Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 24, 2008

Hands Off Iran!

Check out the melodramatics that have followed the introduction in the House of Representatives of a bipartisan, non-binding resolution calling on President Bush to levy stronger sanctions on Iran.

The resolution urges the President to impose sanctions on Iranian banks which are implicated in terrorism and — this is what has set consciences aflame — “demands the president lead an international effort to cut off exports of refined petroleum to Iran.” Shouldn’t sanctions, which occupy a middle ground between diplomacy and war, be the preferred strategy for liberals who wish to defuse the nuclear confrontation without shots fired? Well, maybe sanctions are only preferred in theory.

The non-binding resolution was too much for a group called the National Iranian American Council, which is more or less a contemporary iteration of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. NIAC has posted on its website a silly reaction to the House bill, titled “Is a New Congressional Resolution Declaring War with Iran?” which announces that the bill “effectively requir[es] a naval blockade on Iran.” How, one might ask, does Congress go about “effectively” requiring action of the magnitude of a naval blockade? (NIAC’s larger strategy is something of a reverse image of the Bush Doctrine, in which America preemptively capitulates to everything the Iranian regime wants.)

Okay, so one shouldn’t look to Trita Parsi & co. for serious thinking about Iran. But now comes M.J. Rosenberg, who appears to have been drinking strong spirits rather than cappuccino in the TPM Cafe:

Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would put us in a state of war with Iran. Right now. . . . The bill’s “action clause” would put us at war with Iran by immediately imposing a blockade.

The Fifth Fleet is encircling the port of Bushehr as we speak! Well, actually it’s not. So, in the hopes that Mr. Rosenberg will take a break from stockpiling bottled water and flashlight batteries in his basement long enough to read this, here’s a basic lesson in logic: Refusing to export a good to a country is not the same thing as militarily blockading the import of that good to a country. It is, in fact, exactly the kind of non-military pressure which responsible liberals uphold as an ideal form of collective international action, which if pursued with confidence and unity can prevent war. But one gets the feeling that some people find it more satisfying to make false accusations of warmongering than to join a genuine effort to prevent war.

Check out the melodramatics that have followed the introduction in the House of Representatives of a bipartisan, non-binding resolution calling on President Bush to levy stronger sanctions on Iran.

The resolution urges the President to impose sanctions on Iranian banks which are implicated in terrorism and — this is what has set consciences aflame — “demands the president lead an international effort to cut off exports of refined petroleum to Iran.” Shouldn’t sanctions, which occupy a middle ground between diplomacy and war, be the preferred strategy for liberals who wish to defuse the nuclear confrontation without shots fired? Well, maybe sanctions are only preferred in theory.

The non-binding resolution was too much for a group called the National Iranian American Council, which is more or less a contemporary iteration of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. NIAC has posted on its website a silly reaction to the House bill, titled “Is a New Congressional Resolution Declaring War with Iran?” which announces that the bill “effectively requir[es] a naval blockade on Iran.” How, one might ask, does Congress go about “effectively” requiring action of the magnitude of a naval blockade? (NIAC’s larger strategy is something of a reverse image of the Bush Doctrine, in which America preemptively capitulates to everything the Iranian regime wants.)

Okay, so one shouldn’t look to Trita Parsi & co. for serious thinking about Iran. But now comes M.J. Rosenberg, who appears to have been drinking strong spirits rather than cappuccino in the TPM Cafe:

Both the House and Senate are considering legislation that would put us in a state of war with Iran. Right now. . . . The bill’s “action clause” would put us at war with Iran by immediately imposing a blockade.

The Fifth Fleet is encircling the port of Bushehr as we speak! Well, actually it’s not. So, in the hopes that Mr. Rosenberg will take a break from stockpiling bottled water and flashlight batteries in his basement long enough to read this, here’s a basic lesson in logic: Refusing to export a good to a country is not the same thing as militarily blockading the import of that good to a country. It is, in fact, exactly the kind of non-military pressure which responsible liberals uphold as an ideal form of collective international action, which if pursued with confidence and unity can prevent war. But one gets the feeling that some people find it more satisfying to make false accusations of warmongering than to join a genuine effort to prevent war.

Read Less

Re: He Needs Good Help

Part of this is more than just flat-footedness on the campaign trail, I think, Abe. Obama, after all, told Palestinian groups he identified with, understood, and sympathized with their perspective. “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people” was likely a “code word” (or phrase) to that community just like “Undivided Jerusalem” is to the Jewish community. So when he reversed language and tone, I can see why some of these groups feel slighted. (Sort of like all those people at United Trinity feeling hurt when Obama dumped them after 20 years of attendance.)

Now that Obama can no longer compartmentalize his life — liberation theology for blacks and post-racial unity for whites and full-throated support for both Palestinian activists and AIPAC — it gets dicey. Groups with diametrically opposing tales get upset when they find out the full story — or rather, the other stories.

Part of this is more than just flat-footedness on the campaign trail, I think, Abe. Obama, after all, told Palestinian groups he identified with, understood, and sympathized with their perspective. “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people” was likely a “code word” (or phrase) to that community just like “Undivided Jerusalem” is to the Jewish community. So when he reversed language and tone, I can see why some of these groups feel slighted. (Sort of like all those people at United Trinity feeling hurt when Obama dumped them after 20 years of attendance.)

Now that Obama can no longer compartmentalize his life — liberation theology for blacks and post-racial unity for whites and full-throated support for both Palestinian activists and AIPAC — it gets dicey. Groups with diametrically opposing tales get upset when they find out the full story — or rather, the other stories.

Read Less

Don’t Kid Yourself

Barack Obama’s lead is real. A second poll, following Newsweek’s, has him up by 12 points. To offer a sense of how serious a challenge John Mccain faces, Obama right now  has a one-point lead in Indiana – in a state Bush won by 21 points in 2004.

Barack Obama’s lead is real. A second poll, following Newsweek’s, has him up by 12 points. To offer a sense of how serious a challenge John Mccain faces, Obama right now  has a one-point lead in Indiana – in a state Bush won by 21 points in 2004.

Read Less

More on Klein

Opponents of the surge have been forced to acknowledge its success-but that in no way changes their desire to pull out our troops. Thus Frank Rich writes: “If ‘we are winning’ and the surge is a ‘success,’ then what is the rationale for keeping American forces bogged down there while the Taliban regroups ominously in Afghanistan?”

Joe Klein, for his part, “happily acknowledge[s]” that he “was wrong about the surge” but concludes that “what we’re talking about here is whipped cream on a pile of fertilizer–a regional policy unprecedented in its stupidity and squalor.” His recommendation? “But go we must, in an orderly fashion, the sooner the better–this war is simply too expensive and too exhausting for our military. And it is currently drawing crucial resources from the more important war in Afghanistan.” (For a critique of another part of Klein’s article, see Jennifer Rubin’s post.)

Heads I win, tails you lose: Nothing on the ground in Iraq–neither success or failure–can change these pundits’ pre-determined recommendations. Talk about a faith-based policy.

