Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 2, 2008

Rick Davis Is Out

Word that John McCain campaign chief Rick Davis will give up day-to-day control of the campaign to Steve Schmidt should come as welcome news for McCain supporters. Davis was neither an idea man nor a message guy — two things McCain could desperately use. Moreover, Davis, in part because of lobbying controversies, made an ineffective spokesman. Schmidt brings experience from the successful Bush campaigns and is relentlessly on message.

Among the items Schmidt could attend to: develop an economic and reform message that moves beyond defending the Bush tax cuts, re-establish rapport with mainstream media outlets, drive the message of the day and the week relentlessly, engage McCain himself in a consistent critique of Barack Obama, articulate why the two candidates’ positions on the surge should be a determining factor for voters, and figure out how to demonstrate that, absent a teleprompter and script, Obama can’t function effectively.

There is plenty of grousing among conservatives about the Mcain effort but the race remains close and McCain’s problems are strategic and tactical not ideological — he dare not move farther Right if he hopes to retain independent voters. He does need clearer and more determined messaging — a task to which Schmidt is exceptionally well suited.

Word that John McCain campaign chief Rick Davis will give up day-to-day control of the campaign to Steve Schmidt should come as welcome news for McCain supporters. Davis was neither an idea man nor a message guy — two things McCain could desperately use. Moreover, Davis, in part because of lobbying controversies, made an ineffective spokesman. Schmidt brings experience from the successful Bush campaigns and is relentlessly on message.

Among the items Schmidt could attend to: develop an economic and reform message that moves beyond defending the Bush tax cuts, re-establish rapport with mainstream media outlets, drive the message of the day and the week relentlessly, engage McCain himself in a consistent critique of Barack Obama, articulate why the two candidates’ positions on the surge should be a determining factor for voters, and figure out how to demonstrate that, absent a teleprompter and script, Obama can’t function effectively.

There is plenty of grousing among conservatives about the Mcain effort but the race remains close and McCain’s problems are strategic and tactical not ideological — he dare not move farther Right if he hopes to retain independent voters. He does need clearer and more determined messaging — a task to which Schmidt is exceptionally well suited.

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Olmert and Iran

Everybody’s talking about a possible Israeli strike on Iran — which makes me think it won’t happen. You see, in Israel for the last couple of years, it has usually paid to be a contrarian. If everyone thinks the government’s about to fall (as did I, several times, in the last couple of months), there’s a decent chance it won’t. If you think Israel’s going to war in Lebanon and will not stop until it achieves its goals — well, it probably will stop after all.

There is no question that an attack on Iran by Israel would really not suit Washington too well. It’s too close to the election, and it’s something of a foregone conclusion that the last thing any American administration wants in it waning months is a sudden middle-east conflagration, a radical dose of instability that is far more likely to hurt the incumbents’ party than help. So we should not be surprised if we start hearing all sorts of grumblings from the Pentagon, such as the quip by Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Middle East “is a very unstable part of the world and I don’t need it to be more unstable.”

There’s a limit to what Washington can really do to prevent an Israeli strike if Israel really feels that Iran is about to cross the nuclear Rubicon. But it’s a fairly high limit, and we’re nowhere near it yet. Olmert’s government is highly susceptible to pressure right now, and upsetting the American-Israeli alliance requires an awful lot of political capital in Israel — capital Olmert no longer has.

So, as much as I am convinced that Iran must be stopped, if I had to bet, I’d say nothing’s happening before November — no matter how many exercises the IAF carries out between now and then. And after the election? Well, that’s another matter altogether.

Everybody’s talking about a possible Israeli strike on Iran — which makes me think it won’t happen. You see, in Israel for the last couple of years, it has usually paid to be a contrarian. If everyone thinks the government’s about to fall (as did I, several times, in the last couple of months), there’s a decent chance it won’t. If you think Israel’s going to war in Lebanon and will not stop until it achieves its goals — well, it probably will stop after all.

There is no question that an attack on Iran by Israel would really not suit Washington too well. It’s too close to the election, and it’s something of a foregone conclusion that the last thing any American administration wants in it waning months is a sudden middle-east conflagration, a radical dose of instability that is far more likely to hurt the incumbents’ party than help. So we should not be surprised if we start hearing all sorts of grumblings from the Pentagon, such as the quip by Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Middle East “is a very unstable part of the world and I don’t need it to be more unstable.”

There’s a limit to what Washington can really do to prevent an Israeli strike if Israel really feels that Iran is about to cross the nuclear Rubicon. But it’s a fairly high limit, and we’re nowhere near it yet. Olmert’s government is highly susceptible to pressure right now, and upsetting the American-Israeli alliance requires an awful lot of political capital in Israel — capital Olmert no longer has.

So, as much as I am convinced that Iran must be stopped, if I had to bet, I’d say nothing’s happening before November — no matter how many exercises the IAF carries out between now and then. And after the election? Well, that’s another matter altogether.

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My Sullivan Rebuttal

Andrew Sullivan reacted to my post yesterday criticizing Barack Obama for claiming that those who favor a California ballot measure banning same-sex marriages were engaged in a “divisive and discriminatory effort.” Here are some points in response:

1. Andrew says I’m offended because Obama described those who oppose the Supreme Court’s imperial decision to undermine the will of the people of California on same sex marriage as “discriminatory.” I would point out that Obama used the phrase “divisive and discriminatory,” and the added adjective is important. The way Obama framed it, those who are reacting against the state’s Supreme Court decision are somehow the divisive figures–even as the court is the one imposing an unpopular decision on the people of California. And the charge of being both divisive and discriminatory is clearly meant to convey the message that those who oppose the court’s decision are morally tainted and motivated by hate.

