Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 8, 2008

I am NOT Changing My Mind

It starts to sound goofy and delusional when Barack Obama goes into his “I am not reversing myself on a list of issues” spiel. It is understandable, as the New York Times observes, that “Barack Obama had heard quite enough of the complaints that he is pirouetting, leaping, lurching even, toward the political center.” (And because he was in front of a Democratic audience today and not talking to the Military Times, it should come as no surprise to learn that: “On Iraq, Obama declared unequivocally his commitment to withdrawal, making no reference to his statement last week that he could ‘refine’ his strategy after taking office.”)

Still, this denial routine doesn’t work on multiple levels. For starters, it’s patently false. Second, there isn’t a media outlet or pundit –whether in praise or criticism — which agrees with the “I am not a flip-flopper” defense. To the contrary, they are all writing and talking about the massive shift in policy positions which is underway. Third, shifting on a host of issues and then denying you are shifting is the personification of Old Politics. It really is going to be hard to roll out the next “Change We Can Believe In” banner with a straight face. (I can’t wait to read how the bloggers who praise him for all the shifts will react to his denial that he is shifting at all. Ah, further evidence of how savvy he is!)

And finally it’s even stranger to tell a crowd:

“You’re not going to agree with me on 100 percent of what I think, but don’t assume that if I don’t agree with you on something that it must be because I’m doing that politically.”

Why strange? Because a lot of the people in the crowd used to agree with the old Obama positions. So are they to assume that this is a politician who just changes his mind a lot — for reasons utterly unrelated to politics? That sounds like he’s fickle, far worse than confessing to political compromise.

I think he needs a rational, non-embarrassing way to explain his changes. He’s learned or he understands he has to bring people together or something. Maybe there isn’t a great explanation, but “I am not a flip-flopper” sounds positively Nixonian.

It starts to sound goofy and delusional when Barack Obama goes into his “I am not reversing myself on a list of issues” spiel. It is understandable, as the New York Times observes, that “Barack Obama had heard quite enough of the complaints that he is pirouetting, leaping, lurching even, toward the political center.” (And because he was in front of a Democratic audience today and not talking to the Military Times, it should come as no surprise to learn that: “On Iraq, Obama declared unequivocally his commitment to withdrawal, making no reference to his statement last week that he could ‘refine’ his strategy after taking office.”)

Still, this denial routine doesn’t work on multiple levels. For starters, it’s patently false. Second, there isn’t a media outlet or pundit –whether in praise or criticism — which agrees with the “I am not a flip-flopper” defense. To the contrary, they are all writing and talking about the massive shift in policy positions which is underway. Third, shifting on a host of issues and then denying you are shifting is the personification of Old Politics. It really is going to be hard to roll out the next “Change We Can Believe In” banner with a straight face. (I can’t wait to read how the bloggers who praise him for all the shifts will react to his denial that he is shifting at all. Ah, further evidence of how savvy he is!)

And finally it’s even stranger to tell a crowd:

“You’re not going to agree with me on 100 percent of what I think, but don’t assume that if I don’t agree with you on something that it must be because I’m doing that politically.”

Why strange? Because a lot of the people in the crowd used to agree with the old Obama positions. So are they to assume that this is a politician who just changes his mind a lot — for reasons utterly unrelated to politics? That sounds like he’s fickle, far worse than confessing to political compromise.

I think he needs a rational, non-embarrassing way to explain his changes. He’s learned or he understands he has to bring people together or something. Maybe there isn’t a great explanation, but “I am not a flip-flopper” sounds positively Nixonian.

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LULAC, I Lack, We All Lack

Today, Barack Obama spoke to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Washington D.C. His topic once again: pooled misery.

Apparently the day’s theme was “diversity in government,” so Obama spoke about his own cheery conception of American diversity. For Obama, diversity means we’re all behind the same eight-ball:

It’s about making sure that we have a government that knows that a problem facing any American is a problem facing all Americans.

It’s about making sure our government knows that when there’s a Hispanic girl stuck in a crumbling school who graduates without learning to read or doesn’t graduate at all, that isn’t just a Hispanic-American problem, that’s an American problem.

When Hispanics lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else, or work jobs that pay less, and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else, that isn’t a Hispanic-American problem, that’s an American problem.

When 12 million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year; when companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union; and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby by an immigration raid, that is a problem that all of us – black, white, and brown – must solve as one nation.

