Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 22, 2008

Tussle Over Veterans Benefits

Barack Obama and John McCain are on opposite sides of a legislative battle over veterans’ benefits, particularly educational incentives for personnel who re-enlist. Obama took McCain to task, claiming McCain is insufficiently concerned with veterans. McCain blasted back with a statement that essentially says Obama doesn’t know what he is talking about.

But another theme–which began in their dispute over engaging Iran–has now been continued here. McCain is trying to make the point that Obama favors ad hominem attacks over substantive knowledge and high-minded debate. The key zinger:

Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as President, the country would regret his election.

Clearly, this is playing the “inexperience” card. But McCain is also trying desperately to knock Obama off his pedestal and make the point that Obama is not a New Politician at all. It’s an uphill fight, and one which the mainstream media will resist at all costs. Obama’s soothing rhetoric will make it difficult for voters to accept that he’s a go-for-the jugular politician. (Hillary Clinton tried that and got nowhere.) Still, this latest altercation is nevertheless some indication that the McCain team means business and is not going to allow Obama free shots at McCain.

Barack Obama and John McCain are on opposite sides of a legislative battle over veterans’ benefits, particularly educational incentives for personnel who re-enlist. Obama took McCain to task, claiming McCain is insufficiently concerned with veterans. McCain blasted back with a statement that essentially says Obama doesn’t know what he is talking about.

But another theme–which began in their dispute over engaging Iran–has now been continued here. McCain is trying to make the point that Obama favors ad hominem attacks over substantive knowledge and high-minded debate. The key zinger:

Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as President, the country would regret his election.

Clearly, this is playing the “inexperience” card. But McCain is also trying desperately to knock Obama off his pedestal and make the point that Obama is not a New Politician at all. It’s an uphill fight, and one which the mainstream media will resist at all costs. Obama’s soothing rhetoric will make it difficult for voters to accept that he’s a go-for-the jugular politician. (Hillary Clinton tried that and got nowhere.) Still, this latest altercation is nevertheless some indication that the McCain team means business and is not going to allow Obama free shots at McCain.

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More on Goldberg

I don’t want belabor my dispute with Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic, but I note that another one of the Atlantic’s liberal bloggers agrees with me. Although Matthew Yglesias accuses me of flinging “hysterical accusations” at Goldberg, he actually agrees with my chief accusation: that there is not a shekel’s worth of difference between Goldberg and Mearsheimer-Walt on the questionof American policy toward West Bank settlements. Yglesias writes:

Goldberg . . . charges AIPAC with preventing the United States from putting any meat on the bones of its policy against Israel’s West Bank settlements. Walt and Mearsheimer agree with this. Goldberg argues that unless Israel removes those settlements, it will increasingly find itself becoming an apartheid-style country where a Jewish minority rules over a disenfranchised Arab and Muslim minority. Walt and Mearsheimer think so, too. The difference is that Goldberg primarily sees this as bad for Israel whereas Walt and Mearsheimer primarily see it as bad for the United States but surely it can be bad for both! And even if not, the disagreement here is about something relatively minor with both sides agreeing that the American failure to apply pressure is a bad thing, and both sides pointing the finger at AIPAC.

For my part, I disagree with both Goldberg and Mearsheimer-Walt. What’s keeping the settlements from being dismantled is not the views of AIPAC but the views of most ordinary Israelis who, for the time being at least, have given up hope that territorial concessions can win peace from the Palestinians. Why Goldberg feels compelled to use this issue as a cudgel against AIPAC and other groups is a mystery to me, especially when he has otherwise been a stalwart critic of the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis. He would better direct his rhetorical fire at the Palestinians, who are once again proving the validity of Abba Ebban’s famous quip: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

I don’t want belabor my dispute with Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic, but I note that another one of the Atlantic’s liberal bloggers agrees with me. Although Matthew Yglesias accuses me of flinging “hysterical accusations” at Goldberg, he actually agrees with my chief accusation: that there is not a shekel’s worth of difference between Goldberg and Mearsheimer-Walt on the questionof American policy toward West Bank settlements. Yglesias writes:

Goldberg . . . charges AIPAC with preventing the United States from putting any meat on the bones of its policy against Israel’s West Bank settlements. Walt and Mearsheimer agree with this. Goldberg argues that unless Israel removes those settlements, it will increasingly find itself becoming an apartheid-style country where a Jewish minority rules over a disenfranchised Arab and Muslim minority. Walt and Mearsheimer think so, too. The difference is that Goldberg primarily sees this as bad for Israel whereas Walt and Mearsheimer primarily see it as bad for the United States but surely it can be bad for both! And even if not, the disagreement here is about something relatively minor with both sides agreeing that the American failure to apply pressure is a bad thing, and both sides pointing the finger at AIPAC.

For my part, I disagree with both Goldberg and Mearsheimer-Walt. What’s keeping the settlements from being dismantled is not the views of AIPAC but the views of most ordinary Israelis who, for the time being at least, have given up hope that territorial concessions can win peace from the Palestinians. Why Goldberg feels compelled to use this issue as a cudgel against AIPAC and other groups is a mystery to me, especially when he has otherwise been a stalwart critic of the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis. He would better direct his rhetorical fire at the Palestinians, who are once again proving the validity of Abba Ebban’s famous quip: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

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Obama’s Iraq Problem

Once Barack Obama’s appeasement issue completes its turn through the most recent news cycle, the presumptive Democratic nominee will have to face a more worrisome analysis of another aspect of his foreign policy. While he’s been blurring the lines between pre-conditions and diplomatic preparations, between terrorists and terrorist sponsors, clarity has come to Iraq. The Maliki government, the citizens of Iraq, and the Iraqi military are resolved to keep their country on track. Barack Obama continues to deny them support in their efforts.

On Tuesday, during a speech in Iowa, Obama said, “The Bush Iraq policy that asks everything of our troops and nothing of Iraqi politicians is John McCain’s policy too,” without so much as a nod to the Iraqi government’s and Iraqi military’s recent string of achievements. In February, the Iraqi parliament passed three laws, all critical to the future success of statehood: a 2008 budget, a regulation on power-sharing of provincial and local governments, and a partial amnesty of Iraqi prisoners. In March, Prime Minister al-Maliki liberated the southern city of Basra from Sadrists militias thus bringing the country’s largest Sunni bloc back into the government. The Iraqi Army is now successfully ridding Bagdhad’s Sadr City of more Sadrist thugs and Iraqi-U.S. forces are rooting al Qaeda in Iraq from their last stronghold in the northern city of Mosul.