2. On the matter of discrimination Andrew asked of those who oppose same sex marriage, “How can it not be discriminatory”? To which I would respond: it is discriminatory in the same way that Andrew discriminates against those who want, say, polygamous marriages. Andrew may think opposing polygamy is “good discrimination” — but it’s still, in fact, discrimination. The question is whether the discriminations we make all the time are reasonable and wise.

3. The intent of Senator Obama, and the direct charge made by Sullivan, is that those who maintain the traditional view of marriage are by definition bigots. That strikes me as unfair. One can believe for a host of reasons, including utilitarian reasons, that gay marriage is unwise and that is should not be imposed on an unwilling public by the courts. The majority of the public still opposes gay marriages–and some of those who do are bigots. But many are not–and to use the term “bigot” to describe people who hold views different than your own is, I think, a mistake. It is the kind of argument which, for example, Jonathan Rauch–who I believe has presented the strongest case on behalf of same-sex marriage–would not make. Rauch wisely keeps the “divisive/discriminatory/bigoted” branding iron out of reach in part, I think, because of his core decency and also because he feels like his argument can carry the day. Others might want to emulate him.

4. In his December 2007 cover story in The Atlantic, title “Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters,” Sullivan argued that the strongest reason for electing Obama president is that he “offers the possibility of a truce” – including a truce in the so-called “culture wars.” Sullivan laments the “bitter, brutal tone of American politics.” I wonder if Andrew thinks that accusing people who believe marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman as suffering from “the moral taint of being a bigot” will help us toward the truce he claims to want? And I wonder if, on reflection, he thinks that he’s improving the tone of American politics by making such charges?

Andrew Sullivan is a bright fellow and an able debater; he doesn’t need to resort to ad hominem attacks to make his case on this issue, or on other issues. It’s an easy habit to get into and a hard habit to break.

Andrew Sullivan reacted to my post yesterday criticizing Barack Obama for claiming that those who favor a California ballot measure banning same-sex marriages were engaged in a “divisive and discriminatory effort.” Here are some points in response:

1. Andrew says I’m offended because Obama described those who oppose the Supreme Court’s imperial decision to undermine the will of the people of California on same sex marriage as “discriminatory.” I would point out that Obama used the phrase “divisive and discriminatory,” and the added adjective is important. The way Obama framed it, those who are reacting against the state’s Supreme Court decision are somehow the divisive figures–even as the court is the one imposing an unpopular decision on the people of California. And the charge of being both divisive and discriminatory is clearly meant to convey the message that those who oppose the court’s decision are morally tainted and motivated by hate.

2. On the matter of discrimination Andrew asked of those who oppose same sex marriage, “How can it not be discriminatory”? To which I would respond: it is discriminatory in the same way that Andrew discriminates against those who want, say, polygamous marriages. Andrew may think opposing polygamy is “good discrimination” — but it’s still, in fact, discrimination. The question is whether the discriminations we make all the time are reasonable and wise.

3. The intent of Senator Obama, and the direct charge made by Sullivan, is that those who maintain the traditional view of marriage are by definition bigots. That strikes me as unfair. One can believe for a host of reasons, including utilitarian reasons, that gay marriage is unwise and that is should not be imposed on an unwilling public by the courts. The majority of the public still opposes gay marriages–and some of those who do are bigots. But many are not–and to use the term “bigot” to describe people who hold views different than your own is, I think, a mistake. It is the kind of argument which, for example, Jonathan Rauch–who I believe has presented the strongest case on behalf of same-sex marriage–would not make. Rauch wisely keeps the “divisive/discriminatory/bigoted” branding iron out of reach in part, I think, because of his core decency and also because he feels like his argument can carry the day. Others might want to emulate him.

4. In his December 2007 cover story in The Atlantic, title “Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters,” Sullivan argued that the strongest reason for electing Obama president is that he “offers the possibility of a truce” – including a truce in the so-called “culture wars.” Sullivan laments the “bitter, brutal tone of American politics.” I wonder if Andrew thinks that accusing people who believe marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman as suffering from “the moral taint of being a bigot” will help us toward the truce he claims to want? And I wonder if, on reflection, he thinks that he’s improving the tone of American politics by making such charges?

Andrew Sullivan is a bright fellow and an able debater; he doesn’t need to resort to ad hominem attacks to make his case on this issue, or on other issues. It’s an easy habit to get into and a hard habit to break.

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Okay Community, Prepare To Be Organized!

Ask not what your country can do for you, but do what I tell you to do for your country. That’s what I got from reading about a speech Barack Obama was scheduled to give today in Ohio. According to Political Intelligence, Obama planned to

Encourage national service to address the great challenges of our time, including combating climate change, extending health care, improving our schools and strengthening America overseas by showing the world the best of our nation.

— Expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots and double the size of the Peace Corps.

— Integrate service-learning into our schools and universities to enable students to graduate college with as many as 17 weeks of service experience under their belts.

— Provide new service opportunities for working Americans and retirees.

— Expand service initiatives that engage disadvantaged young people and advance their education.

