Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 5, 2008

What Does Hillary Want?

Who knows? Perhaps sensing she had gone too far with the high-pressure tactics, Hillary Clinton is now disclaiming responsibility for the strong-arm efforts to get herself on the ticket. There is a bizarre, manic quality to all of this: overkill followed by retreat, threats followed by conciliatory talk. If ever there were reason to conclude that she needs time in the Senate to self-evaluate, work on some policy and take stock of her political standing the last few days should have made that clear. Will she? The Clintons never struck me as very self-aware, but there is nothing like losing a presidential race you were supposed to win to help redirect one’s focus. Just ask Al Gore.

Who knows? Perhaps sensing she had gone too far with the high-pressure tactics, Hillary Clinton is now disclaiming responsibility for the strong-arm efforts to get herself on the ticket. There is a bizarre, manic quality to all of this: overkill followed by retreat, threats followed by conciliatory talk. If ever there were reason to conclude that she needs time in the Senate to self-evaluate, work on some policy and take stock of her political standing the last few days should have made that clear. Will she? The Clintons never struck me as very self-aware, but there is nothing like losing a presidential race you were supposed to win to help redirect one’s focus. Just ask Al Gore.

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On Barnes and Town Halls

Out of over twenty debates that Barack Obama has participated in, he has yet to come away with a decisive victory. John McCain, aiming to capitalize on his political foe’s weakness, recently challenged Obama to participate in ten town halls this summer. Fred Barnes argues on The Weekly Standard‘s The Blog that Obama’s political cowardice prevents him from accepting McCain’s town hall proposal. Barnes has a point: McCain is best when he’s spontaneous, while Obama has struggled in such situations. In his words:

So why wouldn’t Senator Bring-Us-Together jump enthusiastically at the opportunity? Several reasons, all political. Obama figures he’s going to win because of the strong Democratic tide and doesn’t want to offer opportunities for Republicans to lay a glove on him. Also, he’s not particularly good at town hall gatherings–spontaneity is not his thing–but McCain is at his best at such sessions. And Obama would rather give set speeches, at which he’s terrific, than take questions that might force him to deal with things (Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, etc.) he’d rather not talk about.

Barnes is correct, but incomplete. McCain is lagging far behind Obama in money. As Jennifer Rubin says, “for a weakly-financed campaign it would be manna from heaven to have the networks covering the road show,” i.e., free press coverage that accurately contrasts the two presidential candidates might be McCain’s only hope to close the ever-growing gap.

Additionally, town halls do not come without risk for McCain. In the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy is considered to have benefited enormously by being seated across from Richard Nixon in the first televised presidential debates. Could this pattern repeat? It appears so.

Here’s Markos Moulitsas of the DailyKos analyzing a picture of McCain:

It’s pretty bad when your hair is whiter than your teeth…I mean, they have teeth whitening products today. Just ask Chuck Norris. There’s also photoshop. No one at Camp McCain thinks this is relevant or worth fixing?

Firedoglake offers similarly banal observations:

The tie he was wearing, a sort of aquamarine blue had an incredible sheen on our HDTV while the suit was a great choice as well. When you compare it to the McCain shoulder pad suit and grandpa’s old tie from the back of the closet look? No question who looks like they are moving forward and who looks like they are stuck in 1984.

In short, McCain’s town hall gambit might backfire, but what else is the underdog to do? And most worrisome for McCain: no matter how poorly Obama performed in the primary debates, he ultimately won.

Out of over twenty debates that Barack Obama has participated in, he has yet to come away with a decisive victory. John McCain, aiming to capitalize on his political foe’s weakness, recently challenged Obama to participate in ten town halls this summer. Fred Barnes argues on The Weekly Standard‘s The Blog that Obama’s political cowardice prevents him from accepting McCain’s town hall proposal. Barnes has a point: McCain is best when he’s spontaneous, while Obama has struggled in such situations. In his words:

So why wouldn’t Senator Bring-Us-Together jump enthusiastically at the opportunity? Several reasons, all political. Obama figures he’s going to win because of the strong Democratic tide and doesn’t want to offer opportunities for Republicans to lay a glove on him. Also, he’s not particularly good at town hall gatherings–spontaneity is not his thing–but McCain is at his best at such sessions. And Obama would rather give set speeches, at which he’s terrific, than take questions that might force him to deal with things (Rev. Wright, Tony Rezko, etc.) he’d rather not talk about.

Barnes is correct, but incomplete. McCain is lagging far behind Obama in money. As Jennifer Rubin says, “for a weakly-financed campaign it would be manna from heaven to have the networks covering the road show,” i.e., free press coverage that accurately contrasts the two presidential candidates might be McCain’s only hope to close the ever-growing gap.

Additionally, town halls do not come without risk for McCain. In the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy is considered to have benefited enormously by being seated across from Richard Nixon in the first televised presidential debates. Could this pattern repeat? It appears so.

Here’s Markos Moulitsas of the DailyKos analyzing a picture of McCain:

It’s pretty bad when your hair is whiter than your teeth…I mean, they have teeth whitening products today. Just ask Chuck Norris. There’s also photoshop. No one at Camp McCain thinks this is relevant or worth fixing?

Firedoglake offers similarly banal observations:

The tie he was wearing, a sort of aquamarine blue had an incredible sheen on our HDTV while the suit was a great choice as well. When you compare it to the McCain shoulder pad suit and grandpa’s old tie from the back of the closet look? No question who looks like they are moving forward and who looks like they are stuck in 1984.

In short, McCain’s town hall gambit might backfire, but what else is the underdog to do? And most worrisome for McCain: no matter how poorly Obama performed in the primary debates, he ultimately won.

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All Roads Lead to Damascus

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel argue that President Bush should engage Syria in direct diplomatic dialogue.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, President George H.W. Bush did the improbable and convinced Syrian President Hafez Assad to join an American-led coalition against a fellow Baathist regime.

Today, these leaders’ sons have another chance for a diplomatic breakthrough that could redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East.

We can stop the Senators right there. Enlisting Hafez Assad did not redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East, because the U.S.’s 1991 campaign itself fell short of accomplishing that goal. We got Saddam out of Kuwait, but after that it was business as usual, which meant oil trade between Saddam and his shameless international customers, an American commitment to an ineffective and burdensome Iraqi containment program, and continued carnage for citizenry of the “contained” state. There was no hope of redefining the landscape until 2003, when the U.S. undertook the delayed job of liberating Iraq from Saddam.

