Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 17, 2008

Ya Think This Is Relevant?

Somehow the answer to this question in the Washington Post-ABC News poll got “lost” in the reporting:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that non-citizens suspected of terrorism who are being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be allowed to challenge their detentions in the U.S. civilian court system. (Supporters of this ruling say it provides detainees with basic constitutional rights.) (Critics of the ruling say only special military tribunals should be allowed, because hearings in open court could compromise terrorism investigations.) What’s your view – do you think these detainees should or should not be able to challenge their detentions in the civilian court system?

The good news for Obama is that the Supreme Court decision is less unpopular than the ban on offshore drilling. The bad news: 61 percent of voters oppose the decision. Hmmm. Funny how we didn’t hear that bit of data. More importantly, this looks like a losing argument for Obama. It seems that the voters don’t like the idea of terrorist trials as a full employment act for the plaintiffs’ bar.

Somehow the answer to this question in the Washington Post-ABC News poll got “lost” in the reporting:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that non-citizens suspected of terrorism who are being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be allowed to challenge their detentions in the U.S. civilian court system. (Supporters of this ruling say it provides detainees with basic constitutional rights.) (Critics of the ruling say only special military tribunals should be allowed, because hearings in open court could compromise terrorism investigations.) What’s your view – do you think these detainees should or should not be able to challenge their detentions in the civilian court system?

The good news for Obama is that the Supreme Court decision is less unpopular than the ban on offshore drilling. The bad news: 61 percent of voters oppose the decision. Hmmm. Funny how we didn’t hear that bit of data. More importantly, this looks like a losing argument for Obama. It seems that the voters don’t like the idea of terrorist trials as a full employment act for the plaintiffs’ bar.

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Europe Needs America

As Max mentioned, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced France’s new defense policy and it represents an historic departure. Despite the chorus telling us that the last eight years have driven a wedge between the U.S. and Europe, Sarkozy wants to cuddle. France will be an active part of NATO’s command structure for the first time since Charles de Gaulle turned his back on the transatlantic alliance in 1966.

In the end, it’s Europe that has to do something about its go-it-alone attitude. With American operations in Iraq meeting greater success and with Muslim integration in Europe proving evermore challenging, savvy European leaders know whose post-9/11 model they need to follow in both civil and military affairs. The truth is, the only way George W. Bush could have destroyed U.S.-Europe relations would have been to broadcast American weakness in a free world under threat. Wild West bluster was not about to affect Europe’s opinion of America in any meaningful way. That would always be determined by economic and military realities.

Max already pointed out that France’s Lenten military spending furthers the case for European irrelevance. There are other militaries on the rise — such as China’s and Russia’s — but those countries aren’t in the habit of stepping in to protect friends and defend freedoms. The Washington Post speaks of Sarkozy’s policy as a post-Cold War one, but the truth is Europe has long neglected their military duties knowing full well America was there to pick up the slack. Whether it’s the Cold War or the War on Terror, and whether the force wears NATO armbands or UN blue helmets, it’s the U.S. that does the heavy lifting. Susan Sarandon may flee to the continent if McCain becomes president, but if Iranian bombs fall anywhere near her villa, it will be the U.S. commander-in-chief who gives the orders to stop it.

Sarkozy has proved himself an admirable leader and reliable friend of the U.S. He, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, and Silvio Berlusconi are part of a wave of European heads of state who unabashedly cop to appreciating American strength. If only Democrats could be so honest.

As Max mentioned, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced France’s new defense policy and it represents an historic departure. Despite the chorus telling us that the last eight years have driven a wedge between the U.S. and Europe, Sarkozy wants to cuddle. France will be an active part of NATO’s command structure for the first time since Charles de Gaulle turned his back on the transatlantic alliance in 1966.

In the end, it’s Europe that has to do something about its go-it-alone attitude. With American operations in Iraq meeting greater success and with Muslim integration in Europe proving evermore challenging, savvy European leaders know whose post-9/11 model they need to follow in both civil and military affairs. The truth is, the only way George W. Bush could have destroyed U.S.-Europe relations would have been to broadcast American weakness in a free world under threat. Wild West bluster was not about to affect Europe’s opinion of America in any meaningful way. That would always be determined by economic and military realities.

Max already pointed out that France’s Lenten military spending furthers the case for European irrelevance. There are other militaries on the rise — such as China’s and Russia’s — but those countries aren’t in the habit of stepping in to protect friends and defend freedoms. The Washington Post speaks of Sarkozy’s policy as a post-Cold War one, but the truth is Europe has long neglected their military duties knowing full well America was there to pick up the slack. Whether it’s the Cold War or the War on Terror, and whether the force wears NATO armbands or UN blue helmets, it’s the U.S. that does the heavy lifting. Susan Sarandon may flee to the continent if McCain becomes president, but if Iranian bombs fall anywhere near her villa, it will be the U.S. commander-in-chief who gives the orders to stop it.

Sarkozy has proved himself an admirable leader and reliable friend of the U.S. He, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, and Silvio Berlusconi are part of a wave of European heads of state who unabashedly cop to appreciating American strength. If only Democrats could be so honest.

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Willie Randolph and Race

Last night, the New York Mets fired Willie Randolph, the first African-American manager in franchise history. To be sure, the move was a long time coming. After all, the Mets had consistently underperformed under Randolph, falling to the far inferior St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 playoffs; then collapsing in epic fashion last season to miss the playoffs; and, finally, middling around .500 through the first third of the current season despite holding the third-highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

Still, relative to the length of time it took for Randolph to land a managerial position in the first place, his fall occurred rather swiftly. Indeed, while serving as a coach for the New York Yankees for over a decade, Randolph was interviewed at least eleven times for various managerial positions. This occurred as a result of MLB’s policy for managerial searches, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before making a final selection. Too often, Randolph was used disingenuously as a “token candidate” in these job searches, his failure to secure a position seemingly predetermined.

Of course, this is hardly the aim of MLB’s managerial hiring guidelines. Rather, the policy intends to promote the representation of minorities in leadership positions such that African-American and Hispanic managers become common in baseball. In turn, the argument goes, race and ethnicity will become irrelevant, as minorities and whites will be seen as equally capable of managing a ball club–a goal consistent with baseball’s noble legacy of breaking racial barriers.

Yet Randolph’s experience exposes the ugly paradox of MLB’s affirmative action policies. Far from making race irrelevant, these policies separate minority and white managerial candidates in the public eye during interview processes, making race a constant theme in any minority candidate’s pursuit of a position. It is thus hardly surprising that, once hired, minority managers often come to view their tenures through the narrow lens of identity politics, at times becoming embroiled in racially divisive-as well as distracting-controversies.

This is probably what ultimately sealed Randolph’s fate. In an interview last month, Randolph defended his stoic on-field demeanor as critical to ensuring future opportunities for black managers, saying, “I think it’s very important … that I handle myself in a way that the [African-American managers] coming behind me will get the opportunities, too.” Quite controversially, he attributed the scrutiny he has received as Mets manager to racism, arguing that former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who is white, received far less scrutiny despite his similarly calm demeanor. “It smells a little bit,” he said. Fans and the media were outraged.