— Expand the capacity of nonprofits to innovate and expand successful programs across the country.

— Enable more Americans to serve in the armed forces.

You can’t argue with the idea of citizen volunteers. It is, of course, a blessed feature of our free society. But taken together with Obama’s previous list of prohibitions (SUV’s, heated homes, and full bellies) and Michelle Obama’s drill sergeant approach to self-betterment, today’s slate of service injunctions rounds out a list of Obama’s shalts and shalt-nots to which no American should be subject. There’s a social engineering orthodoxy at work here, and it’s frankly chilling.

All of this is, of course, wrapped up in the most benign package imaginable. It’s as if Obama has a recipe for the better American citizen and he’s just dying to share it with the country. Don’t forget Obama’s most verifiable credential is that he was a “community organizer.” And while we don’t know what that title means, exactly, it sounds enough like some ancient union strong-arm position that we can be pretty sure we don’t want to be “organized” as such. We don’t want to be told what to drive, what to eat, and how to work. We don’t want to be told to volunteer.

In May, Barack Obama delivered a commencement speech at Weslyan University where he said “. . . I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency.” I believe him and I’m scared.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but do what I tell you to do for your country. That’s what I got from reading about a speech Barack Obama was scheduled to give today in Ohio. According to Political Intelligence, Obama planned to

Encourage national service to address the great challenges of our time, including combating climate change, extending health care, improving our schools and strengthening America overseas by showing the world the best of our nation.

— Expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 slots and double the size of the Peace Corps.

— Integrate service-learning into our schools and universities to enable students to graduate college with as many as 17 weeks of service experience under their belts.

— Provide new service opportunities for working Americans and retirees.

— Expand service initiatives that engage disadvantaged young people and advance their education.

— Expand the capacity of nonprofits to innovate and expand successful programs across the country.

— Enable more Americans to serve in the armed forces.

You can’t argue with the idea of citizen volunteers. It is, of course, a blessed feature of our free society. But taken together with Obama’s previous list of prohibitions (SUV’s, heated homes, and full bellies) and Michelle Obama’s drill sergeant approach to self-betterment, today’s slate of service injunctions rounds out a list of Obama’s shalts and shalt-nots to which no American should be subject. There’s a social engineering orthodoxy at work here, and it’s frankly chilling.

All of this is, of course, wrapped up in the most benign package imaginable. It’s as if Obama has a recipe for the better American citizen and he’s just dying to share it with the country. Don’t forget Obama’s most verifiable credential is that he was a “community organizer.” And while we don’t know what that title means, exactly, it sounds enough like some ancient union strong-arm position that we can be pretty sure we don’t want to be “organized” as such. We don’t want to be told what to drive, what to eat, and how to work. We don’t want to be told to volunteer.

In May, Barack Obama delivered a commencement speech at Weslyan University where he said “. . . I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good. I intend to make it a cause of my presidency.” I believe him and I’m scared.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Five to eight billion dollars buys a lot of pigs ears and kibble. Okay, maybe the inheritance tax shouldn’t be completely repealed.

John Judis defends his criticism of Barack Obama for courting the Teamsters by offering to lift governmental oversight despite ongoing concerns of corruption in the Teamsters’ Chicago local, writing:

And it is especially surprising that Obama, who has based his campaign on a pledge of good government, would make at least what appears to be a sordid bid for the Teamster’s endorsement. Either he is guilty of willful ignorance about a powerful segment of the Chicago political scene, or he is, for better or worse, another example of that well known species, politicus hypocriticus.

Dick Grasso proves that if you have enough money and guts not to cower before Eliot Spitzer, you can prevail.

Obama did “better than average” with a discounted home loan, but at least the funds didn’t come from a convicted felon.

I don’t buy that Barack Obama is seeking to emulate George W. Bush, but I do agree that all this flip-floppery shows that not even his campaign doubts most Americans are center/right voters when it comes to the presidency.

The New York Times provides some unintended levity, admitting that the pending foreclosure legislation is dumb policy, but somehow proves more government intervention (with more dumb policies?) is just what we need:

The foreclosure prevention bill is not a cure-all, by any means, but is a way to try to break the cycle. It would allow many troubled borrowers to exchange their unaffordable loans for new mortgages guaranteed by the federal government — as long as the lender agreed to reduce the existing loan balance to 85 percent of the home’s current value. It is questionable whether lenders would be willing to take the loss, and there’s nothing in the law to prod them to do so.Still, the bill’s passage, which should be the Senate’s priority next week, would be an overdue acknowledgment that the foreclosure mess requires government intervention.

If there are still over 16,000 left I don’t have to worry. Wait — 16,000?!

Five to eight billion dollars buys a lot of pigs ears and kibble. Okay, maybe the inheritance tax shouldn’t be completely repealed.

John Judis defends his criticism of Barack Obama for courting the Teamsters by offering to lift governmental oversight despite ongoing concerns of corruption in the Teamsters’ Chicago local, writing:

And it is especially surprising that Obama, who has based his campaign on a pledge of good government, would make at least what appears to be a sordid bid for the Teamster’s endorsement. Either he is guilty of willful ignorance about a powerful segment of the Chicago political scene, or he is, for better or worse, another example of that well known species, politicus hypocriticus.

Dick Grasso proves that if you have enough money and guts not to cower before Eliot Spitzer, you can prevail.

Obama did “better than average” with a discounted home loan, but at least the funds didn’t come from a convicted felon.

