Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 29, 2008

It Would Help If. . .

The broadcast networks are donating money and raising awareness about cancer. That is commendable. But since they are in the news business perhaps they could start by doing a feature story on Senator Charles Grassley’s shenanigans with the FDA which are literally killing cancer patients. The former head of the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products writes:

The senator is demanding a full-scale review of each and every product ever approved, and is asking for a rejudgment by GAO “to ensure that drugs approved on surrogate endpoints are both safe and effective.” You can bet these bully tactics will have an effect. Look for greater demands by the FDA for cancer programs to not use the accelerated approval pathway. . . The FDA ordered a change toward the much stricter endpoint of overall survival, adding years to the time it will take to evaluate the drug’s efficacy. U.S. cancer-drug development stands on a precipice overlooking a new dark age in which each new product’s development is longer and costlier than the last. Companies may decide it is not financially viable to even bother developing new drugs, and the pipeline for new products to treat cancer could slow even more. Mr. Grassley’s legacy could be thousands of additional cancer deaths.

In fact, there are lots of stories out there which would help current and future cancer patients. The networks could explain how frivolous litigation keeps life-saving drugs off the market. Or they can detail how excessive government regulation prevents patients from getting breakthrough cures. It is no secret that timid bureaucrats cowed by media firestorms and litigation are often a barrier to new and promising treatments.

So the next time a candidate opposes tort reform, we should expect the news networks to jump on the story and remind us that runaway litigation impairs health care, prevents or delays new drugs from coming to market, and sets back the war on cancer, right? And, of course, they should probe the record of the presidential candidates on litigation reform so we can see whether trial lawyers or the health of the American people carry more weight. Doing all these things–ferreting out stories that might make a real difference to cancer patients–would be the best service they could provide.

The broadcast networks are donating money and raising awareness about cancer. That is commendable. But since they are in the news business perhaps they could start by doing a feature story on Senator Charles Grassley’s shenanigans with the FDA which are literally killing cancer patients. The former head of the FDA’s Office of Oncology Products writes:

The senator is demanding a full-scale review of each and every product ever approved, and is asking for a rejudgment by GAO “to ensure that drugs approved on surrogate endpoints are both safe and effective.” You can bet these bully tactics will have an effect. Look for greater demands by the FDA for cancer programs to not use the accelerated approval pathway. . . The FDA ordered a change toward the much stricter endpoint of overall survival, adding years to the time it will take to evaluate the drug’s efficacy. U.S. cancer-drug development stands on a precipice overlooking a new dark age in which each new product’s development is longer and costlier than the last. Companies may decide it is not financially viable to even bother developing new drugs, and the pipeline for new products to treat cancer could slow even more. Mr. Grassley’s legacy could be thousands of additional cancer deaths.

In fact, there are lots of stories out there which would help current and future cancer patients. The networks could explain how frivolous litigation keeps life-saving drugs off the market. Or they can detail how excessive government regulation prevents patients from getting breakthrough cures. It is no secret that timid bureaucrats cowed by media firestorms and litigation are often a barrier to new and promising treatments.

So the next time a candidate opposes tort reform, we should expect the news networks to jump on the story and remind us that runaway litigation impairs health care, prevents or delays new drugs from coming to market, and sets back the war on cancer, right? And, of course, they should probe the record of the presidential candidates on litigation reform so we can see whether trial lawyers or the health of the American people carry more weight. Doing all these things–ferreting out stories that might make a real difference to cancer patients–would be the best service they could provide.

Read Less

And the World Nods

If someone were to ask you to compose the most unlikely beginning for a story from the French news agency AFP it might go something like this:

World leaders, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Thursday hailed Baghdad’s progress in combating violence and stabilising Iraq.

A declaration adopted by 100 delegations at a Stockholm conference said the participants “recognised the important efforts made by the (Iraqi) government to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across Iraq.”

It also acknowledged political and economic progress made, and said that “given the difficult context, these successes are all the more remarkable.”

At least, that would have been a good try. The three paragraphs above are taken from a story put out today by AFP.

The piece goes on, rightly, to note the fragility of such progress. But the larger point is critical: Iraq, long written off as an unsalvageable disaster, is being officially recognized for its “remarkable” progress. And by whom? The UN and other world leaders whose respect we had supposedly squandered. The only people who need convincing that Iraq has seen extraordinary political progress are the Democrats who’ve hitched themselves to the anti-Bush bandwagon. If a Democrat makes it into the White House and is still so interested in world opinion, he or she may have to finally acknowledge that Iraq has changed. They wouldn’t want to “reinforce the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.”

If someone were to ask you to compose the most unlikely beginning for a story from the French news agency AFP it might go something like this:

World leaders, including UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Thursday hailed Baghdad’s progress in combating violence and stabilising Iraq.

A declaration adopted by 100 delegations at a Stockholm conference said the participants “recognised the important efforts made by the (Iraqi) government to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across Iraq.”

It also acknowledged political and economic progress made, and said that “given the difficult context, these successes are all the more remarkable.”

At least, that would have been a good try. The three paragraphs above are taken from a story put out today by AFP.

The piece goes on, rightly, to note the fragility of such progress. But the larger point is critical: Iraq, long written off as an unsalvageable disaster, is being officially recognized for its “remarkable” progress. And by whom? The UN and other world leaders whose respect we had supposedly squandered. The only people who need convincing that Iraq has seen extraordinary political progress are the Democrats who’ve hitched themselves to the anti-Bush bandwagon. If a Democrat makes it into the White House and is still so interested in world opinion, he or she may have to finally acknowledge that Iraq has changed. They wouldn’t want to “reinforce the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time.”

Read Less

A New Iranian Leader, A More Dangerous Iran

Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.

What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.

Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.

What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.

Read Less

Combat-Ready

I confess I haven’t listened to all 80 minutes of this interview with Nancy Pelosi. But my CONTENTIONS colleague Abe Greenwald tells me that, in addition to crediting Iranian munificence for the growing stability in Iraq, the Speaker made the following statement:

The undermining of our military strength is just staggering. We don’t have one combat-ready unit in the United States to go to protect our interests wherever they are threatened, or those of our friends .

I suppose this is further confirmation of the old chestnut about what goes around comes around: Back in 2000, conservatives were lambasting the Clinton administration for declining readiness levels (see, for instance, this Heritage paper) and promising “help is on the way.” Now it’s the turns of liberals. In both cases the attacks are partially fair, partially not.