Given that Randolph was fired midseason, the Mets were permitted to select a new manager without the formal process in which MLB’s affirmative action guidelines would have taken effect. As a result, it seems to have gone unnoticed in the media that the Mets’ new manager, Jerry Manuel, is also African-American. Perhaps this shows that minority managers are no longer a phenomenon in baseball–and that MLB’s affirmative action hiring policies are thus no longer necessary.

Last night, the New York Mets fired Willie Randolph, the first African-American manager in franchise history. To be sure, the move was a long time coming. After all, the Mets had consistently underperformed under Randolph, falling to the far inferior St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 playoffs; then collapsing in epic fashion last season to miss the playoffs; and, finally, middling around .500 through the first third of the current season despite holding the third-highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

Still, relative to the length of time it took for Randolph to land a managerial position in the first place, his fall occurred rather swiftly. Indeed, while serving as a coach for the New York Yankees for over a decade, Randolph was interviewed at least eleven times for various managerial positions. This occurred as a result of MLB’s policy for managerial searches, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate before making a final selection. Too often, Randolph was used disingenuously as a “token candidate” in these job searches, his failure to secure a position seemingly predetermined.

Of course, this is hardly the aim of MLB’s managerial hiring guidelines. Rather, the policy intends to promote the representation of minorities in leadership positions such that African-American and Hispanic managers become common in baseball. In turn, the argument goes, race and ethnicity will become irrelevant, as minorities and whites will be seen as equally capable of managing a ball club–a goal consistent with baseball’s noble legacy of breaking racial barriers.

Yet Randolph’s experience exposes the ugly paradox of MLB’s affirmative action policies. Far from making race irrelevant, these policies separate minority and white managerial candidates in the public eye during interview processes, making race a constant theme in any minority candidate’s pursuit of a position. It is thus hardly surprising that, once hired, minority managers often come to view their tenures through the narrow lens of identity politics, at times becoming embroiled in racially divisive-as well as distracting-controversies.

This is probably what ultimately sealed Randolph’s fate. In an interview last month, Randolph defended his stoic on-field demeanor as critical to ensuring future opportunities for black managers, saying, “I think it’s very important … that I handle myself in a way that the [African-American managers] coming behind me will get the opportunities, too.” Quite controversially, he attributed the scrutiny he has received as Mets manager to racism, arguing that former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who is white, received far less scrutiny despite his similarly calm demeanor. “It smells a little bit,” he said. Fans and the media were outraged.

Given that Randolph was fired midseason, the Mets were permitted to select a new manager without the formal process in which MLB’s affirmative action guidelines would have taken effect. As a result, it seems to have gone unnoticed in the media that the Mets’ new manager, Jerry Manuel, is also African-American. Perhaps this shows that minority managers are no longer a phenomenon in baseball–and that MLB’s affirmative action hiring policies are thus no longer necessary.

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France’s Military Contribution

It’s nice that France is rejoining the military arm of NATO, but how much of a contribution can it make given that it continues to spend so little on its armed forces? Granted France has the second highest defense budget in Europe (behind the United Kingdom), but that’s not saying much, considering that all of the European states have let their militaries wither in recent years.

This Financial Times article reports that President Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to cut military strength by another 20%. France’s “deployable army” will be roughly 88,000, about the same as Britain’s-and less than half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps. That’s not all bad: Sarkozy is using some of the money that would have gone for troops to pay for satellite equipment and missile-detection systems. That’s useful. But the long-term projection is for defense spending to remain anemic. As the FT notes:

Defence spending, which in 2008 amounts to €30bn or 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product, will be frozen in real terms until 2012, and will then rise by 1 percentage point ahead of inflation until 2014.

To put that into perspective, the U.S. currently spends a little over 4 percent of GDP on defense-a low number by historic standards but far higher than any of our European allies. No wonder Bob Kagan is talking about Europe’s “slide toward irrelevance.”

It’s nice that France is rejoining the military arm of NATO, but how much of a contribution can it make given that it continues to spend so little on its armed forces? Granted France has the second highest defense budget in Europe (behind the United Kingdom), but that’s not saying much, considering that all of the European states have let their militaries wither in recent years.

This Financial Times article reports that President Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to cut military strength by another 20%. France’s “deployable army” will be roughly 88,000, about the same as Britain’s-and less than half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps. That’s not all bad: Sarkozy is using some of the money that would have gone for troops to pay for satellite equipment and missile-detection systems. That’s useful. But the long-term projection is for defense spending to remain anemic. As the FT notes:

Defence spending, which in 2008 amounts to €30bn or 2.3 per cent of gross domestic product, will be frozen in real terms until 2012, and will then rise by 1 percentage point ahead of inflation until 2014.

To put that into perspective, the U.S. currently spends a little over 4 percent of GDP on defense-a low number by historic standards but far higher than any of our European allies. No wonder Bob Kagan is talking about Europe’s “slide toward irrelevance.”

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McCain Team Strikes Back

John McCain advisors James Woolsey, Kori Schake, John Lehman, and Randy Scheunemann held a conference call regarding Barack Obama’s comments, praising the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial as a model for fighting terrorists.

Woolsey said that processing terrorists as criminals through the judicial system is “precisely what failed” throughout the 1990’s, labeling it a “miserable failure.” Lehman echoed these sentiments explaining that the requirement to seal certain evidence in the 1993 trial prevented the CIA and the president from accessing critical information which could have “helped connect the dots” to 9/11. He pointed out that it cost $100 million for just seven defendants’ prosecution. He declared that this shows a “very deep ignorance of the facts.” Scheunemann contended that Obama is the “perfect manifestation of the September 10 mindset.”

In response to a question about McCain’s approach, Scheunemann said that he never favored habeas corpus rights and instead has tried to come up with a process to deal with “very dangerous people.” He said that the Obama campaign would accuse them of a policy built on “fear,” but that Obama’s outlook was a “policy built on delusion.” Asked about Obama’s comment that our conduct had made us less popular with Muslims and helped terrorist recruitment Woolsey responded that we had a large number of Germans prisoners held during World War II whom did not have full blown trials and were were not accused of being “anti-Teutonic,” rather we “were fighting a war.”

Asked if they were claiming that Obama’s policy would lead to a terror attack, Lehman responded that the idea was so ridiculous (putting all terrorists through civilian courts) that Obama “couldn’t go forward” with that approach.

In response to a question whether Osama bin Laden would get habeas corpus rights, Scheunemann said the reporter should ask Obama and that it was this concern about affording dangerous terrorist full access to civilian courts that made Obama’s statment so absurd.

(Further thoughts and excerpts from the call are here, here and here.)

Bottom line: The McCain camp clearly sees this as an opening to argue that Obama is out of touch and dangerously naive about how to deal with terrorists. It will need  some simple and easily understandable way to explain the dangers to the American people if this will truly be an effective issue for them. And if Obama really intends to make the 1993 trial the model for handling terror detainees, he should be prepared for some tough questioning about the consequences of that option.

John McCain advisors James Woolsey, Kori Schake, John Lehman, and Randy Scheunemann held a conference call regarding Barack Obama’s comments, praising the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial as a model for fighting terrorists.