I don’t buy that Barack Obama is seeking to emulate George W. Bush, but I do agree that all this flip-floppery shows that not even his campaign doubts most Americans are center/right voters when it comes to the presidency.

The New York Times provides some unintended levity, admitting that the pending foreclosure legislation is dumb policy, but somehow proves more government intervention (with more dumb policies?) is just what we need:

The foreclosure prevention bill is not a cure-all, by any means, but is a way to try to break the cycle. It would allow many troubled borrowers to exchange their unaffordable loans for new mortgages guaranteed by the federal government — as long as the lender agreed to reduce the existing loan balance to 85 percent of the home’s current value. It is questionable whether lenders would be willing to take the loss, and there’s nothing in the law to prod them to do so.Still, the bill’s passage, which should be the Senate’s priority next week, would be an overdue acknowledgment that the foreclosure mess requires government intervention.

If there are still over 16,000 left I don’t have to worry. Wait — 16,000?!

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The Wilderness Sounds a Lot Like Israel

Yesterday in the New York Post, Amir Taheri wrote about al Qaeda “chief theoretician” Sheik Abu-Bakar Naji’s ominous conception of the “wilderness.” Naji is trying to point the way forward for a jihad that’s been stymied by waning Muslim support and Western firepower.

Taheri describes Naji’s plan thusly:

The Islamist movement must aim to turn the world into a series of “wildernesses” where only those under jihadi rule enjoy security.”

[…]

In a notable departure from past al Qaeda strategy, Naji recommends “countless small operations” that render daily life unbearable, rather than a few spectacular attacks such as 9/11: The “infidel,” leaving his home every morning, should be unsure whether he’ll return in the evening.

It’s that last bit about unspectacular “countless small operations” on an everyday basis that leapt out at me when I read about this morning’s bulldozer attack in East Jerusalem. Daniel Halper has suggested that the terrorist’s resorting to the use of a construction vehicle as an instrument of death indicates the success of the Israeli Defense Force in cracking down on the flow of weapons. Perhaps. But if terrorists embrace what Teheri calls “al Qaeda’s plan B,” confiscating guns and grenades will only do so much.

When one thinks about it, plan B has been in effect in Israel for a long time. The bus explosions, café bombings, and school shootings seem to fit the “wilderness” model to a T. We’ve seen limited examples of it in the U.S., as well – although too rare and seemingly isolated to fall officially under the label of Islamic terrorism, (the July 4 2002 El Al shooting at LAX comes to mind.) Israel has long shown unprecedented forbearance in its ability to proceed with the quotidian in the face of carnage, but how will the rest of us fare? If “wildernesses” do pop up all over the world, it may cause some to remember the old War on Terror as salad days.

Yesterday in the New York Post, Amir Taheri wrote about al Qaeda “chief theoretician” Sheik Abu-Bakar Naji’s ominous conception of the “wilderness.” Naji is trying to point the way forward for a jihad that’s been stymied by waning Muslim support and Western firepower.

Taheri describes Naji’s plan thusly:

The Islamist movement must aim to turn the world into a series of “wildernesses” where only those under jihadi rule enjoy security.”

[…]

In a notable departure from past al Qaeda strategy, Naji recommends “countless small operations” that render daily life unbearable, rather than a few spectacular attacks such as 9/11: The “infidel,” leaving his home every morning, should be unsure whether he’ll return in the evening.

It’s that last bit about unspectacular “countless small operations” on an everyday basis that leapt out at me when I read about this morning’s bulldozer attack in East Jerusalem. Daniel Halper has suggested that the terrorist’s resorting to the use of a construction vehicle as an instrument of death indicates the success of the Israeli Defense Force in cracking down on the flow of weapons. Perhaps. But if terrorists embrace what Teheri calls “al Qaeda’s plan B,” confiscating guns and grenades will only do so much.

When one thinks about it, plan B has been in effect in Israel for a long time. The bus explosions, café bombings, and school shootings seem to fit the “wilderness” model to a T. We’ve seen limited examples of it in the U.S., as well – although too rare and seemingly isolated to fall officially under the label of Islamic terrorism, (the July 4 2002 El Al shooting at LAX comes to mind.) Israel has long shown unprecedented forbearance in its ability to proceed with the quotidian in the face of carnage, but how will the rest of us fare? If “wildernesses” do pop up all over the world, it may cause some to remember the old War on Terror as salad days.

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Benchmarks, Anyone?

Remember when the “benchmarks” for Iraq were all the rage in Congress? They were constantly being cited last year by opponents of the war effort when Iraq was failing to meet them. Funny how, now that Iraq has met 15 of 18 benchmarks, we don’t hear loud huzzahs from Democrats. In fact we don’t hear anything about the benchmarks, period. Yet another sign of the shifting goalposts when it comes to Iraq: Some critics are so committed to a narrative of American defeat that they seem unable to acknowledge our success.

Remember when the “benchmarks” for Iraq were all the rage in Congress? They were constantly being cited last year by opponents of the war effort when Iraq was failing to meet them. Funny how, now that Iraq has met 15 of 18 benchmarks, we don’t hear loud huzzahs from Democrats. In fact we don’t hear anything about the benchmarks, period. Yet another sign of the shifting goalposts when it comes to Iraq: Some critics are so committed to a narrative of American defeat that they seem unable to acknowledge our success.