I suppose they might make the same accusation against those of us who supported the war effort and the surge all along, but to do so would be unfair. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if the surge had failed, as Rich, Klein, and so many others expected, I very much doubt that I or anyone else would be calling for continuing a major troop presence in Iraq. The surge was always seen as a last-ditch attempt to salvage a decent outcome. If it failed, then it would have been appropriate to head for the exits. But, as Rich and Klein now acknowledge, it didn’t fail.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the success that has been won over the past year is final and irreversible. The verdict of battle can always be undone by a determined adversary: Look at how the South managed to subvert Reconstruction notwithstanding its defeat on so many Civil War battlefields. Winning the peace is impossible without a long term commitment-something that we failed to carry out in the case of the post-1865 South but that we did a better job of seeing through in post-1945 Germany and Japan.

In order to build on the success that General Petraeus and his soldiers have had, we need to maintain a long-term commitment in Iraq-for 100 years if need be, as John McCain has said. That doesn’t mean 100 years of fighting; clearly, that would be unsustainable. It does mean a long-term troop presence designed to reassure Iraqis of our commitment to their security against an array of enemies. Having come this far against such heavy odds, it would be the height of folly to throw away our recent success by a precipitous withdrawal. I hope Barack Obama realizes that even if so many of his supporters don’t.


Opponents of the surge have been forced to acknowledge its success-but that in no way changes their desire to pull out our troops. Thus Frank Rich writes: “If ‘we are winning’ and the surge is a ‘success,’ then what is the rationale for keeping American forces bogged down there while the Taliban regroups ominously in Afghanistan?”

Joe Klein, for his part, “happily acknowledge[s]” that he “was wrong about the surge” but concludes that “what we’re talking about here is whipped cream on a pile of fertilizer–a regional policy unprecedented in its stupidity and squalor.” His recommendation? “But go we must, in an orderly fashion, the sooner the better–this war is simply too expensive and too exhausting for our military. And it is currently drawing crucial resources from the more important war in Afghanistan.” (For a critique of another part of Klein’s article, see Jennifer Rubin’s post.)

Heads I win, tails you lose: Nothing on the ground in Iraq–neither success or failure–can change these pundits’ pre-determined recommendations. Talk about a faith-based policy.

I suppose they might make the same accusation against those of us who supported the war effort and the surge all along, but to do so would be unfair. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if the surge had failed, as Rich, Klein, and so many others expected, I very much doubt that I or anyone else would be calling for continuing a major troop presence in Iraq. The surge was always seen as a last-ditch attempt to salvage a decent outcome. If it failed, then it would have been appropriate to head for the exits. But, as Rich and Klein now acknowledge, it didn’t fail.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the success that has been won over the past year is final and irreversible. The verdict of battle can always be undone by a determined adversary: Look at how the South managed to subvert Reconstruction notwithstanding its defeat on so many Civil War battlefields. Winning the peace is impossible without a long term commitment-something that we failed to carry out in the case of the post-1865 South but that we did a better job of seeing through in post-1945 Germany and Japan.

In order to build on the success that General Petraeus and his soldiers have had, we need to maintain a long-term commitment in Iraq-for 100 years if need be, as John McCain has said. That doesn’t mean 100 years of fighting; clearly, that would be unsustainable. It does mean a long-term troop presence designed to reassure Iraqis of our commitment to their security against an array of enemies. Having come this far against such heavy odds, it would be the height of folly to throw away our recent success by a precipitous withdrawal. I hope Barack Obama realizes that even if so many of his supporters don’t.


Read Less

Dog Bites Man, or, the Most Unsurprising Headline of the Decade

Check out this story, from the New York Times:

“Mortar Fire from Gaza Violates Truce.”

Check out this story, from the New York Times:

“Mortar Fire from Gaza Violates Truce.”

Read Less

Say That Again?

Joe Klein confesses he was wrong on the surge, but throws in two addenda , one of which is wrong and the other frankly obnoxious.

He tries the old saw that Iraq has diverted resources from needed fights in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda more generally. But what evidence is there of this? And why does he not address CIA Chief Michael Hayden’s recent report and other information on our progress against Al Qaeda? Well, those would be inconvenient facts.

But that is small stuff compared to this:

The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked–still smacks–of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives — people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary — plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel. And then there is the question–made manifest by the no-bid contracts offered U.S. oil companies by the Iraqis–of two oil executives, Bush and Cheney, securing a new source of business for their Texas buddies.

And just who would raise the “question of divided loyalties” — the favorite from the anti-Semitic playbook? Why, it’s Klein himself. Perhaps he suggesting a new standard for Jews: take no position that cannot be construed as an example of dual loyalties. Or better yet, take no position which might benefit Israel and avoid the problem altogether.

Leave aside the non-Jewish supporters of the war, Klein offers not one smidgen of support that Lieberman or any other Jewish advocate of the war did not believe it was in America’s security interest to pursue the war and/or to prosecute it effectively. One can argue with the merits of those individuals’ positions without clumsily injecting an anti-Semitic canard into the discussion.

Joe Klein confesses he was wrong on the surge, but throws in two addenda , one of which is wrong and the other frankly obnoxious.

He tries the old saw that Iraq has diverted resources from needed fights in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda more generally. But what evidence is there of this? And why does he not address CIA Chief Michael Hayden’s recent report and other information on our progress against Al Qaeda? Well, those would be inconvenient facts.

But that is small stuff compared to this:

The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked–still smacks–of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives — people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary — plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel. And then there is the question–made manifest by the no-bid contracts offered U.S. oil companies by the Iraqis–of two oil executives, Bush and Cheney, securing a new source of business for their Texas buddies.

And just who would raise the “question of divided loyalties” — the favorite from the anti-Semitic playbook? Why, it’s Klein himself. Perhaps he suggesting a new standard for Jews: take no position that cannot be construed as an example of dual loyalties. Or better yet, take no position which might benefit Israel and avoid the problem altogether.

Leave aside the non-Jewish supporters of the war, Klein offers not one smidgen of support that Lieberman or any other Jewish advocate of the war did not believe it was in America’s security interest to pursue the war and/or to prosecute it effectively. One can argue with the merits of those individuals’ positions without clumsily injecting an anti-Semitic canard into the discussion.

Read Less

Obama and the “Nightmare Scenarios”

With the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran, and with Iran threatening to deal the U.S. “a strong blow in the mouth,” what kind of message are Democrats sending Tehran by insisting on quickly withdrawing U.S. troops from the region?

Having stood idly by while Iran progressed through step after step in their near-complete quest to obtain nuclear weapons, we now will be telling the mullahs that we will be splitting town when our ally finally opposes them. In today’s New York Sun, Eli Lake compiles some of the “nightmare scenarios” that may be unleashed in response to an Israeli strike:

• A terrorist attack on the Saudi oil port of Ras Tanura, an export point for oil bound for Asia. Saudi and American officials have in the past disrupted Al Qaeda plots on the facility, such as an attack on the Abqaiq oil processing plant near Dammam, Saudi Arabia, that killed two guards.

• A naval assault on the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Iran still has warships equipped with Russian-designed Shkval torpedoes that it could fire at American vessels. Another possible attack would be suicide boat sorties similar to the one that bombed the USS Cole.

• The commencement of a new round in the war between Hezbollah and Israel, with Hezbollah firing its Shihab missiles into Haifa and possibly the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv.

