMMENTARY quite as religiously as they should. Of course, even at roughly 950 words, my riposte does not begin to exhaust all the problems with Brzezinski’s reasoning. I’m sure this site’s readers will have plenty of other thoughts to offer.

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The Character Tour

Bill Kristol warns John McCain that biography is not enough and that McCain would do well to flesh out his domestic agenda. That is sound advice, but McCain’s use of biography, I think, is really an argument about character, which is becoming an increasingly more important part of the campaign as we learn more and more about Barack Obama.

In opening his Bio Tour today, McCain spent quite a bit of time talking about his family’s history of military service, but more importantly, what that background imparted to him:

Like most people, when I reflect on the adventures and joys of youth, I feel a longing for what is lost and cannot be restored. But though the happy pursuits of the young prove ephemeral, something better can endure, and endure until our last moment of life. And that is the honor we earn and the love we give when we work and sacrifice with others for a cause greater than our self-interest. For me that cause has long been our country. I am a lucky, lucky man to have found it, and am forever grateful to those who showed me the way. What they gave me was much more valuable and lasting than the tribute I once paid to vanity.

I am the son and grandson of admirals. My grandfather was an aviator; my father a submariner. They were my first heroes, and their respect for me has been one of the most lasting ambitions of my life. They gave their lives to their country, and taught me lessons about honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership that I didn’t fully grasp until later in life, but remembered when I needed them most. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. But I am their son, and they showed me how to love my country, and that has made all the difference for me, my friends, all the difference in the world.

I think it’s clear that McCain will again and again come back to themes which differentiate him from Obama (e.g. selflessness vs. egotism, integrity vs. opportunism, courage vs. calculation, devoted patriotism vs. multicultural skepticism). Obama’s got the Obama girls, but McCain’s got the McCain boys.

So, yes, it is important for McCain to develop some policy initiatives, but in a race where some of the main concerns surrounding his likely opponent are about character and gravitas, McCain is going to do everything he can to remind voters of the differences between the two.

Bill Kristol warns John McCain that biography is not enough and that McCain would do well to flesh out his domestic agenda. That is sound advice, but McCain’s use of biography, I think, is really an argument about character, which is becoming an increasingly more important part of the campaign as we learn more and more about Barack Obama.

In opening his Bio Tour today, McCain spent quite a bit of time talking about his family’s history of military service, but more importantly, what that background imparted to him:

Like most people, when I reflect on the adventures and joys of youth, I feel a longing for what is lost and cannot be restored. But though the happy pursuits of the young prove ephemeral, something better can endure, and endure until our last moment of life. And that is the honor we earn and the love we give when we work and sacrifice with others for a cause greater than our self-interest. For me that cause has long been our country. I am a lucky, lucky man to have found it, and am forever grateful to those who showed me the way. What they gave me was much more valuable and lasting than the tribute I once paid to vanity.

I am the son and grandson of admirals. My grandfather was an aviator; my father a submariner. They were my first heroes, and their respect for me has been one of the most lasting ambitions of my life. They gave their lives to their country, and taught me lessons about honor, courage, duty, perseverance and leadership that I didn’t fully grasp until later in life, but remembered when I needed them most. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. But I am their son, and they showed me how to love my country, and that has made all the difference for me, my friends, all the difference in the world.

I think it’s clear that McCain will again and again come back to themes which differentiate him from Obama (e.g. selflessness vs. egotism, integrity vs. opportunism, courage vs. calculation, devoted patriotism vs. multicultural skepticism). Obama’s got the Obama girls, but McCain’s got the McCain boys.

So, yes, it is important for McCain to develop some policy initiatives, but in a race where some of the main concerns surrounding his likely opponent are about character and gravitas, McCain is going to do everything he can to remind voters of the differences between the two.

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Will They Stay Home?

We have heard the threat from conservatives on the Right and from Barack Obama supporters on the Left: if you overlook us or cut us out of the process we will exact revenge in November. Now it’s Hillary Clinton’s turn. She and her longtime supporter Ann Lewis are telling the Democratic establishment to give Clinton her due or plenty of women (who make up a majority of Democratic voters) will sit out 2008. An AP story, noting that Democratic women on the campaign trail are getting peeved about efforts to bring the race to an early end, includes this:

“These women are the volunteer infrastructure of the Democratic Party who’ve been proud to support Democratic officials for what they believe and stand for,” Lewis said. “They are very angry that people they’ve worked for so hard would be so dismissive of Hillary and, by extension, of them and what they value.”

Another Democratic woman activist chimes in:

Women have always been asked to step aside if it was somehow for the greater good. In this case, Clinton, and a lot of her female supporters, clearly feel that she would make the better president and that it would not be for the greater good for her to step aside.

You don’t even have to be a Democratic partisan to agree with this common sense observation:

If you’re a Clinton supporter, if you think she’s the better candidate, are you more or less likely to defect if you feel she’s had a fair chance, the whole thing was fought out, everyone got to vote in every state, or if she somehow got pressured out?