The piece in the Journal is titled, “It’s Time to Talk to Syria,” but the truth is John Kerry’s watch always read “chat with Assad.” In 2006, after the Iraq Study Group recommended that the U.S. talk directly with Syria and Iran, Kerry flew to Damascus to sit down with the Syrian President. Returning from the trip, Kerry said, “I came away with a distinct feeling that there are opportunities here. There are fronts in which we can work together if people are inclined to.”

Big “if,” no?

Perhaps John Kerry always wants to talk to Syria because his onetime Middle East advisor Martin Indyk was the kind of guy who felt strongly, for example, that “If you want peace with Syria you have to give them back the Golan Heights.”

Hard to infer from the vagaries in today’s editorial just what specifics Kerry and Hagel would like to see covered in talks with Syria. But going by Kerry’s history and his associates, there are a lot of roads that run through Damascus.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel argue that President Bush should engage Syria in direct diplomatic dialogue.

After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, President George H.W. Bush did the improbable and convinced Syrian President Hafez Assad to join an American-led coalition against a fellow Baathist regime.

Today, these leaders’ sons have another chance for a diplomatic breakthrough that could redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East.

We can stop the Senators right there. Enlisting Hafez Assad did not redefine the strategic landscape in the Middle East, because the U.S.’s 1991 campaign itself fell short of accomplishing that goal. We got Saddam out of Kuwait, but after that it was business as usual, which meant oil trade between Saddam and his shameless international customers, an American commitment to an ineffective and burdensome Iraqi containment program, and continued carnage for citizenry of the “contained” state. There was no hope of redefining the landscape until 2003, when the U.S. undertook the delayed job of liberating Iraq from Saddam.

The piece in the Journal is titled, “It’s Time to Talk to Syria,” but the truth is John Kerry’s watch always read “chat with Assad.” In 2006, after the Iraq Study Group recommended that the U.S. talk directly with Syria and Iran, Kerry flew to Damascus to sit down with the Syrian President. Returning from the trip, Kerry said, “I came away with a distinct feeling that there are opportunities here. There are fronts in which we can work together if people are inclined to.”

Big “if,” no?

Perhaps John Kerry always wants to talk to Syria because his onetime Middle East advisor Martin Indyk was the kind of guy who felt strongly, for example, that “If you want peace with Syria you have to give them back the Golan Heights.”

Hard to infer from the vagaries in today’s editorial just what specifics Kerry and Hagel would like to see covered in talks with Syria. But going by Kerry’s history and his associates, there are a lot of roads that run through Damascus.

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Air Force Firings

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talked a lot about the need for good management in this sprawling government bureaucracy. His successor, Bob Gates, seems to be practicing it.

First he forced out the Army secretary, Francis Harvey, in March 2007, because of the scandal at Walter Read Army Medical Center over the handling of disabled veterans. Then this March he got rid of Admiral Fox Fallon, the head of Central Command, who had made his position untenable through what were perceived as public disagreements with administration foreign policy. Now he has canned Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne. Gates had developed a long line of grievances against them. As detailed by Air Force Times:

Those grievances include criticism of the Air Force’s nuclear weapons handling, two major acquisitions programs that have been stalled by protests, the service’s inability to rush more surveillance drones to the war zones, apparent conflicts of interest of current and retired senior officials related to a $50 million contract to produce a multimedia show for the Thunderbirds, and repeated clashes with Pentagon leaders over the number of F-22s the Air Force will buy and other budget issues.

The most serious blow to the credibility of the Air Force and its leadership has been a scandal spawned by the service’s accidental transfer in August of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. . . .

Then in March, it was discovered that the Air Force had accidentally shipped classified nuclear warhead fuses to Taiwan in 2006. That prompted Gates to order a military-wide inventory of nuclear weapons and components. That report was recently submitted to Gates but has not been released publicly.

It is to Gates’s credit that he has moved to hold the most senior commanders responsible for foul-ups on their watch. If only his boss, President Bush, had consistently followed the same policy, his administration would have avoided a number of screw-ups in operations ranging from Hurricane Katrina relief to the war in Iraq.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talked a lot about the need for good management in this sprawling government bureaucracy. His successor, Bob Gates, seems to be practicing it.

First he forced out the Army secretary, Francis Harvey, in March 2007, because of the scandal at Walter Read Army Medical Center over the handling of disabled veterans. Then this March he got rid of Admiral Fox Fallon, the head of Central Command, who had made his position untenable through what were perceived as public disagreements with administration foreign policy. Now he has canned Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne. Gates had developed a long line of grievances against them. As detailed by Air Force Times:

Those grievances include criticism of the Air Force’s nuclear weapons handling, two major acquisitions programs that have been stalled by protests, the service’s inability to rush more surveillance drones to the war zones, apparent conflicts of interest of current and retired senior officials related to a $50 million contract to produce a multimedia show for the Thunderbirds, and repeated clashes with Pentagon leaders over the number of F-22s the Air Force will buy and other budget issues.

The most serious blow to the credibility of the Air Force and its leadership has been a scandal spawned by the service’s accidental transfer in August of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Barksdale Air Force Base, La. . . .

Then in March, it was discovered that the Air Force had accidentally shipped classified nuclear warhead fuses to Taiwan in 2006. That prompted Gates to order a military-wide inventory of nuclear weapons and components. That report was recently submitted to Gates but has not been released publicly.

It is to Gates’s credit that he has moved to hold the most senior commanders responsible for foul-ups on their watch. If only his boss, President Bush, had consistently followed the same policy, his administration would have avoided a number of screw-ups in operations ranging from Hurricane Katrina relief to the war in Iraq.

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Reason To Be An Egomaniac?

Well, Abe, I think there is a semi-serious but very faulty presumption which Andrew Sullivan and other Barack Obama supporters make. They assume but do not explain why Obama has reason to be an egomaniac. (I will leave for others to debate whether there are degrees of egomania, and whether some of our greatest presidents, like Lincoln and Truman, were not distinguished by their lack of ego.) Obama himself revealed how sensitive he is on this point, when on the night of his crowning glory, he remarked with obvious iritation that, although he has recognized John McCain’s accomplishments, McCain has not recognized his. Again, what accomplishments and why the right to be considered a great leader?

This seems to be a familiar phenomenon today. The Left, whether in the media or universities, elevates words, feelings and identity above deeds. (This by the way is another of the unpleasant legacies fo the 1960’s.) But what has Obama done other than win the nomination? They respond that we are dense to even ask. His speeches have made them feel so much better so that they mistake that for his greatness. Or his racial identity shows how inclusive America is, so he must therefore be extraordinary. It is a sign, a disturbing sign, of our times that concrete deeds count for so little and emotive words and identity politics for so much.

