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Posts For: July 4, 2008

Re: Obama Is Passing the War Test

John, I don’t know that Barack Obama can really be said to pass the war test for two reasons. First, it is not yet clear that he recognizes the success of the surge and is committed to seeing it through to a successful resolution. Aside from the verbal indecision ( Is he refining? Reassessing? Or refusing to look for room to maneuver?) his display of political pandering to the Left and dogged refusal to recognize facts on the ground until they reached the front page of the New York Times gives us no confidence that he will adhere to this position — whatever it may be — if and when the going gets tough again.

Second, unlike a senator or a congressman who can generally please voters if he meanders about but eventually latches on to the right position, a president needs constancy and credibility. If it were enough just to check the box on a list of the most popular issues Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee. But voters expect more. So it is delightful if the Democrats have been dragged kicking and screaming, along with their nominee, to embrace the surge which they steadfastly opposed. But that I think is far different than Obama passing the presidential Iraq War test.

Memories are short and the McCain team has not been the most finely tuned operation, but surely Steve Schmidt and company should be able to explain the difference between “better late than never” and “presidental leadership.” If not, John McCain will surely lose and deservedly so.

John, I don’t know that Barack Obama can really be said to pass the war test for two reasons. First, it is not yet clear that he recognizes the success of the surge and is committed to seeing it through to a successful resolution. Aside from the verbal indecision ( Is he refining? Reassessing? Or refusing to look for room to maneuver?) his display of political pandering to the Left and dogged refusal to recognize facts on the ground until they reached the front page of the New York Times gives us no confidence that he will adhere to this position — whatever it may be — if and when the going gets tough again.

Second, unlike a senator or a congressman who can generally please voters if he meanders about but eventually latches on to the right position, a president needs constancy and credibility. If it were enough just to check the box on a list of the most popular issues Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee. But voters expect more. So it is delightful if the Democrats have been dragged kicking and screaming, along with their nominee, to embrace the surge which they steadfastly opposed. But that I think is far different than Obama passing the presidential Iraq War test.

Memories are short and the McCain team has not been the most finely tuned operation, but surely Steve Schmidt and company should be able to explain the difference between “better late than never” and “presidental leadership.” If not, John McCain will surely lose and deservedly so.

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Obama Is Passing the War Test

As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama is taking flak from all sides, including our very own Jennifer Rubin, for the wild inconsistencies in the statements he has made since Hillary Clinton’s concession. In case after case, from federal wiretapping to handgun ownership to late-term abortion and most especially on Iraq, Obama isn’t just tacking to the center, he’s actually dipping his toe into the center-right pond.

There’s every reason to believe he doesn’t mean most of it. But so what? Particularly when it comes to Iraq, the real question about Obama’s leadership has never been whether he would stick to an anti-war line, but what he would do when faced with the practical reality that the United States may be snatching victory from the jaws of what appeared to be a near-certain defeat just around the time he decided to run for president.

Would he be clear-eyed enough to understand that, were he to be elected president, it would be vastly to his advantage to preside over a positive outcome in Iraq rather than be the manager of a defeat for which he might not be blamed but whose consequences would severely limit his maneuvering room as commander in chief? If that were one of the options, would he box himself into a corner and basically insist on losing because his anti-war stance was so central to his primary political triumph, or because he would remain blinded by his personal ideological disgust with the Iraq program?

The answer seems to be in. The answer seems to be that Obama will accept the victorious hand George W. Bush and David Petraeus may be dealing him. And for those voters for whom the war is the paramount issue, that is to be welcomed, even if it’s a very slippery business.

As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama is taking flak from all sides, including our very own Jennifer Rubin, for the wild inconsistencies in the statements he has made since Hillary Clinton’s concession. In case after case, from federal wiretapping to handgun ownership to late-term abortion and most especially on Iraq, Obama isn’t just tacking to the center, he’s actually dipping his toe into the center-right pond.

There’s every reason to believe he doesn’t mean most of it. But so what? Particularly when it comes to Iraq, the real question about Obama’s leadership has never been whether he would stick to an anti-war line, but what he would do when faced with the practical reality that the United States may be snatching victory from the jaws of what appeared to be a near-certain defeat just around the time he decided to run for president.

Would he be clear-eyed enough to understand that, were he to be elected president, it would be vastly to his advantage to preside over a positive outcome in Iraq rather than be the manager of a defeat for which he might not be blamed but whose consequences would severely limit his maneuvering room as commander in chief? If that were one of the options, would he box himself into a corner and basically insist on losing because his anti-war stance was so central to his primary political triumph, or because he would remain blinded by his personal ideological disgust with the Iraq program?