We already know that the world’s candidate has no problem denying American success (Obama has belittled the troop surge since its very inception), but how can the man who speaks incessantly of restoring the U.S.’s global image denigrate the efforts of America’s newest–and arguably most critical–ally? How can he continue to mock the fragile hopes of a newborn democracy? How can any American president do so while making friendly overtures toward a neighboring mullocracy?

If Obama thinks there is no cost for shunning allies, he should look at the recent case of Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker of the House slammed the Maliki government in February at the very same time that the Iraqis passed the above-mentioned laws. She called the troop surge “a failure” and resigned herself to the all-is-lost script of 2006. This past weekend, Pelosi met with a cold reception when visiting Iraq to begin her mea culpa. Time magazine reports:

Pelosi is something of a nonentity to average Iraqis. If they know who she is at all, she is generally seen as an antiwar caricature figure, someone whose views on U.S. troop withdrawals are widely considered unrealistic. Pelosi has said she wants to begin withdrawal of troops this year with a goal for the U.S to be out of Iraq by the end of 2009. It is a time frame virtually no Iraqi political leader sees as feasible. Not even Mahdi Army militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, the fiercest advocate of a U.S. withdrawal on the scene, has called for such a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The lack of popularity of Pelosi’s views was evident in the fact that her first day on the ground Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not make an effort to see her. Maliki is currently in the northern city of Mosul overseeing a crackdown on insurgent networks there. But the city has been largely quiet in recent days, and there was no obvious pressing reason for the Prime Minister to skip Pelosi’s arrival.

Such strained relations with a country so intimately involved with the U.S. is a liability. The problem is Barack Obama continues to espouse the same Iraq plan as Pelosi’s. Every time he says “I will bring this war to an end in 2009,” Iraqi leaders and citizens have reason to quake.

The U.S. is rightly concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq. Consider the risks of having an American president land in Iraq only to get the Pelosi treatment. No lofty talk about talk is going to assuage the concerns of Iraqis who know their futures depend, at the very least, on the recognition of their country’s progress.

Once Barack Obama’s appeasement issue completes its turn through the most recent news cycle, the presumptive Democratic nominee will have to face a more worrisome analysis of another aspect of his foreign policy. While he’s been blurring the lines between pre-conditions and diplomatic preparations, between terrorists and terrorist sponsors, clarity has come to Iraq. The Maliki government, the citizens of Iraq, and the Iraqi military are resolved to keep their country on track. Barack Obama continues to deny them support in their efforts.

On Tuesday, during a speech in Iowa, Obama said, “The Bush Iraq policy that asks everything of our troops and nothing of Iraqi politicians is John McCain’s policy too,” without so much as a nod to the Iraqi government’s and Iraqi military’s recent string of achievements. In February, the Iraqi parliament passed three laws, all critical to the future success of statehood: a 2008 budget, a regulation on power-sharing of provincial and local governments, and a partial amnesty of Iraqi prisoners. In March, Prime Minister al-Maliki liberated the southern city of Basra from Sadrists militias thus bringing the country’s largest Sunni bloc back into the government. The Iraqi Army is now successfully ridding Bagdhad’s Sadr City of more Sadrist thugs and Iraqi-U.S. forces are rooting al Qaeda in Iraq from their last stronghold in the northern city of Mosul.

We already know that the world’s candidate has no problem denying American success (Obama has belittled the troop surge since its very inception), but how can the man who speaks incessantly of restoring the U.S.’s global image denigrate the efforts of America’s newest–and arguably most critical–ally? How can he continue to mock the fragile hopes of a newborn democracy? How can any American president do so while making friendly overtures toward a neighboring mullocracy?

If Obama thinks there is no cost for shunning allies, he should look at the recent case of Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker of the House slammed the Maliki government in February at the very same time that the Iraqis passed the above-mentioned laws. She called the troop surge “a failure” and resigned herself to the all-is-lost script of 2006. This past weekend, Pelosi met with a cold reception when visiting Iraq to begin her mea culpa. Time magazine reports:

Pelosi is something of a nonentity to average Iraqis. If they know who she is at all, she is generally seen as an antiwar caricature figure, someone whose views on U.S. troop withdrawals are widely considered unrealistic. Pelosi has said she wants to begin withdrawal of troops this year with a goal for the U.S to be out of Iraq by the end of 2009. It is a time frame virtually no Iraqi political leader sees as feasible. Not even Mahdi Army militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, the fiercest advocate of a U.S. withdrawal on the scene, has called for such a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The lack of popularity of Pelosi’s views was evident in the fact that her first day on the ground Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not make an effort to see her. Maliki is currently in the northern city of Mosul overseeing a crackdown on insurgent networks there. But the city has been largely quiet in recent days, and there was no obvious pressing reason for the Prime Minister to skip Pelosi’s arrival.

Such strained relations with a country so intimately involved with the U.S. is a liability. The problem is Barack Obama continues to espouse the same Iraq plan as Pelosi’s. Every time he says “I will bring this war to an end in 2009,” Iraqi leaders and citizens have reason to quake.

The U.S. is rightly concerned about Iranian influence in Iraq. Consider the risks of having an American president land in Iraq only to get the Pelosi treatment. No lofty talk about talk is going to assuage the concerns of Iraqis who know their futures depend, at the very least, on the recognition of their country’s progress.

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Hillary, Apologize to the People of Zimbabwe

Here’s what Hillary Clinton said yesterday, speaking of the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to seat delegates elected in the rogue Florida and Michigan Democratic primaries:

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe,” Clinton explained. “Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

Last time I checked, dozens of Clinton supporters had not been murdered, thousands had not been driven from their homes, and Clinton has neither survived three assassination attempts nor is she living in exile in fear of encountering another. Also, Obama (who reads as Robert Mugabe in this account) has not in any sense lost the Democratic nomination–he’s the presumed nominee, fair and square.

This really is a new low in Hillary Clinton’s public life. The failure of state and national party officers to to resolve a bureaucratic mishap, however stubborn these individuals may be, does not in any sense compare to the eight-year campaign of forced starvation, destruction, murder, and outright election theft that has transpired under the regime of Robert Mugabe, particularly in the last two months. Even Clinton’s most passionate defenders must feel dismayed at how utterly pathetic their candidate has become.

Here’s what Hillary Clinton said yesterday, speaking of the Democratic National Committee’s refusal to seat delegates elected in the rogue Florida and Michigan Democratic primaries:

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe,” Clinton explained. “Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

Last time I checked, dozens of Clinton supporters had not been murdered, thousands had not been driven from their homes, and Clinton has neither survived three assassination attempts nor is she living in exile in fear of encountering another. Also, Obama (who reads as Robert Mugabe in this account) has not in any sense lost the Democratic nomination–he’s the presumed nominee, fair and square.