Woolsey said that processing terrorists as criminals through the judicial system is “precisely what failed” throughout the 1990’s, labeling it a “miserable failure.” Lehman echoed these sentiments explaining that the requirement to seal certain evidence in the 1993 trial prevented the CIA and the president from accessing critical information which could have “helped connect the dots” to 9/11. He pointed out that it cost $100 million for just seven defendants’ prosecution. He declared that this shows a “very deep ignorance of the facts.” Scheunemann contended that Obama is the “perfect manifestation of the September 10 mindset.”

In response to a question about McCain’s approach, Scheunemann said that he never favored habeas corpus rights and instead has tried to come up with a process to deal with “very dangerous people.” He said that the Obama campaign would accuse them of a policy built on “fear,” but that Obama’s outlook was a “policy built on delusion.” Asked about Obama’s comment that our conduct had made us less popular with Muslims and helped terrorist recruitment Woolsey responded that we had a large number of Germans prisoners held during World War II whom did not have full blown trials and were were not accused of being “anti-Teutonic,” rather we “were fighting a war.”

Asked if they were claiming that Obama’s policy would lead to a terror attack, Lehman responded that the idea was so ridiculous (putting all terrorists through civilian courts) that Obama “couldn’t go forward” with that approach.

In response to a question whether Osama bin Laden would get habeas corpus rights, Scheunemann said the reporter should ask Obama and that it was this concern about affording dangerous terrorist full access to civilian courts that made Obama’s statment so absurd.

(Further thoughts and excerpts from the call are here, here and here.)

Bottom line: The McCain camp clearly sees this as an opening to argue that Obama is out of touch and dangerously naive about how to deal with terrorists. It will need  some simple and easily understandable way to explain the dangers to the American people if this will truly be an effective issue for them. And if Obama really intends to make the 1993 trial the model for handling terror detainees, he should be prepared for some tough questioning about the consequences of that option.

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Afghan Prisons

Unfortunately the situation in Afghanistan continues to get worse. The latest bad news was the Taliban assault on the main prison in Kandahar, which freed some 400 militants. The story has gotten a fair amount of coverage but an important element has been missed: namely, why were so many terrorists being held by Afghan forces who obviously do not have the capacity to keep them locked up? The answer is that most NATO countries operate under rules that forbid them to hold detainees for any length of time. They have to turn over whomever they capture either to Afghan or U.S. forces pronto.

But, as the prison break proves, Afghan forces don’t have the capacity to hold large numbers of detainees in safe and secure conditions. The U.S. has spent more than three years and $30 million to build a high-security detention facility for the Afghanistan government outside Kabul, but the project has not succeeded in creating room for very many detainees. The U.S. continues to hold over 600 detainees at its own facility in Bagram Air Force Base.

That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that Afghanistan is a country of some 31 million people. It’s bigger than Iraq, yet in Iraq the U.S. is currently holding more than 20,000 detainees at two facilities, Camp Cropper in Baghdad and Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. That total swelled to almost 30,000 at the height of the surge last year. (The Iraqi government holds a substantial number of prisoners in its own facilities.) Granted, there is less terrorism in Afghanistan than in Iraq, but is there 33 times less? It seems to me that, with violence on the increase in Afghanistan, it is imperative to lock up more wrong-doers-and not in revolving-door prisons. This should be a top priority for General David McKiernan, the new NATO commander in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately the situation in Afghanistan continues to get worse. The latest bad news was the Taliban assault on the main prison in Kandahar, which freed some 400 militants. The story has gotten a fair amount of coverage but an important element has been missed: namely, why were so many terrorists being held by Afghan forces who obviously do not have the capacity to keep them locked up? The answer is that most NATO countries operate under rules that forbid them to hold detainees for any length of time. They have to turn over whomever they capture either to Afghan or U.S. forces pronto.

But, as the prison break proves, Afghan forces don’t have the capacity to hold large numbers of detainees in safe and secure conditions. The U.S. has spent more than three years and $30 million to build a high-security detention facility for the Afghanistan government outside Kabul, but the project has not succeeded in creating room for very many detainees. The U.S. continues to hold over 600 detainees at its own facility in Bagram Air Force Base.

That may sound like a lot, but keep in mind that Afghanistan is a country of some 31 million people. It’s bigger than Iraq, yet in Iraq the U.S. is currently holding more than 20,000 detainees at two facilities, Camp Cropper in Baghdad and Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. That total swelled to almost 30,000 at the height of the surge last year. (The Iraqi government holds a substantial number of prisoners in its own facilities.) Granted, there is less terrorism in Afghanistan than in Iraq, but is there 33 times less? It seems to me that, with violence on the increase in Afghanistan, it is imperative to lock up more wrong-doers-and not in revolving-door prisons. This should be a top priority for General David McKiernan, the new NATO commander in Afghanistan.

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One Attack Ad McCain Is Happy to See

MoveOn.org (h/t Weekly Standard) is running an anti-McCain ad on Iraq. This strikes me as manna from heaven for McCain. Barack Obama neatly missed the vote in the Senate condemning the MoveOn.org “Betray Us” ad aimed at General Petraeus and he seemed delighted to have MoveOn.org endorsement earlier in the year. But all that was eons ago in political time.

Now McCain has an opportunity to raise once again why Obama couldn’t manage to stand up and defend our general in wartime defamed by the left-wing hit squad of the Democratic party. After all, isn’t that the definition of leadership: bucking your own party at political risk for higher principles?

MoveOn.org (h/t Weekly Standard) is running an anti-McCain ad on Iraq. This strikes me as manna from heaven for McCain. Barack Obama neatly missed the vote in the Senate condemning the MoveOn.org “Betray Us” ad aimed at General Petraeus and he seemed delighted to have MoveOn.org endorsement earlier in the year. But all that was eons ago in political time.

Now McCain has an opportunity to raise once again why Obama couldn’t manage to stand up and defend our general in wartime defamed by the left-wing hit squad of the Democratic party. After all, isn’t that the definition of leadership: bucking your own party at political risk for higher principles?

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Olbermann Explained

From Peter J. Boyer’s profile in The New Yorker:

Olbermann, who is six feet three and a half, once bumped his head while leaping into a subway car; it permanently upset his equilibrium . . .

From Peter J. Boyer’s profile in The New Yorker:

Olbermann, who is six feet three and a half, once bumped his head while leaping into a subway car; it permanently upset his equilibrium . . .

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Take a Page from Hillary’s Book

There are many ways to address Barack Obama’s social security plan. There is the sophisticated analysis you see here. Or there is Hillary Clinton’s short and sweet style. Clinton had a knack of boiling down her opponent’s longwinded and high-sounding ideas to a cold, hard nugget: “It’s a $1 trillion tax increase.” It seems the McCain camp could learn a thing or two from Clinton.