The threat of Clinton, and especially female, defectors is a sobering one for Democrats. In 2004 John Kerry beat George W. Bush 51% to 44% among women. Without a healthy majority of women voters casting votes for Kerry, the race would not have been close. Clinton wants the Democratic Party elders (who might be thinking up schemes to end the race before she has played every card in her hand) and those superdelegates to keep that in mind. And if they aren’t careful, she might just ride a wave of female anger to some impressive primary wins.

We have heard the threat from conservatives on the Right and from Barack Obama supporters on the Left: if you overlook us or cut us out of the process we will exact revenge in November. Now it’s Hillary Clinton’s turn. She and her longtime supporter Ann Lewis are telling the Democratic establishment to give Clinton her due or plenty of women (who make up a majority of Democratic voters) will sit out 2008. An AP story, noting that Democratic women on the campaign trail are getting peeved about efforts to bring the race to an early end, includes this:

“These women are the volunteer infrastructure of the Democratic Party who’ve been proud to support Democratic officials for what they believe and stand for,” Lewis said. “They are very angry that people they’ve worked for so hard would be so dismissive of Hillary and, by extension, of them and what they value.”

Another Democratic woman activist chimes in:

Women have always been asked to step aside if it was somehow for the greater good. In this case, Clinton, and a lot of her female supporters, clearly feel that she would make the better president and that it would not be for the greater good for her to step aside.

You don’t even have to be a Democratic partisan to agree with this common sense observation:

If you’re a Clinton supporter, if you think she’s the better candidate, are you more or less likely to defect if you feel she’s had a fair chance, the whole thing was fought out, everyone got to vote in every state, or if she somehow got pressured out?

The threat of Clinton, and especially female, defectors is a sobering one for Democrats. In 2004 John Kerry beat George W. Bush 51% to 44% among women. Without a healthy majority of women voters casting votes for Kerry, the race would not have been close. Clinton wants the Democratic Party elders (who might be thinking up schemes to end the race before she has played every card in her hand) and those superdelegates to keep that in mind. And if they aren’t careful, she might just ride a wave of female anger to some impressive primary wins.

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Getting Basra Wrong

On Sunday, Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Shiite militia members “to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces” and “to cooperate with the government to achieve security.” The New York Times thinks this is very bad news indeed—“a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” According to a story by Erica Goode and James Glanz in today’s Times, Iraqi forces are virtually helpless against the militias in Basra and Prime Minister Maliki is turning to Sadr to help him out of the jam. This means all sorts of apocalyptic things for the future of Iraq, as indicated by this:

Asked if the erosion of support for Mr. Maliki could cause his government to fall, Mr. Daoud [a former national security adviser and Shiite party leader] paused and said, “Everything is possible.”

Is it the “pause” that’s supposed to make that non-declaration seem ominous?

According to New York Sun Middle East columnist Nibras Kazimi, writing on his Talisman Gate blog, Goode and Glanz don’t simply have it wrong. Rather, we’re witnessing one of the greatest journalistic shell games in recent memory. On Sunday, Kazimi wrote:

Too bad the Mahdi Army is losing very badly. There were a rash of violent outbreaks here and there in Hillah Province and in al-Hamza in the last few days, but today the situation there is one where the Iraqi Army and police—the Scorpion Brigade in particular—are hunting down the Sadrists with a vengeance with the active help of the local population, according to a well-placed and influential source from Hillah.

Across Baghdad, the situation turned against the Mahdi Army prior to Muqtada al-Sadr’s muddled calls not to disarm on the one hand and to clear the streets on the other. Sadrists were breaking down in terms of logistics and coordination even before government troops had the wherewithal to rally and respond to the security challenges posed by these outlaws.

I’m not the only one to pick up on the clearer picture emerging out of Iraq: most of these charlatans posing as pundits and experts are not total imbeciles, just intellectual fakes, so they have enough sense to realize that the “meltdown” they were praying [for] has not materialized despite the best propaganda efforts of ‘Agent’ Glanz and the Associated Press. Now these talking heads are feverishly administering the necessary spin to fig-leaf why they seemingly got it so utterly wrong. They are either going with “Muqtada saved the day” or “The Americans and the British, i.e. the grown-ups, stepped in and changed Maliki’s diaper after he’d made a boo-boo”.

While Sadr has issued his ceasefire, there is no word on whether Prime Minister Maliki has agreed to Sadr’s request for lenience in dealing with Mahdi Army members. This hardly sounds like Sadr is calling the shots. In fact, if Kazimi is right, it seems like the discredited Sadr is trying desperately to deal himself back in to a game where unity and progress now trump the sectarian violence that is his strong suit.

On Sunday, Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Shiite militia members “to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces” and “to cooperate with the government to achieve security.” The New York Times thinks this is very bad news indeed—“a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” According to a story by Erica Goode and James Glanz in today’s Times, Iraqi forces are virtually helpless against the militias in Basra and Prime Minister Maliki is turning to Sadr to help him out of the jam. This means all sorts of apocalyptic things for the future of Iraq, as indicated by this:

Asked if the erosion of support for Mr. Maliki could cause his government to fall, Mr. Daoud [a former national security adviser and Shiite party leader] paused and said, “Everything is possible.”

Is it the “pause” that’s supposed to make that non-declaration seem ominous?

