Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 21, 2008

Perfectly Illustrated

From Today’s New York Times story about Iraq:

Consider the latest caricatures of Mr. Maliki put up on posters by the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the fiery cleric who commands deep loyalty among poor Shiites. They show the prime minister’s face split in two — half his own, half Saddam Hussein’s. The comparison is, of course, intended as a searing criticism.

What a beautifully self-negating bit of propaganda. Any comparison of Maliki and Saddam in a poster or cartoon is bound to fail because the lampooning of Saddam in such a way was punishable by death. There’s something gorgeous about this irony being lost on the protesting Iraqis. The emergence of off-the-wall anti-government criticism is a robust sign of political health. And don’t we know it.

From Today’s New York Times story about Iraq:

Consider the latest caricatures of Mr. Maliki put up on posters by the followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the fiery cleric who commands deep loyalty among poor Shiites. They show the prime minister’s face split in two — half his own, half Saddam Hussein’s. The comparison is, of course, intended as a searing criticism.

What a beautifully self-negating bit of propaganda. Any comparison of Maliki and Saddam in a poster or cartoon is bound to fail because the lampooning of Saddam in such a way was punishable by death. There’s something gorgeous about this irony being lost on the protesting Iraqis. The emergence of off-the-wall anti-government criticism is a robust sign of political health. And don’t we know it.

Read Less

That Was Then, This Is Now

John McCain tied Barack Obama in fundraising for the month of May? Perhaps Obamamania is wearing thin.

It used to be the Agent of Change could do no wrong in the media’s eyes, now the virulently pro-Obama Newsweek calls his campaign finance switcheroo ” a large exaggeration and a lame excuse.”

Why aren’t the unions more upset about Barack Obama’s major flip-flop on free trade? Perhaps he told them “never mind” the new stance while he was telling voters “never mind” the old stance. It is getting hard to keep up.

The left is upset with the Democrats, and Barack Obama specifically, for throwing in the towel on FISA extension. But if this deal wasn’t a bad one, as he now says, why didn’t Obama help come up with a solution earlier– before intelligence intercepts were potentially lost? That would have shown bipartisan leadership in an area in which he is supposed to have expertise. (After all, he told us : “He has tried to break partisan logjams and take on seemingly intractable problems.”) But perhaps reflexively opposing anything the Bush administration opposed to win a primary race was more important than solving a pressing national security impasse.

When Obama told us “We are the change that we seek.” we thought it was gobbledygook — little did we know he’d be the one changing. And on so many issues.

John McCain tied Barack Obama in fundraising for the month of May? Perhaps Obamamania is wearing thin.

It used to be the Agent of Change could do no wrong in the media’s eyes, now the virulently pro-Obama Newsweek calls his campaign finance switcheroo ” a large exaggeration and a lame excuse.”

Why aren’t the unions more upset about Barack Obama’s major flip-flop on free trade? Perhaps he told them “never mind” the new stance while he was telling voters “never mind” the old stance. It is getting hard to keep up.

The left is upset with the Democrats, and Barack Obama specifically, for throwing in the towel on FISA extension. But if this deal wasn’t a bad one, as he now says, why didn’t Obama help come up with a solution earlier– before intelligence intercepts were potentially lost? That would have shown bipartisan leadership in an area in which he is supposed to have expertise. (After all, he told us : “He has tried to break partisan logjams and take on seemingly intractable problems.”) But perhaps reflexively opposing anything the Bush administration opposed to win a primary race was more important than solving a pressing national security impasse.

When Obama told us “We are the change that we seek.” we thought it was gobbledygook — little did we know he’d be the one changing. And on so many issues.

Read Less

Well, It’s Not Like He Knew Any Facts

Scott McClellan was trotted out Friday by the Democrats for a “hearing”– one more opportunity to bash the Bush administration on the Valerie Plume matter. He was as informed and as effective a witness as he was a press secretary. Politico reports:

The problem: He doesn’t know the whole truth himself.

“I do not know whether a crime was committed by any of the administration officials who revealed Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters,” McClellan testified. “Nor do I know if there was an attempt by any person or persons to engage in a coverup during the investigation. I do know that it was wrong to reveal her identity, because it compromised the effectiveness of a covert official for political reasons. I regret that I played a role, however unintentionally, in relaying false information to the public about it.”

Once again the words “Richard Armitage” did not seem to play any role in the proceedings. And what of the central theme of the Democrats (“Bush lied, people died”)? Well unfortunately their new friend can’t help there. As the Washington Post reported, “McClellan emphasized that he did not believe that Bush or his aides purposely misled the country about Iraq.”