The issue is that a unit’s combat readiness declines immediately after rotating out of a war zone. At that point, lots of soldiers and officers leave and lots of new ones come in. Worn-out equipment is repaired or discarded; new equipment arrives slowly. Gradually, the unit fills up and trains up in preparation for another deployment. Often it will not reach the highest level of combat readiness until just before the deployment. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most active-duty army and marine units are either deployed, preparing for deployment, or recovering from deployment. That doesn’t leave a lot of units sitting around at high levels of readiness in CONUS–the military abbreviation for Continental United States. But the units we are sending into combat are the most experienced and best-prepared we have ever sent to fight any war.

Traditionally the 82nd Airborne Division maintained one home-based brigade at the highest state of readiness at all times-ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. Last year all four of the 82nd brigade’s deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, handing off the “ready brigade” mission to the 101st Air Assault Division, which has lots of its units deployed too. Three of the 82nd‘s brigades have now returned home to Fort Bragg and the division is supposed to re-assume the “readiness” function next year.

It would be nice to have more units standing by at a higher level of readiness, but that hardly means the U.S. is defenseless. In addition to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have substantial numbers of ground forces deployed in Okinawa, South Korea, and Germany that in a pinch could be used to deal with another crisis. More importantly, we have lots of air and naval assets that are not engaged in the fight today. Pelosi did not refer specifically to army units; she said “combat-ready units.” By that standard, there are lots of air force squadrons and naval task forces that qualify. And they would in fact be our first line of defense against a crisis in, say, the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan strait, or Iran.

Anyway, just what is Pelosi’s point? Is she saying that she supports a large increase in the size of the active duty force? John McCain has called for increasing the overall size of our ground forces (army and marines) from today’s projected level of 750,000 to 900,000. Is Pelosi willing to support legislation along those lines? Or is she instead suggesting that, rather than substantially increase our forces, we downsize their missions? I suspect it’s the latter, and that her preferred option is to pull units out of Iraq, thereby losing the most significant war we’ve fought since Vietnam, in order to keep units in readiness for another contingency that may or may not materialize. But, if Vietnam teaches anything, it is that nothing is guaranteed to harm long-term readiness more than losing a war.

I confess I haven’t listened to all 80 minutes of this interview with Nancy Pelosi. But my CONTENTIONS colleague Abe Greenwald tells me that, in addition to crediting Iranian munificence for the growing stability in Iraq, the Speaker made the following statement:

The undermining of our military strength is just staggering. We don’t have one combat-ready unit in the United States to go to protect our interests wherever they are threatened, or those of our friends .

I suppose this is further confirmation of the old chestnut about what goes around comes around: Back in 2000, conservatives were lambasting the Clinton administration for declining readiness levels (see, for instance, this Heritage paper) and promising “help is on the way.” Now it’s the turns of liberals. In both cases the attacks are partially fair, partially not.

The issue is that a unit’s combat readiness declines immediately after rotating out of a war zone. At that point, lots of soldiers and officers leave and lots of new ones come in. Worn-out equipment is repaired or discarded; new equipment arrives slowly. Gradually, the unit fills up and trains up in preparation for another deployment. Often it will not reach the highest level of combat readiness until just before the deployment. Because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most active-duty army and marine units are either deployed, preparing for deployment, or recovering from deployment. That doesn’t leave a lot of units sitting around at high levels of readiness in CONUS–the military abbreviation for Continental United States. But the units we are sending into combat are the most experienced and best-prepared we have ever sent to fight any war.

Traditionally the 82nd Airborne Division maintained one home-based brigade at the highest state of readiness at all times-ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 72 hours. Last year all four of the 82nd brigade’s deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, handing off the “ready brigade” mission to the 101st Air Assault Division, which has lots of its units deployed too. Three of the 82nd‘s brigades have now returned home to Fort Bragg and the division is supposed to re-assume the “readiness” function next year.

It would be nice to have more units standing by at a higher level of readiness, but that hardly means the U.S. is defenseless. In addition to our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have substantial numbers of ground forces deployed in Okinawa, South Korea, and Germany that in a pinch could be used to deal with another crisis. More importantly, we have lots of air and naval assets that are not engaged in the fight today. Pelosi did not refer specifically to army units; she said “combat-ready units.” By that standard, there are lots of air force squadrons and naval task forces that qualify. And they would in fact be our first line of defense against a crisis in, say, the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan strait, or Iran.

Anyway, just what is Pelosi’s point? Is she saying that she supports a large increase in the size of the active duty force? John McCain has called for increasing the overall size of our ground forces (army and marines) from today’s projected level of 750,000 to 900,000. Is Pelosi willing to support legislation along those lines? Or is she instead suggesting that, rather than substantially increase our forces, we downsize their missions? I suspect it’s the latter, and that her preferred option is to pull units out of Iraq, thereby losing the most significant war we’ve fought since Vietnam, in order to keep units in readiness for another contingency that may or may not materialize. But, if Vietnam teaches anything, it is that nothing is guaranteed to harm long-term readiness more than losing a war.

Read Less

Re: Pelosi Credits Iran

Abe, this is typical of much of the “magical thinking” which dominates the Democratic party in foreign affairs. We saw it in the Cold War. Our military buildup, defense of human rights, support for democratic forces in Eastern Europe, and defiance of the Soviets in placing missiles in Europe had nothing to do, you see, with the end of the Cold War. Communism just collapsed. Gorbachev was a reformer. The actions of the U.S. in bringing about that beneficial result are never credited. Why? Aside from believing we do very little good in the world, the Left opposed all those things I listed, so they couldn’t possibly be responsible for ending the Cold War.

Likewise in Iraq, it is getting pretty darn hard to say nothing is improved. So whatever progress is made is “magical.” The Anbar awakening had nothing to do with the presence of U.S. forces or growing confidence that the Sunnis could depend on us for protection, you see. The events in Basra had nothing to do with us and everything to do with Iran. And so it goes.

It is illogical, a-factual and silly. But it is not surprising. It is not even original.

Abe, this is typical of much of the “magical thinking” which dominates the Democratic party in foreign affairs. We saw it in the Cold War. Our military buildup, defense of human rights, support for democratic forces in Eastern Europe, and defiance of the Soviets in placing missiles in Europe had nothing to do, you see, with the end of the Cold War. Communism just collapsed. Gorbachev was a reformer. The actions of the U.S. in bringing about that beneficial result are never credited. Why? Aside from believing we do very little good in the world, the Left opposed all those things I listed, so they couldn’t possibly be responsible for ending the Cold War.

Likewise in Iraq, it is getting pretty darn hard to say nothing is improved. So whatever progress is made is “magical.” The Anbar awakening had nothing to do with the presence of U.S. forces or growing confidence that the Sunnis could depend on us for protection, you see. The events in Basra had nothing to do with us and everything to do with Iran. And so it goes.