According to New York Sun Middle East columnist Nibras Kazimi, writing on his Talisman Gate blog, Goode and Glanz don’t simply have it wrong. Rather, we’re witnessing one of the greatest journalistic shell games in recent memory. On Sunday, Kazimi wrote:

Too bad the Mahdi Army is losing very badly. There were a rash of violent outbreaks here and there in Hillah Province and in al-Hamza in the last few days, but today the situation there is one where the Iraqi Army and police—the Scorpion Brigade in particular—are hunting down the Sadrists with a vengeance with the active help of the local population, according to a well-placed and influential source from Hillah.

Across Baghdad, the situation turned against the Mahdi Army prior to Muqtada al-Sadr’s muddled calls not to disarm on the one hand and to clear the streets on the other. Sadrists were breaking down in terms of logistics and coordination even before government troops had the wherewithal to rally and respond to the security challenges posed by these outlaws.

I’m not the only one to pick up on the clearer picture emerging out of Iraq: most of these charlatans posing as pundits and experts are not total imbeciles, just intellectual fakes, so they have enough sense to realize that the “meltdown” they were praying [for] has not materialized despite the best propaganda efforts of ‘Agent’ Glanz and the Associated Press. Now these talking heads are feverishly administering the necessary spin to fig-leaf why they seemingly got it so utterly wrong. They are either going with “Muqtada saved the day” or “The Americans and the British, i.e. the grown-ups, stepped in and changed Maliki’s diaper after he’d made a boo-boo”.

While Sadr has issued his ceasefire, there is no word on whether Prime Minister Maliki has agreed to Sadr’s request for lenience in dealing with Mahdi Army members. This hardly sounds like Sadr is calling the shots. In fact, if Kazimi is right, it seems like the discredited Sadr is trying desperately to deal himself back in to a game where unity and progress now trump the sectarian violence that is his strong suit.

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I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again….

Everyone has a storyline in which she plays the starring role, and in which she is the heroine. What is little noted about Hillary Clinton’s increasingly aggressive determination to stay in the Democratic race come what may is that she believes she is doing something heroic. Last week, Bill said he was “so proud” of her because they keep coming at her and she keeps on going. This is very reminiscent of the story John Harris tells in his book The Survivor, as recounted by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:

Do you know who I am?” Bill Clinton asked his adversary Newt Gingrich during the government shutdown of 1995-96. He answered the question himself: “I’m the big rubber clown doll you had as a kid, and every time you hit it, it bounces back.” The harder you hit me, he added, “the faster I come back up.”

That was not bravado. It was a warning, and an accurate one. The Clintons are without shame, and therefore we all believe they are without honor and cannot possibly imagine themselves as heroes. But Bill very much believed, and believes, that he is a hero because he would not allow himself to be defeated, no matter what — and that part of his eventual victory would be that he could use the virulence of his foes to his advantage.

That is the core belief of the Clintons, the one example of the way in which they are both very, very tough. Hillary is emulating him in this respect, is my guess. She remembers when it was said he was through after the 1994 elections, but he would not give up, and when he saw an opportunity to climb back up, he took it, weathered the storm, and won reelection. And did the same thing throughout the Year of Lewinsky.

So when people wonder what on earth could be motivating her, when they see the poll results of the last two weeks and see that the Jeremiah Wright scandal hasn’t hurt Obama at all with Democrats, the answer is: She thinks she’s a hero. She wants to be like Bill, to take the blows and come back stronger from them. This was fine with Democrats as long as the Clinton foe was a Republican. Now that it’s a Democrat, they don’t like it one bit. But it doesn’t change the Clinton perception.

Everyone has a storyline in which she plays the starring role, and in which she is the heroine. What is little noted about Hillary Clinton’s increasingly aggressive determination to stay in the Democratic race come what may is that she believes she is doing something heroic. Last week, Bill said he was “so proud” of her because they keep coming at her and she keeps on going. This is very reminiscent of the story John Harris tells in his book The Survivor, as recounted by Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times:

Do you know who I am?” Bill Clinton asked his adversary Newt Gingrich during the government shutdown of 1995-96. He answered the question himself: “I’m the big rubber clown doll you had as a kid, and every time you hit it, it bounces back.” The harder you hit me, he added, “the faster I come back up.”

That was not bravado. It was a warning, and an accurate one. The Clintons are without shame, and therefore we all believe they are without honor and cannot possibly imagine themselves as heroes. But Bill very much believed, and believes, that he is a hero because he would not allow himself to be defeated, no matter what — and that part of his eventual victory would be that he could use the virulence of his foes to his advantage.

That is the core belief of the Clintons, the one example of the way in which they are both very, very tough. Hillary is emulating him in this respect, is my guess. She remembers when it was said he was through after the 1994 elections, but he would not give up, and when he saw an opportunity to climb back up, he took it, weathered the storm, and won reelection. And did the same thing throughout the Year of Lewinsky.

So when people wonder what on earth could be motivating her, when they see the poll results of the last two weeks and see that the Jeremiah Wright scandal hasn’t hurt Obama at all with Democrats, the answer is: She thinks she’s a hero. She wants to be like Bill, to take the blows and come back stronger from them. This was fine with Democrats as long as the Clinton foe was a Republican. Now that it’s a Democrat, they don’t like it one bit. But it doesn’t change the Clinton perception.