Take a complex issue–social security or habeas corpus rights–and Obama will talk for paragraphs in high-flying language that ignores (or misstates) the underlying facts or the ramifications of his policy plans. Rather than argue the rhetoric, the McCain camp would do better to tell voters what Obama means. On social security, people making over $102K are going to pay a lot more taxes. On habeas corpus, terrorists are going to get never-ending and expensive trials and get-out-of-jail tickets if the government won’t give them access to all the information they want. Arguing in generic terms (e.g. “Obama has a pre-September 11 outlook”) just lends itself to a “No I don’t and you want more George W. Bush” response.

It seems that if you want voters to conclude Obama is a tax-and-spend, weak-on-terrorism liberal, you have to tell them what Obama is really proposing. Otherwise all the voters hear is the rat-a-tat-tat of charge and countercharge. Hey, if the Obama camp hired Patti Solis Doyle maybe the McCain camp could hire Hillary or Howard Wolfson. They were pretty good at this.

There are many ways to address Barack Obama’s social security plan. There is the sophisticated analysis you see here. Or there is Hillary Clinton’s short and sweet style. Clinton had a knack of boiling down her opponent’s longwinded and high-sounding ideas to a cold, hard nugget: “It’s a $1 trillion tax increase.” It seems the McCain camp could learn a thing or two from Clinton.

Take a complex issue–social security or habeas corpus rights–and Obama will talk for paragraphs in high-flying language that ignores (or misstates) the underlying facts or the ramifications of his policy plans. Rather than argue the rhetoric, the McCain camp would do better to tell voters what Obama means. On social security, people making over $102K are going to pay a lot more taxes. On habeas corpus, terrorists are going to get never-ending and expensive trials and get-out-of-jail tickets if the government won’t give them access to all the information they want. Arguing in generic terms (e.g. “Obama has a pre-September 11 outlook”) just lends itself to a “No I don’t and you want more George W. Bush” response.

It seems that if you want voters to conclude Obama is a tax-and-spend, weak-on-terrorism liberal, you have to tell them what Obama is really proposing. Otherwise all the voters hear is the rat-a-tat-tat of charge and countercharge. Hey, if the Obama camp hired Patti Solis Doyle maybe the McCain camp could hire Hillary or Howard Wolfson. They were pretty good at this.

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To Drill Or Not To Drill

The McCain and Obama camps are going at it over McCain’s proposal to lift the ban on offshore drilling. With $4 gas, it is not surprising that two thirds of Americans favor such a move. Hey, if it works for Brazil, why not for the U.S.? The Wall Street Journal observed recently that Brazil, with the support of environmental groups, is now exploring its vast newly dsicovered reserve:

That’s quite a contrast with attitudes in the U.S., where offshore exploration and development has been all but shut down save in the Gulf of Mexico. One company official explains the difference by saying that Brazilians understand the importance of energy to their future, while Americans do not.

Unlike his opposition to the gas tax holiday, opposing drilling for domestic oil production seems like a loser politically for Obama. How long and hard he argues that we should continue our present offshore oil ban will tell us for certain if it is.

The McCain and Obama camps are going at it over McCain’s proposal to lift the ban on offshore drilling. With $4 gas, it is not surprising that two thirds of Americans favor such a move. Hey, if it works for Brazil, why not for the U.S.? The Wall Street Journal observed recently that Brazil, with the support of environmental groups, is now exploring its vast newly dsicovered reserve:

That’s quite a contrast with attitudes in the U.S., where offshore exploration and development has been all but shut down save in the Gulf of Mexico. One company official explains the difference by saying that Brazilians understand the importance of energy to their future, while Americans do not.

Unlike his opposition to the gas tax holiday, opposing drilling for domestic oil production seems like a loser politically for Obama. How long and hard he argues that we should continue our present offshore oil ban will tell us for certain if it is.

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Obama, in Beijing’s Eyes

“The skin color of Senator Barack Obama poses the greatest focus of attention in the ongoing U.S. presidential election campaign this year,” writes People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s self-described mouthpiece, in an awkward and embarrassing editorial in yesterday’s online edition. Obamamania is sweeping the world–as Arthur Waldron has recently noted here–and that wave has washed up on the shores of the multiracial empire known as the People’s Republic of China.

The so-called Han, an amalgamation of China’s dominant ethnic groupings, constitutes about 92 percent of the country’s population. All the other people are divided into 55 officially designated minority groups although some say there may be as many as four hundred of them. The Communist Party always tells us how generous it is to the non-Han “Chinese,” and at regular intervals it shows off minority members, many of them wearing bright native costumes, as they come to Beijing to participate in the rubberstamp National People’s Congress. Yet it is inconceivable that any Tibetan, Uighur, or Mongolian could ever reach the top of the political system and become president of the state and general secretary of the Party. Therefore, the Chinese, who were perplexed when Condoleezza Rice became secretary of state, now do not know what to make of presidential frontrunner Barack Obama.

Beijing better think this one through fast. China’s leaders know that “racial discrimination runs counter to the historical trend” as yesterday’s editorial notes, but they do not know what to do about Chinese prejudice. Their own minority problems, already serious, just get worse over time. Hu Jintao, the current supremo, made his name as Party secretary of Tibet by implementing a murderous crackdown there in 1989. The disturbances that began this March in Tibetan lands are proof that his harsh policies, which have been continued by his successors, are only causing more unrest. Nonetheless, there is unlikely to be any change of approach in the near future because support for softer tactics would be taken as implicit criticism of Hu. Obama’s recent success adds flame to this particular fire because China’s minorities will soon begin to contrast their worsening predicament with racial and ethnic progress in other nations.

For about two centuries Hans have almost continually had problems relating to foreigners, whom they generally treated either as inferiors (other Asians and Africans) or superiors (whites). Until they can change their own perceptions and confront the continual failure of their minority suppression policies, Chinese leaders will always fear an Obama, not for what he believes but for who he is.

“The skin color of Senator Barack Obama poses the greatest focus of attention in the ongoing U.S. presidential election campaign this year,” writes People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s self-described mouthpiece, in an awkward and embarrassing editorial in yesterday’s online edition. Obamamania is sweeping the world–as Arthur Waldron has recently noted here–and that wave has washed up on the shores of the multiracial empire known as the People’s Republic of China.

The so-called Han, an amalgamation of China’s dominant ethnic groupings, constitutes about 92 percent of the country’s population. All the other people are divided into 55 officially designated minority groups although some say there may be as many as four hundred of them. The Communist Party always tells us how generous it is to the non-Han “Chinese,” and at regular intervals it shows off minority members, many of them wearing bright native costumes, as they come to Beijing to participate in the rubberstamp National People’s Congress. Yet it is inconceivable that any Tibetan, Uighur, or Mongolian could ever reach the top of the political system and become president of the state and general secretary of the Party. Therefore, the Chinese, who were perplexed when Condoleezza Rice became secretary of state, now do not know what to make of presidential frontrunner Barack Obama.

Beijing better think this one through fast. China’s leaders know that “racial discrimination runs counter to the historical trend” as yesterday’s editorial notes, but they do not know what to do about Chinese prejudice. Their own minority problems, already serious, just get worse over time. Hu Jintao, the current supremo, made his name as Party secretary of Tibet by implementing a murderous crackdown there in 1989. The disturbances that began this March in Tibetan lands are proof that his harsh policies, which have been continued by his successors, are only causing more unrest. Nonetheless, there is unlikely to be any change of approach in the near future because support for softer tactics would be taken as implicit criticism of Hu. Obama’s recent success adds flame to this particular fire because China’s minorities will soon begin to contrast their worsening predicament with racial and ethnic progress in other nations.