It is illogical, a-factual and silly. But it is not surprising. It is not even original.

Read Less

Legal Reporting 101

Sometimes you wish that employees of a newspaper would talk to one another, or read what others write before submitting their own copy. In today’s Washington Post, the front page news section has a ludicrous article on how Supreme Court Justices have moved to the “middle,” using as examples the recent cases involving interpretation of a post-civil war anti-discrimination statute and the federal age discrimination statute.

Why ludicrous? There is nothing “middle” about interpreting a statute. It says one thing, or it says another. This, of course, is the cardinal error of much of what passes for legal reporting. It misses the distinction between a policy objective (Let’s give citizens an avenue for pursuing retaliation claims, other than Title VII or state statues) and the legal analysis (What does this particular statute mean?). And as for the reporting, it tells us nothing of the arguments and the actual basis for the decision, nor the reason for the dissenters’ viewpoint.

For that you can skip to the opinion section of the Post, where the editors seem to understand all of this quite well. They actually explain the two cases and the distinction between the majority and dissent, noting that neither of these statutes mention anything about retaliation. (Gosh, it would have been nice if the news reporters mentioned that. So the Justices made up a retaliation provision because Congress left it out?) The editors conclude:

Protecting employees from retaliation makes sense, but it is not the province of judges to create such protections on the basis of their own beliefs of what is right or wrong, or even on the basis of their intuitive sense of what Congress meant to do or should have done. And those who today praise the outcome shouldn’t be upset if in the future justices read into the law new principles that lead to results they may find less acceptable.

So the lesson to be learned: if you want accurate and insightful reporting on the Supreme Court from the Post, look at the op-ed page. You won’t find it in the news section.

Sometimes you wish that employees of a newspaper would talk to one another, or read what others write before submitting their own copy. In today’s Washington Post, the front page news section has a ludicrous article on how Supreme Court Justices have moved to the “middle,” using as examples the recent cases involving interpretation of a post-civil war anti-discrimination statute and the federal age discrimination statute.

Why ludicrous? There is nothing “middle” about interpreting a statute. It says one thing, or it says another. This, of course, is the cardinal error of much of what passes for legal reporting. It misses the distinction between a policy objective (Let’s give citizens an avenue for pursuing retaliation claims, other than Title VII or state statues) and the legal analysis (What does this particular statute mean?). And as for the reporting, it tells us nothing of the arguments and the actual basis for the decision, nor the reason for the dissenters’ viewpoint.

For that you can skip to the opinion section of the Post, where the editors seem to understand all of this quite well. They actually explain the two cases and the distinction between the majority and dissent, noting that neither of these statutes mention anything about retaliation. (Gosh, it would have been nice if the news reporters mentioned that. So the Justices made up a retaliation provision because Congress left it out?) The editors conclude:

Protecting employees from retaliation makes sense, but it is not the province of judges to create such protections on the basis of their own beliefs of what is right or wrong, or even on the basis of their intuitive sense of what Congress meant to do or should have done. And those who today praise the outcome shouldn’t be upset if in the future justices read into the law new principles that lead to results they may find less acceptable.

So the lesson to be learned: if you want accurate and insightful reporting on the Supreme Court from the Post, look at the op-ed page. You won’t find it in the news section.

Read Less

Pelosi Credits Iran’s “Goodwill” for Surge Success

In an interview yesterday with the San Francisco Chronicle, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claimed the U.S. troop surge failed to accomplish its goal. She then partially credited the success of the troop surge to “the goodwill of the Iranians,” claiming that they were responsible for ending violence in the southern city of Basra.

Asked if she saw any evidence of the surge’s positive impact on her May 17 trip to Iraq she responded:

Well, the purpose of the surge was to provide a secure space, a time for the political change to occur to accomplish the reconciliation. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, the surge didn’t accomplish its goal. And some of the success of the surge is that the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.

This is an inexcusable slander. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought the Sadrists militias to their knees in a month-long battle that enabled Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc to rejoin the government. Furthermore, when Pelosi met with Prime Minister al-Maliki in Mosul she sang quite a different tune. She had “welcomed Iraq’s progress in passing a budget as well as oil legislation, and a bill paving the way for the provincial elections in the fall that are expected to more equitably redistribute power among local officials,” and stated, “We’re assured the elections will happen here, they will be transparent, they will be inclusive and they will take Iraq closer to the reconciliation we all want it to have.”

Discounting the success of the American military, denying the accomplishments of U.S. allies, and giving the credit to our most dangerous enemies seems like an especially productive week for a Democrat on Capitol Hill. After Nancy Pelosi’s post-Iraq hat trick, there’s really no need for Barack Obama to make this trip after all.

UPDATE: Ace has more on Iran’s “goodwill.”

In an interview yesterday with the San Francisco Chronicle, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi claimed the U.S. troop surge failed to accomplish its goal. She then partially credited the success of the troop surge to “the goodwill of the Iranians,” claiming that they were responsible for ending violence in the southern city of Basra.

Asked if she saw any evidence of the surge’s positive impact on her May 17 trip to Iraq she responded:

Well, the purpose of the surge was to provide a secure space, a time for the political change to occur to accomplish the reconciliation. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, the surge didn’t accomplish its goal. And some of the success of the surge is that the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.

This is an inexcusable slander. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki brought the Sadrists militias to their knees in a month-long battle that enabled Iraq’s largest Sunni bloc to rejoin the government. Furthermore, when Pelosi met with Prime Minister al-Maliki in Mosul she sang quite a different tune. She had “welcomed Iraq’s progress in passing a budget as well as oil legislation, and a bill paving the way for the provincial elections in the fall that are expected to more equitably redistribute power among local officials,” and stated, “We’re assured the elections will happen here, they will be transparent, they will be inclusive and they will take Iraq closer to the reconciliation we all want it to have.”

Discounting the success of the American military, denying the accomplishments of U.S. allies, and giving the credit to our most dangerous enemies seems like an especially productive week for a Democrat on Capitol Hill. After Nancy Pelosi’s post-Iraq hat trick, there’s really no need for Barack Obama to make this trip after all.

UPDATE: Ace has more on Iran’s “goodwill.”

Read Less

But Why?

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

Read Less

Stone Drops Rock on China

Today, Christian Dior announced it is removing its advertisements in China featuring Sharon Stone “due to some customer reaction.” The French fashion house also released an apology from the star: “Due to my inappropriate words and acts during the interview, I feel deeply sorry and sad about hurting Chinese people.”

And how did the “Basic Instinct” actress manage to do that? “I’m not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else,” she said last week at Cannes. “And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened and I thought: Is that karma, when you are not nice that the bad things happen to you?”