Well, Abe, I think there is a semi-serious but very faulty presumption which Andrew Sullivan and other Barack Obama supporters make. They assume but do not explain why Obama has reason to be an egomaniac. (I will leave for others to debate whether there are degrees of egomania, and whether some of our greatest presidents, like Lincoln and Truman, were not distinguished by their lack of ego.) Obama himself revealed how sensitive he is on this point, when on the night of his crowning glory, he remarked with obvious iritation that, although he has recognized John McCain’s accomplishments, McCain has not recognized his. Again, what accomplishments and why the right to be considered a great leader?

This seems to be a familiar phenomenon today. The Left, whether in the media or universities, elevates words, feelings and identity above deeds. (This by the way is another of the unpleasant legacies fo the 1960’s.) But what has Obama done other than win the nomination? They respond that we are dense to even ask. His speeches have made them feel so much better so that they mistake that for his greatness. Or his racial identity shows how inclusive America is, so he must therefore be extraordinary. It is a sign, a disturbing sign, of our times that concrete deeds count for so little and emotive words and identity politics for so much.

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Can Andrew Sullivan Outdo Himself?

Yes he can!

From Andrew’s recorded conversation with Marc Ambinder:

I think all politicians that want to be president of the United States are egomaniacs. I mean I think that’s a baseline. I think Barack Obama is an egomaniac with a reason to be an egomaniac.

Which makes his worshipful fans sycophants with reason to be sycophants?

Yes he can!

From Andrew’s recorded conversation with Marc Ambinder:

I think all politicians that want to be president of the United States are egomaniacs. I mean I think that’s a baseline. I think Barack Obama is an egomaniac with a reason to be an egomaniac.

Which makes his worshipful fans sycophants with reason to be sycophants?

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Why Go?

In a persuasive op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Pete Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom (which has run ads criticizing Barack Obama for not visiting Iraq or meeting with General Petraeus) makes the case for Obama to visit Iraq. He debunks the argument that one doesn’t learn much on these trips:

Mr. Obama has dismissed the value of such trips, suggesting they are stage-managed productions designated to obfuscate, not illuminate, the truth. This has become an all-too-common sentiment within the Democratic Party leadership, especially since the surge began to transform conditions on the ground for the better. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has denied that there is any value in visiting the troops in Iraq, and has never done so . . .

That Mr. Obama apparently doubts his ability to distinguish spin from reality, and to draw bad news out of subordinates, does not bode well for his possible future as our nation’s chief executive. As I’m sure he will discover, if he wins the White House, these are among the most important skills for a president to possess.

It is, in that regard, even more strange that Obama would not want to meet in private with the Iraq commander and hear his views directly without cameras rolling. The answer is simple: Obama would be asked afterwards what advice he received and whether he believed that the surge was succeeding.

Hegseth observes:

After all, Mr. Obama was among those in January 2007 who stridently opposed the surge and confidently predicted its failure – even going so far as to vote against funding our soldiers in the field unless the Bush administration abandoned this new approach. It is now clear that Mr. Obama’s judgment on the surge was spectacularly wrong.

Yet rather than admit his mistake, Mr. Obama has instead tried to downplay or disparage the gains our troops have achieved in the past 12 months, clinging to a set of talking points that increasingly seem as divorced from reality as some in the Bush administration were at the darkest moments of the war.

Mr. Obama continues to insist that “Iraq’s political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war” – despite the passage of numerous pieces of benchmark legislation by the Iraqi Parliament and unequivocal evidence of grassroots reconciliation across the country.

So it would seem that a good way for Obama to escape from the box he is in–denying reality–is to get some “new facts” (lots of people have them but they would be new to him) and annouce he is a different kind of leader who is not afraid to admit mistakes. Isn’t that what he asked of John McCain? Isn’t that central to New Politics?

In a persuasive op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Pete Hegseth, chairman of Vets for Freedom (which has run ads criticizing Barack Obama for not visiting Iraq or meeting with General Petraeus) makes the case for Obama to visit Iraq. He debunks the argument that one doesn’t learn much on these trips:

Mr. Obama has dismissed the value of such trips, suggesting they are stage-managed productions designated to obfuscate, not illuminate, the truth. This has become an all-too-common sentiment within the Democratic Party leadership, especially since the surge began to transform conditions on the ground for the better. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has denied that there is any value in visiting the troops in Iraq, and has never done so . . .

That Mr. Obama apparently doubts his ability to distinguish spin from reality, and to draw bad news out of subordinates, does not bode well for his possible future as our nation’s chief executive. As I’m sure he will discover, if he wins the White House, these are among the most important skills for a president to possess.

It is, in that regard, even more strange that Obama would not want to meet in private with the Iraq commander and hear his views directly without cameras rolling. The answer is simple: Obama would be asked afterwards what advice he received and whether he believed that the surge was succeeding.

Hegseth observes:

After all, Mr. Obama was among those in January 2007 who stridently opposed the surge and confidently predicted its failure – even going so far as to vote against funding our soldiers in the field unless the Bush administration abandoned this new approach. It is now clear that Mr. Obama’s judgment on the surge was spectacularly wrong.

Yet rather than admit his mistake, Mr. Obama has instead tried to downplay or disparage the gains our troops have achieved in the past 12 months, clinging to a set of talking points that increasingly seem as divorced from reality as some in the Bush administration were at the darkest moments of the war.

Mr. Obama continues to insist that “Iraq’s political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war” – despite the passage of numerous pieces of benchmark legislation by the Iraqi Parliament and unequivocal evidence of grassroots reconciliation across the country.

So it would seem that a good way for Obama to escape from the box he is in–denying reality–is to get some “new facts” (lots of people have them but they would be new to him) and annouce he is a different kind of leader who is not afraid to admit mistakes. Isn’t that what he asked of John McCain? Isn’t that central to New Politics?

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Stopping Syria

Today, Syria told the 35-nation Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency that its inspectors may not visit three facilities of interest to the nuclear watchdog. IAEA officials are slated to visit the country on the 22nd through the 24th of this month.

On Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei announced that Damascus had consented to inspections of the site Israeli planes destroyed last September. After the air raid, the Syrians carted away the debris and scrapped the soil, a sure sign that the target–probably a reactor of North Korean design–was part of a covert nuclear weapons program. In view of the refusal to allow inspections of the three other sites, it’s clear that the Israeli raid did not end Syria’s ambitions to weaponize the atom.