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Obama’s Scream Moment?

The Wesley Clark mess is not going away – in large part because Barack Obama seems compelled to double down, or at the very least ignore the warning flares being sent up my the amazed mainstream media. Now the MSM is in full feeding frenzy because, for unknown reasons, Obama may be listening to the loony Left which is encouraging him to resist apologizing for Clark’s mega-gaffe. As Rick Klein details, whatever opportunity Obama might have used to allow his patriotism speech to be construed as an apology and whatever chances he had to expunge Clark’s insults have now been tossed away. And McCain now is daring him to cut Clark “loose” — an unlikely occurrence given that Obama has thrown his lot in with the far Left on this one. (Besides, Clark hasn’t gone to the National Press Club to denounce Obama as just another phony politician.) Indeed his spokesman doesn’t even know how to cut Clark loose, she says. (Hint: “I want no part of Clark representing me; he’s an embarassment.”)

So we have Obama’s entirely self-created blunder where even the MSM is virtually slack-jawed at the sight of the Obama campaign’s determination to inflict more and more damage upon itself. His atrocious judgment in perpetuating a horrible storyline for himself defies the pre-existing media narrative — that Obama is smart, savvy, world-wise, and adept. Not the Obama we have seen lately: he is either paralyzed by indecision or in such a cocoon of liberal elitism that he sees nothing wrong with attacking a war hero’s military service.

The McCain camp is going to town because its opponent has simply reinforced the McCain storyline that Obama — the man with no national record and scant national service of his own — is arrogant and ill equipped to navigate through mildly rocky political waters. One can hardly fault the mainstream media for its surprise. Obama’s behavior is remarkable to those who doubted Obama’s credentials; it must be shocking to those who thought he was the brightest new political light in a generation. Not since Howard Dean’s wail have we seen such an act of self-destruction.

The Wesley Clark mess is not going away – in large part because Barack Obama seems compelled to double down, or at the very least ignore the warning flares being sent up my the amazed mainstream media. Now the MSM is in full feeding frenzy because, for unknown reasons, Obama may be listening to the loony Left which is encouraging him to resist apologizing for Clark’s mega-gaffe. As Rick Klein details, whatever opportunity Obama might have used to allow his patriotism speech to be construed as an apology and whatever chances he had to expunge Clark’s insults have now been tossed away. And McCain now is daring him to cut Clark “loose” — an unlikely occurrence given that Obama has thrown his lot in with the far Left on this one. (Besides, Clark hasn’t gone to the National Press Club to denounce Obama as just another phony politician.) Indeed his spokesman doesn’t even know how to cut Clark loose, she says. (Hint: “I want no part of Clark representing me; he’s an embarassment.”)

So we have Obama’s entirely self-created blunder where even the MSM is virtually slack-jawed at the sight of the Obama campaign’s determination to inflict more and more damage upon itself. His atrocious judgment in perpetuating a horrible storyline for himself defies the pre-existing media narrative — that Obama is smart, savvy, world-wise, and adept. Not the Obama we have seen lately: he is either paralyzed by indecision or in such a cocoon of liberal elitism that he sees nothing wrong with attacking a war hero’s military service.

The McCain camp is going to town because its opponent has simply reinforced the McCain storyline that Obama — the man with no national record and scant national service of his own — is arrogant and ill equipped to navigate through mildly rocky political waters. One can hardly fault the mainstream media for its surprise. Obama’s behavior is remarkable to those who doubted Obama’s credentials; it must be shocking to those who thought he was the brightest new political light in a generation. Not since Howard Dean’s wail have we seen such an act of self-destruction.

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Re: The Problem of East Jerusalem

David, with 3 dead and 57 wounded, a silver lining is difficult to find. But if there’s one, it must be that this attack was not more severe. The terrorists’ means seem to have been limited. Jabr Duwait, the attacker, used a Caterpillar, meant to be used for construction projects, as his murder weapon. This suggests that the Israeli Defense Force is successfully limiting the influx of violent, more deadly, armament–e.g. guns and bombs.

The threat of terror in Jerusalem, I think, was previously at its lowest point since September 2000. This is largely a testament to the success of the security fence, which limits infiltration from the PA-controlled areas. Given the nature of today’s attack, it seems that those who are able to make their way into the Jewish areas of Israel–or, in this particular case, those who have free access to the Jewish areas–are often unable to be as armored as they would like.

David, with 3 dead and 57 wounded, a silver lining is difficult to find. But if there’s one, it must be that this attack was not more severe. The terrorists’ means seem to have been limited. Jabr Duwait, the attacker, used a Caterpillar, meant to be used for construction projects, as his murder weapon. This suggests that the Israeli Defense Force is successfully limiting the influx of violent, more deadly, armament–e.g. guns and bombs.

The threat of terror in Jerusalem, I think, was previously at its lowest point since September 2000. This is largely a testament to the success of the security fence, which limits infiltration from the PA-controlled areas. Given the nature of today’s attack, it seems that those who are able to make their way into the Jewish areas of Israel–or, in this particular case, those who have free access to the Jewish areas–are often unable to be as armored as they would like.