• Hezbollah or Iranian intelligence terrorist operations on soft targets, such as shopping malls and community centers, in third countries and possibly even America.

• A renewed effort to stir an uprising in Iraq through Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army or the special groups controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

With this range of attacks (including one on Iraq) on the table, does Barack Obama really see a strategic benefit in passing up the opportunity to maintain a regional U.S. troop presence? If the answer is “yes,” it merely means he’s a disastrously poor strategic thinker. Since the answer is “no,” it means something much worse.

Instead of being serious about the most important national security issue facing America today, Obama is being political. In a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Obama said: “. . . I believe that, having waged a war that has unleashed daily carnage and uncertainty in Iraq, we have to manage our exit in a responsible way.” One can argue against the war, but whatever your complaints, you can’t say it was “waged” in the interest of election-year partisan tribalism. Whereas Obama’s current plan for a “responsible” withdrawal is. This is not getting out more nobly than we got in; it’s letting campaign bluster shape life-and-death policy.

Yesterday, John Bolton claimed that Israel will attack Iran between November and January. In the event of a general election victory for the Democrats, this deposits Barack Obama in the White House at the very moment when any of the above catastrophes could hit. Now that’s a “nightmare scenario.”

With the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran, and with Iran threatening to deal the U.S. “a strong blow in the mouth,” what kind of message are Democrats sending Tehran by insisting on quickly withdrawing U.S. troops from the region?

Having stood idly by while Iran progressed through step after step in their near-complete quest to obtain nuclear weapons, we now will be telling the mullahs that we will be splitting town when our ally finally opposes them. In today’s New York Sun, Eli Lake compiles some of the “nightmare scenarios” that may be unleashed in response to an Israeli strike:

• A terrorist attack on the Saudi oil port of Ras Tanura, an export point for oil bound for Asia. Saudi and American officials have in the past disrupted Al Qaeda plots on the facility, such as an attack on the Abqaiq oil processing plant near Dammam, Saudi Arabia, that killed two guards.

• A naval assault on the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Iran still has warships equipped with Russian-designed Shkval torpedoes that it could fire at American vessels. Another possible attack would be suicide boat sorties similar to the one that bombed the USS Cole.

• The commencement of a new round in the war between Hezbollah and Israel, with Hezbollah firing its Shihab missiles into Haifa and possibly the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv.

• Hezbollah or Iranian intelligence terrorist operations on soft targets, such as shopping malls and community centers, in third countries and possibly even America.

• A renewed effort to stir an uprising in Iraq through Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army or the special groups controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

With this range of attacks (including one on Iraq) on the table, does Barack Obama really see a strategic benefit in passing up the opportunity to maintain a regional U.S. troop presence? If the answer is “yes,” it merely means he’s a disastrously poor strategic thinker. Since the answer is “no,” it means something much worse.

Instead of being serious about the most important national security issue facing America today, Obama is being political. In a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Obama said: “. . . I believe that, having waged a war that has unleashed daily carnage and uncertainty in Iraq, we have to manage our exit in a responsible way.” One can argue against the war, but whatever your complaints, you can’t say it was “waged” in the interest of election-year partisan tribalism. Whereas Obama’s current plan for a “responsible” withdrawal is. This is not getting out more nobly than we got in; it’s letting campaign bluster shape life-and-death policy.

Yesterday, John Bolton claimed that Israel will attack Iran between November and January. In the event of a general election victory for the Democrats, this deposits Barack Obama in the White House at the very moment when any of the above catastrophes could hit. Now that’s a “nightmare scenario.”

Read Less

Don’t Make It Worse Than It Is

This account of disgruntled Republicans, largely unsourced, and this direct criticism center on the same phenomenon: conservatives are dismayed that McCain must zig-zag between the Right and the center. Well, this is a general election and of all the criticisms to be leveled at McCain’s effort this is not the one upon which I would necessarily identify as the most dire from the standpoint of electability. This, after all, is who McCain is — a not very doctrinaire conservative. You can make the argument that his ability to connect with independents not normally part of the Republican base is actually a strength, not a weakness. (And whatever maneuvers he has had to make have been downright adept compared to the hash Obama has made of the similar challenge coming from the left.)

For a campaign that was supposed to have been blown out by now, the McCain team might rightly point to their (closer than expected) poll numbers and claim that a major reassessment is not really required. That said, there are a few substantial deficiencies that McCain could spend some time addressing.

First, he needs an economic message that does not begin with the phrase “retain the Bush tax cuts.” Simplification, reform or a new McCain tax policy would be preferable than simply repeating the cornerstone of the economic plan of the president from whom he is trying to distance himself. Indeed the overarching reform message which might offer some promise has never really been fleshed out.

Second, there is something lacking in the McCain camp’s ability to drive and sustain a message over a period of more than a day or so. They can whine all they would like about liberal media bias, but they rarely penetrate the din, their surrogates are not the sharpest (Joe Lieberman and Randy Scheunemann the clear exceptions) and they operate on a level of generality (“Obama would put us on the defensive on the war on terror”) which is easily swatted away by the opposing camp. This is a strategic or tactical problem, not in my view, an ideological one as some in the conservative base suggest.

Finally, the McCain campaign really has not put all the pieces of stray criticisms of Obama together to significantly undermine his New Politics message. The guy with the martini at the country club isn’t it. (Hint: Republicans should stay away from country club analogies.) They need to do some serious work explaining to voters why it is that the promise of New Politics is belied by Obama’s own record and the conduct of his campaign. (Maybe Chuck Todd could do their campaign ads.)

It is early in the race and perhaps the McCain camp is more aware of these problems than they let on. But turning McCain into something that he is not — the darling of the conservative base — is a poor idea and destined to make these problems pale by comparison. After all, isn’t Obama’s major problem that he is losing his political soul or “brand“?

This account of disgruntled Republicans, largely unsourced, and this direct criticism center on the same phenomenon: conservatives are dismayed that McCain must zig-zag between the Right and the center. Well, this is a general election and of all the criticisms to be leveled at McCain’s effort this is not the one upon which I would necessarily identify as the most dire from the standpoint of electability. This, after all, is who McCain is — a not very doctrinaire conservative. You can make the argument that his ability to connect with independents not normally part of the Republican base is actually a strength, not a weakness. (And whatever maneuvers he has had to make have been downright adept compared to the hash Obama has made of the similar challenge coming from the left.)

For a campaign that was supposed to have been blown out by now, the McCain team might rightly point to their (closer than expected) poll numbers and claim that a major reassessment is not really required. That said, there are a few substantial deficiencies that McCain could spend some time addressing.

First, he needs an economic message that does not begin with the phrase “retain the Bush tax cuts.” Simplification, reform or a new McCain tax policy would be preferable than simply repeating the cornerstone of the economic plan of the president from whom he is trying to distance himself. Indeed the overarching reform message which might offer some promise has never really been fleshed out.

Second, there is something lacking in the McCain camp’s ability to drive and sustain a message over a period of more than a day or so. They can whine all they would like about liberal media bias, but they rarely penetrate the din, their surrogates are not the sharpest (Joe Lieberman and Randy Scheunemann the clear exceptions) and they operate on a level of generality (“Obama would put us on the defensive on the war on terror”) which is easily swatted away by the opposing camp. This is a strategic or tactical problem, not in my view, an ideological one as some in the conservative base suggest.