Ms. Stone, by making her remarks, joins a long list of people who are not considered good friends of China. In fact, she is not a good friend of anyone, at least according to Beijing’s Xinhua News Agency. The official media outlet today called her the “public enemy of all mankind.” Stone’s words may have been ill-considered–the quake struck a predominately Tibetan area. But they hardly put the actress in the same league as, say, Hitler, Stalin, or–dare I day it?–Mao.

I was sad to see Sharon Stone retract her comments. She was, after all, only expressing heartfelt (if confused) sentiments about abhorrent leaders. Although Beijing has been successful in intimidating virtually every world leader these days, it cannot change people’s innate sense of right and wrong. If there is any justice in this world-and I for one believe there is-events will eventually hold Chinese autocrats to account. It may not be karmic, but it will happen nonetheless.

Today, Christian Dior announced it is removing its advertisements in China featuring Sharon Stone “due to some customer reaction.” The French fashion house also released an apology from the star: “Due to my inappropriate words and acts during the interview, I feel deeply sorry and sad about hurting Chinese people.”

And how did the “Basic Instinct” actress manage to do that? “I’m not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans because I don’t think anyone should be unkind to anyone else,” she said last week at Cannes. “And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened and I thought: Is that karma, when you are not nice that the bad things happen to you?”

Ms. Stone, by making her remarks, joins a long list of people who are not considered good friends of China. In fact, she is not a good friend of anyone, at least according to Beijing’s Xinhua News Agency. The official media outlet today called her the “public enemy of all mankind.” Stone’s words may have been ill-considered–the quake struck a predominately Tibetan area. But they hardly put the actress in the same league as, say, Hitler, Stalin, or–dare I day it?–Mao.

I was sad to see Sharon Stone retract her comments. She was, after all, only expressing heartfelt (if confused) sentiments about abhorrent leaders. Although Beijing has been successful in intimidating virtually every world leader these days, it cannot change people’s innate sense of right and wrong. If there is any justice in this world-and I for one believe there is-events will eventually hold Chinese autocrats to account. It may not be karmic, but it will happen nonetheless.

Read Less

He’s New, The Ideas Are Old

With Barack Obama on the precipice of the nomination, there is increased focus on exactly what policy prescriptions he is suggesting. When Hillary Clinton tried to suggest it was “all words,” the media made a collective grimace. She was raining on their Obama-mania parade. What she did not say–because you just can’t say it in a Democratic primary race–is that he offers a bland, warmed-over liberalism.

But now even the Washington Post has noticed, reporting that he “has not emphasized any signature domestic issue, or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction.” The campaign is really all about him. You either buy into the new politics, the transformative power of good wishes and high ideals, or you think it’s a bunch of hooey.

The Post is not alone in noticing that there is no there there. Daniel Henninger observes that the Democratic primary descended into a personality battle because both candidates agreed on the same liberal policy positions. He says of Obama:

[W]hat the politics of Barack Obama reveal is a very standard liberal, at best.His stated view of how to relieve the plight of young black men in failing school is what the teachers unions have had on offer for 20 years. In July 2007 remarks on selecting judges, reprinted yesterday in the New York Times, Obama conveyed a philosophy grounded in a remarkably explicit obsession with class and incomes. To the entitlement bombs of Social Security and Medicare, he would add expansions of Medicaid and subsidies to some businesses for health-care costs. His desire to raise the cap on Social Security taxes will hit the $100,000 two-income families who applauded Hillary’s appeal on college debt.

Had the Democrats wanted someone whose ideas were innovative and exciting, they wouldn’t have chosen the most predictably extreme ideologue in the U.S. Senate. So if McCain’s campaign has been dinged for lacking a narrative or message–for not putting his views in an easily understandable package–at least he has some that are not shopworn retreads from the 1970′s. Or as Bruce Reed, a key advisor to both Clintons puts it, the Democrats are badly in need of candidate with ” as many proof points as possible that we’re not the weak-on-defense, big-spending liberal the Republicans always say they are.” It is simply not clear they have found that candidate.

With Barack Obama on the precipice of the nomination, there is increased focus on exactly what policy prescriptions he is suggesting. When Hillary Clinton tried to suggest it was “all words,” the media made a collective grimace. She was raining on their Obama-mania parade. What she did not say–because you just can’t say it in a Democratic primary race–is that he offers a bland, warmed-over liberalism.

But now even the Washington Post has noticed, reporting that he “has not emphasized any signature domestic issue, or signaled that he would take his party in a specific direction.” The campaign is really all about him. You either buy into the new politics, the transformative power of good wishes and high ideals, or you think it’s a bunch of hooey.

The Post is not alone in noticing that there is no there there. Daniel Henninger observes that the Democratic primary descended into a personality battle because both candidates agreed on the same liberal policy positions. He says of Obama:

[W]hat the politics of Barack Obama reveal is a very standard liberal, at best.His stated view of how to relieve the plight of young black men in failing school is what the teachers unions have had on offer for 20 years. In July 2007 remarks on selecting judges, reprinted yesterday in the New York Times, Obama conveyed a philosophy grounded in a remarkably explicit obsession with class and incomes. To the entitlement bombs of Social Security and Medicare, he would add expansions of Medicaid and subsidies to some businesses for health-care costs. His desire to raise the cap on Social Security taxes will hit the $100,000 two-income families who applauded Hillary’s appeal on college debt.

Had the Democrats wanted someone whose ideas were innovative and exciting, they wouldn’t have chosen the most predictably extreme ideologue in the U.S. Senate. So if McCain’s campaign has been dinged for lacking a narrative or message–for not putting his views in an easily understandable package–at least he has some that are not shopworn retreads from the 1970′s. Or as Bruce Reed, a key advisor to both Clintons puts it, the Democrats are badly in need of candidate with ” as many proof points as possible that we’re not the weak-on-defense, big-spending liberal the Republicans always say they are.” It is simply not clear they have found that candidate.

Read Less

Disheartening

The Washington Times has a disturbing story about Arabs who refuse to let their children go to Israel to receive life-saving cardiac surgery facilitated by Israeli charities. Diyar Raouf, mother of a 6-year-old boy with a life-threatening heart condition, said, “These feelings were born with us. They are inbred.”

So, as she nurtures Jew-hating pathology in her son, Raouf makes the argument for anti-Semitism from birth. Meanwhile, Israeli charities like Save A Child’s Heart and Shevat Achim continue to offer life-saving medical assistance to Muslim children.