Because Syria is far from developing the bomb, we will hear the usual calls for patient diplomacy. And if this matter were just about Syria, the international community could afford to adopt a leisurely approach and talk for years. Yet the Syrian nuclear program, unfortunately for the Syrians, has broader implications. We need, in short, to make an example of Damascus.

Why is Tehran so intransigent at this moment? There are many underlying reasons of course, but perhaps the most important factor explaining the mullahs’ current attitudes is this: they feel they can get away with it.

And why do they think that? The Bush administration has exacted no price from North Korea for withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, reprocessing uranium, detonating an atomic device, and proliferating nuclear technology to Syria and probably Iran. On the contrary, we appear determined to give Kim Jong Il what he wants. The Iranian leadership has watched America utterly fail to defend its most vital interest against one of the weakest nations today. Tehran, therefore, has surely decided that it will suffer no consequences for defying the United States and the United Nations by enriching uranium and developing a nuclear arsenal.

President Bush has made a complete hash of North Korea, and, as much as I would like to be optimistic, it is clear he will not make things right by the time he leaves office. So if we want to stop Iran, we have to stop Syria. The world will be unrecognizable if Iran develops the bomb. The place to stop Tehran is in Damascus, and the time to do that is now.

Today, Syria told the 35-nation Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency that its inspectors may not visit three facilities of interest to the nuclear watchdog. IAEA officials are slated to visit the country on the 22nd through the 24th of this month.

On Monday, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei announced that Damascus had consented to inspections of the site Israeli planes destroyed last September. After the air raid, the Syrians carted away the debris and scrapped the soil, a sure sign that the target–probably a reactor of North Korean design–was part of a covert nuclear weapons program. In view of the refusal to allow inspections of the three other sites, it’s clear that the Israeli raid did not end Syria’s ambitions to weaponize the atom.

Because Syria is far from developing the bomb, we will hear the usual calls for patient diplomacy. And if this matter were just about Syria, the international community could afford to adopt a leisurely approach and talk for years. Yet the Syrian nuclear program, unfortunately for the Syrians, has broader implications. We need, in short, to make an example of Damascus.

Why is Tehran so intransigent at this moment? There are many underlying reasons of course, but perhaps the most important factor explaining the mullahs’ current attitudes is this: they feel they can get away with it.

And why do they think that? The Bush administration has exacted no price from North Korea for withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, reprocessing uranium, detonating an atomic device, and proliferating nuclear technology to Syria and probably Iran. On the contrary, we appear determined to give Kim Jong Il what he wants. The Iranian leadership has watched America utterly fail to defend its most vital interest against one of the weakest nations today. Tehran, therefore, has surely decided that it will suffer no consequences for defying the United States and the United Nations by enriching uranium and developing a nuclear arsenal.

President Bush has made a complete hash of North Korea, and, as much as I would like to be optimistic, it is clear he will not make things right by the time he leaves office. So if we want to stop Iran, we have to stop Syria. The world will be unrecognizable if Iran develops the bomb. The place to stop Tehran is in Damascus, and the time to do that is now.

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Obama “Pretends” on Iraq

Senator Obama’s speech on Tuesday in St. Paul, when he finally locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, was typical: rhetorically powerful, well-delivered, with some clever and well-constructed lines. But when you examine the substance of what he said, the speech breaks down. Some of his claims are questionable and misleading; others are ill-informed; and still others border on being intellectually dishonest. Obama’s statement on Iraq are particularly revealing.

According to Obama:

I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq.

In fact, Obama doesn’t have to “pretend” there are many good options left in Iraq. There is one obvious good option: to continue policies that are manifestly succeeding and qualify as one of the most impressive military turnabouts in our history. According to yesterday’s operational update by Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner,

For the third week in a row security incidents in Iraq are at the lowest levels in four years. These numbers reflect fewer attacks on Iraqi civilians, fewer attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces, and fewer attacks on the Government’s infrastructure. These security gains follow the coordinated offensive operations over the past year, and the recent security operations in Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra.

The security progress we’ve making is now translating into encouraging progress on the political and economic fronts as well. There is no question, then, that Iraq, which remains in many ways a broken and splintered country, has made enormous strides. It is virtually beyond dispute that the “surge” strategy endorsed by President Bush (and opposed by Senator Obama) is working, and working better and faster than anyone could have imagined just a year ago.

In his speech Obama also stated:

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in – but start leaving we must.

Keep in mind that in his February 2007 speech announcing his bid for the presidency, Obama declared, “It’s time to start bringing our troops home. That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008.” In May, Obama voted against funding for combat operations. And in September, a mere three months after the final elements of the 30,000-strong surge forces had landed in Iraq, he declared that the moment had arrived to remove all of our combat troops “immediately.” “Not in six months or one year–now.”

Obama’s position, then, is the embodiment of carelessness in “getting out of Iraq,” and if he had his way, the progress we have seen would not have come to pass and Iraq would almost certainly be in a death spiral rather than on the (long and difficult) road to recovery.

As for Obama’s statement that “start leaving we must”: perhaps Obama is unaware that when he testified before the Congress two months ago, General Petraeus announced that he was recommending that we withdraw five brigade combat teams (more than a quarter of our total number of combat troops) from Iraq – or that this week, the fourth of five Brigade Combat Teams are returning home, including two Marine battalions and a Marine Expeditionary Unit which have already returned home.

Senator Obama also said this on Tuesday:

It’s time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.

Perhaps Senator Obama is unaware of that, in the words of the New York Times (from May 12), “Basra has been transformed by its own surge . . . forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have largely quieted the city, to the initial surprise and growing delight of many inhabitants who only a month ago shuddered under deadly clashes between Iraqi troops and Shiite militia.” The principal factor for the success we’ve seen in Basra is the deployment of 33,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. And while we shared intelligence, helped the Iraqis in planning the operation and provided overhead reconnaissance, it was “totally Iraq planned, led and executed,” according to the U.S. military.

Perhaps Senator Obama is unaware, too, of the progress that’s been made in Sadr City. On May 21 the New York Times put it this way:

Iraqi forces rolled unopposed through the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City on Tuesday, a dramatic turnaround from the bitter fighting that has plagued the Baghdad neighborhood for two months, and a qualified success for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. As it did in the southern city of Basra last month, the Iraqi government advanced its goal of establishing sovereignty and curtailing the powers of the militia.