Finally, the McCain campaign really has not put all the pieces of stray criticisms of Obama together to significantly undermine his New Politics message. The guy with the martini at the country club isn’t it. (Hint: Republicans should stay away from country club analogies.) They need to do some serious work explaining to voters why it is that the promise of New Politics is belied by Obama’s own record and the conduct of his campaign. (Maybe Chuck Todd could do their campaign ads.)

It is early in the race and perhaps the McCain camp is more aware of these problems than they let on. But turning McCain into something that he is not — the darling of the conservative base — is a poor idea and destined to make these problems pale by comparison. After all, isn’t Obama’s major problem that he is losing his political soul or “brand“?

Read Less

Imus, Idiot

Shock-jock Don Imus is under fire–again–for allegedly making racially insensitive remarks. Yesterday, while discussing the ongoing legal problems of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones with sports anchor Warner Wolf, Imus asked, “What color is he?” When a seemingly startled Wolf responded that Jones is African-American, Imus responded, “Well, there you go. Now we know.”

Imus is claiming that he asked about Jones’ race sarcastically, hoping to make the point that Jones-who has been arrested on six occasions on a host of charges since being drafted in 2005-has been targeted on account of his race. Naturally, it should come as no surprise that racial profiling is an issue near and dear to the I-man’s heart. But, if you had any doubts, Imus opened this morning’s program with the following rant:

IMUS: . . . Warner and I were talking yesterday about Pacman Jones being arrested six times, in which I think was just, well, you know, it’s obvious that they’re picking on him. So I asked Warner what color he was. Well, obviously I already knew what color he was. The point was–in order to make a sarcastic point–I asked Warner what color he was, Warner tells me me, and I said, ‘well, there you go. There’s a point.’ What people should be outraged about is that they arrest blacks for no reason. And I mean there’s no reason to arrest this kid six times. I mean, maybe he did something once–but, I mean, everybody’s done something once. Well, I have! And . . .

CHARLES MCCORD: When does it simply become harassment?

IMUS: … Yes, exactly. They shoot blacks for no reason! We know about that in New York City. I mean, we already understand all of this. . . .

And, just in case you still have any lingering doubts regarding Don Imus’ concern for African-Americans, rest assured-some of his best friends are black:

IMUS: … I guess if you can’t see it on RFD TV, you don’t know–but the producer of the Imus in the Morning program, Tom Bowman, is black. Two of the co-hosts-the cast members-of the program are black, Karith Foster and Tony Powell. … Nobody-no white man with a radio or television program-has done … has had more discussions about race relations since December 3rd than I have! With Louise Patterson, and Jesse Jackson, Dr. Peter Gomes, and Dr. Deborah Dickerson, Dick Gregory, Carl Jeffers … Karith Foster, Tony Powell …

Yikes.

Shock-jock Don Imus is under fire–again–for allegedly making racially insensitive remarks. Yesterday, while discussing the ongoing legal problems of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones with sports anchor Warner Wolf, Imus asked, “What color is he?” When a seemingly startled Wolf responded that Jones is African-American, Imus responded, “Well, there you go. Now we know.”

Imus is claiming that he asked about Jones’ race sarcastically, hoping to make the point that Jones-who has been arrested on six occasions on a host of charges since being drafted in 2005-has been targeted on account of his race. Naturally, it should come as no surprise that racial profiling is an issue near and dear to the I-man’s heart. But, if you had any doubts, Imus opened this morning’s program with the following rant:

IMUS: . . . Warner and I were talking yesterday about Pacman Jones being arrested six times, in which I think was just, well, you know, it’s obvious that they’re picking on him. So I asked Warner what color he was. Well, obviously I already knew what color he was. The point was–in order to make a sarcastic point–I asked Warner what color he was, Warner tells me me, and I said, ‘well, there you go. There’s a point.’ What people should be outraged about is that they arrest blacks for no reason. And I mean there’s no reason to arrest this kid six times. I mean, maybe he did something once–but, I mean, everybody’s done something once. Well, I have! And . . .

CHARLES MCCORD: When does it simply become harassment?

IMUS: … Yes, exactly. They shoot blacks for no reason! We know about that in New York City. I mean, we already understand all of this. . . .

And, just in case you still have any lingering doubts regarding Don Imus’ concern for African-Americans, rest assured-some of his best friends are black:

IMUS: … I guess if you can’t see it on RFD TV, you don’t know–but the producer of the Imus in the Morning program, Tom Bowman, is black. Two of the co-hosts-the cast members-of the program are black, Karith Foster and Tony Powell. … Nobody-no white man with a radio or television program-has done … has had more discussions about race relations since December 3rd than I have! With Louise Patterson, and Jesse Jackson, Dr. Peter Gomes, and Dr. Deborah Dickerson, Dick Gregory, Carl Jeffers … Karith Foster, Tony Powell …

Yikes.

Read Less

What’s The Difference?

Richard Cohen explains why Barack Obama’s reneging on public campaign financing matters more than some of John McCain’s flip-flops:

But here is the difference between McCain and Obama — and Obama had better pay attention. McCain is a known commodity. It’s not just that he’s been around a long time and staked out positions antithetical to those of his Republican base. It’s also — and more important — that we know his bottom line. As his North Vietnamese captors found out, there is only so far he will go, and then his pride or his sense of honor takes over. This — not just his candor and nonstop verbosity on the Straight Talk Express — is what commends him to so many journalists. Obama might have a similar bottom line, core principles for which, in some sense, he is willing to die. If so, we don’t know what they are. Nothing so far in his life approaches McCain’s decision to refuse repatriation as a POW so as to deny his jailors a propaganda coup. In fact, there is scant evidence the Illinois senator takes positions that challenge his base or otherwise threaten him politically. That’s why his reversal on campaign financing and his transparently false justification of it matter more than similar acts by McCain.

Is this character or experience? It seems to be both. Cohen generously says that the character questions “hangs” for Obama: “not because of any evidence to the contrary but not because of any evidence to the contrary and not in any moral sense, either, but because he is still young and lacks the job references McCain picked up in a North Vietnamese prison.” He is perhaps overlooking some obvious evidence of character failings starting with his association with Reverend Wright (and dissembling about the same) but his point is well taken. There is a personal gravitas gap which, despite Obama’s pleas to be put on equal footing with McCain, is not likely to disappear. But that it is not the only or even the predominant consideration for many voters. McCain may be a more courageous and more admirable man ,but still lose just as Bob Dole did.

Still, if Richard Cohen can’t find Obama’s “bottom line,” that’s not encouraging news for Obama. Perhaps if Obama ever defied liberal expectations or crossed a special interest group in his own party, if he ever showed rather than talked about political courage, that would help.