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The Wrong Concessions

President Bush is again “optimistic” that Israeli-Palestinian peace can be finalized during the remaining months of his presidency. For Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, this can only mean one thing: more photo-ops with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with massive frequent-flyer miles accumulating in the process. But yesterday, Rice finally complemented her shuttling with diplomatic results, winning a set of concessions from Israel that are intended to ease Palestinian livelihoods and create conditions that are ripe for peace.

I’m dubious regarding the potential for economic progress to translate into Palestinian support for the peace process-particularly in the short timeframe with which the Bush administration is working. That said, insofar as the goal is to improve the West Bank economy, many of the measures to which Israel agreed are sensible, if not long overdue. These include the decision to raise the number of Palestinian businessmen permitted into Israel to 1,500; issuing 5,000 additional work permits for Palestinian laborers; building new housing for Palestinians in 25 villages; and supporting large-scale economic development programs.

But the most essential concessions to which Israel agreed make little sense. These include decisions to dismantle one permanent roadblock and remove fifty travel barriers around Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, and Ramallah. Israel has long maintained that these checkpoints critically bolster its security, stemming the flow of terrorists and weapons among the West Bank’s most contentious cities. Yet in agreeing to dissemble these barriers on account of political considerations, Israel is discrediting its own claims regarding the security-relevance of its West Bank policies. Moreover, on account of its decreased ability to monitor movement within the West Bank in the absence of a reliable Palestinian security force, Israel may face a decline in security.

Make no mistake: a further decline in Israeli security would be the final nail in the Annapolis coffin-a disaster for the Bush administration. Indeed, if the Annapolis “process” aims for the realization of a two-state solution-a long-held U.S. interest-anything that might validate the occupation as necessary for Israeli security should be immediately removed from the table. It is for this reason that I have viewed the cessation of Israeli settlement activity as a more reasonable Israeli concession for the Bush administration to demand: halting construction would have no negative security consequences for Israel, and would represent clear progress towards drawing the line in the sand that Israeli-Palestinian peace will require.

In this vein, Israel’s agreement to connect Palestinian villages to its power grid is downright regressive. Again, if the goal remains a two-state solution-in which Palestine is an autonomous entity-why would Rice press for the Palestinians to become more reliant on Israel for their needs? Indeed, if Israel’s recent experience in Gaza should teach policymakers anything, it’s that territorial concessions must aim to absolve Israel of responsibility for those territories entirely.

In short, once again, Rice has failed to meet U.S. policy objectives with narrowly tailored policies. For this reason, the Annapolis “process” remains a hopeless exercise, in which optimism trumps reality.

President Bush is again “optimistic” that Israeli-Palestinian peace can be finalized during the remaining months of his presidency. For Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, this can only mean one thing: more photo-ops with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, with massive frequent-flyer miles accumulating in the process. But yesterday, Rice finally complemented her shuttling with diplomatic results, winning a set of concessions from Israel that are intended to ease Palestinian livelihoods and create conditions that are ripe for peace.

I’m dubious regarding the potential for economic progress to translate into Palestinian support for the peace process-particularly in the short timeframe with which the Bush administration is working. That said, insofar as the goal is to improve the West Bank economy, many of the measures to which Israel agreed are sensible, if not long overdue. These include the decision to raise the number of Palestinian businessmen permitted into Israel to 1,500; issuing 5,000 additional work permits for Palestinian laborers; building new housing for Palestinians in 25 villages; and supporting large-scale economic development programs.

But the most essential concessions to which Israel agreed make little sense. These include decisions to dismantle one permanent roadblock and remove fifty travel barriers around Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, and Ramallah. Israel has long maintained that these checkpoints critically bolster its security, stemming the flow of terrorists and weapons among the West Bank’s most contentious cities. Yet in agreeing to dissemble these barriers on account of political considerations, Israel is discrediting its own claims regarding the security-relevance of its West Bank policies. Moreover, on account of its decreased ability to monitor movement within the West Bank in the absence of a reliable Palestinian security force, Israel may face a decline in security.

Make no mistake: a further decline in Israeli security would be the final nail in the Annapolis coffin-a disaster for the Bush administration. Indeed, if the Annapolis “process” aims for the realization of a two-state solution-a long-held U.S. interest-anything that might validate the occupation as necessary for Israeli security should be immediately removed from the table. It is for this reason that I have viewed the cessation of Israeli settlement activity as a more reasonable Israeli concession for the Bush administration to demand: halting construction would have no negative security consequences for Israel, and would represent clear progress towards drawing the line in the sand that Israeli-Palestinian peace will require.

In this vein, Israel’s agreement to connect Palestinian villages to its power grid is downright regressive. Again, if the goal remains a two-state solution-in which Palestine is an autonomous entity-why would Rice press for the Palestinians to become more reliant on Israel for their needs? Indeed, if Israel’s recent experience in Gaza should teach policymakers anything, it’s that territorial concessions must aim to absolve Israel of responsibility for those territories entirely.

In short, once again, Rice has failed to meet U.S. policy objectives with narrowly tailored policies. For this reason, the Annapolis “process” remains a hopeless exercise, in which optimism trumps reality.