It’s also likely, I suppose, that Senator Obama is unaware of the progress that’s being made in Mosul, the last urban bastion of al Qaeda in Iraq. According to the Times

The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities.

Senator Obama also appears to be wholly unaware of the political reconciliation and legislative progress we’ve seen in recent months, including the Iraqi parliament passing key laws having to do with provincial elections, the distribution of resources, amnesty, pensions, investment, and de-Ba’athification.

Also in his speech, Senator Obama said:

It’s time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda’s leadership

Perhaps during his busy campaigning Obama isn’t aware of the fact that al Qaeda is in the process of losing the hearts and minds of the Islamic and Arab world. Beginning late last year key figures in the jihadist movement–including Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia; Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential Saudi cleric whom bin Laden once lionized; and Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (“Dr. Fadl”), once a mentor to Ayman al-Zawahiri and a legend within the global jihadist movement– turned against al Qaeda and their brutal tactics.

In addition, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, in a meeting with the Washington Post last week, portrayed al Qaeda as badly weakened in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive in much of the rest of the world. Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been destabilized and it has lost its ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. “You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated,” the ever-cautious U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said on Saturday, “but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.”

We know, too, that according to a report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, “large and growing numbers of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere [are] rejecting Islamic extremism.” We are also seeing large drops in support for Osama bin Laden.

The idea that we would hurt al Qaeda by losing in Iraq, which would be the outcome of Obama’s policy, is profoundly confused and, if it were to be implemented, terribly dangerous.

Senator Obama’s statements on Iraq are representative of his larger weaknesses. If you strip away the eloquence, charm, and political skills and drill down on the substance, Obama is, especially when it comes to Iraq, misinformed and seemingly out of his depth. He continued to make claims that are demonstrably wrong–and perhaps the media, many of whom are utterly enchanted with the Obama candidacy, will begin to hone in on how out of touch with reality he is. We are, after all, electing a president and not a high school prom king. Obama’s lack of knowledge on issues like Iraq should matter more than his ability to excite a crowd and charm reporters. And his steadfast refusal to alter his views based on new, and in this instance encouraging, evidence is more evidence of the enormous gap that exists between who Obama is and how he presents himself to be. On Iraq, Barack Obama is in a state of denial.

Senator Obama’s speech on Tuesday in St. Paul, when he finally locked up the Democratic presidential nomination, was typical: rhetorically powerful, well-delivered, with some clever and well-constructed lines. But when you examine the substance of what he said, the speech breaks down. Some of his claims are questionable and misleading; others are ill-informed; and still others border on being intellectually dishonest. Obama’s statement on Iraq are particularly revealing.

According to Obama:

I won’t stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq.

In fact, Obama doesn’t have to “pretend” there are many good options left in Iraq. There is one obvious good option: to continue policies that are manifestly succeeding and qualify as one of the most impressive military turnabouts in our history. According to yesterday’s operational update by Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner,

For the third week in a row security incidents in Iraq are at the lowest levels in four years. These numbers reflect fewer attacks on Iraqi civilians, fewer attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces, and fewer attacks on the Government’s infrastructure. These security gains follow the coordinated offensive operations over the past year, and the recent security operations in Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra.

The security progress we’ve making is now translating into encouraging progress on the political and economic fronts as well. There is no question, then, that Iraq, which remains in many ways a broken and splintered country, has made enormous strides. It is virtually beyond dispute that the “surge” strategy endorsed by President Bush (and opposed by Senator Obama) is working, and working better and faster than anyone could have imagined just a year ago.

In his speech Obama also stated:

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in – but start leaving we must.

Keep in mind that in his February 2007 speech announcing his bid for the presidency, Obama declared, “It’s time to start bringing our troops home. That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008.” In May, Obama voted against funding for combat operations. And in September, a mere three months after the final elements of the 30,000-strong surge forces had landed in Iraq, he declared that the moment had arrived to remove all of our combat troops “immediately.” “Not in six months or one year–now.”

Obama’s position, then, is the embodiment of carelessness in “getting out of Iraq,” and if he had his way, the progress we have seen would not have come to pass and Iraq would almost certainly be in a death spiral rather than on the (long and difficult) road to recovery.

As for Obama’s statement that “start leaving we must”: perhaps Obama is unaware that when he testified before the Congress two months ago, General Petraeus announced that he was recommending that we withdraw five brigade combat teams (more than a quarter of our total number of combat troops) from Iraq – or that this week, the fourth of five Brigade Combat Teams are returning home, including two Marine battalions and a Marine Expeditionary Unit which have already returned home.

Senator Obama also said this on Tuesday:

It’s time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future.

Perhaps Senator Obama is unaware of that, in the words of the New York Times (from May 12), “Basra has been transformed by its own surge . . . forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki have largely quieted the city, to the initial surprise and growing delight of many inhabitants who only a month ago shuddered under deadly clashes between Iraqi troops and Shiite militia.” The principal factor for the success we’ve seen in Basra is the deployment of 33,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. And while we shared intelligence, helped the Iraqis in planning the operation and provided overhead reconnaissance, it was “totally Iraq planned, led and executed,” according to the U.S. military.

Perhaps Senator Obama is unaware, too, of the progress that’s been made in Sadr City. On May 21 the New York Times put it this way:

Iraqi forces rolled unopposed through the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City on Tuesday, a dramatic turnaround from the bitter fighting that has plagued the Baghdad neighborhood for two months, and a qualified success for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. As it did in the southern city of Basra last month, the Iraqi government advanced its goal of establishing sovereignty and curtailing the powers of the militia.

It’s also likely, I suppose, that Senator Obama is unaware of the progress that’s being made in Mosul, the last urban bastion of al Qaeda in Iraq. According to the Times

The recent successes in quieting violence in Basra and Sadr City appear to be stretching to the long-rebellious Sunni Arab district here in Mosul, raising hopes that the Iraqi Army may soon have tenuous control over all three of Iraq’s major cities.

Senator Obama also appears to be wholly unaware of the political reconciliation and legislative progress we’ve seen in recent months, including the Iraqi parliament passing key laws having to do with provincial elections, the distribution of resources, amnesty, pensions, investment, and de-Ba’athification.

Also in his speech, Senator Obama said:

It’s time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda’s leadership

Perhaps during his busy campaigning Obama isn’t aware of the fact that al Qaeda is in the process of losing the hearts and minds of the Islamic and Arab world. Beginning late last year key figures in the jihadist movement–including Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia; Sheikh Salman al-Awdah, an influential Saudi cleric whom bin Laden once lionized; and Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (“Dr. Fadl”), once a mentor to Ayman al-Zawahiri and a legend within the global jihadist movement– turned against al Qaeda and their brutal tactics.