Richard Cohen explains why Barack Obama’s reneging on public campaign financing matters more than some of John McCain’s flip-flops:

But here is the difference between McCain and Obama — and Obama had better pay attention. McCain is a known commodity. It’s not just that he’s been around a long time and staked out positions antithetical to those of his Republican base. It’s also — and more important — that we know his bottom line. As his North Vietnamese captors found out, there is only so far he will go, and then his pride or his sense of honor takes over. This — not just his candor and nonstop verbosity on the Straight Talk Express — is what commends him to so many journalists. Obama might have a similar bottom line, core principles for which, in some sense, he is willing to die. If so, we don’t know what they are. Nothing so far in his life approaches McCain’s decision to refuse repatriation as a POW so as to deny his jailors a propaganda coup. In fact, there is scant evidence the Illinois senator takes positions that challenge his base or otherwise threaten him politically. That’s why his reversal on campaign financing and his transparently false justification of it matter more than similar acts by McCain.

Is this character or experience? It seems to be both. Cohen generously says that the character questions “hangs” for Obama: “not because of any evidence to the contrary but not because of any evidence to the contrary and not in any moral sense, either, but because he is still young and lacks the job references McCain picked up in a North Vietnamese prison.” He is perhaps overlooking some obvious evidence of character failings starting with his association with Reverend Wright (and dissembling about the same) but his point is well taken. There is a personal gravitas gap which, despite Obama’s pleas to be put on equal footing with McCain, is not likely to disappear. But that it is not the only or even the predominant consideration for many voters. McCain may be a more courageous and more admirable man ,but still lose just as Bob Dole did.

Still, if Richard Cohen can’t find Obama’s “bottom line,” that’s not encouraging news for Obama. Perhaps if Obama ever defied liberal expectations or crossed a special interest group in his own party, if he ever showed rather than talked about political courage, that would help.

Read Less

He Needs Good Help

Today’s New York Times has a story about Muslims who have come to feel snubbed by Barack Obama. The accusation that Obama is anti-Muslim is as ridiculous as questions over his father’s religion are irrelevant. What’s most important about last week’s incident in Detroit is how it demonstrates, once again, that it’s perpetual amateur hour in Obama’s camp. There’s a benefit to surrounding oneself with Washington insiders: they’ve made it inside. Being President — just running for President — demands a nuanced approach to dodging arrows, acknowledging favors, and creating distances. The job demands finesse. And Obama, who is poetry in his oration, comes off like Jerry Lewis when he steps away from the podium. He needs capable handlers and he doesn’t have them.

The Times story makes this exceedingly clear:

When Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign, Muslim Americans from California to Virginia responded with enthusiasm, seeing him as a long-awaited champion of civil liberties, religious tolerance and diplomacy in foreign affairs. But more than a year later, many say, he has not returned their embrace.

While the senator has visited churches and synagogues, he has yet to appear at a single mosque. Muslim and Arab-American organizations have tried repeatedly to arrange meetings with Mr. Obama, but officials with those groups say their invitations — unlike those of their Jewish and Christian counterparts — have been ignored.

Of course, this is a tricky issue for Obama — but not to appear at a single mosque! President Bush can hardly pass a dome without stopping in to announce that Islam is a religion of peace. There are ways to handle tricky issues, wholesale snubbing being the least advisable. Yet the Obama camp doesn’t seem to have a single person on staff capable of tossing out another option. And the challenges of the campaign trail are gifts compared to those awaiting a sitting President.

Today’s New York Times has a story about Muslims who have come to feel snubbed by Barack Obama. The accusation that Obama is anti-Muslim is as ridiculous as questions over his father’s religion are irrelevant. What’s most important about last week’s incident in Detroit is how it demonstrates, once again, that it’s perpetual amateur hour in Obama’s camp. There’s a benefit to surrounding oneself with Washington insiders: they’ve made it inside. Being President — just running for President — demands a nuanced approach to dodging arrows, acknowledging favors, and creating distances. The job demands finesse. And Obama, who is poetry in his oration, comes off like Jerry Lewis when he steps away from the podium. He needs capable handlers and he doesn’t have them.

The Times story makes this exceedingly clear:

When Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign, Muslim Americans from California to Virginia responded with enthusiasm, seeing him as a long-awaited champion of civil liberties, religious tolerance and diplomacy in foreign affairs. But more than a year later, many say, he has not returned their embrace.

While the senator has visited churches and synagogues, he has yet to appear at a single mosque. Muslim and Arab-American organizations have tried repeatedly to arrange meetings with Mr. Obama, but officials with those groups say their invitations — unlike those of their Jewish and Christian counterparts — have been ignored.

Of course, this is a tricky issue for Obama — but not to appear at a single mosque! President Bush can hardly pass a dome without stopping in to announce that Islam is a religion of peace. There are ways to handle tricky issues, wholesale snubbing being the least advisable. Yet the Obama camp doesn’t seem to have a single person on staff capable of tossing out another option. And the challenges of the campaign trail are gifts compared to those awaiting a sitting President.

Read Less

A Double Dose of Good News

Two Iraq-related developments – one micro and one macro — are worth noting. The first is written about here. According to AFP,

[t]he US military is to hand over security control of the former Sunni insurgent bastion of Anbar province to Iraqi forces in the next 10 days, a US military spokesman announced on Monday . . . Anbar would be the tenth of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be handed back to Iraqi forces by the US-led coalition amid a push to transfer security control of the entire country back to Baghdad. Anbar province in western Iraq, the country’s largest, was the epicentre of a brutal Sunni Arab-led fight against the US military after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In the early years of the insurgency, US forces fought raging battles in the province, especially in the capital Ramadi and the nearby city of Fallujah.

This is a development of enormous significance. Anbar, after all, was once the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency and the most dangerous province for U.S. forces. In November 2004, 137 U.S. troops were killed in combat in Anbar, when the assault on Fallujah was launched. Anbar was a province thought to be lost to al Qaeda. Today, it is a province of (relative) stability and the birthplace of the Sunni rebellion against al Qaeda, which is having radiating effects throughout the Muslim world.

The second development is the Department of Defense’s quarterly assessment to Congress, “Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq.” According to the so-called 9010 Report (named after the relevant section of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007):

The security environment in Iraq continues to improve, with all major violence indicators reduced between 40 to 80% from pre-surge levels. Total security incidents have fallen to their lowest level in over four years. Coalition and Iraqi forces’ operations against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have degraded its ability to attack and terrorize the population. Although AQI remains a major threat and is still capable of high-profile attacks, the lack of violence linked to AQI in recent weeks demonstrates the effect these operations have had on its network.

Equally important, the government’s success in Basrah and Baghdad’s Sadr City against militias, particularly Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) and the Iranian-supported Special Groups, has reinforced a greater public rejection of militias. This rejection, while still developing, is potentially as significant for Iraq as the Sunni rejection of AQI’s indiscriminate violence and extremist ideology. Overall, the communal struggle for power and resources is becoming less violent. Many Iraqis are now settling their differences through debate and the political process rather than open conflict. Other factors that have contributed to a reduction in violence include the revitalization of sectors of the Iraqi economy and local reconciliation measures.

Although the number of civilian deaths in April 2008 increased slightly from February and March 2008, in May 2008 civilian deaths declined to levels not seen since January 2006, when the Coalition began tracking this data. Both Iraqi and Coalition forces reported that civilian deaths are 75% lower than July 2007 levels and 82% lower than the peak number of monthly deaths that occurred in November of 2006 at the height of sectarian violence. Periodic high-profile car and suicide vest bombings continued throughout the period and were largely responsible for the increased civilian deaths in April 2008. However, the trends of decreasing violence suggest the failure of these high-profile attacks to rekindle the self-reinforcing cycle of ethno-sectarian violence that began in 2006.