For about two centuries Hans have almost continually had problems relating to foreigners, whom they generally treated either as inferiors (other Asians and Africans) or superiors (whites). Until they can change their own perceptions and confront the continual failure of their minority suppression policies, Chinese leaders will always fear an Obama, not for what he believes but for who he is.

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One Hillary Supporter Switches

Barack Obama and his supporters deny that they have anything to worry about when it comes to Jewish voters. Still, evidence is mounting that some Jews, even traditional Democratic supporters and activists, can’t bring themselves to support Obama.

The pundits pooh-pooh the notion that Jewish Democrats would ever support McCain. But some are not just voting for him but working for his campaign.

I interviewed by phone today Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, who was listed by Citizens for McCain as one of the prominent Democrats and Independents now supporting McCain. Rabbi Jacobs is an unlikely McCain supporter. She described her years of work on pro-choice issues and her longtime support for Hillary Clinton going back to her work as First Lady, through her Senate campaign and during her tenure as Senator. Rabbi Jacobs and her husband were likewise very active in John Kerry’s campaign. She says that when she heard the final returns in 2004, “I sat in my car and cried. I thought ‘What will become of us?'”

I asked how she made the transition from Clinton to McCain. She said “I’ve always been confident of Hillary’s support for Israel.” She says she recalls the Lebanon war when Israel was receiving criticism and McCain said “Look, if someone came into your house, into the U.S. and started shooting what would you do?” Rabbi Jacobs continued that she lived in an apartment overlooking the Hudson River and on September 11th saw a low-flying plane go past her window as she was tending to a colicky baby and heard the resulting “boom.” She says “I live through it. I saw what can happen. I lost friends in bombings in Israel. My priorities have changed. I’m a mother. I’m concerned about security and the security of Israel.”

What would she say to other Democrats who have never voted Republican and have policy differences with McCain? Rabbi Jacobs responded, “The hardest thing is to prioritize.” She listed the numerous issues–from the economy to education–and acknowledged that voters are “worried about all these different things.” She continued, “But Israel is a no-brainer. The safety and existence of Israel is uppermost.” She explains, “My husband and I sat done and thoroughly reviewed the issues.” She continued, “This is the fight of my life.” She bluntly states, “Someone with no experience, no background, and someone with no test of his ability–and he is in charge of the red phone? It terrifies me.”

She acknowledges that McCain is not a perfect candidate from her perspective. She says, “Is any candidate going to be #1 on every issue? No.” But at bottom she has decided that “Israel should be what is important, and the safety of our country.” And as for McCain personally she says that he is an “honorable human being.”

Not every Jewish Democrat will make the same choice and many Democrats insist that Obama’s speech to AIPAC demonstrates his commitment to Israel. Nevertheless, if Rabbi Jacobs is representative of at least some American Jews, Obama may still have a lot of work to do.

Barack Obama and his supporters deny that they have anything to worry about when it comes to Jewish voters. Still, evidence is mounting that some Jews, even traditional Democratic supporters and activists, can’t bring themselves to support Obama.

The pundits pooh-pooh the notion that Jewish Democrats would ever support McCain. But some are not just voting for him but working for his campaign.

I interviewed by phone today Rabbi Cheryl Jacobs, who was listed by Citizens for McCain as one of the prominent Democrats and Independents now supporting McCain. Rabbi Jacobs is an unlikely McCain supporter. She described her years of work on pro-choice issues and her longtime support for Hillary Clinton going back to her work as First Lady, through her Senate campaign and during her tenure as Senator. Rabbi Jacobs and her husband were likewise very active in John Kerry’s campaign. She says that when she heard the final returns in 2004, “I sat in my car and cried. I thought ‘What will become of us?'”

I asked how she made the transition from Clinton to McCain. She said “I’ve always been confident of Hillary’s support for Israel.” She says she recalls the Lebanon war when Israel was receiving criticism and McCain said “Look, if someone came into your house, into the U.S. and started shooting what would you do?” Rabbi Jacobs continued that she lived in an apartment overlooking the Hudson River and on September 11th saw a low-flying plane go past her window as she was tending to a colicky baby and heard the resulting “boom.” She says “I live through it. I saw what can happen. I lost friends in bombings in Israel. My priorities have changed. I’m a mother. I’m concerned about security and the security of Israel.”

What would she say to other Democrats who have never voted Republican and have policy differences with McCain? Rabbi Jacobs responded, “The hardest thing is to prioritize.” She listed the numerous issues–from the economy to education–and acknowledged that voters are “worried about all these different things.” She continued, “But Israel is a no-brainer. The safety and existence of Israel is uppermost.” She explains, “My husband and I sat done and thoroughly reviewed the issues.” She continued, “This is the fight of my life.” She bluntly states, “Someone with no experience, no background, and someone with no test of his ability–and he is in charge of the red phone? It terrifies me.”

She acknowledges that McCain is not a perfect candidate from her perspective. She says, “Is any candidate going to be #1 on every issue? No.” But at bottom she has decided that “Israel should be what is important, and the safety of our country.” And as for McCain personally she says that he is an “honorable human being.”

Not every Jewish Democrat will make the same choice and many Democrats insist that Obama’s speech to AIPAC demonstrates his commitment to Israel. Nevertheless, if Rabbi Jacobs is representative of at least some American Jews, Obama may still have a lot of work to do.

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Well, What Do You Know?

From ABC News:

European and Asian companies are beating their American rivals into Iraq now that security has improved the investment climate, Iraq and U.S. officials say.

“It’s starting to turn and and the people who are getting in on the ground floor are not American,” said Paul Brinkley, the Pentagon official who is leading U.S. efforts to help Iraq rebuild its economy. “It’s ironic.”

Actually, it’s not ironic at all. European opportunists like Jacques Chirac objected to the Iraq War primarily because it would put a crimp in lucrative Iraq-Europe oil deals. It makes all the sense in the world that they’d be the first to show up with Euros and smart cars once Americans spent blood and treasure changing the country’s political landscape. Not surprisingly, “Many of the companies active in Iraq now are from countries, including France, Russia and Turkey, that did not send combat troops to back the U.S.-led invasion.” China is in there too, of course, selling machinery and electronics to the Iraqi government and to Iraq’s citizens.

And these morally indignant internationals trampling over Americans on their way into Iraq — whom do they support in the U.S. presidential election? Why, Mr. No-free-trade himself. Once again, less than ironic.

From ABC News:

European and Asian companies are beating their American rivals into Iraq now that security has improved the investment climate, Iraq and U.S. officials say.

“It’s starting to turn and and the people who are getting in on the ground floor are not American,” said Paul Brinkley, the Pentagon official who is leading U.S. efforts to help Iraq rebuild its economy. “It’s ironic.”