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Barack J. Gatsby

If you can wade through the snark here, you’ll find that Maureen Dowd has an insightful description of Obama — passive, scared, not in control, and ultimately weak. She writes:

He gives the impression of someone who would like to kid around with reporters for a minute, but knows he’s going to be peppered with on-the-record minutiae designed to feed the insatiable maw of blogs and Internet news . . . He’s an American who has climbed to the most rarefied stratosphere of American life, only to find that he has to make a major speech arguing that he loves his country. (A new CNN poll shows that a quarter of registered voters say Obama lacks patriotism.) He’s a man happily married to a strong professional woman who has to defend his wife, as he says, for being “feisty.” He must simultaneously defend himself for being too exotic and, because of recent moves, too conventional. (So conventional that he even refused to do a fist bump with a boy at a tutoring session for kids in Zanesville, Ohio.) . . .In this presidential race should be about how to fix the scary cascading crises in the country and the world. But as Obama offers himself as an avatar of modernity, the horizon fills with Swift boats against the current, and he is, Gatsby-like, “borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The 46-year-old is supposed to be the tonic for the culture wars of the 60s. In his patriotism speech, he said that “the anger and turmoil” of that generation had “never entirely drained away,” leaving our politics “trapped in these old, threadbare arguments.” But it’s Obama who seems trapped, sucked back into yesteryear.

But is Jay Gatsby really the model we want for a president? However idealized a vision of a candidate’s inner nobility (either misplaced or earned) supporters might have, presidents need to act, lead, set an example, and defend the country that they seek to govern. With Obama his supporters must feel like they have entered a never-ending episode of the Perils of Pauline: Look, he’s tied to the railroad tracks again! It hardly inspires confidence. Pity, perhaps. But even for those sympathetic to his cause that’s not a profile to which one can rally. And the fact that we’re at war makes it that much more difficult to get undecided voters to put their faith in him.

If you can wade through the snark here, you’ll find that Maureen Dowd has an insightful description of Obama — passive, scared, not in control, and ultimately weak. She writes:

He gives the impression of someone who would like to kid around with reporters for a minute, but knows he’s going to be peppered with on-the-record minutiae designed to feed the insatiable maw of blogs and Internet news . . . He’s an American who has climbed to the most rarefied stratosphere of American life, only to find that he has to make a major speech arguing that he loves his country. (A new CNN poll shows that a quarter of registered voters say Obama lacks patriotism.) He’s a man happily married to a strong professional woman who has to defend his wife, as he says, for being “feisty.” He must simultaneously defend himself for being too exotic and, because of recent moves, too conventional. (So conventional that he even refused to do a fist bump with a boy at a tutoring session for kids in Zanesville, Ohio.) . . .In this presidential race should be about how to fix the scary cascading crises in the country and the world. But as Obama offers himself as an avatar of modernity, the horizon fills with Swift boats against the current, and he is, Gatsby-like, “borne back ceaselessly into the past.” The 46-year-old is supposed to be the tonic for the culture wars of the 60s. In his patriotism speech, he said that “the anger and turmoil” of that generation had “never entirely drained away,” leaving our politics “trapped in these old, threadbare arguments.” But it’s Obama who seems trapped, sucked back into yesteryear.

But is Jay Gatsby really the model we want for a president? However idealized a vision of a candidate’s inner nobility (either misplaced or earned) supporters might have, presidents need to act, lead, set an example, and defend the country that they seek to govern. With Obama his supporters must feel like they have entered a never-ending episode of the Perils of Pauline: Look, he’s tied to the railroad tracks again! It hardly inspires confidence. Pity, perhaps. But even for those sympathetic to his cause that’s not a profile to which one can rally. And the fact that we’re at war makes it that much more difficult to get undecided voters to put their faith in him.

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He’s Becoming a Footnote

Fareed Zakaria, the man who initially called for an international army of 400,000 troops to invade Iraq has now determined that the U.S. is not a nation at war after all. And here’s how he figured this out:

Consider as evidence the behavior of our “war president.” Bush recently explained that for the last few years he has given up golf, because “to play the sport in a time of war” would send the wrong signal. Compare Bush’s “sacrifice” to those made by Americans during World War II, when most able-bodied men were drafted, food was rationed and industries were commandeered to produce military equipment.

And if Bush still played golf would we be at war? Then there’s this syntactical sleight of hand:

It is by now overwhelmingly clear that Al Qaeda and its philosophy are not the worldwide leviathan that they were once portrayed to be.

And how, pray tell, did that change in “portray[al]” come about? It couldn’t have had anything to do with the years of non-war and non-sacrifice on the part of coalition forces, could it?

Zakaria goes on:

But how you see the world determines how you will respond, and the administration has greatly inflated the threat, casting it as an existential and imminent danger. As a result, we’ve massively overreacted. Bush and his circle have conceived of the problem as military and urgent when it’s more of a long-term political and cultural problem. The massive expansion of the military budget, the unilateral rush to war in Iraq, the creation of the cumbersome Department of Homeland Security, the new restrictions on visas and travel can all be chalked up to this sense that we are at war.

Did I mention that Zakaria favored sending 400,000 troops into Iraq? In addition to that assessment, he wrongly identified al Qaeda’s 2006 Mesopotamian push as a Sunni-Shia civil war. Zakaria seems determined to apologize for his initial support for invading Iraq without saying he’s sorry. In his new book, he mentions his initial support–in a footnote. With his half-hearted apologies and off-base interpretations, Zakaria’s entire body of commentary is increasingly resembling something that’s best preserved at the bottom of history’s pages.