The emergence of Sons of Iraq (SoIs) to help secure local communities has been one of the most significant developments in the past 18 months in Iraq. These volunteers help protect their neighborhoods, secure key infrastructure and roads and locate extremists among the population. What began primarily as a Sunni effort, now appears to have taken hold in several Shi’a and mixed communities. Today there are 103,000 SoIs contributing to local security in partnership with Coalition and Iraqi forces…

The Iraqi economy grew 4% in real terms in 2007 and is projected to grow 7% in real terms for 2008, reaching an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $60.9 billion. Oil production increases of 9-10% this year-coupled with the higher prices of oil-should drive growth in that sector and support increased government spending. The non-oil sector is likely to grow at 3%. Core inflation fell to 12% in 2007 compared to 32% in 2006…

These developments confirm the judgment of David Brooks in his New York Times column today: President Bush was right in his decision to move ahead with the so-called surge, and we are seeing the fruits of that decision in the security, economic, and political arenas.

What remains worrisome is the reaction of leading Democrats. Two years ago they were arguing that we should leave Iraq because the war was lost; now they are saying we should leave Iraq because the war is won.

The more subtle reality is that enormous progress has been made but, in the words of the 9010 report, our achievements remain fragile, reversible, and uneven. To withdraw precipitously from Iraq now, in light of the gains that have been made, would be self-defeating. After far too long a delay, we now have in place the right strategy in Iraq, with the results to prove it. What matters now is whether our war-weary nation and its political leadership can summon the will to see this endeavor through to completion, and to success.

Two Iraq-related developments – one micro and one macro — are worth noting. The first is written about here. According to AFP,

[t]he US military is to hand over security control of the former Sunni insurgent bastion of Anbar province to Iraqi forces in the next 10 days, a US military spokesman announced on Monday . . . Anbar would be the tenth of Iraq’s 18 provinces to be handed back to Iraqi forces by the US-led coalition amid a push to transfer security control of the entire country back to Baghdad. Anbar province in western Iraq, the country’s largest, was the epicentre of a brutal Sunni Arab-led fight against the US military after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. In the early years of the insurgency, US forces fought raging battles in the province, especially in the capital Ramadi and the nearby city of Fallujah.

This is a development of enormous significance. Anbar, after all, was once the heartland of the Sunni Arab insurgency and the most dangerous province for U.S. forces. In November 2004, 137 U.S. troops were killed in combat in Anbar, when the assault on Fallujah was launched. Anbar was a province thought to be lost to al Qaeda. Today, it is a province of (relative) stability and the birthplace of the Sunni rebellion against al Qaeda, which is having radiating effects throughout the Muslim world.

The second development is the Department of Defense’s quarterly assessment to Congress, “Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq.” According to the so-called 9010 Report (named after the relevant section of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2007):

The security environment in Iraq continues to improve, with all major violence indicators reduced between 40 to 80% from pre-surge levels. Total security incidents have fallen to their lowest level in over four years. Coalition and Iraqi forces’ operations against al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have degraded its ability to attack and terrorize the population. Although AQI remains a major threat and is still capable of high-profile attacks, the lack of violence linked to AQI in recent weeks demonstrates the effect these operations have had on its network.

Equally important, the government’s success in Basrah and Baghdad’s Sadr City against militias, particularly Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) and the Iranian-supported Special Groups, has reinforced a greater public rejection of militias. This rejection, while still developing, is potentially as significant for Iraq as the Sunni rejection of AQI’s indiscriminate violence and extremist ideology. Overall, the communal struggle for power and resources is becoming less violent. Many Iraqis are now settling their differences through debate and the political process rather than open conflict. Other factors that have contributed to a reduction in violence include the revitalization of sectors of the Iraqi economy and local reconciliation measures.

Although the number of civilian deaths in April 2008 increased slightly from February and March 2008, in May 2008 civilian deaths declined to levels not seen since January 2006, when the Coalition began tracking this data. Both Iraqi and Coalition forces reported that civilian deaths are 75% lower than July 2007 levels and 82% lower than the peak number of monthly deaths that occurred in November of 2006 at the height of sectarian violence. Periodic high-profile car and suicide vest bombings continued throughout the period and were largely responsible for the increased civilian deaths in April 2008. However, the trends of decreasing violence suggest the failure of these high-profile attacks to rekindle the self-reinforcing cycle of ethno-sectarian violence that began in 2006.

The emergence of Sons of Iraq (SoIs) to help secure local communities has been one of the most significant developments in the past 18 months in Iraq. These volunteers help protect their neighborhoods, secure key infrastructure and roads and locate extremists among the population. What began primarily as a Sunni effort, now appears to have taken hold in several Shi’a and mixed communities. Today there are 103,000 SoIs contributing to local security in partnership with Coalition and Iraqi forces…

The Iraqi economy grew 4% in real terms in 2007 and is projected to grow 7% in real terms for 2008, reaching an estimated gross domestic product (GDP) of $60.9 billion. Oil production increases of 9-10% this year-coupled with the higher prices of oil-should drive growth in that sector and support increased government spending. The non-oil sector is likely to grow at 3%. Core inflation fell to 12% in 2007 compared to 32% in 2006…

These developments confirm the judgment of David Brooks in his New York Times column today: President Bush was right in his decision to move ahead with the so-called surge, and we are seeing the fruits of that decision in the security, economic, and political arenas.

What remains worrisome is the reaction of leading Democrats. Two years ago they were arguing that we should leave Iraq because the war was lost; now they are saying we should leave Iraq because the war is won.

The more subtle reality is that enormous progress has been made but, in the words of the 9010 report, our achievements remain fragile, reversible, and uneven. To withdraw precipitously from Iraq now, in light of the gains that have been made, would be self-defeating. After far too long a delay, we now have in place the right strategy in Iraq, with the results to prove it. What matters now is whether our war-weary nation and its political leadership can summon the will to see this endeavor through to completion, and to success.

Read Less

Why So Negative?

One of the problems with John McCain’s image and message is that there is a bit too much “there’s no free lunch” and “auto jobs aren’t coming back” (i.e. bitter pills) and not so much hope and optimism. There is a virtue in being frank and realistic, but it can also be a downer. Voters want to hear a sense that we can “solve any problem,” a quintessential, albeit overused, theme in politics. But on energy policy, the McCain camp is attempting a role reversal.

McCain’s team latched on to this comment from Barack Obama’s remarks Monday in New Mexico: “We’re not gonna bring down gas prices easily, quickly. The only way to do it is to reduce demand over the long term in a serious way.”

In the energy conference call the McCain surrogates made every effort to make Obama out to be Mr. No. Senator Lindsay Graham:

For those who believe that America is helpless and can’t aggressively pursue fixing our energy problems by doing more than decreasing demand, I think they’re wrong. Senator Obama said today there’s really nothing we can do except lower demand. I think Sen. McCain and I and many other disagree with that. Lifting the federal moratorium on deep sea exploration off the Eastern coast is a good place to start. With $4 a gallon gas, now is the time for America to increase its supply.