This really is a new low in Hillary Clinton’s public life. The failure of state and national party officers to to resolve a bureaucratic mishap, however stubborn these individuals may be, does not in any sense compare to the eight-year campaign of forced starvation, destruction, murder, and outright election theft that has transpired under the regime of Robert Mugabe, particularly in the last two months. Even Clinton’s most passionate defenders must feel dismayed at how utterly pathetic their candidate has become.

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Can’t Have That!

The Washington Post has yet another front page “Bad Lobbyist Works For McCain” story. What is missing: any indication that John McCain ever capitulated to any of the pleas from Charlie Black, who is the focus of this tale of supposedly dastardly intrigue. And if you suffer through half of it you get to the kicker: McCain threw Black and one of his clients out of his office for insinuating that McCain’s position on a certain matter was “parochial.” Well, that seals it. Can’t have a candidate who takes campaign guidance from lobbyists but does nothing for their clients.

And this is the Alice in Wonderland world of journalism and holier-than-thou politics in which we now reside. Even one of Barack Obama’s supporters lets on that lobbyists are not in and of themselves evil. And of course there is practically no coverage of the Obama’s lobbying connections.

But the real point here is: what has the candidate done with regard to lobbying interests? Did he vote for a $300 billion farm bill and an equally bloated energy bill? Or did he drive them crazy by investigating their clients and and rejecting their earmarks?

So far McCain has not done a very effective job of making this distinction, and instead has played into the mainstream media’s hands by firing loyal staffers and advisors with lobbying connections. Perhaps he should stop playing their game. It’s one he’ll never win–and one that ultimately does nothing for his efforts to show that he’s the one with the positive record on special interests.

The Washington Post has yet another front page “Bad Lobbyist Works For McCain” story. What is missing: any indication that John McCain ever capitulated to any of the pleas from Charlie Black, who is the focus of this tale of supposedly dastardly intrigue. And if you suffer through half of it you get to the kicker: McCain threw Black and one of his clients out of his office for insinuating that McCain’s position on a certain matter was “parochial.” Well, that seals it. Can’t have a candidate who takes campaign guidance from lobbyists but does nothing for their clients.

And this is the Alice in Wonderland world of journalism and holier-than-thou politics in which we now reside. Even one of Barack Obama’s supporters lets on that lobbyists are not in and of themselves evil. And of course there is practically no coverage of the Obama’s lobbying connections.

But the real point here is: what has the candidate done with regard to lobbying interests? Did he vote for a $300 billion farm bill and an equally bloated energy bill? Or did he drive them crazy by investigating their clients and and rejecting their earmarks?

So far McCain has not done a very effective job of making this distinction, and instead has played into the mainstream media’s hands by firing loyal staffers and advisors with lobbying connections. Perhaps he should stop playing their game. It’s one he’ll never win–and one that ultimately does nothing for his efforts to show that he’s the one with the positive record on special interests.

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Doh! (As in Doha)

Yesterday’s Qatari-sponsored agreement among Lebanese factions represents a major victory for Hezbollah and Syria. After all, both parties finally got what they had long demanded: Hezbollah will receive eleven seats in the cabinet-one more than it needed to secure veto power over all governmental decisions. The agreement also spells a major loss for the Bush administration, which had long demanded that Hezbollah submit to the will of the Lebanese majority and confirm General Michel Suleiman as president without such preconditions.

Of course, this didn’t stop the State Department from trying to sell the agreement as a “positive step.” During his press conference yesterday, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch argued that the agreement advanced UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, saying that there is “quite a bit of language” in the agreement regarding Hezbollah’s disarmament. Moreover, he said, the agreement signified that the “moral plane” had shifted against Hezbollah’s favor, catalyzing progress-however slowly-on this critical issue.

Yet Welch’s optimism is confounding. Indeed, the agreement says nothing at all about Hezbollah’s disarmament. Rather, it calls for “dialogue over strengthening state authority over all parts of Lebanon”–in other words, dialogue over an issue that was supposed to have been resolved after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war! Moreover, it calls for “defining the relations between the state and the different political groups in the country”–a process that will now lean heavily in Hezbollah’s favor, given its strengthened position within the Lebanese cabinet. Finally, there’s good reason to doubt that security and military powers will be “solely in the hands of the state” and that this authority will be spread out “over all parts of the country so that outlaws will have no safe havens.” Again, this is something that was supposed to have been in place following the 2006 war, but which Hezbollah has long evaded thanks to its military superiority and sustained support from Iran and Syria.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the “Doha agreement” is its transience: it will expire prior to the 2009 parliamentary elections, lasting just long enough for Hezbollah to exert substantial influence in drafting a new elections law. As a result, the agreement sounds eerily similar to the “Mecca Accord” that Hamas and Fatah signed in February 2007, which heralded an era of “national unity” governance-that is, until Hamas seized Gaza four months later. Indeed, we have seen how Hezbollah and Hamas both resort to violence in lieu of political compromise (h/t Noah Pollak). These short-term agreements are an integral part of that strategy.

Yesterday’s Qatari-sponsored agreement among Lebanese factions represents a major victory for Hezbollah and Syria. After all, both parties finally got what they had long demanded: Hezbollah will receive eleven seats in the cabinet-one more than it needed to secure veto power over all governmental decisions. The agreement also spells a major loss for the Bush administration, which had long demanded that Hezbollah submit to the will of the Lebanese majority and confirm General Michel Suleiman as president without such preconditions.

Of course, this didn’t stop the State Department from trying to sell the agreement as a “positive step.” During his press conference yesterday, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch argued that the agreement advanced UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, saying that there is “quite a bit of language” in the agreement regarding Hezbollah’s disarmament. Moreover, he said, the agreement signified that the “moral plane” had shifted against Hezbollah’s favor, catalyzing progress-however slowly-on this critical issue.

Yet Welch’s optimism is confounding. Indeed, the agreement says nothing at all about Hezbollah’s disarmament. Rather, it calls for “dialogue over strengthening state authority over all parts of Lebanon”–in other words, dialogue over an issue that was supposed to have been resolved after the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war! Moreover, it calls for “defining the relations between the state and the different political groups in the country”–a process that will now lean heavily in Hezbollah’s favor, given its strengthened position within the Lebanese cabinet. Finally, there’s good reason to doubt that security and military powers will be “solely in the hands of the state” and that this authority will be spread out “over all parts of the country so that outlaws will have no safe havens.” Again, this is something that was supposed to have been in place following the 2006 war, but which Hezbollah has long evaded thanks to its military superiority and sustained support from Iran and Syria.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of the “Doha agreement” is its transience: it will expire prior to the 2009 parliamentary elections, lasting just long enough for Hezbollah to exert substantial influence in drafting a new elections law. As a result, the agreement sounds eerily similar to the “Mecca Accord” that Hamas and Fatah signed in February 2007, which heralded an era of “national unity” governance-that is, until Hamas seized Gaza four months later. Indeed, we have seen how Hezbollah and Hamas both resort to violence in lieu of political compromise (h/t Noah Pollak). These short-term agreements are an integral part of that strategy.