We’ve long since passed the point where “facts” mean anything in this realm. Indeed, in none of the zillion interviews he did that I saw or read was he ever asked some basic facts one would normally ask of a witness. No one bothered to ask him detailed questions about what meetings he attended, what he learned and who said what to whom in his presence. That would have been far too mundane and, more importantly, would have exposed that McClellan really didn’t “know” (in the sense of personally hearing or seeing evidence to support his belatedly-arrived at thesis that everyone around him, except him, was a craven liar) much of anything. Hence, he makes the perfect witness for the Democrats’ purposes.

As I contended when this broke some time ago, it is embarrassing that the media — which had a dim view of McClellan as a press secretary — should play along with McClellan ( and his publisher) in the stunt to write a book devoid of real facts, a polemic, disguised as a tell-all because of the author’s proximity to those who did know what was going on.

I will say that McClellan is better at transmitting the message (“propaganda” I believed he called it in his book) of his new media masters than he was at conveying information on behalf of his former employer. Perhaps in another few years he can write another book about how he became a “pawn” of the Left.

Scott McClellan was trotted out Friday by the Democrats for a “hearing”– one more opportunity to bash the Bush administration on the Valerie Plume matter. He was as informed and as effective a witness as he was a press secretary. Politico reports:

The problem: He doesn’t know the whole truth himself.

“I do not know whether a crime was committed by any of the administration officials who revealed Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters,” McClellan testified. “Nor do I know if there was an attempt by any person or persons to engage in a coverup during the investigation. I do know that it was wrong to reveal her identity, because it compromised the effectiveness of a covert official for political reasons. I regret that I played a role, however unintentionally, in relaying false information to the public about it.”

Once again the words “Richard Armitage” did not seem to play any role in the proceedings. And what of the central theme of the Democrats (“Bush lied, people died”)? Well unfortunately their new friend can’t help there. As the Washington Post reported, “McClellan emphasized that he did not believe that Bush or his aides purposely misled the country about Iraq.”

We’ve long since passed the point where “facts” mean anything in this realm. Indeed, in none of the zillion interviews he did that I saw or read was he ever asked some basic facts one would normally ask of a witness. No one bothered to ask him detailed questions about what meetings he attended, what he learned and who said what to whom in his presence. That would have been far too mundane and, more importantly, would have exposed that McClellan really didn’t “know” (in the sense of personally hearing or seeing evidence to support his belatedly-arrived at thesis that everyone around him, except him, was a craven liar) much of anything. Hence, he makes the perfect witness for the Democrats’ purposes.

As I contended when this broke some time ago, it is embarrassing that the media — which had a dim view of McClellan as a press secretary — should play along with McClellan ( and his publisher) in the stunt to write a book devoid of real facts, a polemic, disguised as a tell-all because of the author’s proximity to those who did know what was going on.

I will say that McClellan is better at transmitting the message (“propaganda” I believed he called it in his book) of his new media masters than he was at conveying information on behalf of his former employer. Perhaps in another few years he can write another book about how he became a “pawn” of the Left.

Read Less

“Fireball”

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, threatened to resign during an interview aired on Al Arabiya television yesterday.  “If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time,” he said, “it would make me unable to continue my work.”

Is that so?  Some would argue that the use of force would actually complete the tasks he has been assigned, specifically, stopping Iran’s enrichment of uranium as demanded by the U.N. Security Council.  Yet ElBaradei apparently made that statement because he believes that such a strike “would spark the launch of an emergency program to make atomic weapons.”  On the assumption that the Iranians have not already embarked on such a project, he is probably right.  The destruction of some-or even all-of Iran’s nuclear facilities would undoubtedly stiffen the regime’s desire to build nukes.

ElBaradei’s assessment, therefore, leads to one simple conclusion: if some nation uses force against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it should also use force to destroy the leadership of the regime and its ability to wage war.  This appears to be no time for incomplete measures.  In 1981, a single airstrike against the Osirak reactor stopped Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program cold.  Yet if the IAEA chief is right-and I am certainly a believer in his judgment about the Tehran regime-then selective raids alone will not be sufficient to end the Iranian threat.

“A military strike would in my opinion be worse than anything else,” ElBaradei also said in the Al Arabiya interview.  “It would transform the Middle East region into a ball of fire.”  ElBaradei was probably saying this just to dampen talk of war sparked by recent revelations of Israeli preparations for bombing Iran.  Yet his prediction could be right on the mark.  Diplomacy is not working, which means that somebody will soon resort to force.  Whether we like it or not, history’s next great military conflict looks like it is starting soon, whether it begins with a single raid or an all-out attack.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, threatened to resign during an interview aired on Al Arabiya television yesterday.  “If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time,” he said, “it would make me unable to continue my work.”

Is that so?  Some would argue that the use of force would actually complete the tasks he has been assigned, specifically, stopping Iran’s enrichment of uranium as demanded by the U.N. Security Council.  Yet ElBaradei apparently made that statement because he believes that such a strike “would spark the launch of an emergency program to make atomic weapons.”  On the assumption that the Iranians have not already embarked on such a project, he is probably right.  The destruction of some-or even all-of Iran’s nuclear facilities would undoubtedly stiffen the regime’s desire to build nukes.

