Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 30, 2008

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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Backlash

Why are so many Democrats and so many media outlets anxious to push Hillary Clinton down the stairs and out of the race? If she were mathematically eliminated and truly stood no chance to win, as they insist, why not patiently ride her candidacy out the way the Republicans did with Mike Huckabee?

Well, it’s clear the Democrats are not so confident that Clinton is simply going to melt away. The AP reports (h/t Instapundit):

Many undeclared superdelegates express confidence that all will be well. Democratic voters will unite in the fall, they say, and the injuries that Obama and Clinton inflict on each other this spring will heal. Privately, however, some party insiders worry that these superdelegates may be blithely marching toward a treacherous crossroad, where they will have to choose between a deeply wounded Obama and a soaring Clinton whose success was built on tearing down the party’s front-runner in terms of delegates.

So rather than face a hard choice, Democratic insiders figure it is easier to goad Clinton out of the race. This is foolhardy on two counts.

First, she isn’t going anywhere and people who think the Clintons can be bullied haven’t been paying close attention to the last dozen years or so of American politics. (If they wouldn’t leave the White House in the face of impeachment proceedings and national embarrassment, they won’t leave a mere primary race.)

Second, she is going to town on the feminist backlash angle. The “big boys” are ganging up on her, she claims. With some merit, Diane Feinstein says of the effort to push Clinton out of the race: “I think that’s really premature, and it’s ill conceived. She has a right to wage her candidacy and to fight until a time that she can’t recoup those votes.”

Worse still, this approach isn’t helpful to Barack Obama. It just perpetuates the perception that Obama is like a newborn fawn who must be sheltered and coddled to protect him from the ravages of a full blown political battle. By whining that the race is like a movie that goes on a half-hour too long, he insults voters in states he still needs to win and makes it seem as if the whole thing is too terribly hard and boring for him to bear. (Even he is now beginning to dial back on the “get out Hillary” talk – perhaps sensing that it sounds arrogant and defensive.) And Clinton just looks grittier and more resilient – exactly the qualities she says the nominee will need in the general election – when she defies the party establishment that would rather not bother with a few more months of voting.

So if the Democratic Party wants to dump Clinton they are just going to have to beat her, fair and square. There is no easy way out now.

Why are so many Democrats and so many media outlets anxious to push Hillary Clinton down the stairs and out of the race? If she were mathematically eliminated and truly stood no chance to win, as they insist, why not patiently ride her candidacy out the way the Republicans did with Mike Huckabee?

Well, it’s clear the Democrats are not so confident that Clinton is simply going to melt away. The AP reports (h/t Instapundit):

Many undeclared superdelegates express confidence that all will be well. Democratic voters will unite in the fall, they say, and the injuries that Obama and Clinton inflict on each other this spring will heal. Privately, however, some party insiders worry that these superdelegates may be blithely marching toward a treacherous crossroad, where they will have to choose between a deeply wounded Obama and a soaring Clinton whose success was built on tearing down the party’s front-runner in terms of delegates.

So rather than face a hard choice, Democratic insiders figure it is easier to goad Clinton out of the race. This is foolhardy on two counts.

First, she isn’t going anywhere and people who think the Clintons can be bullied haven’t been paying close attention to the last dozen years or so of American politics. (If they wouldn’t leave the White House in the face of impeachment proceedings and national embarrassment, they won’t leave a mere primary race.)

Second, she is going to town on the feminist backlash angle. The “big boys” are ganging up on her, she claims. With some merit, Diane Feinstein says of the effort to push Clinton out of the race: “I think that’s really premature, and it’s ill conceived. She has a right to wage her candidacy and to fight until a time that she can’t recoup those votes.”

Worse still, this approach isn’t helpful to Barack Obama. It just perpetuates the perception that Obama is like a newborn fawn who must be sheltered and coddled to protect him from the ravages of a full blown political battle. By whining that the race is like a movie that goes on a half-hour too long, he insults voters in states he still needs to win and makes it seem as if the whole thing is too terribly hard and boring for him to bear. (Even he is now beginning to dial back on the “get out Hillary” talk – perhaps sensing that it sounds arrogant and defensive.) And Clinton just looks grittier and more resilient – exactly the qualities she says the nominee will need in the general election – when she defies the party establishment that would rather not bother with a few more months of voting.

So if the Democratic Party wants to dump Clinton they are just going to have to beat her, fair and square. There is no easy way out now.

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