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Dallastan

How are we going to win the long war against Islamic radicalism? The first and most essential step is to understand what we are up against. Part of that effort involves keeping track of the whereabouts and activities of extremist movements and grouplets. But beyond that, it is vitally important to understand how our adversaries think.

Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, a journal published by the Hudson Institute, has already emerged as indispensable source for both purposes. The current issue has a series of extraordinary–and extremely alarming — essays on the Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States.

One of them is by Rod Dreher, an editor at the Dallas Morning News, which recounts in close detail developments in his own community.  It focuses especially on the efforts of various Brotherhood-linked organizations like the Islamic Society of North American and the Council on American-Islamic Relations to use the charge of “Islamophobia” to intimidate the local press into silence about their own linkages to terrorists and terrorist theoreticians.

“I cannot say how typical the Dallas experience is of the broader American experience,” writes Dreher. That question remains to be answered. But what can be said with assurance is that the U.S. government’s response to these groups is not in synch with the danger they present.

In the same issue of Current Trends, Zeyno Baran, a senior fellow at Hudson, takes note of our government’s continuing attempts to conduct a dialog with the domestic radicals:  

When the US government engages with Islamist organizations in conferences or government outreach programs, it lends legitimacy to an ideology that does not represent — at least not yet — the views of the majority of American Muslims. American policymakers who advocate pursuing such a strategy are actually facilitating Islamism by endorsing it as a mainstream ideology. Both at home and abroad, this policy is leading to disaster. Liberal and non-Islamist Muslims — having already been denounced by Islamists as apostates — are now being told by Western governments that they do not represent “real” Islam.

We are still in the early stages of our battle with radical Islam. As in the cold war, it’s going to take time, and serious setbacks, before we settle on policies that are effective in combating a domestic danger that poses a unique challenge to our constitutional order.

How are we going to win the long war against Islamic radicalism? The first and most essential step is to understand what we are up against. Part of that effort involves keeping track of the whereabouts and activities of extremist movements and grouplets. But beyond that, it is vitally important to understand how our adversaries think.

Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, a journal published by the Hudson Institute, has already emerged as indispensable source for both purposes. The current issue has a series of extraordinary–and extremely alarming — essays on the Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States.

One of them is by Rod Dreher, an editor at the Dallas Morning News, which recounts in close detail developments in his own community.  It focuses especially on the efforts of various Brotherhood-linked organizations like the Islamic Society of North American and the Council on American-Islamic Relations to use the charge of “Islamophobia” to intimidate the local press into silence about their own linkages to terrorists and terrorist theoreticians.

“I cannot say how typical the Dallas experience is of the broader American experience,” writes Dreher. That question remains to be answered. But what can be said with assurance is that the U.S. government’s response to these groups is not in synch with the danger they present.

In the same issue of Current Trends, Zeyno Baran, a senior fellow at Hudson, takes note of our government’s continuing attempts to conduct a dialog with the domestic radicals:  

When the US government engages with Islamist organizations in conferences or government outreach programs, it lends legitimacy to an ideology that does not represent — at least not yet — the views of the majority of American Muslims. American policymakers who advocate pursuing such a strategy are actually facilitating Islamism by endorsing it as a mainstream ideology. Both at home and abroad, this policy is leading to disaster. Liberal and non-Islamist Muslims — having already been denounced by Islamists as apostates — are now being told by Western governments that they do not represent “real” Islam.

We are still in the early stages of our battle with radical Islam. As in the cold war, it’s going to take time, and serious setbacks, before we settle on policies that are effective in combating a domestic danger that poses a unique challenge to our constitutional order.

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Why Does Hillary Lie?

Now that’s a question that could keep historians and psychologists busy for awhile. But here is as interesting an explanation as any from a (sort of) sympathetic source:

I don’t think she was always a liar, the way some kids are born liars and never get over it. I think she was once a truthful person and her lying skills were forged in the early years of her marriage, forged in the crucible of Bill’s infidelities and in her role as point person in dealing with them. This is what happens when you marry a narcissist: he spills the milk, you clean it up and your love grows. And then you end up a liar, just like him.

I prefer to think we are all responsible for our own truthfulness. But I do think her lack of candor was never really challenged until now, and hence she came to rely on fibs small and large as a favorite weapon in her political arsenal.

There was no reason, for example, to make up the tale that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, yet she did. And only conservative critics, whom she easily ignored, bothered to rebuke her. When uncaught and unpenalized, bad behavior tends to repeat itself (ask any parent). Her list of lies is long. (I googled “list of Hillary lies” and got 546,000 hits.) So it’s not a shock, or shouldn’t be, when the next one like the Bosnian shootout comes along.

It is not surprising, then, that despite the Democrats’ growing nervousness about Barack Obama, they can’t bring themselves to embrace Clinton. But have they dumped one prevaricator for another? Could be. It may be that he is not any more honest than she–just less experienced. Whether lying becomes one of his defining traits will depend on how frequently he gets caught and what penalty he pays.

Now that’s a question that could keep historians and psychologists busy for awhile. But here is as interesting an explanation as any from a (sort of) sympathetic source:

I don’t think she was always a liar, the way some kids are born liars and never get over it. I think she was once a truthful person and her lying skills were forged in the early years of her marriage, forged in the crucible of Bill’s infidelities and in her role as point person in dealing with them. This is what happens when you marry a narcissist: he spills the milk, you clean it up and your love grows. And then you end up a liar, just like him.