The answer seems to be in. The answer seems to be that Obama will accept the victorious hand George W. Bush and David Petraeus may be dealing him. And for those voters for whom the war is the paramount issue, that is to be welcomed, even if it’s a very slippery business.

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From The Mouth of Pres. Peres

Check out the new Shimon Peres. Two months ago I mentioned that since taking office as Israel’s president, he has taken the job of representing the Israeli conscience very seriously — including a powerful speech on Remembrance Day and a formal visit to the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel. Today Haaretz is reporting that Peres apparently told guests at Ehud Barak’s home, including the ambassadors from Jordan and France, that peace with the Palestinians is not happening.

“It would be very hard to reach an agreement,” Peres said, due to the Hamas-Fatah split.

He said Abbas had no support among his people, no power to carry out security agreements and that any agreement Israel and the PA made crumbled a day later due to the PA’s weakness. Therefore there is no chance of agreement, he summed.

Now, as dry fact this is not news — there is today no single Palestinian organization capable of delivering on any peace agreement, since half the Palestinians are under the Hamas regime, half under the Palestinian Authority — a divide that has just gotten wider, as Hamas has announced it will not even recognize Abbas’ presidency past next January. The facts are plain to the eye, regardless of Olmert’s, Abbas’, or Condolleezza Rice’s words to the contrary. Still, to hear it coming from the most optimistic dreamer Israel has ever produced, is itself news.

Check out the new Shimon Peres. Two months ago I mentioned that since taking office as Israel’s president, he has taken the job of representing the Israeli conscience very seriously — including a powerful speech on Remembrance Day and a formal visit to the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel. Today Haaretz is reporting that Peres apparently told guests at Ehud Barak’s home, including the ambassadors from Jordan and France, that peace with the Palestinians is not happening.

“It would be very hard to reach an agreement,” Peres said, due to the Hamas-Fatah split.

He said Abbas had no support among his people, no power to carry out security agreements and that any agreement Israel and the PA made crumbled a day later due to the PA’s weakness. Therefore there is no chance of agreement, he summed.

Now, as dry fact this is not news — there is today no single Palestinian organization capable of delivering on any peace agreement, since half the Palestinians are under the Hamas regime, half under the Palestinian Authority — a divide that has just gotten wider, as Hamas has announced it will not even recognize Abbas’ presidency past next January. The facts are plain to the eye, regardless of Olmert’s, Abbas’, or Condolleezza Rice’s words to the contrary. Still, to hear it coming from the most optimistic dreamer Israel has ever produced, is itself news.

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And The U-Turns Keep Coming

Now we learn that Barack Obama thinks mental distress should not justify late term abortions. That is an entirely defensible and reasoned position — but it contradicts nearly everything Obama has said to date on abortion. The natural implication of his constitutional positions is utterly inconsistent with his new found moderation on abortion. Roe v. Wade, to which he is devoted ( and to which his Supreme Court appointees would need to swear allegiance), does not permit the government to ban late term abortions for this reason. Heck, Obama wouldn’t even support limits on partial birth abortion– railing at the Supreme Court’s ruling which upheld the federal ban.

If the New York Times was upset with him before, its editors will likely be apoplectic when they learn about this one. And the NARAL folks who endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton before the primary was over and incurred the wrath of Emily’s List and many women’s rights advocates? They certainly would have been interested to hear this before they signed on with Obama. But for Obama on this and every single significant issue — that was then and this was now.

Now we learn that Barack Obama thinks mental distress should not justify late term abortions. That is an entirely defensible and reasoned position — but it contradicts nearly everything Obama has said to date on abortion. The natural implication of his constitutional positions is utterly inconsistent with his new found moderation on abortion. Roe v. Wade, to which he is devoted ( and to which his Supreme Court appointees would need to swear allegiance), does not permit the government to ban late term abortions for this reason. Heck, Obama wouldn’t even support limits on partial birth abortion– railing at the Supreme Court’s ruling which upheld the federal ban.

If the New York Times was upset with him before, its editors will likely be apoplectic when they learn about this one. And the NARAL folks who endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton before the primary was over and incurred the wrath of Emily’s List and many women’s rights advocates? They certainly would have been interested to hear this before they signed on with Obama. But for Obama on this and every single significant issue — that was then and this was now.

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Well It Got Campaign Finance Off The Radar. . .

When you need a second press conference and your opponent sends out your press avail performance as oppo material you know its been a bad day. Thursday was just such a day for the Obama camp. The only saving grace for Barack Obama: his clumsy and hesittant lurch to revise his Iraq policy came the day before a three-day holiday weekend. But events of the day were and certainly will continue to be fodder for those who contend that Obama is floundering on the issue which has been key to his appeal: Iraq.