What’s worse is that the medical establishment is catering to the fanaticism of parents like Raouf by helping them find alternative medical facilities without batting an eye:

Dr. Kubaisy was senior cardiac consultant and former director of the Ibn al Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad before it was burned and looted in 2003. When he was told of the Israel plan, he and other Iraqis living in Amman looked for options. Algeria responded right away.

The Washington Times does not even acknowledge the extraordinary humanitarian impulse behind these charitable offers. Which goes to show that the talk of Israel’s need to demonstrate its moral high ground to the larger world is nonsense. They can handover land or save Arab lives, but it makes, apparently, no difference at all.

The Washington Times has a disturbing story about Arabs who refuse to let their children go to Israel to receive life-saving cardiac surgery facilitated by Israeli charities. Diyar Raouf, mother of a 6-year-old boy with a life-threatening heart condition, said, “These feelings were born with us. They are inbred.”

So, as she nurtures Jew-hating pathology in her son, Raouf makes the argument for anti-Semitism from birth. Meanwhile, Israeli charities like Save A Child’s Heart and Shevat Achim continue to offer life-saving medical assistance to Muslim children.

What’s worse is that the medical establishment is catering to the fanaticism of parents like Raouf by helping them find alternative medical facilities without batting an eye:

Dr. Kubaisy was senior cardiac consultant and former director of the Ibn al Bitar Hospital for Cardiac Surgery in Baghdad before it was burned and looted in 2003. When he was told of the Israel plan, he and other Iraqis living in Amman looked for options. Algeria responded right away.

The Washington Times does not even acknowledge the extraordinary humanitarian impulse behind these charitable offers. Which goes to show that the talk of Israel’s need to demonstrate its moral high ground to the larger world is nonsense. They can handover land or save Arab lives, but it makes, apparently, no difference at all.

Read Less

Three Scenarios for Olmert

Reports of Ehud Olmert’s demise have for many years been greatly exaggerated, but his latest scandal really does appear decisive. It is the beginning of the end for Olmert, and it seems to me that there are roughly three ways that all of this will play out in the coming months:

1. Olmert voluntarily steps down and allows his party to choose a new leader (almost certainly Livni), thereby preserving the government;

2. Olmert hangs tough and Barak makes good on his promise to leave the coalition, forcing elections;

3. Olmert hangs tough and Barak doesn’t leave the coalition.

Scenario #1 seems implausible but not impossible. Olmert, who has always insisted that technically he has done nothing wrong, may depart voluntarily, but only if his indictment becomes a certainty. But there is perhaps a deeper problem: the Shas party, which is currently part of Olmert’s coalition, has said that it will not join a government headed by Livni. If Shas makes good on this pledge, Livni’s only path to the premiership is through elections (scenario #2), which obviously represent an uncertain path to power.

Scenario #2 is the most likely, but also the most puzzling: Barak has set in motion a series of events that very well may not conclude in his taking the premiership, given Likud’s popularity. Why would he do that? He might believe that a unity government is in the offing, or that a new prime minister (assuming Barak remains at defense) would finally allow him to take the IDF into Gaza, which he has long wanted to do. Simply in terms of political calculation, Barak’s declaration yesterday would only seem to make sense if he felt that he has a good chance of coming to power through new elections. But perhaps something else is at work here, something extraordinarily rare in politics: maybe Barak really does feel that Israel is imperiled by Ehud Olmert, and that the requirements of national security and national honor compel him to unseat Olmert regardless of how such an upheaval will affect his own political fortunes.

Scenario #3 is the most implausible, with Barak ending up humiliated because he doesn’t follow his tough words with action.

Yossi Klein Halevy provides a final thought:

The end of Olmert needs to begin a process that will end Olmertism, the acceptance of corruption as an unavoidable part of Israeli politics. The current generation of politicians who grew up in the culture of Olmertism needs to be replaced by a new generation–young people in their 30s and 40s who, for example, helped transform the Israeli economy and high-tech sector. Precisely because they value excellence and dedication, those young people have shunned Israeli politics. But as the Olmert affair proves, the country can no longer leave its governance to the vain and merely ambitious men who have desecrated the name of Israel.

Update: my friend Carl in Jerusalem emails with some wise thoughts:

Barak did what he did yesterday in the hope that Kadima will throw Olmert out and that the Knesset will stay intact with Livni becoming Prime Minister. He underestimated Olmert’s resentment of Livni. He thought that Livni is a lightweight, and after 6-12 months of her as Prime Minister, the country will have had enough and he will be in a better position to challenge Netanyahu. His party is furious with him because all the polls show that they will get screwed and be left with about 12 seats and in third place (polls come out Friday morning – should be interesting tomorrow). He has no hope of being Prime Minister now regardless of what happens, but yes, he thinks he can go into a coalition with Likud and come out defense minister. Bibi may have other ideas like bringing back [Shaul] Mofaz or bringing in [Bogie] Yaalon.

Reports of Ehud Olmert’s demise have for many years been greatly exaggerated, but his latest scandal really does appear decisive. It is the beginning of the end for Olmert, and it seems to me that there are roughly three ways that all of this will play out in the coming months:

1. Olmert voluntarily steps down and allows his party to choose a new leader (almost certainly Livni), thereby preserving the government;

2. Olmert hangs tough and Barak makes good on his promise to leave the coalition, forcing elections;

3. Olmert hangs tough and Barak doesn’t leave the coalition.

Scenario #1 seems implausible but not impossible. Olmert, who has always insisted that technically he has done nothing wrong, may depart voluntarily, but only if his indictment becomes a certainty. But there is perhaps a deeper problem: the Shas party, which is currently part of Olmert’s coalition, has said that it will not join a government headed by Livni. If Shas makes good on this pledge, Livni’s only path to the premiership is through elections (scenario #2), which obviously represent an uncertain path to power.

Scenario #2 is the most likely, but also the most puzzling: Barak has set in motion a series of events that very well may not conclude in his taking the premiership, given Likud’s popularity. Why would he do that? He might believe that a unity government is in the offing, or that a new prime minister (assuming Barak remains at defense) would finally allow him to take the IDF into Gaza, which he has long wanted to do. Simply in terms of political calculation, Barak’s declaration yesterday would only seem to make sense if he felt that he has a good chance of coming to power through new elections. But perhaps something else is at work here, something extraordinarily rare in politics: maybe Barak really does feel that Israel is imperiled by Ehud Olmert, and that the requirements of national security and national honor compel him to unseat Olmert regardless of how such an upheaval will affect his own political fortunes.

Scenario #3 is the most implausible, with Barak ending up humiliated because he doesn’t follow his tough words with action.