I prefer to think we are all responsible for our own truthfulness. But I do think her lack of candor was never really challenged until now, and hence she came to rely on fibs small and large as a favorite weapon in her political arsenal.

There was no reason, for example, to make up the tale that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, yet she did. And only conservative critics, whom she easily ignored, bothered to rebuke her. When uncaught and unpenalized, bad behavior tends to repeat itself (ask any parent). Her list of lies is long. (I googled “list of Hillary lies” and got 546,000 hits.) So it’s not a shock, or shouldn’t be, when the next one like the Bosnian shootout comes along.

It is not surprising, then, that despite the Democrats’ growing nervousness about Barack Obama, they can’t bring themselves to embrace Clinton. But have they dumped one prevaricator for another? Could be. It may be that he is not any more honest than she–just less experienced. Whether lying becomes one of his defining traits will depend on how frequently he gets caught and what penalty he pays.

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More on The Dems’ Basra Babble

Jennifer: You are, of course, correct. And the fact that the Maliki government is taking on the Shi’iite militias will be buried by the same MSM that wrote off Iraq as a crude sectarian pie chart, the same MSM that was apoplectic over the supposed Shi’a sympathy on display when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Iraq a month ago. “The Shi’a Revival” school of America-scolding reigns supreme these days. We will hear about every aspect of the fighting (American forces’ involvement, number of casualties, etc.) except the one that speaks most to what Obama calls “the underlying tensions that exist in Iraq.”

Of course when Obama finds out that Moktada al-Sadr is giving orders from Iran, he’ll point to that as evidence that we need to be out of Iraq because our real enemies are elsewhere. There’s no development that can’t be turned inside out to show that the war is wrong.

Jennifer: You are, of course, correct. And the fact that the Maliki government is taking on the Shi’iite militias will be buried by the same MSM that wrote off Iraq as a crude sectarian pie chart, the same MSM that was apoplectic over the supposed Shi’a sympathy on display when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Iraq a month ago. “The Shi’a Revival” school of America-scolding reigns supreme these days. We will hear about every aspect of the fighting (American forces’ involvement, number of casualties, etc.) except the one that speaks most to what Obama calls “the underlying tensions that exist in Iraq.”

Of course when Obama finds out that Moktada al-Sadr is giving orders from Iran, he’ll point to that as evidence that we need to be out of Iraq because our real enemies are elsewhere. There’s no development that can’t be turned inside out to show that the war is wrong.

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Re: The Dems’ Basra Babble

Abe: one wonders if Barack Obama is even absorbing minimal facts about the situation in Iraq. He need only look as far as the New York Times which informs us that this week has not been business as usual over there:

For starters, the Shiite rebels are fighting mainly Iraqi soldiers, rather than Americans. Their leader, Moktada al-Sadr, is not defending against attacks from a redoubt inside the country’s most sacred shrine, but is issuing edicts with a tarnished reputation from an undisclosed location, possibly outside the country. And Iraq’s prime minister, a Shiite whom Americans had all but despaired would ever act against militias of his own sect, is taking them on fiercely.

Then, of course, al-Sadr called for a truce. Certainly, you don’t have to buy into the notion that it clear sailing from here on out to see that when Maliki does what we have asked – takes on the militia forces – something has changed for the better.

But Obama has shown no inclination to process new information and adjust his views accordingly. Indeed, there appears to be no new data that would persuade him that the answer to Iraq is other than: “Leave immediately.” If that is not the definition of an ideologue (or a “dogmatist” as Obama would say), I do not know what is.

Abe: one wonders if Barack Obama is even absorbing minimal facts about the situation in Iraq. He need only look as far as the New York Times which informs us that this week has not been business as usual over there:

For starters, the Shiite rebels are fighting mainly Iraqi soldiers, rather than Americans. Their leader, Moktada al-Sadr, is not defending against attacks from a redoubt inside the country’s most sacred shrine, but is issuing edicts with a tarnished reputation from an undisclosed location, possibly outside the country. And Iraq’s prime minister, a Shiite whom Americans had all but despaired would ever act against militias of his own sect, is taking them on fiercely.

Then, of course, al-Sadr called for a truce. Certainly, you don’t have to buy into the notion that it clear sailing from here on out to see that when Maliki does what we have asked – takes on the militia forces – something has changed for the better.

But Obama has shown no inclination to process new information and adjust his views accordingly. Indeed, there appears to be no new data that would persuade him that the answer to Iraq is other than: “Leave immediately.” If that is not the definition of an ideologue (or a “dogmatist” as Obama would say), I do not know what is.

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Out Obama-ing Obama

Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship and his emphasis on ending the acrimony of old-style politics have been a big part of his appeal. It was a clever angle–both as a means of differentiating himself from Hillary Clinton who embodied take-no-prisoners partisanship and as a means of diffusing concern about his relative lack of experience (i.e. he has no axe to grind in the politics of the past). However, in a general election this approach has its limits, in part because there is no factual basis for claiming he is a great bridge-builder.