In addition, CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, in a meeting with the Washington Post last week, portrayed al Qaeda as badly weakened in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive in much of the rest of the world. Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been destabilized and it has lost its ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. “You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated,” the ever-cautious U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, said on Saturday, “but they’ve never been closer to defeat than they are now.”

We know, too, that according to a report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, “large and growing numbers of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere [are] rejecting Islamic extremism.” We are also seeing large drops in support for Osama bin Laden.

The idea that we would hurt al Qaeda by losing in Iraq, which would be the outcome of Obama’s policy, is profoundly confused and, if it were to be implemented, terribly dangerous.

Senator Obama’s statements on Iraq are representative of his larger weaknesses. If you strip away the eloquence, charm, and political skills and drill down on the substance, Obama is, especially when it comes to Iraq, misinformed and seemingly out of his depth. He continued to make claims that are demonstrably wrong–and perhaps the media, many of whom are utterly enchanted with the Obama candidacy, will begin to hone in on how out of touch with reality he is. We are, after all, electing a president and not a high school prom king. Obama’s lack of knowledge on issues like Iraq should matter more than his ability to excite a crowd and charm reporters. And his steadfast refusal to alter his views based on new, and in this instance encouraging, evidence is more evidence of the enormous gap that exists between who Obama is and how he presents himself to be. On Iraq, Barack Obama is in a state of denial.

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“Endless” Acts of Racism

At RealClear, John McWhorter has a piece about what Barack Obama’s nomination illustrates: racism is in serious retreat. He writes:

Some may mistake me as implying that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. But that interpretation is incorrect: I am stating that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. We need to be talking about serious activism focused on results. Those who suppose that the main meal in the aforementioned is to decry racism are not helping people.

[…]

Yet every time some stupid thing happens – some comedian says a word, some sniggering blockhead hangs a little noose, some study shows that white people tend to get slightly better car loans – we are taught that racism is still mother’s milk in the U.S. of A. “Always just beneath the surface.”

Funny he should mention it. In today’s New York Times there’s a piece about how Obama’s nomination is inspiring blacks. Well, some blacks:

“People hate black people,” said Michella Minter, a black 21-year-old student in Huntington, W.Va., referring to persistent racism in the United States.

“I’m not trying to be racist or over the top but it is seriously apparent that black people aren’t valued in this country,” Ms. Minter said. “In the last 12 months, six kids were being tried for attempted murder for a school fight, an unarmed man got 51 bullets in his body by a New York police officer, died, and no one was charged, and endless other racist unknown acts have occurred this year.”

The “21-year-old student” part is depressing. The racism meme is so calcified in the mindset of American universities that young black Americans with unprecedented opportunity are continually being “educated” into defeatism and victimology. A black man is the Democratic presidential nominee, yet the campus-based focus is on hated blacks  and “endless” acts of racism.

As McWhorter writes: “Of course there is racism. The question is whether there is enough to matter.” There’s always enough to matter to a network of universities whose goal is to turn out the next generation of Michella Minters.

At RealClear, John McWhorter has a piece about what Barack Obama’s nomination illustrates: racism is in serious retreat. He writes:

Some may mistake me as implying that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. But that interpretation is incorrect: I am stating that it would be okay to stop talking about racism. We need to be talking about serious activism focused on results. Those who suppose that the main meal in the aforementioned is to decry racism are not helping people.

[…]

Yet every time some stupid thing happens – some comedian says a word, some sniggering blockhead hangs a little noose, some study shows that white people tend to get slightly better car loans – we are taught that racism is still mother’s milk in the U.S. of A. “Always just beneath the surface.”

Funny he should mention it. In today’s New York Times there’s a piece about how Obama’s nomination is inspiring blacks. Well, some blacks:

“People hate black people,” said Michella Minter, a black 21-year-old student in Huntington, W.Va., referring to persistent racism in the United States.

“I’m not trying to be racist or over the top but it is seriously apparent that black people aren’t valued in this country,” Ms. Minter said. “In the last 12 months, six kids were being tried for attempted murder for a school fight, an unarmed man got 51 bullets in his body by a New York police officer, died, and no one was charged, and endless other racist unknown acts have occurred this year.”

The “21-year-old student” part is depressing. The racism meme is so calcified in the mindset of American universities that young black Americans with unprecedented opportunity are continually being “educated” into defeatism and victimology. A black man is the Democratic presidential nominee, yet the campus-based focus is on hated blacks  and “endless” acts of racism.

As McWhorter writes: “Of course there is racism. The question is whether there is enough to matter.” There’s always enough to matter to a network of universities whose goal is to turn out the next generation of Michella Minters.

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Limping or Vanishing?

David Broder, as many others have observed, noted the rough time Barack Obama has had of late:

Obama limped into the nomination as a vulnerable and somewhat diminished politician. After winning 11 primaries and caucuses in a row, his magic touch seemed to depart him. He lost the knack of winning the heart of the Democratic coalition, working families that look for help in meeting the economic challenges of their everyday lives. White, Hispanic, middle-aged or older, they had strong associations with Clinton and many questions about the commitments that lay behind Obama’s sweeping, reformist generalizations.

But the problem, Broder suggests, is not a demographic disconnect but a leadership vacuum:

What Democrats are just beginning to figure out is that John McCain is positioned to compete with Obama for the votes of the many Americans who are eager to put the hyper-partisanship of the past eight years behind them and witness a Washington that finally begins to address the nation’s challenges.But anyone who is realistic must recognize that forging fresh agreements in Congress and the interest-group-dominated capital will take an exceptionally strong president. Since early March, Obama has not looked like that president.

If Broder is correct, then the problems Obama faces are not merely “the Appalacian states don’t like him” or “Older women are mad,” but something more fundamental. Obama has, it seems, almost shrunk from view. The storyline each week has been Hillary Clinton’s wins, the atrocious demographic divide and the latest effort by Obama to tell us what he is not (e.g. a cohort of Reverend Wright, a naif in foreign policy, a question mark for Jews).

But the qualities we look for in presidents — the ability to command the stage, to shape the agenda, to rebut criticism with good humor, and to give citizens a sense of security — has been missing. Indeed, it has been backwards: the Democrats, the media, and his supporters have been trying to figure out how to protect him and carry him over the finish line. (The media coddling has, of course, gone on all year, but its intensity and unseemliness has increased as his perils became greater and his losses piled up.) Presidents aren’t supposed to be protected– they are the ones who protect the country.