Fareed Zakaria, the man who initially called for an international army of 400,000 troops to invade Iraq has now determined that the U.S. is not a nation at war after all. And here’s how he figured this out:

Consider as evidence the behavior of our “war president.” Bush recently explained that for the last few years he has given up golf, because “to play the sport in a time of war” would send the wrong signal. Compare Bush’s “sacrifice” to those made by Americans during World War II, when most able-bodied men were drafted, food was rationed and industries were commandeered to produce military equipment.

And if Bush still played golf would we be at war? Then there’s this syntactical sleight of hand:

It is by now overwhelmingly clear that Al Qaeda and its philosophy are not the worldwide leviathan that they were once portrayed to be.

And how, pray tell, did that change in “portray[al]” come about? It couldn’t have had anything to do with the years of non-war and non-sacrifice on the part of coalition forces, could it?

Zakaria goes on:

But how you see the world determines how you will respond, and the administration has greatly inflated the threat, casting it as an existential and imminent danger. As a result, we’ve massively overreacted. Bush and his circle have conceived of the problem as military and urgent when it’s more of a long-term political and cultural problem. The massive expansion of the military budget, the unilateral rush to war in Iraq, the creation of the cumbersome Department of Homeland Security, the new restrictions on visas and travel can all be chalked up to this sense that we are at war.

Did I mention that Zakaria favored sending 400,000 troops into Iraq? In addition to that assessment, he wrongly identified al Qaeda’s 2006 Mesopotamian push as a Sunni-Shia civil war. Zakaria seems determined to apologize for his initial support for invading Iraq without saying he’s sorry. In his new book, he mentions his initial support–in a footnote. With his half-hearted apologies and off-base interpretations, Zakaria’s entire body of commentary is increasingly resembling something that’s best preserved at the bottom of history’s pages.

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In Mid-Leap On Iraq

I can understand that Susan Rice and Claire McCaskill can’t agree whether Barack Obama has already or will be changing his Iraq policy and if so what it will be.

It is very possible that the Obama camp hasn’t decided exactly what they are going to do. And considering that we have troops in the field, have been executing the surge for 18 months, have voluminous data on the results of the surge, and have mainstream media outlets reporting on its remarkable success, it’s noteworthy–some would say frightening–that we don’t know where the Democratic nominee is going on this issue.

But unlike NAFTA, campaign financing, gay marriage, guns, or even meetings with leaders of state terror sponsors, a war is not something a President can be for one day and against another, or decide if he has enough cover from the mainstream media before making the leap from one position (absolutely opposed to the surge) to another (sort of in favor, until you aren’t). Well, he can, but it looks bad and it gets people fretting that he doesn’t have the foresight to figure out a winning hand and the force of will to stick with it.

I don’t blame either Obama advisor –maybe both are right or neither is — for guessing and maybe trying to shape the next Obama position on Iraq. What is troubling is that Obama is now trailing the New York Times and New Yorker on recognizing the need to shift ground. But then again, perhaps he already recognized that he must embrace the surge strategy, but is afraid to tell his supporters. Either way, it’s not exactly a study in leadership. It’s not even a good example of followship.

I can understand that Susan Rice and Claire McCaskill can’t agree whether Barack Obama has already or will be changing his Iraq policy and if so what it will be.

It is very possible that the Obama camp hasn’t decided exactly what they are going to do. And considering that we have troops in the field, have been executing the surge for 18 months, have voluminous data on the results of the surge, and have mainstream media outlets reporting on its remarkable success, it’s noteworthy–some would say frightening–that we don’t know where the Democratic nominee is going on this issue.

But unlike NAFTA, campaign financing, gay marriage, guns, or even meetings with leaders of state terror sponsors, a war is not something a President can be for one day and against another, or decide if he has enough cover from the mainstream media before making the leap from one position (absolutely opposed to the surge) to another (sort of in favor, until you aren’t). Well, he can, but it looks bad and it gets people fretting that he doesn’t have the foresight to figure out a winning hand and the force of will to stick with it.

I don’t blame either Obama advisor –maybe both are right or neither is — for guessing and maybe trying to shape the next Obama position on Iraq. What is troubling is that Obama is now trailing the New York Times and New Yorker on recognizing the need to shift ground. But then again, perhaps he already recognized that he must embrace the surge strategy, but is afraid to tell his supporters. Either way, it’s not exactly a study in leadership. It’s not even a good example of followship.

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The Problem of East Jerusalem

A few hours ago, a Palestinian attacker drove a 10-ton Caterpillar front-end loader into a crowded Jerusalem street, upending one bus and smashing into another, crushing cars and slamming into passers-by. By the time a soldier on leave climbed aboard and shot the driver, the attacker had succeeded in killing at least 3 Israelis and injuring at least 40.

It’s still too early to know a lot of details, but according to police officials, the attacker was a resident of East Jerusalem, from the village of Tzur Bacher. One reporter says he is a relative of the attacker at the Merkaz Harav school from a couple of months back.