He has essentially taken up every cause of the left (from opposing confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to supporting a bevy of tax increases) and has been absent from any of the truly bipartisan efforts, few that they may be, since he got to Washington (e.g. the Gang of 14).

As the most liberal Senator according to National Journal, he is further from the middle of the Senate and less inclined to compromise on strict party line voting than Senator Mitch McConnell (the ninth most conservative Senator) is on the other end of the spectrum. Is someone more doctrinaire in his voting record than McConnell on the Right (and Dick Durbin and John Kerry on the Left), the best person to lead us into a new era of bipartisan co-operation?

Worse still, John McCain actually can lay claim to being a bipartisan role model, which made his primary run so problematic with the GOP base. His list of bipartisan efforts on global warming, judges, campaign finance, immigration and spending reform is long and substantitve. Joe Lieberman attested to McCain’s bipartisan credentials on This Week:

Well, I don’t agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today. We’ve got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We’ve got to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we’re all Americans. And unless we pull together, we’re not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be.

So having correctly diagnosed the problem (i.e. many Americans want politicians to work together more often), Obama now faces this dilemma: His own career offers no indication that he actually is disposed, other than rhetorically, to reaching across the aisle to accomodate the other side’s interests and concerns. (Does he expect to charm them with an avalanche of soothing words, envisioning that they will just capitulate on substance to his liberal policy views?) The Republicans may have stumbled into selecting an ideal foil for Obama – someone who actually has done what Obama says we need to more of.

Barack Obama’s call for bipartisanship and his emphasis on ending the acrimony of old-style politics have been a big part of his appeal. It was a clever angle–both as a means of differentiating himself from Hillary Clinton who embodied take-no-prisoners partisanship and as a means of diffusing concern about his relative lack of experience (i.e. he has no axe to grind in the politics of the past). However, in a general election this approach has its limits, in part because there is no factual basis for claiming he is a great bridge-builder.

He has essentially taken up every cause of the left (from opposing confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito to supporting a bevy of tax increases) and has been absent from any of the truly bipartisan efforts, few that they may be, since he got to Washington (e.g. the Gang of 14).

As the most liberal Senator according to National Journal, he is further from the middle of the Senate and less inclined to compromise on strict party line voting than Senator Mitch McConnell (the ninth most conservative Senator) is on the other end of the spectrum. Is someone more doctrinaire in his voting record than McConnell on the Right (and Dick Durbin and John Kerry on the Left), the best person to lead us into a new era of bipartisan co-operation?

Worse still, John McCain actually can lay claim to being a bipartisan role model, which made his primary run so problematic with the GOP base. His list of bipartisan efforts on global warming, judges, campaign finance, immigration and spending reform is long and substantitve. Joe Lieberman attested to McCain’s bipartisan credentials on This Week:

Well, I don’t agree with John McCain on everything, but I agree with him on the important things. And I agree with him on the number one challenge to our political system today. We’ve got to put the national interest ahead of partisan interest. We’ve got to forget the Democrat-Republican business and remember that we’re all Americans. And unless we pull together, we’re not going to get this country to where all of us want it to be.

So having correctly diagnosed the problem (i.e. many Americans want politicians to work together more often), Obama now faces this dilemma: His own career offers no indication that he actually is disposed, other than rhetorically, to reaching across the aisle to accomodate the other side’s interests and concerns. (Does he expect to charm them with an avalanche of soothing words, envisioning that they will just capitulate on substance to his liberal policy views?) The Republicans may have stumbled into selecting an ideal foil for Obama – someone who actually has done what Obama says we need to more of.

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“Everything Will Be in Ashes”

Today, Pyongyang threatened to destroy archrival South Korea. “Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, once our advanced pre-emptive strike begins,” promised an unidentified North Korean military analyst. The remarks, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, cap days of escalating tension on the peninsula. Yesterday, the North threatened to cut off all dialogue between the two states. Pyongyang pinned the blame for its bellicose words on recent comments by Kim Tae Young, the new chairman of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. On Wednesday, Kim said that his forces were ready to attack suspected North Korean nuclear sites if it appeared that Pyongyang was about to use atomic weapons against the South.

The exchange of nasty words about nuclear war comes amid a general breakdown in relations between the two Koreas. Last Thursday, Seoul withdrew all its officials from the Kaesong industrial park, just north of the Demilitarized Zone. Pyongyang demanded the withdrawal after the new South Korean government said that it would not expand the zone, created to attract South Korean manufacturers, until the North honored its promises to give up its nuclear weapons. On Friday, Pyongyang tested ship-to-ship missiles in what was characterized as a display of anger.

South Korea’s new president, Lee Myung-bak, has taken a noticeably tougher line than either of his two predecessors, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The North’s propaganda machine had mostly held off criticizing the South Korean president until last week. Now it appears that Pyongyang will try to undermine Lee by a new round of belligerent conduct and words.

Deteriorating relations on the Korean peninsula are bound to finally scuttle the Bush administration’s efforts to salvage the so-called six-party process. The North is months late on honoring its agreement to make a complete declaration of its nuclear programs, and even before last week there was little prospect that Pyongyang would reverse course and comply.