Yossi Klein Halevy provides a final thought:

The end of Olmert needs to begin a process that will end Olmertism, the acceptance of corruption as an unavoidable part of Israeli politics. The current generation of politicians who grew up in the culture of Olmertism needs to be replaced by a new generation–young people in their 30s and 40s who, for example, helped transform the Israeli economy and high-tech sector. Precisely because they value excellence and dedication, those young people have shunned Israeli politics. But as the Olmert affair proves, the country can no longer leave its governance to the vain and merely ambitious men who have desecrated the name of Israel.

Update: my friend Carl in Jerusalem emails with some wise thoughts:

Barak did what he did yesterday in the hope that Kadima will throw Olmert out and that the Knesset will stay intact with Livni becoming Prime Minister. He underestimated Olmert’s resentment of Livni. He thought that Livni is a lightweight, and after 6-12 months of her as Prime Minister, the country will have had enough and he will be in a better position to challenge Netanyahu. His party is furious with him because all the polls show that they will get screwed and be left with about 12 seats and in third place (polls come out Friday morning – should be interesting tomorrow). He has no hope of being Prime Minister now regardless of what happens, but yes, he thinks he can go into a coalition with Likud and come out defense minister. Bibi may have other ideas like bringing back [Shaul] Mofaz or bringing in [Bogie] Yaalon.

Read Less

A Top Priority

Osama bin Laden is threatening to attack us with weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is hanging in the balance. Syria has a clandestine nuclear-weapons program. Lebanon is falling under the sway of Hizballah.

Fortunately, the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) in the Defense Department has commissioned the RAND corporation to devise an outstanding plan to meet the multiplying dangers:

First and foremost, we recommend that the strategic planning process be top-down rather than bottom-up; whether DoD adopts a diversity strategic plan (either through ODMEO or as the entire organization) or a strategic plan that fully incorporates diversity into the core mission of DoD, its success depends on the leadership’s ability to champion the effort, monitor its progress, and follow through on accountability measures. The personal involvement of the Secretary of Defense provides a clear signal to the workforce that managing diversity and ensuring that it is a core value of the department is a top priority.

This involvement is essential to bring about the institutional changes necessary to achieve greater diversity. The Secretary should do more than issue a diversity statement and occasionally refer to diversity in speeches and press conferences. We recommend that the Secretary personally lead an oversight committee that approves and monitors the progress of diversity initiatives. As such, we recommend that DoD form an oversight committee of top DoD leaders from a wide range of personal and professional/functional backgrounds (e.g., intelligence, combat arms, Joint Chiefs of Staff) to oversee the development of the strategic plan and its implementation, providing both insights from their vast experience and inputs from their functional communities. More importantly, the members of the committee will become the public faces of the department’s diversity-related efforts. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the committee be equipped with adequate resources to carry out its mission.

While the Global War on Terror (GWOT) exacts heavy demands on the leadership, diversity has potentially great implications for both DoD’s present and future force readiness, which in turn will affect the safety and security of U.S. interests.  

Osama bin Laden is threatening to attack us with weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is hanging in the balance. Syria has a clandestine nuclear-weapons program. Lebanon is falling under the sway of Hizballah.

Fortunately, the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) in the Defense Department has commissioned the RAND corporation to devise an outstanding plan to meet the multiplying dangers:

First and foremost, we recommend that the strategic planning process be top-down rather than bottom-up; whether DoD adopts a diversity strategic plan (either through ODMEO or as the entire organization) or a strategic plan that fully incorporates diversity into the core mission of DoD, its success depends on the leadership’s ability to champion the effort, monitor its progress, and follow through on accountability measures. The personal involvement of the Secretary of Defense provides a clear signal to the workforce that managing diversity and ensuring that it is a core value of the department is a top priority.

This involvement is essential to bring about the institutional changes necessary to achieve greater diversity. The Secretary should do more than issue a diversity statement and occasionally refer to diversity in speeches and press conferences. We recommend that the Secretary personally lead an oversight committee that approves and monitors the progress of diversity initiatives. As such, we recommend that DoD form an oversight committee of top DoD leaders from a wide range of personal and professional/functional backgrounds (e.g., intelligence, combat arms, Joint Chiefs of Staff) to oversee the development of the strategic plan and its implementation, providing both insights from their vast experience and inputs from their functional communities. More importantly, the members of the committee will become the public faces of the department’s diversity-related efforts. Therefore, we strongly recommend that the committee be equipped with adequate resources to carry out its mission.

While the Global War on Terror (GWOT) exacts heavy demands on the leadership, diversity has potentially great implications for both DoD’s present and future force readiness, which in turn will affect the safety and security of U.S. interests.  

Read Less

Mind of the Peanut

I couldn’t decide whether to call this Mind of the Peanut or the Devil is In the Details. Either way, here’s an interesting glimpse of the cranial gears of our worst ex-President: George C. Edwards III, “Exclusive Interview: President Jimmy Carter,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1.GE:…You are known for your mastery of complex policy, and you are interested in the details of policy as a good policy analyst.  Other presidents have been less interested in details.  So let me ask you into how much detail should a president delve in making a decision?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:  …Regarding the details, I am still an engineer by thought.  You know, when I run my farm or when I run the Carter Center, I want to know what is going on.  When I took on the personal responsibility, say for the Mideast peace process, I really believed that when we went to Camp David I knew more about the details than anybody there.  I had mastered the psychological and historical analysis of Begin and Sadat.  I knew everything they had done since they were born that was recorded, how they had reacted to crisis, how they dealt with pressure, who their allies were, and what their obligations were.  So when we got to Camp David, I knew them, and I knew the map of the West Bank and Gaza.

…I did basically the same thing with the Alaska Lands bill.  I knew the map of Alaska in great detail.

I read a lot.  I would say I read an average of 300 pages a day.  That is just something that I quantified years ago, so I am just not talking casually.  I took a speed-reading course.  I did, and about fifty other people did, from Evelyn Wood in the Cabinet Room within the first two months of my term.  So I could read a lot….

GE:  Another aspect of decision making, and another challenge for a president, is to get his advisors to tell him what he needs to hear as opposed to what they think he wants to hear. …How did you make sure that you heard the full range of options?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:   …we had regular cabinet meetings…. We would go around the entire table, and I would encourage each secretary to tell me the most important things that affected their departments that we needed to discuss. …If the issue was complex and they required more than two or three minutes of exposition, I encouraged them to put it in writing and submit it to me.  Those papers always came to me, and I relished the concise nature of their presentation.  It required them to get their thoughts in order, and I was very much a stickler for not splitting infinitives and so forth.

And all those papers are in the presidential library now.  I think the scholars that have been over to the presidential library to look at my notes have been impressed, I started to say overwhelmed, with the meticulous detail with which I would answer sometimes each paragraph in a complex proposal — I approve this, I do not approve this, see me about this, or explain this, and so forth.