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Not Land

Reuters reportsSyria rejects Israeli conditions for peace deal.” (Of course, many skeptics did not think that the peace talks would amount to anything, and they were right.) According to the Reuters piece, Syria “had received guarantees from Israel via Turkey for a full withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.” So what held up the talks? “Conditions put by the Jewish state.” Hmm. Murky and disturbing. And the details of those “conditions” have yet to emerge–and they might never–but one distressing point has been re-confirmed: Land is not the central issue.

UPDATE: Israel’s conditions are emerging: Syria refuses to “cut off Hizbullah, Iran.”

Reuters reportsSyria rejects Israeli conditions for peace deal.” (Of course, many skeptics did not think that the peace talks would amount to anything, and they were right.) According to the Reuters piece, Syria “had received guarantees from Israel via Turkey for a full withdrawal from the occupied Golan Heights.” So what held up the talks? “Conditions put by the Jewish state.” Hmm. Murky and disturbing. And the details of those “conditions” have yet to emerge–and they might never–but one distressing point has been re-confirmed: Land is not the central issue.

UPDATE: Israel’s conditions are emerging: Syria refuses to “cut off Hizbullah, Iran.”

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The Paper Of Record

It may be the McCain camp’s least favorite publication, but they would be hard pressed to come up with pieces that better serve their current message than two which appear in today’s New York Times.

First, this op-ed, which corrects Barack Obama’s take on the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit:

Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. . .Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world. . . .

A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

The second is a front-page story letting on that Jews in Florida actually have real concerns about Obama. And who’d have thought it is not just irrational fear? (The Times dutifully reports “the resistance toward Mr. Obama appears to be rooted in something more than factual misperception; even those with an accurate understanding of Mr. Obama share the hesitations.”) Lots of Florida Jews actually seem troubled by his close association with Palestinian activists, his willingness to hold direct, unconditional negotiations with Iran, and an overall sense he’s likely to “venture too close to questionable characters.” (But there is something for Obama apologists, too–the Times found some other Jews who confess that they think it’s all racism or irrational fear of Obama’s middle name.)

So from the McCain perspective it appears there is a little good news even the Times thinks is fit to print.

It may be the McCain camp’s least favorite publication, but they would be hard pressed to come up with pieces that better serve their current message than two which appear in today’s New York Times.

First, this op-ed, which corrects Barack Obama’s take on the Kennedy-Khrushchev summit:

Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. . .Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world. . . .

A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

The second is a front-page story letting on that Jews in Florida actually have real concerns about Obama. And who’d have thought it is not just irrational fear? (The Times dutifully reports “the resistance toward Mr. Obama appears to be rooted in something more than factual misperception; even those with an accurate understanding of Mr. Obama share the hesitations.”) Lots of Florida Jews actually seem troubled by his close association with Palestinian activists, his willingness to hold direct, unconditional negotiations with Iran, and an overall sense he’s likely to “venture too close to questionable characters.” (But there is something for Obama apologists, too–the Times found some other Jews who confess that they think it’s all racism or irrational fear of Obama’s middle name.)

So from the McCain perspective it appears there is a little good news even the Times thinks is fit to print.

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Speaking Truth to Appeasement

Moshe Arens, the Likudnik who was thrice Israel’s defense minister, has a bracing op-ed in Haaretz in which he reminds those who insist that terrorism cannot be defeated by military force that they are forgetting (very recent) history:

As long as Israel seemed unable to find an effective answer to Palestinian terror [during the second intifada], the defeatists in our ranks claimed that terror could not be defeated by force, while the more cautious argued that terror could not be defeated by the use of force alone. The implication was that Israel had no choice but to concede to at least some of the terrorists’ demands–that they must be given a “political horizon.”

But once the Israel Defense Forces and the security services began to seriously tackle Palestinian terror, following the massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya in the spring of 2002, it quickly became clear that terror could be defeated by force. As a matter of fact, it could be defeated only by the use of force. The terrorists view any hints of Israeli willingness to give in to a portion of their essentially limitless demands as a sign of weakness, which only serves to encourage further acts of terror.

But Israel’s victory over Palestinian terror, which put an end to the daily bouts of suicide bombings, also induced amnesia in the minds of some of Israel’s leaders. The lesson was quickly forgotten.

Exactly right. The extent to which Israel’s military victory in the intifada is simply not acceptable for discussion in enlightened quarters is amazing as a matter of cultural psychology. But this refusal also has a crippling effect on Israeli politics, as the military option against Hamas is continuously framed as a foreordained failure. Arens concludes:

A truce with the terrorists, meaning that Israel would cease its attacks against organizations in Gaza whose leaderships are pledged to Israel’s destruction, is ludicrous and self-defeating. It has not worked with Hezbollah, it will not work with Iran, and it won’t work with Hamas. Until such time as Israel adopts the only strategy that works in the war against terror — attacking the terrorists until they are soundly defeated — Israel will continue to be weakened, and its citizens will continue to be casualties of terrorist acts.

Read the whole thing.

Moshe Arens, the Likudnik who was thrice Israel’s defense minister, has a bracing op-ed in Haaretz in which he reminds those who insist that terrorism cannot be defeated by military force that they are forgetting (very recent) history:

As long as Israel seemed unable to find an effective answer to Palestinian terror [during the second intifada], the defeatists in our ranks claimed that terror could not be defeated by force, while the more cautious argued that terror could not be defeated by the use of force alone. The implication was that Israel had no choice but to concede to at least some of the terrorists’ demands–that they must be given a “political horizon.”

But once the Israel Defense Forces and the security services began to seriously tackle Palestinian terror, following the massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya in the spring of 2002, it quickly became clear that terror could be defeated by force. As a matter of fact, it could be defeated only by the use of force. The terrorists view any hints of Israeli willingness to give in to a portion of their essentially limitless demands as a sign of weakness, which only serves to encourage further acts of terror.

But Israel’s victory over Palestinian terror, which put an end to the daily bouts of suicide bombings, also induced amnesia in the minds of some of Israel’s leaders. The lesson was quickly forgotten.