The networks were harsh in their assessment, and rightly so. Obama tried in the course of a single day to argue he was refining or reassessing his Iraq policy but to also insist nothing was changed. Is he altering course or sticking to his plan to withdraw a brigade or two a month no matter what? Still not clear, but his defensive insistence that he is not “searching for maneuvering room” seemed to give away exactly what was afoot.

But that is his key dilemma: if he changes policy he is revealed to have flip-flopped and admitted error on an issue of war and peace (and his candidacy’s guiding focus), but if he adheres to his view that the surge changed nothing and all is lost he has revealed himself to be out of touch with reality. It’s quite a fix. Not surprisingly the newly revamped McCain team was gleeful, contending that Obama had reversed course on the “central premise” of his campaign and declaring:

Now that Barack Obama has changed course and proven his past positions to be just empty words, we would like to congratulate him for accepting John McCain’s principled stand on this critical national security issue. If he had visited Iraq sooner or actually had a one-on-one meeting with General Petraeus, he would have changed his position long ago.

This is indeed the first real test of the Schmidt regime. It is up to the McCain team to explain why all this matters. For starters, if we assume Obama is in fact going to revise and reverse course, the McCain camp will no doubt argue: 1) Obama made the wrong strategic decision on the surge; 2) He stuck with that decision long after available evidence indicated he was wrong; 3) He waged a primary fight based on that failed strategy and continued it through his nomination, likely after he recognized he would have to revise that policy (i.e. he lied to Democratic primary voters); 4) He refused to avail himself of reliable information either from commanders or independent experts that would have helped him revise his views earlier; 5) He is changing policy — and then won’t admit to changing his policy — for pure political gain (i.e. to avoid embarrassing himself in the general election); and 6) His craven political maneuvering leaves entirely uncertain what his future Iraq plans will entail, how forceful he will be in executing them and whether they too will be thrown overboard if political winds shift.

But beyond explaining all this, the McCain team must link this to the overarching issues of leadership, credibility and determination. Iraq is not the top issue for voters so if the McCain camp is to use this effectively, Schmidt and company must explain why Obama’s abysmal conduct on Iraq — where American lives are at stake — has importance beyond the specific issue of Iraq. Is this the type of political leader Obama promised to be and is Obama the person to make decisions on vexing issues (both foreign and domestic) over the next four years? Or put in the positive light, does this prove McCain is the superior leader with superior judgment?

Finally, however craven and however transparent Obama’s shift may be his efforts to get out from under his untenable withdrawal position are the ultimate proof of the wisdom of the surge strategy and of those who championed it against all political odds. And if by force of events and political expediency the Democrats must embrace the surge we can at least be grateful that after eighteen months we finally will have bipartisan agreement on Iraq. The latter is a very good thing — provided it is genuine and not simply political artifice.

When you need a second press conference and your opponent sends out your press avail performance as oppo material you know its been a bad day. Thursday was just such a day for the Obama camp. The only saving grace for Barack Obama: his clumsy and hesittant lurch to revise his Iraq policy came the day before a three-day holiday weekend. But events of the day were and certainly will continue to be fodder for those who contend that Obama is floundering on the issue which has been key to his appeal: Iraq.

The networks were harsh in their assessment, and rightly so. Obama tried in the course of a single day to argue he was refining or reassessing his Iraq policy but to also insist nothing was changed. Is he altering course or sticking to his plan to withdraw a brigade or two a month no matter what? Still not clear, but his defensive insistence that he is not “searching for maneuvering room” seemed to give away exactly what was afoot.

But that is his key dilemma: if he changes policy he is revealed to have flip-flopped and admitted error on an issue of war and peace (and his candidacy’s guiding focus), but if he adheres to his view that the surge changed nothing and all is lost he has revealed himself to be out of touch with reality. It’s quite a fix. Not surprisingly the newly revamped McCain team was gleeful, contending that Obama had reversed course on the “central premise” of his campaign and declaring:

Now that Barack Obama has changed course and proven his past positions to be just empty words, we would like to congratulate him for accepting John McCain’s principled stand on this critical national security issue. If he had visited Iraq sooner or actually had a one-on-one meeting with General Petraeus, he would have changed his position long ago.

This is indeed the first real test of the Schmidt regime. It is up to the McCain team to explain why all this matters. For starters, if we assume Obama is in fact going to revise and reverse course, the McCain camp will no doubt argue: 1) Obama made the wrong strategic decision on the surge; 2) He stuck with that decision long after available evidence indicated he was wrong; 3) He waged a primary fight based on that failed strategy and continued it through his nomination, likely after he recognized he would have to revise that policy (i.e. he lied to Democratic primary voters); 4) He refused to avail himself of reliable information either from commanders or independent experts that would have helped him revise his views earlier; 5) He is changing policy — and then won’t admit to changing his policy — for pure political gain (i.e. to avoid embarrassing himself in the general election); and 6) His craven political maneuvering leaves entirely uncertain what his future Iraq plans will entail, how forceful he will be in executing them and whether they too will be thrown overboard if political winds shift.