McCain economics guru Doug Holtz-Eakin was more direct:

Senator Obama has no plan, or maybe his plan is to say no. When asked to reduce gas taxes, no, additional exploration, no, eliminate the tariffs so low cost products could get into the U.S. system, no, even the playing field for other alternative energies, no. He’s going to keep the ethanol subsidy. And today, batteries and using nuclear power more extensively to solve this problem, no. Batteries are a gimmick. He doesn’t support nukes. Senator McCain doesn’t believe you can say no to everything, because we cannot continue to tolerate the exposure to import oil and the high gas prices. Perhaps the reason Senator Obama has a plan that says just say no is he thinks prices are okay and he’s said so.

Will it work? It may, unless Obama comes up with something other than a Jimmy Carter-ish “grin and bear it” energy plan. It has been strange watching Obama — who is usually so filled with ideas about how he is going to change the country –  decry “short term” solutions ( especially when working people he is trying so hard to court have short term problems) and rule out certain long term solutions. There seems to be no good reason (other than fear of offending certain constituency groups) not to pursue as many avenues as possible (e.g. nuclear energy, offshore drilling and non-carbon based fuels). Yes, one could criticize McCain for not being bold enough, but he’s light years ahead of Obama on this one.

One of the problems with John McCain’s image and message is that there is a bit too much “there’s no free lunch” and “auto jobs aren’t coming back” (i.e. bitter pills) and not so much hope and optimism. There is a virtue in being frank and realistic, but it can also be a downer. Voters want to hear a sense that we can “solve any problem,” a quintessential, albeit overused, theme in politics. But on energy policy, the McCain camp is attempting a role reversal.

McCain’s team latched on to this comment from Barack Obama’s remarks Monday in New Mexico: “We’re not gonna bring down gas prices easily, quickly. The only way to do it is to reduce demand over the long term in a serious way.”

In the energy conference call the McCain surrogates made every effort to make Obama out to be Mr. No. Senator Lindsay Graham:

For those who believe that America is helpless and can’t aggressively pursue fixing our energy problems by doing more than decreasing demand, I think they’re wrong. Senator Obama said today there’s really nothing we can do except lower demand. I think Sen. McCain and I and many other disagree with that. Lifting the federal moratorium on deep sea exploration off the Eastern coast is a good place to start. With $4 a gallon gas, now is the time for America to increase its supply.

McCain economics guru Doug Holtz-Eakin was more direct:

Senator Obama has no plan, or maybe his plan is to say no. When asked to reduce gas taxes, no, additional exploration, no, eliminate the tariffs so low cost products could get into the U.S. system, no, even the playing field for other alternative energies, no. He’s going to keep the ethanol subsidy. And today, batteries and using nuclear power more extensively to solve this problem, no. Batteries are a gimmick. He doesn’t support nukes. Senator McCain doesn’t believe you can say no to everything, because we cannot continue to tolerate the exposure to import oil and the high gas prices. Perhaps the reason Senator Obama has a plan that says just say no is he thinks prices are okay and he’s said so.

Will it work? It may, unless Obama comes up with something other than a Jimmy Carter-ish “grin and bear it” energy plan. It has been strange watching Obama — who is usually so filled with ideas about how he is going to change the country –  decry “short term” solutions ( especially when working people he is trying so hard to court have short term problems) and rule out certain long term solutions. There seems to be no good reason (other than fear of offending certain constituency groups) not to pursue as many avenues as possible (e.g. nuclear energy, offshore drilling and non-carbon based fuels). Yes, one could criticize McCain for not being bold enough, but he’s light years ahead of Obama on this one.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

It is so nice that Barack Obama is relying on small donors–you know, the little people, the real Americans!

Remember when John McCain’s opposition to ethanol subsidies was considered risky? He now has company. I think. Or maybe not. It’s on the “never mind” list.

If part of Obama’s problem with former Hillary supporters is that they don’t like being called racists, wasn’t it unhelpful for Obama to play the race card?

No matter how horrific a week Obama has (e.g. The Seal of Barack, the defensive crouch about Osama bin Laden’s habeas corpus rights, the avalanche of blistering bad press on campaign finance) there are always those who think everything is perfectly fine and better than fine. One wonders what a bad week would be in their eyes.

Obama, who opposed immunity for telecoms in the FISA deal, and then seemed to accept the Congressional compromise, now says he still likes the deal but wants to remove the immunity provision, the cornerstone of the deal. It’s deeply cynical. But it shows how beholden he is to the far Left, even after securing the nomination. (It also reveals how problematic a deal-maker he will be if his notion of bipartisan compromise means his side gets everything he wants.)

It is so nice that Barack Obama is relying on small donors–you know, the little people, the real Americans!

Remember when John McCain’s opposition to ethanol subsidies was considered risky? He now has company. I think. Or maybe not. It’s on the “never mind” list.

If part of Obama’s problem with former Hillary supporters is that they don’t like being called racists, wasn’t it unhelpful for Obama to play the race card?

No matter how horrific a week Obama has (e.g. The Seal of Barack, the defensive crouch about Osama bin Laden’s habeas corpus rights, the avalanche of blistering bad press on campaign finance) there are always those who think everything is perfectly fine and better than fine. One wonders what a bad week would be in their eyes.

Obama, who opposed immunity for telecoms in the FISA deal, and then seemed to accept the Congressional compromise, now says he still likes the deal but wants to remove the immunity provision, the cornerstone of the deal. It’s deeply cynical. But it shows how beholden he is to the far Left, even after securing the nomination. (It also reveals how problematic a deal-maker he will be if his notion of bipartisan compromise means his side gets everything he wants.)

Read Less

O, Canada

Fouad Ajami has a typically brilliant op-ed in the WSJ on global attitudes towards America. The release of the Pew Global Attitudes poll earlier this month, Ajami writes, is an “annual ritual” of self-flagellation for liberals, comparable to the Shi’ite tradition of Ashura, in which men cut themselves as an act of penance in remembrance of their ancestors’ suffering. Ajami contextualizes the age-old phenomenon of anti-Americanism (it did not begin — nor will it end — with George W. Bush), demonstrating why it is not only over-exaggerated, but fundamentally mischievous and irrational.

Ajami’s column is especially relevant in light of John McCain’s recent day-long jaunt to Ottawa, in which he delivered a strong, pro-free trade speech to the Economic Club of Toronto and contrasted his position on trade with the quasi-protectionism of his opponent. I happened to be in Canada last week, and I followed press coverage of this speech closely. The Globe and Mail, Canada’s establishment paper, assured its readers that the Senator is “No One to be Afraid Of,” and concluded Friday’s event represented an “historic attempt to reach out to our country with his unprecedented mid-campaign visit,” and that McCain “proved to be anything but the George W. Bush clone he is sometimes dismissed as on this side of the border.”

So where are the jubilant headlines and American editorialists swooning over how McCain sets foreigners’ hearts aflutter? To say that such a story doesn’t fit the media narrative for this presidential campaign would be redundant at this point. Yet no amount of positive press should undermine the fact that Barack Obama remains far more popular amongst Canadians — despite his talk of renegotiating NAFTA, a sacred cow in Canadian politics. Obama’s voguishness is spelled out by a poll commissioned by the Globe and Mail, which found that the overwhelming majority of Canadians prefer Barack Obama to John McCain, 55 percent to 15 percent.