Exactly right. The extent to which Israel’s military victory in the intifada is simply not acceptable for discussion in enlightened quarters is amazing as a matter of cultural psychology. But this refusal also has a crippling effect on Israeli politics, as the military option against Hamas is continuously framed as a foreordained failure. Arens concludes:

A truce with the terrorists, meaning that Israel would cease its attacks against organizations in Gaza whose leaderships are pledged to Israel’s destruction, is ludicrous and self-defeating. It has not worked with Hezbollah, it will not work with Iran, and it won’t work with Hamas. Until such time as Israel adopts the only strategy that works in the war against terror — attacking the terrorists until they are soundly defeated — Israel will continue to be weakened, and its citizens will continue to be casualties of terrorist acts.

Read the whole thing.

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A Talk in Tehran

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reports that two organizations at Tehran University will host a May 26th conference on “Israel’s End” in order to coincide with “the sad 60th anniversary of Palestine’s occupation by the Zionists.”

Here’s the IRNA:

The guests of the conference that would be attended by Iranian and foreign students of universities in Tehran will be intellectuals and university professors from Egypt, Venezuela, Morocco, Lebanon, Indonesia, the United States, Pakistan, Argentina, India, Iraq, Syria, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, France, Tunisia, and a number of other countries.

In March, the Justice-Seeking Student Movement, one of groups organizing the upcoming confab, offered a bounty of more than $1 million for the assassination of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Mossad director Meir Dagan, and military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin.

What kind of student activist group has a cool million laying around in a mercenary fund? The kind under the guidance of the “Council for Spreading Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Thoughts.” Yes, that is a real, government-organized council. And yes, the Justice-Seeking Student Movement is under their direct influence. So, the May 26th international conference on the liquidation of Israel is, in its turn, an Ahmadinejad-sponsored event. It’s hard to say whether or not IRNA’s claim of U.S. attendees is genuine–but there’s little reason to doubt that some American academics would jump at this golden opportunity.

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reports that two organizations at Tehran University will host a May 26th conference on “Israel’s End” in order to coincide with “the sad 60th anniversary of Palestine’s occupation by the Zionists.”

Here’s the IRNA:

The guests of the conference that would be attended by Iranian and foreign students of universities in Tehran will be intellectuals and university professors from Egypt, Venezuela, Morocco, Lebanon, Indonesia, the United States, Pakistan, Argentina, India, Iraq, Syria, Chile, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, France, Tunisia, and a number of other countries.

In March, the Justice-Seeking Student Movement, one of groups organizing the upcoming confab, offered a bounty of more than $1 million for the assassination of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Mossad director Meir Dagan, and military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin.

What kind of student activist group has a cool million laying around in a mercenary fund? The kind under the guidance of the “Council for Spreading Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Thoughts.” Yes, that is a real, government-organized council. And yes, the Justice-Seeking Student Movement is under their direct influence. So, the May 26th international conference on the liquidation of Israel is, in its turn, an Ahmadinejad-sponsored event. It’s hard to say whether or not IRNA’s claim of U.S. attendees is genuine–but there’s little reason to doubt that some American academics would jump at this golden opportunity.

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One Out Of Two

Robert Novak spots two signals from the McCain camp: they will come out blazing about Barack Obama’s odd associations(Bill Ayers specifically) and they aren’t going to spend time on “health care mandates and home foreclosures.”

As to the first, this may come as a relief to conservatives who were dismayed that McCain seemed queasy about taking on his foe on issues which it turns out the public cares about. Noteworthy in its absence, however, is any mention of Reverend Wright. One wonders then if we will face some Byzantine rules about which anti-American, hate mangers are fair game and which are not.

The second, if an accurate representation of the McCain camp thinking, is potentially disastrous. There seems no surer formula for electoral calamity than for him than to live up to the Democrats’ favorite cartoonish portrait of an out-of-touch and indifferent Republican. By ignoring two top issues on most voters’ minds–health care and economic insecurity–he will surely forfeit whatever chances he has to pull in independent voters and even some of those disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters.

McCain’s hopes lie not replaying George H.W. Bush, who was dinged as oblivious to the recession (which in retrospect was mild) and bored with a domestic agenda, but in a reform-minded vision which offers some real alternatives to Barack Obama’s standard-fare liberalism. While some might like to encourage his natural predilection to ignore domestic matters, it is one entreaty he should ignore.

Robert Novak spots two signals from the McCain camp: they will come out blazing about Barack Obama’s odd associations(Bill Ayers specifically) and they aren’t going to spend time on “health care mandates and home foreclosures.”

As to the first, this may come as a relief to conservatives who were dismayed that McCain seemed queasy about taking on his foe on issues which it turns out the public cares about. Noteworthy in its absence, however, is any mention of Reverend Wright. One wonders then if we will face some Byzantine rules about which anti-American, hate mangers are fair game and which are not.

The second, if an accurate representation of the McCain camp thinking, is potentially disastrous. There seems no surer formula for electoral calamity than for him than to live up to the Democrats’ favorite cartoonish portrait of an out-of-touch and indifferent Republican. By ignoring two top issues on most voters’ minds–health care and economic insecurity–he will surely forfeit whatever chances he has to pull in independent voters and even some of those disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters.

McCain’s hopes lie not replaying George H.W. Bush, who was dinged as oblivious to the recession (which in retrospect was mild) and bored with a domestic agenda, but in a reform-minded vision which offers some real alternatives to Barack Obama’s standard-fare liberalism. While some might like to encourage his natural predilection to ignore domestic matters, it is one entreaty he should ignore.

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Al Qaeda Weakening . . .

In a story from the Associated Press we read this:

The Al Qaeda terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who assumed interim command of U.S. Central Command on March 28, acknowledged that Al Qaeda remains a relentless foe and has not disappeared as a serious threat to stability. But he said an accelerated U.S. and Iraq campaign to pressure Al Qaeda has paid big dividends. “Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted Al Qaeda, probably to a level that we haven’t seen at any time in my experience,” said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

And this:

Earlier Wednesday, the Army general who oversees U.S. commando operations in the Middle East said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has yet to be vanquished but is increasingly running out of places where local Iraqis will accommodate the group’s extremist ideology. “Is he still a lethal and dangerous threat to us? Absolutely,” Maj. Gen. John Mulholland said in an interview with reporters at the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command, the organization with global responsibility for providing Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos to combat terrorism. . . . Mulholland acknowledged that Al Qaeda, which U.S. intelligence says is led by foreign terrorists but is populated mainly by local Iraqis seeking to establish a radical Islamic state, still poses a major challenge in the Mosul area of northern Iraq and has occasionally slipped back into areas like Anbar province in western Iraq. “Do we think he can at least try to regain a foothold in Anbar province? Yes, we do think he’s trying to do that,” Mulholland said. While U.S. officials do not believe Al Qaeda is succeeding in re-establishing a significant presence in Anbar – which the group was forced to abandon a year ago as local Sunni Arabs turned violently against it – it does appear that small Al Qaeda cells can still slip into isolated areas and make trouble, he said. “I don’t want to paint a picture – or to convey to you in any way – that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being completely destroyed or rendered irrelevant, because that’s not the case,” he said. “They are still potentially a threat capable of death and destruction against the Iraqi people and our own forces there. But it is not something he can do easily any more.”