And as to Broder’s point about John McCain, it is through sheer happenstance, I think, that the Republicans stumbled on someone suited to carve an independent image and deflect the damage to the GOP brand. To be frank, McCain won in spite of, and not because of, his maverick and iconoclastic views and attitudes. Conservative Republicans still bristle that he gives them too little respect. That very quality is now his ticket to competitiveness in the general election. Remember the Mitt Romney ad depicting McCain as the Democrats’ best friend? McCain could practically run that as his own ad in the general election.

So how did the Democrats manage to come up with such a vulnerable candidate and the Republicans a viable one? Sometimes there is such a thing as dumb luck.

David Broder, as many others have observed, noted the rough time Barack Obama has had of late:

Obama limped into the nomination as a vulnerable and somewhat diminished politician. After winning 11 primaries and caucuses in a row, his magic touch seemed to depart him. He lost the knack of winning the heart of the Democratic coalition, working families that look for help in meeting the economic challenges of their everyday lives. White, Hispanic, middle-aged or older, they had strong associations with Clinton and many questions about the commitments that lay behind Obama’s sweeping, reformist generalizations.

But the problem, Broder suggests, is not a demographic disconnect but a leadership vacuum:

What Democrats are just beginning to figure out is that John McCain is positioned to compete with Obama for the votes of the many Americans who are eager to put the hyper-partisanship of the past eight years behind them and witness a Washington that finally begins to address the nation’s challenges.But anyone who is realistic must recognize that forging fresh agreements in Congress and the interest-group-dominated capital will take an exceptionally strong president. Since early March, Obama has not looked like that president.

If Broder is correct, then the problems Obama faces are not merely “the Appalacian states don’t like him” or “Older women are mad,” but something more fundamental. Obama has, it seems, almost shrunk from view. The storyline each week has been Hillary Clinton’s wins, the atrocious demographic divide and the latest effort by Obama to tell us what he is not (e.g. a cohort of Reverend Wright, a naif in foreign policy, a question mark for Jews).

But the qualities we look for in presidents — the ability to command the stage, to shape the agenda, to rebut criticism with good humor, and to give citizens a sense of security — has been missing. Indeed, it has been backwards: the Democrats, the media, and his supporters have been trying to figure out how to protect him and carry him over the finish line. (The media coddling has, of course, gone on all year, but its intensity and unseemliness has increased as his perils became greater and his losses piled up.) Presidents aren’t supposed to be protected– they are the ones who protect the country.

And as to Broder’s point about John McCain, it is through sheer happenstance, I think, that the Republicans stumbled on someone suited to carve an independent image and deflect the damage to the GOP brand. To be frank, McCain won in spite of, and not because of, his maverick and iconoclastic views and attitudes. Conservative Republicans still bristle that he gives them too little respect. That very quality is now his ticket to competitiveness in the general election. Remember the Mitt Romney ad depicting McCain as the Democrats’ best friend? McCain could practically run that as his own ad in the general election.

So how did the Democrats manage to come up with such a vulnerable candidate and the Republicans a viable one? Sometimes there is such a thing as dumb luck.

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La Russa Speaks

Interviewed about the Iranian President’s visit to Rome, Italy’s new defense minister Ignazio La Russa reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to sanctions–and hinted at the need for possibly expanding the sanctions regime to increase pressure. Naturally, Europeans are not eager to see military action against Iran–in the past, several European politicians forcefully decried any reference to a possible military option. It is a novelty then that La Russa, when asked about a possible military strike, said something else:

I don’t believe that today conditions exist [for a military strike]. In the history of mankind, unfortunately one can never rule out military action, it is the continuation of politics and diplomacy, but let’s hope this will never occur.

A European government minister is thus on the record in Europe on the possibility–admittedly remote–of military action. And admittedly, this is not exactly the dominant mood. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, after all, is slated to travel to Tehran soon to deliver new incentives to the uncooperative Iranians. Given Europe’s usual tone of forceful condemnation, this modest variation, even in the continent of Kantian perpetual peace, is a welcome change and a reminder that Iran cannot go on fooling all of the people all of the time.

Interviewed about the Iranian President’s visit to Rome, Italy’s new defense minister Ignazio La Russa reaffirmed Europe’s commitment to sanctions–and hinted at the need for possibly expanding the sanctions regime to increase pressure. Naturally, Europeans are not eager to see military action against Iran–in the past, several European politicians forcefully decried any reference to a possible military option. It is a novelty then that La Russa, when asked about a possible military strike, said something else:

I don’t believe that today conditions exist [for a military strike]. In the history of mankind, unfortunately one can never rule out military action, it is the continuation of politics and diplomacy, but let’s hope this will never occur.

A European government minister is thus on the record in Europe on the possibility–admittedly remote–of military action. And admittedly, this is not exactly the dominant mood. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, after all, is slated to travel to Tehran soon to deliver new incentives to the uncooperative Iranians. Given Europe’s usual tone of forceful condemnation, this modest variation, even in the continent of Kantian perpetual peace, is a welcome change and a reminder that Iran cannot go on fooling all of the people all of the time.

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Hanson on Revisionist History

Today, COMMENTARY contributor Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent piece up at realclearpolitics.com. Writing from Europe, Hanson makes quick work of recent efforts to rewrite the history of World War II.

Today, COMMENTARY contributor Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent piece up at realclearpolitics.com. Writing from Europe, Hanson makes quick work of recent efforts to rewrite the history of World War II.

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Obama’s Iran Pipedream

Throughout the campaign season, Barack Obama’s precise stance on certain key Middle Eastern foreign policy issues has remained surprisingly nebulous. For example, we do not know whether Obama actually supports an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, or–as former foreign policy adviser Samantha Powers once suggested–his approach to Iraq would be more flexible. Similarly, we don’t know whether Obama supports an “even-handed” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–as he advocated during his failed congressional run in 2000–or whether he considers Israel’s security “sacrosanct.”

Yet Obama has been crystal clear on one specific policy approach: if elected, he will “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran without preconditions, negotiating with “appropriate Iranian leaders” on any and all outstanding issues. Indeed, whether addressing fawning audiences of liberal supporters or skeptical audiences of pro-Israel activists, Obama has been impressively consistent on this issue. His address before AIPAC yesterday was no exception: lambasting the Iranian regime as “supporting terrorism,” Obama promised that he would “lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing– if, and only if–it can advance the interests of the United States.” Obama seems to believe that the Iranians are eager to negotiate with a U.S. president, and are simply waiting for a president open to dialogue to emerge.