Although Israel has done a great deal to thwart attacks from Palestinian organizations operating in the West Bank and Gaza, the problem of East Jerusalem is in some sense tougher — and tougher still if it turns out that he, like the attacker at Merkaz Harav, was working alone. Most East Jerusalem Palestinians have Israeli citizenship, carrying the same blue ID that non-Palestinian Israelis do, and have no restrictions on their travel throughout Israel. Most East Jerusalem Palestinians are just regular people with no interest in, or connection to, terror. And to build a wall through Jerusalem, the way Israel has done between its territory and the West Bank, will be tantamount to re-dividing the city — a prospect that few Israelis today are interested in.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be hearing a lot of rhetoric from some politicians about what to do about terror by Israeli Arabs, especially those in East Jerusalem. Putting restrictions on Israeli Arabs’ travel, as Shas leader Eli Yishai has called for today, sounds like the wrong direction for a country that takes pride in its democratic way of life. But this doesn’t make the problem go away. We should expect to hear from Mr. Olmert in the coming hours.

A few hours ago, a Palestinian attacker drove a 10-ton Caterpillar front-end loader into a crowded Jerusalem street, upending one bus and smashing into another, crushing cars and slamming into passers-by. By the time a soldier on leave climbed aboard and shot the driver, the attacker had succeeded in killing at least 3 Israelis and injuring at least 40.

It’s still too early to know a lot of details, but according to police officials, the attacker was a resident of East Jerusalem, from the village of Tzur Bacher. One reporter says he is a relative of the attacker at the Merkaz Harav school from a couple of months back.

Although Israel has done a great deal to thwart attacks from Palestinian organizations operating in the West Bank and Gaza, the problem of East Jerusalem is in some sense tougher — and tougher still if it turns out that he, like the attacker at Merkaz Harav, was working alone. Most East Jerusalem Palestinians have Israeli citizenship, carrying the same blue ID that non-Palestinian Israelis do, and have no restrictions on their travel throughout Israel. Most East Jerusalem Palestinians are just regular people with no interest in, or connection to, terror. And to build a wall through Jerusalem, the way Israel has done between its territory and the West Bank, will be tantamount to re-dividing the city — a prospect that few Israelis today are interested in.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be hearing a lot of rhetoric from some politicians about what to do about terror by Israeli Arabs, especially those in East Jerusalem. Putting restrictions on Israeli Arabs’ travel, as Shas leader Eli Yishai has called for today, sounds like the wrong direction for a country that takes pride in its democratic way of life. But this doesn’t make the problem go away. We should expect to hear from Mr. Olmert in the coming hours.

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More Confusion

It may be small beans compared to insulting a war hero and it may not be as egregious as reversing course on guns, welfare reform, NAFTA, gay marriage, and campaign financing. But Barack Obama also zig-zagged within the course of a day on the subject of support for faith-based organizations. Does he support allowing these organizations to accept government funds but determine hiring and firing according to their religious mission or not?

Not unlike his all-over-the-map position on gay marriage (which Peter pointed out is not only inconsistent but needlessly divisive in his articulated attack on others’ motives), this seems designed to offend people of good will on both sides of these issues. If you support faith based organizations and oppose gay marriage (or at least want to permit states to decide to outlaw it by a popular vote), then Obama has not just taken positions contrary to yours, he has feigned support for your views, played fast and lose with rhetoric, and then slammed the door shut with a dig at your motives. At the very least, he’s made hash of his efforts to connect with the evangelical community.

If you take the opposite view on the substance of these issues (i.e. you like the current version of Obama’s positions), you might be pretty suspicious at this point as to why he took such a round about course to get there and couldn’t come right out and say, “Of course the government shouldn’t give religious institutions money and, of course, no government should tell you who you can marry.” That’s apparently what he is saying, so it must be troubling to his liberal or libertarian base to see him so unable to articulate and stick to his positions.

For someone so lingustically inspiring and so unlike every other politician who came before him he is starting to resemble a very inept and ham-handed version of Bill Clinton. Clinton at least slid between policy positions and compromised with finesse, never leaving a trail of definitive contrary positions. By contrast, Obama’s path is now strewn with the remnants of past positions and offended partisans. “How did we lose to him,” Bill must be thinking.

It may be small beans compared to insulting a war hero and it may not be as egregious as reversing course on guns, welfare reform, NAFTA, gay marriage, and campaign financing. But Barack Obama also zig-zagged within the course of a day on the subject of support for faith-based organizations. Does he support allowing these organizations to accept government funds but determine hiring and firing according to their religious mission or not?

Not unlike his all-over-the-map position on gay marriage (which Peter pointed out is not only inconsistent but needlessly divisive in his articulated attack on others’ motives), this seems designed to offend people of good will on both sides of these issues. If you support faith based organizations and oppose gay marriage (or at least want to permit states to decide to outlaw it by a popular vote), then Obama has not just taken positions contrary to yours, he has feigned support for your views, played fast and lose with rhetoric, and then slammed the door shut with a dig at your motives. At the very least, he’s made hash of his efforts to connect with the evangelical community.

If you take the opposite view on the substance of these issues (i.e. you like the current version of Obama’s positions), you might be pretty suspicious at this point as to why he took such a round about course to get there and couldn’t come right out and say, “Of course the government shouldn’t give religious institutions money and, of course, no government should tell you who you can marry.” That’s apparently what he is saying, so it must be troubling to his liberal or libertarian base to see him so unable to articulate and stick to his positions.

For someone so lingustically inspiring and so unlike every other politician who came before him he is starting to resemble a very inept and ham-handed version of Bill Clinton. Clinton at least slid between policy positions and compromised with finesse, never leaving a trail of definitive contrary positions. By contrast, Obama’s path is now strewn with the remnants of past positions and offended partisans. “How did we lose to him,” Bill must be thinking.

Read Less




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