This does not come as a shock. Canada’s political and intellectual class is deeply anti-American and makes a part-time job of sneering at us for being a brutish, militaristic people, all while they continue to suffer a decades-long brain drain as their best and brightest flock here for education and jobs. So why do Canadians support Barack Obama? For the most shallow of reasons. Writes columnist John Ibbitson:

On the face of it, this makes no sense. Self-interested Canadians should probably be backing the Republicans in this election. Mr. McCain defends and supports free trade, while Mr. Obama has vowed to renegotiate or even rip up the North American free-trade agreement. Mr. McCain came to Canada in the middle of an election campaign to make exactly that point to American voters.

Ibbitson goes onto describe why a protectionist president and a protectionist Congress would be awful for Canada. So what explains his countrymen’s love affair with the junior senator from Illinois?

Mr. Obama epitomizes the multicultural present that Canada celebrates. While we are stuck with an uninspiring assortment of mostly middle-aged white males to lead our country, Americans are contemplating electing a Kenyan-American who has an Indonesian-American half-sister who is herself married to a Chinese-Canadian doctor. Mr. Obama shouldn’t belong to the United States. He should belong to us.

Something tells me that the thrill of having a “Kenyan-American who has an Indonesian-American half-sister who is herself married to a Chinese-Canadian doctor” will probably start to wear off once President Obama hunkers down to renegotiate NAFTA.

Fouad Ajami has a typically brilliant op-ed in the WSJ on global attitudes towards America. The release of the Pew Global Attitudes poll earlier this month, Ajami writes, is an “annual ritual” of self-flagellation for liberals, comparable to the Shi’ite tradition of Ashura, in which men cut themselves as an act of penance in remembrance of their ancestors’ suffering. Ajami contextualizes the age-old phenomenon of anti-Americanism (it did not begin — nor will it end — with George W. Bush), demonstrating why it is not only over-exaggerated, but fundamentally mischievous and irrational.

Ajami’s column is especially relevant in light of John McCain’s recent day-long jaunt to Ottawa, in which he delivered a strong, pro-free trade speech to the Economic Club of Toronto and contrasted his position on trade with the quasi-protectionism of his opponent. I happened to be in Canada last week, and I followed press coverage of this speech closely. The Globe and Mail, Canada’s establishment paper, assured its readers that the Senator is “No One to be Afraid Of,” and concluded Friday’s event represented an “historic attempt to reach out to our country with his unprecedented mid-campaign visit,” and that McCain “proved to be anything but the George W. Bush clone he is sometimes dismissed as on this side of the border.”

So where are the jubilant headlines and American editorialists swooning over how McCain sets foreigners’ hearts aflutter? To say that such a story doesn’t fit the media narrative for this presidential campaign would be redundant at this point. Yet no amount of positive press should undermine the fact that Barack Obama remains far more popular amongst Canadians — despite his talk of renegotiating NAFTA, a sacred cow in Canadian politics. Obama’s voguishness is spelled out by a poll commissioned by the Globe and Mail, which found that the overwhelming majority of Canadians prefer Barack Obama to John McCain, 55 percent to 15 percent.

This does not come as a shock. Canada’s political and intellectual class is deeply anti-American and makes a part-time job of sneering at us for being a brutish, militaristic people, all while they continue to suffer a decades-long brain drain as their best and brightest flock here for education and jobs. So why do Canadians support Barack Obama? For the most shallow of reasons. Writes columnist John Ibbitson:

On the face of it, this makes no sense. Self-interested Canadians should probably be backing the Republicans in this election. Mr. McCain defends and supports free trade, while Mr. Obama has vowed to renegotiate or even rip up the North American free-trade agreement. Mr. McCain came to Canada in the middle of an election campaign to make exactly that point to American voters.

Ibbitson goes onto describe why a protectionist president and a protectionist Congress would be awful for Canada. So what explains his countrymen’s love affair with the junior senator from Illinois?

Mr. Obama epitomizes the multicultural present that Canada celebrates. While we are stuck with an uninspiring assortment of mostly middle-aged white males to lead our country, Americans are contemplating electing a Kenyan-American who has an Indonesian-American half-sister who is herself married to a Chinese-Canadian doctor. Mr. Obama shouldn’t belong to the United States. He should belong to us.

Something tells me that the thrill of having a “Kenyan-American who has an Indonesian-American half-sister who is herself married to a Chinese-Canadian doctor” will probably start to wear off once President Obama hunkers down to renegotiate NAFTA.

Read Less

The Networks Too?

On the heels of the New York Times’ wink to the rest of the mainstream media and left blogosphere that it is okay to spill the beans (Psst: Iraq is better — really better), the networks news shows have gotten into the act too. ABC had on Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon, who actually went to Iraq and can report that things are substantially different. The ABC story is a concise and rather helpful summary of the indications of political, military and even economic progress.

It is almost like reading some of the conservative media, which has been laboring to explain this very story. In fact, there’s a presidential candidate who’s been fighting a lonely fight on this for quite awhile long before any of the mainstream media dreamed that his view would be proven correct.

David Brooks, who reminds us of how the surge was derided as a dangerous and crazy plan by Congressional Democrats and in “op-ed pages and seminar rooms,” writes:

The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home. But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

It is difficult enough for the mainstream media to reverse its entire take on Iraq, so I don’t expect them to be handing out garlands to either President Bush or John McCain. As for McCain, it’s up to his campaign to explain this in presidential political terms. An adept campaign might be rallying the conservative base by pointing out McCain’s battle against liberal media’s conventional wisdom, reaching out to independents with some newer and fresher material detailing Obama step-by-step objections to the surge and using McCain’s performance in championing the surge as a point of contrast to other politicians who talk a good game but do only what is politically expedient.

It is not clear, however, that the McCain camp has yet figured out how to do any of these things or to capitalize on this remarkable turn of events.

On the heels of the New York Times’ wink to the rest of the mainstream media and left blogosphere that it is okay to spill the beans (Psst: Iraq is better — really better), the networks news shows have gotten into the act too. ABC had on Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon, who actually went to Iraq and can report that things are substantially different. The ABC story is a concise and rather helpful summary of the indications of political, military and even economic progress.

It is almost like reading some of the conservative media, which has been laboring to explain this very story. In fact, there’s a presidential candidate who’s been fighting a lonely fight on this for quite awhile long before any of the mainstream media dreamed that his view would be proven correct.

David Brooks, who reminds us of how the surge was derided as a dangerous and crazy plan by Congressional Democrats and in “op-ed pages and seminar rooms,” writes:

The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home. But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

It is difficult enough for the mainstream media to reverse its entire take on Iraq, so I don’t expect them to be handing out garlands to either President Bush or John McCain. As for McCain, it’s up to his campaign to explain this in presidential political terms. An adept campaign might be rallying the conservative base by pointing out McCain’s battle against liberal media’s conventional wisdom, reaching out to independents with some newer and fresher material detailing Obama step-by-step objections to the surge and using McCain’s performance in championing the surge as a point of contrast to other politicians who talk a good game but do only what is politically expedient.

It is not clear, however, that the McCain camp has yet figured out how to do any of these things or to capitalize on this remarkable turn of events.

Read Less