Make no mistake: this is a total pipedream. After all, as Obama has increasingly sought to convince doubters of his pro-Israel credentials, Iran and its supporters have come to view Obama as an agent of Israel’s interests–a perspective that likely precludes the meaningful Iranian–American dialogue that Obama expects if elected. In this vein, Iran’s state-funded PressTV covered Obama’s AIPAC speech as promising to “take care of Iran for Israel,” noting that Obama “has realized that by threatening Israel’s number one enemy, Iran, he can curry favor with the highly influential Israeli lobby in the U.S.” Similarly, Hezbollah’s al-Manar noted that Obama “strongly supported and defended the Zionist entity” in his speech before “the Zionist AIPAC council”–with the redundant use of the Z-word intended to communicate profound distrust for the presumptive Democratic nominee. Al-Manar‘s commenting readers were even more explicit in their disenchantment, referring to Obama as an “enemy” of Islam on account of his pro-Israel pronouncements.

In short, Obama’s desire to open dialogue with Iran is entirely inconsistent with his suddenly staunch embrace of Israel. His failure to acknowledge as much is simply the latest example of his foreign policy naïveté.

Throughout the campaign season, Barack Obama’s precise stance on certain key Middle Eastern foreign policy issues has remained surprisingly nebulous. For example, we do not know whether Obama actually supports an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, or–as former foreign policy adviser Samantha Powers once suggested–his approach to Iraq would be more flexible. Similarly, we don’t know whether Obama supports an “even-handed” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–as he advocated during his failed congressional run in 2000–or whether he considers Israel’s security “sacrosanct.”

Yet Obama has been crystal clear on one specific policy approach: if elected, he will “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran without preconditions, negotiating with “appropriate Iranian leaders” on any and all outstanding issues. Indeed, whether addressing fawning audiences of liberal supporters or skeptical audiences of pro-Israel activists, Obama has been impressively consistent on this issue. His address before AIPAC yesterday was no exception: lambasting the Iranian regime as “supporting terrorism,” Obama promised that he would “lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing– if, and only if–it can advance the interests of the United States.” Obama seems to believe that the Iranians are eager to negotiate with a U.S. president, and are simply waiting for a president open to dialogue to emerge.

Make no mistake: this is a total pipedream. After all, as Obama has increasingly sought to convince doubters of his pro-Israel credentials, Iran and its supporters have come to view Obama as an agent of Israel’s interests–a perspective that likely precludes the meaningful Iranian–American dialogue that Obama expects if elected. In this vein, Iran’s state-funded PressTV covered Obama’s AIPAC speech as promising to “take care of Iran for Israel,” noting that Obama “has realized that by threatening Israel’s number one enemy, Iran, he can curry favor with the highly influential Israeli lobby in the U.S.” Similarly, Hezbollah’s al-Manar noted that Obama “strongly supported and defended the Zionist entity” in his speech before “the Zionist AIPAC council”–with the redundant use of the Z-word intended to communicate profound distrust for the presumptive Democratic nominee. Al-Manar‘s commenting readers were even more explicit in their disenchantment, referring to Obama as an “enemy” of Islam on account of his pro-Israel pronouncements.

In short, Obama’s desire to open dialogue with Iran is entirely inconsistent with his suddenly staunch embrace of Israel. His failure to acknowledge as much is simply the latest example of his foreign policy naïveté.

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Take It from Jimmy

Jimmy Carter tells The Guardian today:

If you take that 50% who just don’t want to vote for Clinton and add it to whatever element there might be who don’t think Obama is white enough or old enough or experienced enough or because he’s got a middle name that sounds Arab, you could have the worst of both worlds.

Maybe. But if he’s looking for advice on what causes candidates to lose presidential elections, Barack Obama couldn’t find a more learned expert than James Earl Carter.

Jimmy Carter tells The Guardian today:

If you take that 50% who just don’t want to vote for Clinton and add it to whatever element there might be who don’t think Obama is white enough or old enough or experienced enough or because he’s got a middle name that sounds Arab, you could have the worst of both worlds.

Maybe. But if he’s looking for advice on what causes candidates to lose presidential elections, Barack Obama couldn’t find a more learned expert than James Earl Carter.

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Not So Fast

Hillary Clinton’s tactics to shove her way on to the Democratic ticket — I know it is hard to believe — do not seem to be endearing her to Democrats or Barack Obama in particular. Indeed, the effort is so ham-handed one wonders if she is looking for a “No, thanks.” As much as it is in Obama’s interest (it muddies his change message, it would make governing a nightmare, she would overshadow him, it would bring Bill’s baggage along) to reject her, it’s in her long term interest to escape a number-two spot as well.

Really, don’t her hopes reside in the 2012 “I told you so” comeback? Toiling away as VP did nothing for Al Gore or Walter Mondale. George H.W. Bush was the historical anomaly in recent history — a VP who made it to the White House by his own subsequent election.

Still, Clinton wouldn’t want to offend her adoring and angry fans by saying “I don’t want to be VP,” so perhaps it is better to be loud and obnoxious and get herself thrown out of consideration. But if you don’t like that explanation, there is plenty of evidence from the last six months that the Clintons have become tone-deaf and simply don’t know when enough is enough.

Hillary Clinton’s tactics to shove her way on to the Democratic ticket — I know it is hard to believe — do not seem to be endearing her to Democrats or Barack Obama in particular. Indeed, the effort is so ham-handed one wonders if she is looking for a “No, thanks.” As much as it is in Obama’s interest (it muddies his change message, it would make governing a nightmare, she would overshadow him, it would bring Bill’s baggage along) to reject her, it’s in her long term interest to escape a number-two spot as well.

Really, don’t her hopes reside in the 2012 “I told you so” comeback? Toiling away as VP did nothing for Al Gore or Walter Mondale. George H.W. Bush was the historical anomaly in recent history — a VP who made it to the White House by his own subsequent election.

Still, Clinton wouldn’t want to offend her adoring and angry fans by saying “I don’t want to be VP,” so perhaps it is better to be loud and obnoxious and get herself thrown out of consideration. But if you don’t like that explanation, there is plenty of evidence from the last six months that the Clintons have become tone-deaf and simply don’t know when enough is enough.

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