But beyond explaining all this, the McCain team must link this to the overarching issues of leadership, credibility and determination. Iraq is not the top issue for voters so if the McCain camp is to use this effectively, Schmidt and company must explain why Obama’s abysmal conduct on Iraq — where American lives are at stake — has importance beyond the specific issue of Iraq. Is this the type of political leader Obama promised to be and is Obama the person to make decisions on vexing issues (both foreign and domestic) over the next four years? Or put in the positive light, does this prove McCain is the superior leader with superior judgment?

Finally, however craven and however transparent Obama’s shift may be his efforts to get out from under his untenable withdrawal position are the ultimate proof of the wisdom of the surge strategy and of those who championed it against all political odds. And if by force of events and political expediency the Democrats must embrace the surge we can at least be grateful that after eighteen months we finally will have bipartisan agreement on Iraq. The latter is a very good thing — provided it is genuine and not simply political artifice.

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Showing Greater Flexibility

Predictably, it did not take that long for the ill fated deal with Hezbollah to have repercussions on other fronts: a day after another qassam rocket was launched from Gaza into southern Israeli – a clear breach of the truce by Hamas – Israel decided to close the crossings into the Strip. Hamas’s response? To suspend talks on Gilad Shalit’s release. As a Hamas spokesman said, “After the prisoner swap deal between Israel and Lebanon, according to which Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar is slated to go free, Israel is expected to display greater flexibility in talks over a prisoner swap with Hamas.”

Indeed they are. Now every time Israel dares respond to Hamas’s outrageous behavior, Shalit’s life will be used as a gentle reminder to Israel’s government that they’d better not overplay their hand. When the deal with Hezbollah was announced last week, Israel’s security and intelligence heads spoke against it on account of the grievous harm it would cause to Israeli deterrence. It did not take long for Hamas to prove them right.

Predictably, it did not take that long for the ill fated deal with Hezbollah to have repercussions on other fronts: a day after another qassam rocket was launched from Gaza into southern Israeli – a clear breach of the truce by Hamas – Israel decided to close the crossings into the Strip. Hamas’s response? To suspend talks on Gilad Shalit’s release. As a Hamas spokesman said, “After the prisoner swap deal between Israel and Lebanon, according to which Lebanese prisoner Samir Kuntar is slated to go free, Israel is expected to display greater flexibility in talks over a prisoner swap with Hamas.”

Indeed they are. Now every time Israel dares respond to Hamas’s outrageous behavior, Shalit’s life will be used as a gentle reminder to Israel’s government that they’d better not overplay their hand. When the deal with Hezbollah was announced last week, Israel’s security and intelligence heads spoke against it on account of the grievous harm it would cause to Israeli deterrence. It did not take long for Hamas to prove them right.

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Not Even The New York Times?

This sounds like a bad joke: things are so bad for Barack Obama that the New York Times doesn’t like him any more. But it’s true:

Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics. . . Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt. We were equally distressed by Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s barring the death penalty for crimes that do not involve murder. We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games. There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.

Well some conservatives might surmise that the Times‘ ire can help you capture votes in middle America, but for a Democrat it’s different. And it’s never helpful to have the trend-setter for the MSM eviscerate the core of your candidacy: the pretense to be the leader of the era of New Politics. The problem with being a transparent flip-flopper is, of course, that you please neither of the sides on substance and you convince everyone you are a fraud. Poor Hillary Clinton — if only the primary race had gone on a month longer.

And if the liberal punditocracy follows suit Obama will spend the next month trying to convince the Left he really hasn’t changed at all. And then the Left, the centrists and the disgusted punditocracy may really have had enough.

This sounds like a bad joke: things are so bad for Barack Obama that the New York Times doesn’t like him any more. But it’s true:

Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics. . . Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt. We were equally distressed by Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s barring the death penalty for crimes that do not involve murder. We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games. There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.

Well some conservatives might surmise that the Times‘ ire can help you capture votes in middle America, but for a Democrat it’s different. And it’s never helpful to have the trend-setter for the MSM eviscerate the core of your candidacy: the pretense to be the leader of the era of New Politics. The problem with being a transparent flip-flopper is, of course, that you please neither of the sides on substance and you convince everyone you are a fraud. Poor Hillary Clinton — if only the primary race had gone on a month longer.

And if the liberal punditocracy follows suit Obama will spend the next month trying to convince the Left he really hasn’t changed at all. And then the Left, the centrists and the disgusted punditocracy may really have had enough.

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