I couldn’t decide whether to call this Mind of the Peanut or the Devil is In the Details. Either way, here’s an interesting glimpse of the cranial gears of our worst ex-President: George C. Edwards III, “Exclusive Interview: President Jimmy Carter,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1.GE:…You are known for your mastery of complex policy, and you are interested in the details of policy as a good policy analyst.  Other presidents have been less interested in details.  So let me ask you into how much detail should a president delve in making a decision?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:  …Regarding the details, I am still an engineer by thought.  You know, when I run my farm or when I run the Carter Center, I want to know what is going on.  When I took on the personal responsibility, say for the Mideast peace process, I really believed that when we went to Camp David I knew more about the details than anybody there.  I had mastered the psychological and historical analysis of Begin and Sadat.  I knew everything they had done since they were born that was recorded, how they had reacted to crisis, how they dealt with pressure, who their allies were, and what their obligations were.  So when we got to Camp David, I knew them, and I knew the map of the West Bank and Gaza.

…I did basically the same thing with the Alaska Lands bill.  I knew the map of Alaska in great detail.

I read a lot.  I would say I read an average of 300 pages a day.  That is just something that I quantified years ago, so I am just not talking casually.  I took a speed-reading course.  I did, and about fifty other people did, from Evelyn Wood in the Cabinet Room within the first two months of my term.  So I could read a lot….

GE:  Another aspect of decision making, and another challenge for a president, is to get his advisors to tell him what he needs to hear as opposed to what they think he wants to hear. …How did you make sure that you heard the full range of options?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:   …we had regular cabinet meetings…. We would go around the entire table, and I would encourage each secretary to tell me the most important things that affected their departments that we needed to discuss. …If the issue was complex and they required more than two or three minutes of exposition, I encouraged them to put it in writing and submit it to me.  Those papers always came to me, and I relished the concise nature of their presentation.  It required them to get their thoughts in order, and I was very much a stickler for not splitting infinitives and so forth.

And all those papers are in the presidential library now.  I think the scholars that have been over to the presidential library to look at my notes have been impressed, I started to say overwhelmed, with the meticulous detail with which I would answer sometimes each paragraph in a complex proposal — I approve this, I do not approve this, see me about this, or explain this, and so forth.

Read Less

Bringing People Together

From the Left, the Right, and a number of Scott McClellan’s former colleagues we have agreement: if you’re going to betray your former employer, it is best to have been more capable yourself and to have spoken out when there was not a book deal at issue. Perhaps the most telling comment comes from David Gregory, one of McClellan’s chief antagonists, who finds it hard to believe that McClellan was even in the loop. (I am confident that, in a secret ballot election by the White House press corps, McClellan wouldn’t win any votes for the “most knowledgeable and connected press secretary in our time.”)

Despite the diverse criticism of McClellan, it appears that much of the news media (the same crowd that thought McClellan an ineffective bumbler at the time) is infatuated with the story because it is another excuse to trot out the “Bush lied, people died” mantra. (There is an occasional note of skepticism, and even a willingness to recite McClellan’s own words castigating Richard Clarke for his similar tell-all indictment.) And surely if the issue for the election in November is “Should George W. Bush get a third term?”, it’s curtains for the GOP. But the McCain team is trying its best to make the election about Barack Obama’s experience, knowledge, and judgment. And they have had some success in getting the media to focus on how much Obama knows and how ready he is to be commander-in-chief. We have seen lately that when Obama talks about his own positions on issues or his own version of reality, things can get rather dicey. So no doubt his media cheerleaders would be delighted to go back to talking about McClellan’s book.

From the Left, the Right, and a number of Scott McClellan’s former colleagues we have agreement: if you’re going to betray your former employer, it is best to have been more capable yourself and to have spoken out when there was not a book deal at issue. Perhaps the most telling comment comes from David Gregory, one of McClellan’s chief antagonists, who finds it hard to believe that McClellan was even in the loop. (I am confident that, in a secret ballot election by the White House press corps, McClellan wouldn’t win any votes for the “most knowledgeable and connected press secretary in our time.”)

Despite the diverse criticism of McClellan, it appears that much of the news media (the same crowd that thought McClellan an ineffective bumbler at the time) is infatuated with the story because it is another excuse to trot out the “Bush lied, people died” mantra. (There is an occasional note of skepticism, and even a willingness to recite McClellan’s own words castigating Richard Clarke for his similar tell-all indictment.) And surely if the issue for the election in November is “Should George W. Bush get a third term?”, it’s curtains for the GOP. But the McCain team is trying its best to make the election about Barack Obama’s experience, knowledge, and judgment. And they have had some success in getting the media to focus on how much Obama knows and how ready he is to be commander-in-chief. We have seen lately that when Obama talks about his own positions on issues or his own version of reality, things can get rather dicey. So no doubt his media cheerleaders would be delighted to go back to talking about McClellan’s book.

Read Less

Stand with STANDPOINT

Standpoint Magazine has just been launched in the UK. This new monthly, edited by veteran COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Johnson, is in line with many other efforts on the Continent to stem the tide of anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Western sentiment that runs across public and academic discourse in much of Western Europe. I have a column on European attitudes to Israel–a mixed baggage, to say the least! I hope CONTENTIONS readers will visit the new magazine’s webpage and help this worthy effort become established and successful.

Standpoint Magazine has just been launched in the UK. This new monthly, edited by veteran COMMENTARY contributor Daniel Johnson, is in line with many other efforts on the Continent to stem the tide of anti-American, anti-Israel, and anti-Western sentiment that runs across public and academic discourse in much of Western Europe. I have a column on European attitudes to Israel–a mixed baggage, to say the least! I hope CONTENTIONS readers will visit the new magazine’s webpage and help this worthy effort become established and successful.

Read Less

Revoke Jimmy Carter’s Security Clearance

One of the perks that former presidents receive, if they choose to utilize it, is a daily security briefing from the CIA. This is how Jimmy Carter came to know (or at least claim) that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons, considering the fact that the Israeli government has pursued a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapon capability. This is a policy that was formed with tacit agreement by the United States, which in exchange for a promise by Israel not to conduct nuclear tests, agreed to the rubric that the Jewish State would not be the first, officially acknowledged Middle Eastern nuclear power. Of course, Carter knew a lot about Israel’s nuclear capability during his time in office, and it’s unprecedented that a former president would reveal this information publicly.