Actually, it’s not ironic at all. European opportunists like Jacques Chirac objected to the Iraq War primarily because it would put a crimp in lucrative Iraq-Europe oil deals. It makes all the sense in the world that they’d be the first to show up with Euros and smart cars once Americans spent blood and treasure changing the country’s political landscape. Not surprisingly, “Many of the companies active in Iraq now are from countries, including France, Russia and Turkey, that did not send combat troops to back the U.S.-led invasion.” China is in there too, of course, selling machinery and electronics to the Iraqi government and to Iraq’s citizens.

And these morally indignant internationals trampling over Americans on their way into Iraq — whom do they support in the U.S. presidential election? Why, Mr. No-free-trade himself. Once again, less than ironic.

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How Can It Be So Close?

This ABC report conveys the bewilderment expressed by many mainstream media folks that Barack Obama is not soaring to a substantial lead in the polls:

If this is the high point in the “bounce,” someone needs to put some more air in the ball. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows Sen. Barack Obama narrowly leading Sen. John McCain, 48-42 — about where his lead stood a month ago, and about where Sen. John Kerry’s lead stood four years ago at this time. The premium Obama, D-Ill., earned for surviving the primaries — as confirmed now by a number of recent polls — still leaves McCain, R-Ariz., well within striking distance. Surely it’s getting tiresome for Obama to have to continually confront his electoral challenges — but the fact remains that something is preventing him from capitalizing fully on the sour national mood toward Republicans. It’s “the conundrum of the 2008 presidential election: If everything is so good for Barack Obama, why isn’t everything so good for Barack Obama?” per ABC Polling Director Gary Langer . . . “It is closer than it should be,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. “Senator Clinton’s supporters are still holding back.”

Should be? Well, if you expected Obama’s multiple demographic problems, ultra-liberal voting record, anemic last few months of campaigning, and troop of oddball advisers and associates to have no impact on the electorate, I guess you would be surprised too. The ABC poll notes McCain is doing well with older women and a quarter of Hillary Clinton’s supporters are favoring him, at least at this point. And McCain has won over his base (9 in 10 Republicans favor him) to a greater degree than Obama has.

It can’t be, the pundits wail. Yet it is. If you select a deeply flawed candidate it doesn’t mean you’ll lose the election, but you’ll make it darn close and potentially fritter away all of the advantages you held going in. Can the Democrats mess up a sure-fire winning year? Yes, they can.

This ABC report conveys the bewilderment expressed by many mainstream media folks that Barack Obama is not soaring to a substantial lead in the polls:

If this is the high point in the “bounce,” someone needs to put some more air in the ball. The new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows Sen. Barack Obama narrowly leading Sen. John McCain, 48-42 — about where his lead stood a month ago, and about where Sen. John Kerry’s lead stood four years ago at this time. The premium Obama, D-Ill., earned for surviving the primaries — as confirmed now by a number of recent polls — still leaves McCain, R-Ariz., well within striking distance. Surely it’s getting tiresome for Obama to have to continually confront his electoral challenges — but the fact remains that something is preventing him from capitalizing fully on the sour national mood toward Republicans. It’s “the conundrum of the 2008 presidential election: If everything is so good for Barack Obama, why isn’t everything so good for Barack Obama?” per ABC Polling Director Gary Langer . . . “It is closer than it should be,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said on “Good Morning America” Tuesday. “Senator Clinton’s supporters are still holding back.”

Should be? Well, if you expected Obama’s multiple demographic problems, ultra-liberal voting record, anemic last few months of campaigning, and troop of oddball advisers and associates to have no impact on the electorate, I guess you would be surprised too. The ABC poll notes McCain is doing well with older women and a quarter of Hillary Clinton’s supporters are favoring him, at least at this point. And McCain has won over his base (9 in 10 Republicans favor him) to a greater degree than Obama has.

It can’t be, the pundits wail. Yet it is. If you select a deeply flawed candidate it doesn’t mean you’ll lose the election, but you’ll make it darn close and potentially fritter away all of the advantages you held going in. Can the Democrats mess up a sure-fire winning year? Yes, they can.

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Consensus Builder?

Well, Barack Obama’s hiring fired Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle to be chief of staff for the yet-to-be- selected VP seems a big finger in the eye to Hillary. It doesn’t seem to be the tactful sort of thing a uniter is supposed to do. And she wasn’t even good at her job –so why do it? Maybe it was one of those decisions he delegated to his closed circle of loyal advisors.

On the topic of mending fences, Obama tells Jake Tapper he’s a great consensus builder. But where exactly did he do that and what has he accomplished? Not much as a community organizer, it seems. In the Senate? Not on the Gang of 14. Not leading on immigration. Not in a single instance of bucking the Democratic establishment — not on Chief Justice Roberts or on FISA. Obama’s answer to Tapper’s “What have you done?” question is very long, but essentially says nothing other than he worked on ethics reform. (For a refresher on how one chapter of that went down read this.) Even a sympathetic liberal blogger thought the answer so poor that it would become fodder for the McCain camp.

And just to prove that Obama is safely on the left of his party, lacking any thoughts that don’t mesh perfectly with the civil liberties lobby and the ACLU, there is this exchange:

TAPPER: Speaking of the Supreme Court, you applauded the decision that the Supreme Court made last week. The Bush administration says, no matter what people think about other programs, other policies they’ve initiated, there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11. And they say the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you opposed, the NSA surveillance program, Guantanamo Bay, and other programs.

How do you know that they’re wrong? It’s not possible that they’re right?

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind I haven’t opposed, for example, the national security surveillance program, the NSA program. What I’ve said that we can do it within the constraints of our civil liberties and our Constitution.

. . .

And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, “Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.” So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.

Where to begin? First, he has at every turn opposed the key aspects of FISA, most recently immunity for telecoms. He also thinks that Guantanamo terrorists–hundreds of them–should have full access to U.S. courts complete with discovery battles so that Muslims around the world will think well of us.

Perhaps Obama should read a good book on the 1993 trial (or even a quick summary) and decide if it should be replicated hundreds of times over. Even a good high school textbook would help since he seems to be under some misimpressions about basic history including the Nuremberg trials. (We can add this to errors on the Kennedy-Khruschev summit and past presidents’ meeitngs with our foes.)

So if consensus building means getting something done, he doesn’t rate very high. But if Obama is not so much concerned with actually happened (either in his political history or others), but promoting some nebulous era of good feelings he might do better. It is getting hard to see how Hillary Clinton was wrong when she claimed Obama’s campaign is “just words.”

Well, Barack Obama’s hiring fired Hillary Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle to be chief of staff for the yet-to-be- selected VP seems a big finger in the eye to Hillary. It doesn’t seem to be the tactful sort of thing a uniter is supposed to do. And she wasn’t even good at her job –so why do it? Maybe it was one of those decisions he delegated to his closed circle of loyal advisors.

On the topic of mending fences, Obama tells Jake Tapper he’s a great consensus builder. But where exactly did he do that and what has he accomplished? Not much as a community organizer, it seems. In the Senate? Not on the Gang of 14. Not leading on immigration. Not in a single instance of bucking the Democratic establishment — not on Chief Justice Roberts or on FISA. Obama’s answer to Tapper’s “What have you done?” question is very long, but essentially says nothing other than he worked on ethics reform. (For a refresher on how one chapter of that went down read this.) Even a sympathetic liberal blogger thought the answer so poor that it would become fodder for the McCain camp.