This news should be seen within the context of Max’s post earlier today in which he points out that the number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month. And that news, in turn, follows on progress we’ve witnessed in the last few days in both Basra and Sadr City. And earlier today at his confirmation hearing to take over the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus said this:

I should note here that the number of security incidents in Iraq last week was the lowest in over four years and it appears that the week that ends tomorrow will see an even lower number of incidents. This has been achieved despite having now withdrawn 3 of the 5 Brigade Combat Teams that will have redeployed without replacement by the end of July. Recent operations in Basra, Mosul, and now Sadr City have contributed significantly to the reduction in violence, and Prime Minister Maliki, his government, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people deserve considerable credit for the positive developments since Ambassador Crocker and I testified a month-and-a-half ago. In the months ahead, Coalition Forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces in pursuing Al Qaeda-Iraq, their extremist partners, and militia elements that threaten security in Iraq. And though, as always, tough fights and hard work lie ahead, I believe that the path that we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations. [emphasis added]

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, there is no question that on almost every front–including the political and economic front–we’re seeing heartening progress in Iraq. It’s virtually impossible to argue that after far too many years of pursuing a flawed strategy, which came at an enormous cost to both the Iraqi people and the United States, we now have in place the right strategy being executed by the right people. Progress that was unimaginable in Iraq fifteen months ago has been made–and a nation that was bleeding and dying is now binding up its wounds.

General Petraeus’s warning that tough fights and hard work lie ahead cannot be repeated often enough. Military victories in Iraq, as difficult as they have been, are still easier to attain than rebuilding a traumatized and broken society. But we really have no other choice. Given the hopeful developments we have seen since the surge began, to leave now, before our job is complete, would be reckless and shameful and probably catastrophic.

In the latter half of 2006 it was legitimate for war critics to argue that Iraq was irredeemable lost and therefore we should cut our losses and leave. But that case can no longer be made. The debate has shifted from what the right strategy is to one of national will. Will our nation, weary of this long and costly war, continue along the path which has brought about indisputable, and in some cases breathtaking, progress? If we do, there will be honor in our efforts–and, it’s now reasonable to say, success as well.

In a story from the Associated Press we read this:

The Al Qaeda terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who assumed interim command of U.S. Central Command on March 28, acknowledged that Al Qaeda remains a relentless foe and has not disappeared as a serious threat to stability. But he said an accelerated U.S. and Iraq campaign to pressure Al Qaeda has paid big dividends. “Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted Al Qaeda, probably to a level that we haven’t seen at any time in my experience,” said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

And this:

Earlier Wednesday, the Army general who oversees U.S. commando operations in the Middle East said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has yet to be vanquished but is increasingly running out of places where local Iraqis will accommodate the group’s extremist ideology. “Is he still a lethal and dangerous threat to us? Absolutely,” Maj. Gen. John Mulholland said in an interview with reporters at the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command, the organization with global responsibility for providing Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos to combat terrorism. . . . Mulholland acknowledged that Al Qaeda, which U.S. intelligence says is led by foreign terrorists but is populated mainly by local Iraqis seeking to establish a radical Islamic state, still poses a major challenge in the Mosul area of northern Iraq and has occasionally slipped back into areas like Anbar province in western Iraq. “Do we think he can at least try to regain a foothold in Anbar province? Yes, we do think he’s trying to do that,” Mulholland said. While U.S. officials do not believe Al Qaeda is succeeding in re-establishing a significant presence in Anbar – which the group was forced to abandon a year ago as local Sunni Arabs turned violently against it – it does appear that small Al Qaeda cells can still slip into isolated areas and make trouble, he said. “I don’t want to paint a picture – or to convey to you in any way – that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being completely destroyed or rendered irrelevant, because that’s not the case,” he said. “They are still potentially a threat capable of death and destruction against the Iraqi people and our own forces there. But it is not something he can do easily any more.”

This news should be seen within the context of Max’s post earlier today in which he points out that the number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month. And that news, in turn, follows on progress we’ve witnessed in the last few days in both Basra and Sadr City. And earlier today at his confirmation hearing to take over the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus said this:

I should note here that the number of security incidents in Iraq last week was the lowest in over four years and it appears that the week that ends tomorrow will see an even lower number of incidents. This has been achieved despite having now withdrawn 3 of the 5 Brigade Combat Teams that will have redeployed without replacement by the end of July. Recent operations in Basra, Mosul, and now Sadr City have contributed significantly to the reduction in violence, and Prime Minister Maliki, his government, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people deserve considerable credit for the positive developments since Ambassador Crocker and I testified a month-and-a-half ago. In the months ahead, Coalition Forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces in pursuing Al Qaeda-Iraq, their extremist partners, and militia elements that threaten security in Iraq. And though, as always, tough fights and hard work lie ahead, I believe that the path that we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations. [emphasis added]

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, there is no question that on almost every front–including the political and economic front–we’re seeing heartening progress in Iraq. It’s virtually impossible to argue that after far too many years of pursuing a flawed strategy, which came at an enormous cost to both the Iraqi people and the United States, we now have in place the right strategy being executed by the right people. Progress that was unimaginable in Iraq fifteen months ago has been made–and a nation that was bleeding and dying is now binding up its wounds.

General Petraeus’s warning that tough fights and hard work lie ahead cannot be repeated often enough. Military victories in Iraq, as difficult as they have been, are still easier to attain than rebuilding a traumatized and broken society. But we really have no other choice. Given the hopeful developments we have seen since the surge began, to leave now, before our job is complete, would be reckless and shameful and probably catastrophic.

In the latter half of 2006 it was legitimate for war critics to argue that Iraq was irredeemable lost and therefore we should cut our losses and leave. But that case can no longer be made. The debate has shifted from what the right strategy is to one of national will. Will our nation, weary of this long and costly war, continue along the path which has brought about indisputable, and in some cases breathtaking, progress? If we do, there will be honor in our efforts–and, it’s now reasonable to say, success as well.

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Yikes . . .