Despite its promises, the regime in Pyongyang has yet to make the critical decision to give up its atomic arsenal. We will not know for some time whether Kim Jong Il is holding out for a better deal from a new administration in Washington, as some contend, or whether, more probably, he has been unable to obtain the cooperation of his military to disarm. In any event, it is time for President Bush to acknowledge that his Korean policy is being overtaken by events in Korea. His counterpart in Seoul already knows there can be no progress until governments are willing to hold the enigmatic Kim to his promises. The time for American patience with the dangerous autocrat in Pyongyang is now over.

Today, Pyongyang threatened to destroy archrival South Korea. “Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, once our advanced pre-emptive strike begins,” promised an unidentified North Korean military analyst. The remarks, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, cap days of escalating tension on the peninsula. Yesterday, the North threatened to cut off all dialogue between the two states. Pyongyang pinned the blame for its bellicose words on recent comments by Kim Tae Young, the new chairman of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. On Wednesday, Kim said that his forces were ready to attack suspected North Korean nuclear sites if it appeared that Pyongyang was about to use atomic weapons against the South.

The exchange of nasty words about nuclear war comes amid a general breakdown in relations between the two Koreas. Last Thursday, Seoul withdrew all its officials from the Kaesong industrial park, just north of the Demilitarized Zone. Pyongyang demanded the withdrawal after the new South Korean government said that it would not expand the zone, created to attract South Korean manufacturers, until the North honored its promises to give up its nuclear weapons. On Friday, Pyongyang tested ship-to-ship missiles in what was characterized as a display of anger.

South Korea’s new president, Lee Myung-bak, has taken a noticeably tougher line than either of his two predecessors, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The North’s propaganda machine had mostly held off criticizing the South Korean president until last week. Now it appears that Pyongyang will try to undermine Lee by a new round of belligerent conduct and words.

Deteriorating relations on the Korean peninsula are bound to finally scuttle the Bush administration’s efforts to salvage the so-called six-party process. The North is months late on honoring its agreement to make a complete declaration of its nuclear programs, and even before last week there was little prospect that Pyongyang would reverse course and comply.

Despite its promises, the regime in Pyongyang has yet to make the critical decision to give up its atomic arsenal. We will not know for some time whether Kim Jong Il is holding out for a better deal from a new administration in Washington, as some contend, or whether, more probably, he has been unable to obtain the cooperation of his military to disarm. In any event, it is time for President Bush to acknowledge that his Korean policy is being overtaken by events in Korea. His counterpart in Seoul already knows there can be no progress until governments are willing to hold the enigmatic Kim to his promises. The time for American patience with the dangerous autocrat in Pyongyang is now over.

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The Dems’ Basra Babble

From today’s New York Times:

“I don’t want to suggest I’ve absorbed all of the facts,” about the situation in Basra, Mr. Obama said. But, he continued, what he had heard “appears consistent with my general analysis. The presence of our troops and their excellence has resulted in some reduction in violence. It has not resolved the underlying tensions that exist in Iraq.”

As if that’s not everyone’s analysis.

Neither George Bush or John McCain or David Petraeus has ever said anything to contradict Obama’s valueless declaration. They have never suggested that the surge had “resolved the underlying tensions.”

This is the all-or-nothing rhetorical game the Democrats play with Iraq. They pretend the McCain side of the debate makes outlandishly sunny claims and then they “disprove” them. They overstate non-scandalous aspects of both McCain’s Iraq plan (the hundred-year war) and our present Iraq strategy: Last Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton said, “President Bush seems to want to keep as many people as possible in Iraq. It’s a clear admission that the surge has failed to accomplish its goals.” Wrong and wrong. And shameful, to boot.

So, Obama admits he has not “absorbed all of the facts,” but that’s because he doesn’t need to. He just needs to spin stories of violence into the narrative of Bush’s failed miracle. However, if he bothered to “absorb” just a little more of the admittedly confusing Basra situation, he’d have to confront the conflict’s one crystalline detail: the British pulled out too soon. And there’s no way for him to spin that.

From today’s New York Times:

“I don’t want to suggest I’ve absorbed all of the facts,” about the situation in Basra, Mr. Obama said. But, he continued, what he had heard “appears consistent with my general analysis. The presence of our troops and their excellence has resulted in some reduction in violence. It has not resolved the underlying tensions that exist in Iraq.”

As if that’s not everyone’s analysis.

Neither George Bush or John McCain or David Petraeus has ever said anything to contradict Obama’s valueless declaration. They have never suggested that the surge had “resolved the underlying tensions.”

This is the all-or-nothing rhetorical game the Democrats play with Iraq. They pretend the McCain side of the debate makes outlandishly sunny claims and then they “disprove” them. They overstate non-scandalous aspects of both McCain’s Iraq plan (the hundred-year war) and our present Iraq strategy: Last Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton said, “President Bush seems to want to keep as many people as possible in Iraq. It’s a clear admission that the surge has failed to accomplish its goals.” Wrong and wrong. And shameful, to boot.

So, Obama admits he has not “absorbed all of the facts,” but that’s because he doesn’t need to. He just needs to spin stories of violence into the narrative of Bush’s failed miracle. However, if he bothered to “absorb” just a little more of the admittedly confusing Basra situation, he’d have to confront the conflict’s one crystalline detail: the British pulled out too soon. And there’s no way for him to spin that.

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