ElBaradei’s assessment, therefore, leads to one simple conclusion: if some nation uses force against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it should also use force to destroy the leadership of the regime and its ability to wage war.  This appears to be no time for incomplete measures.  In 1981, a single airstrike against the Osirak reactor stopped Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program cold.  Yet if the IAEA chief is right-and I am certainly a believer in his judgment about the Tehran regime-then selective raids alone will not be sufficient to end the Iranian threat.

“A military strike would in my opinion be worse than anything else,” ElBaradei also said in the Al Arabiya interview.  “It would transform the Middle East region into a ball of fire.”  ElBaradei was probably saying this just to dampen talk of war sparked by recent revelations of Israeli preparations for bombing Iran.  Yet his prediction could be right on the mark.  Diplomacy is not working, which means that somebody will soon resort to force.  Whether we like it or not, history’s next great military conflict looks like it is starting soon, whether it begins with a single raid or an all-out attack.

Read Less

But It Didn’t Matter

The Washington Post reports that lots of White House and Justice Department lawyers for years urged the Bush administration to adopt a policy of tribunals to process military detainees, predicting that they would lose in court if they maintained their position that terror suspects could be held without any process for evaluating their detention. Well, that is true as a political matter, but in fact didn’t the Supreme Court prove these Monday morning quarterbacks wrong?

Justice Kennedy threw out their elaborate review process, declaring only access to federal courts and a full-blown civilian court proceeding (of a type to be determined) would suffice. That’ll show them for trying to advocate a reasonable process.

But what of the argument that the Bush administration would have been successful had they come up with the tribunal system earlier? Well, that argues that the Court and Justice Kennedy would be even less principled than they may actually have been. It defies any objective explanation tto say if the Bush administration had come up with the military tribunal system a year or two earlier it would have been constitutional. The Court is not supposed to be grading the president’s political skills, but evaluating whether the elected branches’ work complies with the Constitution.

Indeed this simply proves the utter folly of Justice Kennedy’s approach. There is no incentive in the executive or legislative branch to attempt smart, sensible political resolutions of knotty security issues if the Court really isn’t interested (“bait and switch” is what Chief Justice Roberts called it) in their solutions anyway. In the end, those who advocated a military tribunal system were made out to be chumps by the imperious Justice Kennedy.

The Washington Post reports that lots of White House and Justice Department lawyers for years urged the Bush administration to adopt a policy of tribunals to process military detainees, predicting that they would lose in court if they maintained their position that terror suspects could be held without any process for evaluating their detention. Well, that is true as a political matter, but in fact didn’t the Supreme Court prove these Monday morning quarterbacks wrong?

Justice Kennedy threw out their elaborate review process, declaring only access to federal courts and a full-blown civilian court proceeding (of a type to be determined) would suffice. That’ll show them for trying to advocate a reasonable process.

But what of the argument that the Bush administration would have been successful had they come up with the tribunal system earlier? Well, that argues that the Court and Justice Kennedy would be even less principled than they may actually have been. It defies any objective explanation tto say if the Bush administration had come up with the military tribunal system a year or two earlier it would have been constitutional. The Court is not supposed to be grading the president’s political skills, but evaluating whether the elected branches’ work complies with the Constitution.

Indeed this simply proves the utter folly of Justice Kennedy’s approach. There is no incentive in the executive or legislative branch to attempt smart, sensible political resolutions of knotty security issues if the Court really isn’t interested (“bait and switch” is what Chief Justice Roberts called it) in their solutions anyway. In the end, those who advocated a military tribunal system were made out to be chumps by the imperious Justice Kennedy.

Read Less

Darkness at the End of the Tunnel

Israel has just carried out a major aerial exercise, putting a hundred or so F-15s and F-16s into the skies over the eastern Mediterranean, evidently a rehearsal for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The move follows the statement earlier this month by Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s deputy prime minister, that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program is “unavoidable.”

Israel almost certainly knows the location of some of the critical nodes in the Iranian program that it must hit if it is to set the Iranian effort back by several years. It also possesses the technology to assure that its bombs will fall close to or on their targets. But would such a strike succeed?

I look at one critical obstacle — just click on the link to read what I have to say –  in the latest Weekly Standard

Israel has just carried out a major aerial exercise, putting a hundred or so F-15s and F-16s into the skies over the eastern Mediterranean, evidently a rehearsal for a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The move follows the statement earlier this month by Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s deputy prime minister, that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program is “unavoidable.”

Israel almost certainly knows the location of some of the critical nodes in the Iranian program that it must hit if it is to set the Iranian effort back by several years. It also possesses the technology to assure that its bombs will fall close to or on their targets. But would such a strike succeed?