Senator Jim Webb, often mentioned in those breathless silly season columns on potential running mates, has managed a quadruple-play, offending at least four groups with this comment on racial polarization within the Democratic primary:

“We shouldn’t be surprised at the way they are voting right now,” said Webb in an interview with MSNBC. “This is the result of how affirmative action, which was basically a justifiable concept when it applied to African-Americans, expanded to every single ethnic group in America that was not white. And these were the people who had not received benefits and were not getting anything out of it.”

Let’s count up the objections: 1) Supporters of affirmative action reject the notion that whites have legitimate grievances about race-based programs; 2) Hispanics and Asian Americans will love the notion that they are less deserving of the preferences doled out to African Americans; 3) Opponents of race-based preferences will ask why Webb thinks treating citizens by race (apparently only one group) is “a justifiable concept”; and 4) All those people who voted against Obama for reasons having nothing to do with race or affirmative action won’t like being labeled resentful–if not bitter. (I may have missed a few.)

It’s so nice to see how this campaign has moved us into a post-racial state of bliss.

Senator Jim Webb, often mentioned in those breathless silly season columns on potential running mates, has managed a quadruple-play, offending at least four groups with this comment on racial polarization within the Democratic primary:

“We shouldn’t be surprised at the way they are voting right now,” said Webb in an interview with MSNBC. “This is the result of how affirmative action, which was basically a justifiable concept when it applied to African-Americans, expanded to every single ethnic group in America that was not white. And these were the people who had not received benefits and were not getting anything out of it.”

Let’s count up the objections: 1) Supporters of affirmative action reject the notion that whites have legitimate grievances about race-based programs; 2) Hispanics and Asian Americans will love the notion that they are less deserving of the preferences doled out to African Americans; 3) Opponents of race-based preferences will ask why Webb thinks treating citizens by race (apparently only one group) is “a justifiable concept”; and 4) All those people who voted against Obama for reasons having nothing to do with race or affirmative action won’t like being labeled resentful–if not bitter. (I may have missed a few.)

It’s so nice to see how this campaign has moved us into a post-racial state of bliss.

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Good News from Mosul

On top of the good news in recent days from Basra and Baghdad now comes good news from Mosul–the last stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division North, the “number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month.” That’s good news for America and Iraq–and bad news for all those Democrats who long ago wrote off the war as lost.

On top of the good news in recent days from Basra and Baghdad now comes good news from Mosul–the last stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq. According to Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division North, the “number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month.” That’s good news for America and Iraq–and bad news for all those Democrats who long ago wrote off the war as lost.

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Family Therapy

In 1999, Christopher Hitchens said Bill Clinton was

in terrible trouble mentally and psychologically and is a completely hollow narcissist and egomaniac. And he thinks that the best therapy for it is being president. My view is that presidential therapy hasn’t worked for him and shouldn’t have been tried. But he certainly does need professional help

It seems Clinton is still an advocate of “presidential therapy” and is recommending it to the whole Clinton clan. People magazine has a story in which Bill talks about Hillary’s

ability to endure in the face of all the blows that have been rained on her: outspent, dismissed, denigrated, declared dead . . . when I met her, I found that in her personal relationships she lacked self-confidence and was painfully shy. She is having more fun now than at the beginning. If you look at her, she seems perfectly relaxed, doesn’t she?

Perfectly!

You have to admit: Hitchens’s formulation rings true. This intimate rant of Bill’s is evidence of how the Clintons see their relationship with American citizens. We’re here to serve, to help, to encourage. By the way, Bill also talks about how the campaign trail has helped Chelsea go from being a tearfully defensive mother’s daughter to a skilled stumpswoman. The question here is, how do we terminate therapy?

In 1999, Christopher Hitchens said Bill Clinton was

in terrible trouble mentally and psychologically and is a completely hollow narcissist and egomaniac. And he thinks that the best therapy for it is being president. My view is that presidential therapy hasn’t worked for him and shouldn’t have been tried. But he certainly does need professional help

It seems Clinton is still an advocate of “presidential therapy” and is recommending it to the whole Clinton clan. People magazine has a story in which Bill talks about Hillary’s

ability to endure in the face of all the blows that have been rained on her: outspent, dismissed, denigrated, declared dead . . . when I met her, I found that in her personal relationships she lacked self-confidence and was painfully shy. She is having more fun now than at the beginning. If you look at her, she seems perfectly relaxed, doesn’t she?

Perfectly!

You have to admit: Hitchens’s formulation rings true. This intimate rant of Bill’s is evidence of how the Clintons see their relationship with American citizens. We’re here to serve, to help, to encourage. By the way, Bill also talks about how the campaign trail has helped Chelsea go from being a tearfully defensive mother’s daughter to a skilled stumpswoman. The question here is, how do we terminate therapy?

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Jaw, Jaw

In the March issue of Commentary, Nathan Thrall wrote a splendid review of Treacherous Alliance by Trita Parsi, an absurdly over-praised book that purports to explain the “secret dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States” but which actually only succeeds in trying to explain away various excrescences on the face of the Islamic Republic of Iran.   

Thrall is back in today’s New York Times with an equally splendid op-ed (coauthored with Jesse James Wilkins) that explains, by means of a vivid historical example, exactly what is wrong with the idea of negotiating with ones enemies without preconditions–precisely the kind of negotiations that Barack Obama has promised to hold with the leaders of Iran.

Kennedy’s one presidential meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, suggests that there are legitimate reasons to fear negotiating with one’s adversaries. Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings – his Harvard thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich” – he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.

What happened in that summit? The title of Thrall and Wilkins’ piece, Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed, says it all.

In the March issue of Commentary, Nathan Thrall wrote a splendid review of Treacherous Alliance by Trita Parsi, an absurdly over-praised book that purports to explain the “secret dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States” but which actually only succeeds in trying to explain away various excrescences on the face of the Islamic Republic of Iran.   

Thrall is back in today’s New York Times with an equally splendid op-ed (coauthored with Jesse James Wilkins) that explains, by means of a vivid historical example, exactly what is wrong with the idea of negotiating with ones enemies without preconditions–precisely the kind of negotiations that Barack Obama has promised to hold with the leaders of Iran.

Kennedy’s one presidential meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, suggests that there are legitimate reasons to fear negotiating with one’s adversaries. Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings – his Harvard thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich” – he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.

What happened in that summit? The title of Thrall and Wilkins’ piece, Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed, says it all.