And just to prove that Obama is safely on the left of his party, lacking any thoughts that don’t mesh perfectly with the civil liberties lobby and the ACLU, there is this exchange:

TAPPER: Speaking of the Supreme Court, you applauded the decision that the Supreme Court made last week. The Bush administration says, no matter what people think about other programs, other policies they’ve initiated, there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11. And they say the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you opposed, the NSA surveillance program, Guantanamo Bay, and other programs.

How do you know that they’re wrong? It’s not possible that they’re right?

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind I haven’t opposed, for example, the national security surveillance program, the NSA program. What I’ve said that we can do it within the constraints of our civil liberties and our Constitution.

. . .

And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, “Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.” So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.

Where to begin? First, he has at every turn opposed the key aspects of FISA, most recently immunity for telecoms. He also thinks that Guantanamo terrorists–hundreds of them–should have full access to U.S. courts complete with discovery battles so that Muslims around the world will think well of us.

Perhaps Obama should read a good book on the 1993 trial (or even a quick summary) and decide if it should be replicated hundreds of times over. Even a good high school textbook would help since he seems to be under some misimpressions about basic history including the Nuremberg trials. (We can add this to errors on the Kennedy-Khruschev summit and past presidents’ meeitngs with our foes.)

So if consensus building means getting something done, he doesn’t rate very high. But if Obama is not so much concerned with actually happened (either in his political history or others), but promoting some nebulous era of good feelings he might do better. It is getting hard to see how Hillary Clinton was wrong when she claimed Obama’s campaign is “just words.”

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When Obama Is Off the Teleprompter

The November election is, and remains, Barack Obama’s to lose. Usually, candidates whose victories are entirely in their own hands make it through. It is clear Obama’s path to victory is through the teleprompter. Let him give a big speech and he drives it like Tiger Woods hitting a fairway, as he did Sunday with his stunning sermon about the importance of fathers. But let him sit for an interview with a well-prepared reporter who isn’t interested in shilling for him and Obama makes mistake after mistake. This is what happened the other day with ABC’s Jake Tapper, who got Obama to talk about how we need to treat terrorism as a law-enforcement matter — which is exactly what he should not be saying if he wants to solidify those less-liberal Democratic votes in the states where he was shellacked by Hillary Clinton — and how he opposes all forms of school choice — which works against his vague message that he is a vague agent of vague change.

I suspect this is why John McCain is so eager to get Obama into those town-hall meetings Obama seems intent on avoiding. McCain has been doing them for 25 years and is very good at them; it’s a mark of how good he is at them that he doesn’t make career-threatening gaffes during them. McCain wants Obama off that teleprompter, which is sound strategy. But he can’t make Obama go anywhere Obama doesn’t want to. The media pose a different challenge for Obama.

The November election is, and remains, Barack Obama’s to lose. Usually, candidates whose victories are entirely in their own hands make it through. It is clear Obama’s path to victory is through the teleprompter. Let him give a big speech and he drives it like Tiger Woods hitting a fairway, as he did Sunday with his stunning sermon about the importance of fathers. But let him sit for an interview with a well-prepared reporter who isn’t interested in shilling for him and Obama makes mistake after mistake. This is what happened the other day with ABC’s Jake Tapper, who got Obama to talk about how we need to treat terrorism as a law-enforcement matter — which is exactly what he should not be saying if he wants to solidify those less-liberal Democratic votes in the states where he was shellacked by Hillary Clinton — and how he opposes all forms of school choice — which works against his vague message that he is a vague agent of vague change.

I suspect this is why John McCain is so eager to get Obama into those town-hall meetings Obama seems intent on avoiding. McCain has been doing them for 25 years and is very good at them; it’s a mark of how good he is at them that he doesn’t make career-threatening gaffes during them. McCain wants Obama off that teleprompter, which is sound strategy. But he can’t make Obama go anywhere Obama doesn’t want to. The media pose a different challenge for Obama.

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Why We’re Safer

British writer Oliver Kamm has a piece up at comment is free proclaiming that George Bush has made the world a safer place. Kamm writes:

The grand strategy pursued by the U.S. under Bush has overestimated the plasticity of the international order, but it has got one big thing right. There is an integral connection between the terrorism that targets western societies and the autocratic states in which Islamist fanaticism is incubated.

Remember that connection? Or has it been supplanted in the public consciousness with the all-important connection between the Iraq War and world opinion? Bush’s critics are fond of saying that the President squandered the world’s sympathy in the aftermath of 9/11. But in actuality, George W. Bush should be praised for not having squandered the clarity — moral and historical — that the attacks conferred upon America’s obligation to its citizens and the world. Immediately after 9/11, the criticism most often leveled at the U.S. was that we were indifferent to the politics of the Arab world. Seven years later, the same voices are decrying America’s arrogance in trying to foster democracy in Mesopotamia. In late 2002, those opposed to the coming war with Iraq predicted that the U.S. would install a puppet dictator and leave. Today, they cite Prime Minister al Maliki’s political autonomy as evidence of a rift between the U.S. and Iraq.

Indeed, Kamm is right. Bush has made the world safer, and he has done so by remaining focused on the connection between Middle Eastern tyrannies and Islamist terror. In this sense, the President served as America’s loudest and most important critic — for he reversed the U.S.’s longstanding tacit acceptance of a politics steeped in blood. In late 2001, many rambled on about that connection, but as we now know they were merely filling the blanks in a running Mad Lib of anti-American condemnation. Bush has made many mistakes, but his resolve in tackling this world historical challenge is not one of them.

British writer Oliver Kamm has a piece up at comment is free proclaiming that George Bush has made the world a safer place. Kamm writes:

The grand strategy pursued by the U.S. under Bush has overestimated the plasticity of the international order, but it has got one big thing right. There is an integral connection between the terrorism that targets western societies and the autocratic states in which Islamist fanaticism is incubated.

Remember that connection? Or has it been supplanted in the public consciousness with the all-important connection between the Iraq War and world opinion? Bush’s critics are fond of saying that the President squandered the world’s sympathy in the aftermath of 9/11. But in actuality, George W. Bush should be praised for not having squandered the clarity — moral and historical — that the attacks conferred upon America’s obligation to its citizens and the world. Immediately after 9/11, the criticism most often leveled at the U.S. was that we were indifferent to the politics of the Arab world. Seven years later, the same voices are decrying America’s arrogance in trying to foster democracy in Mesopotamia. In late 2002, those opposed to the coming war with Iraq predicted that the U.S. would install a puppet dictator and leave. Today, they cite Prime Minister al Maliki’s political autonomy as evidence of a rift between the U.S. and Iraq.

Indeed, Kamm is right. Bush has made the world safer, and he has done so by remaining focused on the connection between Middle Eastern tyrannies and Islamist terror. In this sense, the President served as America’s loudest and most important critic — for he reversed the U.S.’s longstanding tacit acceptance of a politics steeped in blood. In late 2001, many rambled on about that connection, but as we now know they were merely filling the blanks in a running Mad Lib of anti-American condemnation. Bush has made many mistakes, but his resolve in tackling this world historical challenge is not one of them.