Carter did not make this revelation in the midst of top-level policy discussion with world leaders (or terrorists who pretend to be leaders), but at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales, an annual event sponsored by The Guardian newspaper. He followed this disclosure with the assertion that “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians.” Writing in Ha’aretz, defense analyst Reuven Pedatzur observes “One can assume that Iran will now be able to make use of Carter’s comments in order to point to the double standard of the Western world, which is prepared to accept a nuclear Israel but makes a great effort to prevent Iran from going nuclear.”

Last month I questioned whether Jimmy Carter was in violation of the Logan Act for his meeting with Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas. Edward Zelinsky of the Cardozo School of Law concluded that the former President was breaking the law, but that given the history of the statute’s non-enforcement by federal authorities, a prosecution would be unlikely and ill-considered. Taking Professor Zelinsky’s learned opinion to heart, the United States government ought to at least revoke Carter’s security clearance before our worst ex-President further endangers international peace and security.

One of the perks that former presidents receive, if they choose to utilize it, is a daily security briefing from the CIA. This is how Jimmy Carter came to know (or at least claim) that Israel has 150 nuclear weapons, considering the fact that the Israeli government has pursued a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear weapon capability. This is a policy that was formed with tacit agreement by the United States, which in exchange for a promise by Israel not to conduct nuclear tests, agreed to the rubric that the Jewish State would not be the first, officially acknowledged Middle Eastern nuclear power. Of course, Carter knew a lot about Israel’s nuclear capability during his time in office, and it’s unprecedented that a former president would reveal this information publicly.

Carter did not make this revelation in the midst of top-level policy discussion with world leaders (or terrorists who pretend to be leaders), but at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales, an annual event sponsored by The Guardian newspaper. He followed this disclosure with the assertion that “One of the greatest human rights crimes on earth is the starvation and imprisonment of 1.6m Palestinians.” Writing in Ha’aretz, defense analyst Reuven Pedatzur observes “One can assume that Iran will now be able to make use of Carter’s comments in order to point to the double standard of the Western world, which is prepared to accept a nuclear Israel but makes a great effort to prevent Iran from going nuclear.”

Last month I questioned whether Jimmy Carter was in violation of the Logan Act for his meeting with Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas. Edward Zelinsky of the Cardozo School of Law concluded that the former President was breaking the law, but that given the history of the statute’s non-enforcement by federal authorities, a prosecution would be unlikely and ill-considered. Taking Professor Zelinsky’s learned opinion to heart, the United States government ought to at least revoke Carter’s security clearance before our worst ex-President further endangers international peace and security.

Read Less

What If He Goes?

The RNC is working overtime trying to embarrass Barack Obama about his failure to visit Iraq for a couple of years. After a day of this Obama now suggests he might go–just not with John McCain. If he did, whom would this help?

From McCain’s perspective, he would hope this would focus attention on the divergence between Obama’s position (that all is lost in Iraq) and the reality that there has been considerable political and military progress. And there is always the possibility that Obama would be unprepared for a question with cameras rolling. Reporters might even ask troops questions and receive embarrassing answers indicating that fighting men and women see the potential for victory.

From comments released by his campaign from at an appearance yesterday in Los Angeles you can already see what McCain is up to. You will notice the dig at elevating “ideology” over facts (hmmm, who uses that line a lot?):

I am glad to hear that Senator Obama is now “considering a trip to Iraq.” It’s long overdue. It’s been 871 days since he was there. And I’m confident that when he goes, he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq because he will see the success that has been achieved on the ground and the consequences of failure if we set dates for withdrawal, as he wants to do. There will be chaos. There will be increased Iranian influence and fights amongst the militias. And there will be al Qaeda establishing a base there and then we would be back. And of course there would be, as I said, increased Iranian influence in the region.

So the fact is Senator Obama was driven to his position by his ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. So the success in Iraq is undeniable. It has been long, hard and frustrating and great sacrifice has been made.

But Obama might gain something as well. He might be able to silence this type of ad and show he is not “afraid” to get out and meet with the troops and commanders. He might even impress some voters that he is fluent enough in national security matters to be a credible commander-in-chief.

But if one candidate has essentially been forced into doing something, shamed even, by his opponent it is hard to escape the conclusion that his opponent has the upper hand. And that, it seems, may be a larger concern. After all, if McCain can get Obama to go to Iraq, where will it stop? Could he get him to go to Israel (he was there in 2006, it appears)? Or visit President Uribe in Colombia and explain his opposition to the free trade agreement? (He could also suggest Obama visit the UK and settle their nerves.)

McCain playing the role of the world tour guide for Obama is hardly something the junior senator from Illinios wants to encourage. So I suspect he won’t be taking travel suggestions from McCain anytime soon.

The RNC is working overtime trying to embarrass Barack Obama about his failure to visit Iraq for a couple of years. After a day of this Obama now suggests he might go–just not with John McCain. If he did, whom would this help?

From McCain’s perspective, he would hope this would focus attention on the divergence between Obama’s position (that all is lost in Iraq) and the reality that there has been considerable political and military progress. And there is always the possibility that Obama would be unprepared for a question with cameras rolling. Reporters might even ask troops questions and receive embarrassing answers indicating that fighting men and women see the potential for victory.

From comments released by his campaign from at an appearance yesterday in Los Angeles you can already see what McCain is up to. You will notice the dig at elevating “ideology” over facts (hmmm, who uses that line a lot?):

I am glad to hear that Senator Obama is now “considering a trip to Iraq.” It’s long overdue. It’s been 871 days since he was there. And I’m confident that when he goes, he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq because he will see the success that has been achieved on the ground and the consequences of failure if we set dates for withdrawal, as he wants to do. There will be chaos. There will be increased Iranian influence and fights amongst the militias. And there will be al Qaeda establishing a base there and then we would be back. And of course there would be, as I said, increased Iranian influence in the region.

So the fact is Senator Obama was driven to his position by his ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. So the success in Iraq is undeniable. It has been long, hard and frustrating and great sacrifice has been made.

But Obama might gain something as well. He might be able to silence this type of ad and show he is not “afraid” to get out and meet with the troops and commanders. He might even impress some voters that he is fluent enough in national security matters to be a credible commander-in-chief.

But if one candidate has essentially been forced into doing something, shamed even, by his opponent it is hard to escape the conclusion that his opponent has the upper hand. And that, it seems, may be a larger concern. After all, if McCain can get Obama to go to Iraq, where will it stop? Could he get him to go to Israel (he was there in 2006, it appears)? Or visit President Uribe in Colombia and explain his opposition to the free trade agreement? (He could also suggest Obama visit the UK and settle their nerves.)

McCain playing the role of the world tour guide for Obama is hardly something the junior senator from Illinios wants to encourage. So I suspect he won’t be taking travel suggestions from McCain anytime soon.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.