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Facts Staring Us In The Face

Sometimes there is a story that neither liberals or conservatives like, but which is substantively quite important in a longer term policy debate. The rather abject failure of RomneyCare in Massachusetts is just such a story. Liberals don’t like to be reminded that health care mandates and government-regulated insurance plans lead to spiraling costs and don’t really result in universal coverage. Conservatives don’t like to be reminded that it was a Republican governor (one whom many are rooting to be on the McCain ticket) who made health care mandates politically popular.

But we now have ample evidence from some liberal havens like Massachusetts and California that liberal universal health care schemes don’t work. Even if partisans on both sides don’t want to talk about it shouldn’t John McCain? After all he’s the one with the market-based health plan.

Sometimes there is a story that neither liberals or conservatives like, but which is substantively quite important in a longer term policy debate. The rather abject failure of RomneyCare in Massachusetts is just such a story. Liberals don’t like to be reminded that health care mandates and government-regulated insurance plans lead to spiraling costs and don’t really result in universal coverage. Conservatives don’t like to be reminded that it was a Republican governor (one whom many are rooting to be on the McCain ticket) who made health care mandates politically popular.

But we now have ample evidence from some liberal havens like Massachusetts and California that liberal universal health care schemes don’t work. Even if partisans on both sides don’t want to talk about it shouldn’t John McCain? After all he’s the one with the market-based health plan.

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In 2004 He Sounded Like McCain, Or George Bush

The Best of the Web (h/t Andy McCarthy) points out that in 2004 Barack Obama sounded a far different note on Iran, declaring:

“[H]aving a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. . . . And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.” . . .Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently. “With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.”

It is stories like this (and the most recent episode of flip-floppery on meeting with rogue state leaders, which the mainstream media has finally recognized) that leave you scratching your head. Is Obama a savvy realist just trying to navigate through a Democratic primary? Is he a Leftist dove trying to reassure conservatives by tossing about tough rhetoric now and then? Or is he an utterly unprincipled Zelig-like character who tries out whatever the market will bear and never acknowledges that Statement A contradicts Statement B.

If the first, I’m reassured. If the second, I’m petrified. If the third, Hillary Clinton got a bum rap. But what do his devoted fans think?

As for McCain, he might be well advised to follow Karl Rove’s advice and press Obama on exactly what he’s up to with all these proposed get-togethers. Rove explains:

If Mr. Obama believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility. He also needs to explain why unconditional, unilateral meetings with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea’s Kim Jong Il will not deeply unsettle our allies.

But this is much like Obama’s vaunted “strike force.” (That’s his favorite deux ex machina; it allows him to evacuate Iraq now but offer the prospect of returning if Al Qaeda ever, you know, really becomes a problem in Iraq.) It’s a meaningless concept, arguably at odds with other positions he takes and designed to stymie the opposition. But if not pressed by McCain and forced to explain what he is really talking about and what he is going to accomplish, the public will simply assume he knows what he talking about. It is increasingly clear on a number of fronts that this is a faulty assumption.

The Best of the Web (h/t Andy McCarthy) points out that in 2004 Barack Obama sounded a far different note on Iran, declaring:

“[H]aving a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. . . . And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.” . . .Obama said that violent Islamic extremists are a vastly different brand of foe than was the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they must be treated differently. “With the Soviet Union, you did get the sense that they were operating on a model that we could comprehend in terms of, they don’t want to be blown up, we don’t want to be blown up, so you do game theory and calculate ways to contain,” Obama said. “I think there are certain elements within the Islamic world right now that don’t make those same calculations.”

It is stories like this (and the most recent episode of flip-floppery on meeting with rogue state leaders, which the mainstream media has finally recognized) that leave you scratching your head. Is Obama a savvy realist just trying to navigate through a Democratic primary? Is he a Leftist dove trying to reassure conservatives by tossing about tough rhetoric now and then? Or is he an utterly unprincipled Zelig-like character who tries out whatever the market will bear and never acknowledges that Statement A contradicts Statement B.

If the first, I’m reassured. If the second, I’m petrified. If the third, Hillary Clinton got a bum rap. But what do his devoted fans think?

As for McCain, he might be well advised to follow Karl Rove’s advice and press Obama on exactly what he’s up to with all these proposed get-togethers. Rove explains:

If Mr. Obama believes he can change the behavior of these nations by meeting without preconditions, he owes it to the voters to explain, in specific terms, what he can say that will lead these states to abandon their hostility. He also needs to explain why unconditional, unilateral meetings with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea’s Kim Jong Il will not deeply unsettle our allies.

But this is much like Obama’s vaunted “strike force.” (That’s his favorite deux ex machina; it allows him to evacuate Iraq now but offer the prospect of returning if Al Qaeda ever, you know, really becomes a problem in Iraq.) It’s a meaningless concept, arguably at odds with other positions he takes and designed to stymie the opposition. But if not pressed by McCain and forced to explain what he is really talking about and what he is going to accomplish, the public will simply assume he knows what he talking about. It is increasingly clear on a number of fronts that this is a faulty assumption.

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Excluding Michigan and Florida Delegates Is Like Slavery

Hillary Clinton goes around the bend of logic, common sense, and history, claiming that failure to count the previously excluded Michigan and Florida delegates is like reinstituting slavery, rolling back women’s right to vote, George W. Bush’s alleged theft of the 2000 election, etc. Really. It’s a wonder the International Court of Justice hasn’t been convened.

Listen, it may be smart politics to count these votes. It may be unfair in some sense to exclude votes from Democrats who made the effort to turn out, but come on. Political parties set all types of rules — crazy ones with superdelegates and indecisive proportionate voting, for example. There is nothing illegal or immoral about this.

But it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle of Democrats, who made the 2000 Florida recount into an exercise in rhetorical overkill, receive some cosmic justice in having to deal with Clinton’s arguments.

In the end I suspect Obama will just give her the delegates and avoid the fuss. After all, he has delegates to spare.

Hillary Clinton goes around the bend of logic, common sense, and history, claiming that failure to count the previously excluded Michigan and Florida delegates is like reinstituting slavery, rolling back women’s right to vote, George W. Bush’s alleged theft of the 2000 election, etc. Really. It’s a wonder the International Court of Justice hasn’t been convened.

Listen, it may be smart politics to count these votes. It may be unfair in some sense to exclude votes from Democrats who made the effort to turn out, but come on. Political parties set all types of rules — crazy ones with superdelegates and indecisive proportionate voting, for example. There is nothing illegal or immoral about this.

But it’s hard not to enjoy the spectacle of Democrats, who made the 2000 Florida recount into an exercise in rhetorical overkill, receive some cosmic justice in having to deal with Clinton’s arguments.

In the end I suspect Obama will just give her the delegates and avoid the fuss. After all, he has delegates to spare.

Read Less




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