I look at one critical obstacle — just click on the link to read what I have to say –  in the latest Weekly Standard

Read Less

Isn’t It News?

Isn’t it news when a presidential candidate lies to the media and won’t give them access? I would think so, but it took an internet news site to get the letter from the networks complaining to the Obama camp about just this behavior. So it’s a big secret he’s more secretive than George Bush? You would think this would be a topic of discussion, a legitimate issue to bring to the public’s attention, especially since it involves them. (If we have learned anything it is that media is notoriously egocentric.) But we have nary a word of public complaint or a harsh story on Obama’s cocoon existence. Hmm. Could it be that “the right of the people to know” and their professional dignity are small beans compared to their mandate to assist their favorite son candidate?

Isn’t it news when a presidential candidate lies to the media and won’t give them access? I would think so, but it took an internet news site to get the letter from the networks complaining to the Obama camp about just this behavior. So it’s a big secret he’s more secretive than George Bush? You would think this would be a topic of discussion, a legitimate issue to bring to the public’s attention, especially since it involves them. (If we have learned anything it is that media is notoriously egocentric.) But we have nary a word of public complaint or a harsh story on Obama’s cocoon existence. Hmm. Could it be that “the right of the people to know” and their professional dignity are small beans compared to their mandate to assist their favorite son candidate?

Read Less

Re: When Was He Telling The Truth?

I agree, Jennifer, it’s hard to get exercised over Obama’s failure to take public money to finance his general election campaign.  I am not one of the high-minded people who think private money corrupts politics, but if I were, I’d be tempted to suggest a new rule for public financing:  If one candidate decides not to take his share of the public pot, let the other candidate have it.  What’s fair is fair.  Apparently a lot of Americans think it’s worth checking the little box on their tax returns that directs $3 of their money into funding presidential campaigns, and they don’t care that it goes to candidates they may not support.  So, why not let all of it go to John McCain since Obama has shunned it?

I agree, Jennifer, it’s hard to get exercised over Obama’s failure to take public money to finance his general election campaign.  I am not one of the high-minded people who think private money corrupts politics, but if I were, I’d be tempted to suggest a new rule for public financing:  If one candidate decides not to take his share of the public pot, let the other candidate have it.  What’s fair is fair.  Apparently a lot of Americans think it’s worth checking the little box on their tax returns that directs $3 of their money into funding presidential campaigns, and they don’t care that it goes to candidates they may not support.  So, why not let all of it go to John McCain since Obama has shunned it?

Read Less

Where’d They Find The 12%?

You think George Bush has popularity problems? Look at this:

Gallup’s annual update on confidence in institutions finds just 12% of Americans expressing confidence in Congress, the lowest of the 16 institutions tested this year, and the worst rating Gallup has measured for any institution in the 35-year history of this question.

It’s worse than that: only 6% have a “great deal” of confidence in Congress. The institutions which rank as the top vote getters are not exactly in the liberal hall of fame: the military, small business, the police and organized religion. By contrast, TV news and newspapers are in George W. Bush territory in terms of popularity numbers. I’ve thought for a while that McCain should run against Congress — now it seems like an incontrovertibly safe and smart position. Heck, bashing Congress would be even more popular than offshore drilling! Indeed, maybe the Republicans have had it backwards trying to tie members of Congress to Obama; if they ever tried to tie Obama to the Demcoratic Congressional leadership they might make some headway.

You think George Bush has popularity problems? Look at this:

Gallup’s annual update on confidence in institutions finds just 12% of Americans expressing confidence in Congress, the lowest of the 16 institutions tested this year, and the worst rating Gallup has measured for any institution in the 35-year history of this question.

It’s worse than that: only 6% have a “great deal” of confidence in Congress. The institutions which rank as the top vote getters are not exactly in the liberal hall of fame: the military, small business, the police and organized religion. By contrast, TV news and newspapers are in George W. Bush territory in terms of popularity numbers. I’ve thought for a while that McCain should run against Congress — now it seems like an incontrovertibly safe and smart position. Heck, bashing Congress would be even more popular than offshore drilling! Indeed, maybe the Republicans have had it backwards trying to tie members of Congress to Obama; if they ever tried to tie Obama to the Demcoratic Congressional leadership they might make some headway.

Read Less

Perhaps Currency Is Next

It takes a certain level of gall and distinct lack of reverence for symbols of the U.S. to take the Great Seal, bastardize it and make it into some type of campaign logo. But you can guess who did, right? Yes, you can. (P.S. Don’t try this at home — it may be illegal.)

It takes a certain level of gall and distinct lack of reverence for symbols of the U.S. to take the Great Seal, bastardize it and make it into some type of campaign logo. But you can guess who did, right? Yes, you can. (P.S. Don’t try this at home — it may be illegal.)

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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