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What On Earth Is Condi Rice Up To?

The recent conduct of the Secretary of State is profoundly puzzling. She has evidently decided to double down and spend her final year focusing entirely on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Whether you believe in the utter necessity of such a deal or are at best skeptical of one is immaterial; Rice has committed herself to abject failure. Her hopes are resting on an Israeli prime minister who will not survive the year, and may not survive the month, and on a Palestinian president and prime minister so weak that to get anything done Israel is now evidently negotiating separately with Hamas, the primary cause of their political weakness. There isn’t a rational person on the face of this earth who believes that a deal of any meaning can be reached with these players this year. And yet Rice is determined to go down with this ship. What’s even stranger is that she reposed hopes in Olmert once before, when she and George W. Bush backed him for a month in the Hezbollah war, only to learn that Olmert had made feckless promises about destroying Hezbollah he was in no position to keep.

Doesn’t Rice have a friend who could sit her down and gently explain that she is simply setting herself up to enter the ranks of American foreign-policy hands who will only be able to speak ruefully about their efforts to strike a peace accord between a nation that wants one and a people who don’t?

The recent conduct of the Secretary of State is profoundly puzzling. She has evidently decided to double down and spend her final year focusing entirely on a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Whether you believe in the utter necessity of such a deal or are at best skeptical of one is immaterial; Rice has committed herself to abject failure. Her hopes are resting on an Israeli prime minister who will not survive the year, and may not survive the month, and on a Palestinian president and prime minister so weak that to get anything done Israel is now evidently negotiating separately with Hamas, the primary cause of their political weakness. There isn’t a rational person on the face of this earth who believes that a deal of any meaning can be reached with these players this year. And yet Rice is determined to go down with this ship. What’s even stranger is that she reposed hopes in Olmert once before, when she and George W. Bush backed him for a month in the Hezbollah war, only to learn that Olmert had made feckless promises about destroying Hezbollah he was in no position to keep.

Doesn’t Rice have a friend who could sit her down and gently explain that she is simply setting herself up to enter the ranks of American foreign-policy hands who will only be able to speak ruefully about their efforts to strike a peace accord between a nation that wants one and a people who don’t?

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There’s No There There

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Barack Obama and examined his economic plan. Aside from a fuzzy and nonspecific suggestion that he might cut corporate tax rates, the Journal could find nothing new: “Sen. Obama cited new economic forces to explain what appears like a return to an older-style big-government Democratic platform skeptical of market forces.” Indeed, he simply doesn’t believe any of the economic evidence that tax cuts (not just here but abroad) have spurred economic growth. He opines on tax cuts: “I’ve seen no evidence that . . . would actually boost the economic growth and productivity.” Well, other than the boom which followed each successive wave of tax cuts here and in other countries, I suppose. You can argue growth has not been widely distributed among all income groups. But arguing we haven’t had income growth and that tax cuts didn’t play a major role over the last generation is plain wrong.

But the heart of Obamanomics is spending — billions and billions. The Journal reporter reminds us that Bill Clinton had similar plans –big spending and some tax increases — that were shelved by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Obama denies he’ll be amenable to such sage advice this time.

What is so striking is how utterly ordinary and familiar it all is — redistribute the wealth, spend billions more than the tax increases could possibly bring in, and deny that economic behavior is adversely affected by massive government intervention into the economy. Obama sounds so new and eloquent and far-sighted. But it turns out what he’s offering is pretty much like the McGovern-Dukakis-Kerry economic plans we’ve seen for the last thirty years or so.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed Barack Obama and examined his economic plan. Aside from a fuzzy and nonspecific suggestion that he might cut corporate tax rates, the Journal could find nothing new: “Sen. Obama cited new economic forces to explain what appears like a return to an older-style big-government Democratic platform skeptical of market forces.” Indeed, he simply doesn’t believe any of the economic evidence that tax cuts (not just here but abroad) have spurred economic growth. He opines on tax cuts: “I’ve seen no evidence that . . . would actually boost the economic growth and productivity.” Well, other than the boom which followed each successive wave of tax cuts here and in other countries, I suppose. You can argue growth has not been widely distributed among all income groups. But arguing we haven’t had income growth and that tax cuts didn’t play a major role over the last generation is plain wrong.

But the heart of Obamanomics is spending — billions and billions. The Journal reporter reminds us that Bill Clinton had similar plans –big spending and some tax increases — that were shelved by Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Obama denies he’ll be amenable to such sage advice this time.

What is so striking is how utterly ordinary and familiar it all is — redistribute the wealth, spend billions more than the tax increases could possibly bring in, and deny that economic behavior is adversely affected by massive government intervention into the economy. Obama sounds so new and eloquent and far-sighted. But it turns out what he’s offering is pretty much like the McGovern-Dukakis-Kerry economic plans we’ve seen for the last thirty years or so.

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More Than They Could Hope For

Aside from free lollipops and a two-year subscription to the New York Times, the offer the international community handed to Iran last weekend in Tehran through the good offices of Javier Solana includes everything the Islamic Republic could ever ask for–and then some. Assuming, of course, that the Islamic Republic was telling the truth about its nuclear activities (which it is not, judging by the latest IAEA report on the matter).

It remains to be seen what Iran will say about the offer. Its spokesmen have already made it abundantly clear that they will not accede to the demand to halt uranium enrichment–which is the basic precondition for the incentives. It is also unclear how long the international community will wait before it decides to switch to other means of persuasion. (Don’t hold your breath.)

But what’s most puzzling is how the incentives package is premised:

Iran is one of the oldest civilisations in the world. It’s people are justifiably proud of their history, culture and heritage. It sits at a geographical crossroads. It has vast natural resources and great economic potential, which its people should be reaping to the full.

Great civilizations do not do this to their own people. The international community needs to stop pandering to Iran’s childish sense of grievance and spell out the rules of engagement. Time is running out. And compliments and adulation don’t help.

Aside from free lollipops and a two-year subscription to the New York Times, the offer the international community handed to Iran last weekend in Tehran through the good offices of Javier Solana includes everything the Islamic Republic could ever ask for–and then some. Assuming, of course, that the Islamic Republic was telling the truth about its nuclear activities (which it is not, judging by the latest IAEA report on the matter).

It remains to be seen what Iran will say about the offer. Its spokesmen have already made it abundantly clear that they will not accede to the demand to halt uranium enrichment–which is the basic precondition for the incentives. It is also unclear how long the international community will wait before it decides to switch to other means of persuasion. (Don’t hold your breath.)

But what’s most puzzling is how the incentives package is premised:

Iran is one of the oldest civilisations in the world. It’s people are justifiably proud of their history, culture and heritage. It sits at a geographical crossroads. It has vast natural resources and great economic potential, which its people should be reaping to the full.

Great civilizations do not do this to their own people. The international community needs to stop pandering to Iran’s childish sense of grievance and spell out the rules of engagement. Time is running out. And compliments and adulation don’t help.

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