If Bill Clinton felt your pain, Barack Obama runs a full service agony emporium. First he helps you identify the ache, then he feels it, then he lets you trade notes with other sufferers, then he grafts your pain onto theirs before blaming the whole harrowing orgy on George W. Bush and John McCain. When the misery is about to engulf you, he offers relief in the form of his own autobiographical morality tale.

And it’s why I first moved to Chicago after college. As some of you know, I turned down more lucrative jobs and went to work for a group of churches so I could help turn around neighborhoods that were devastated when the local steel plants closed. I knew that change in those communities would not come easy. But I also knew that it wouldn’t come at all if we didn’t bring people together. So I reached out to community leaders – black, brown, and white – and built a coalition on issues from failing schools to illegal dumping to unimmunized children. Together, we gave job training to the jobless, helped prevent students from dropping out of school, and taught people to stand up to their government when it wasn’t standing up for them.

It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life – because it showed me that what holds this country together is that fundamental belief that we all have a stake in each other; that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper; and in this country, we rise and fall together.

This is the kind of pitch-perfect prepared hodgepodge of populist promises that he can give in his sleep. He repeatedly hit on immigration reform, of course, and in fairness, John McCain made the same sweeping promises to the same organization. The question with Obama is: will the next few days see him backing down from one of today’s pledges because it offended another segment of his aggrieved base? Stay tuned.

Today, Barack Obama spoke to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Washington D.C. His topic once again: pooled misery.

Apparently the day’s theme was “diversity in government,” so Obama spoke about his own cheery conception of American diversity. For Obama, diversity means we’re all behind the same eight-ball:

It’s about making sure that we have a government that knows that a problem facing any American is a problem facing all Americans.

It’s about making sure our government knows that when there’s a Hispanic girl stuck in a crumbling school who graduates without learning to read or doesn’t graduate at all, that isn’t just a Hispanic-American problem, that’s an American problem.

When Hispanics lose their jobs faster than almost anybody else, or work jobs that pay less, and come with fewer benefits than almost anybody else, that isn’t a Hispanic-American problem, that’s an American problem.

When 12 million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year; when companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union; and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby by an immigration raid, that is a problem that all of us – black, white, and brown – must solve as one nation.

If Bill Clinton felt your pain, Barack Obama runs a full service agony emporium. First he helps you identify the ache, then he feels it, then he lets you trade notes with other sufferers, then he grafts your pain onto theirs before blaming the whole harrowing orgy on George W. Bush and John McCain. When the misery is about to engulf you, he offers relief in the form of his own autobiographical morality tale.

And it’s why I first moved to Chicago after college. As some of you know, I turned down more lucrative jobs and went to work for a group of churches so I could help turn around neighborhoods that were devastated when the local steel plants closed. I knew that change in those communities would not come easy. But I also knew that it wouldn’t come at all if we didn’t bring people together. So I reached out to community leaders – black, brown, and white – and built a coalition on issues from failing schools to illegal dumping to unimmunized children. Together, we gave job training to the jobless, helped prevent students from dropping out of school, and taught people to stand up to their government when it wasn’t standing up for them.

It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life – because it showed me that what holds this country together is that fundamental belief that we all have a stake in each other; that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper; and in this country, we rise and fall together.

This is the kind of pitch-perfect prepared hodgepodge of populist promises that he can give in his sleep. He repeatedly hit on immigration reform, of course, and in fairness, John McCain made the same sweeping promises to the same organization. The question with Obama is: will the next few days see him backing down from one of today’s pledges because it offended another segment of his aggrieved base? Stay tuned.

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The G1

“This is a crisis in legitimacy and world leadership,” a senior French official, referring to general discontent across the globe, told the Washington Post‘s Jim Hoagland not long ago. That’s for sure. At a time when little seems to be going right, people in nation after nation are questioning not only their leaders but also the international institutions that are supposed to underpin modern society. There is a World Bank, World Trade Organization, and World Heritage Committee, but none of them seems to function adequately. As British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in January, global institutions need to be overhauled.

Hoagland’s contribution to thinking on this issue is to “blow up the G-8 and start over.” There’s no question that the group of eight industrialized democracies, which somehow includes Russia, is not working. The member nations seem to issue an endless list of grand pronouncements but seem never to accomplish anything, as we can see from the current gathering in northern Japan.

The consensus remedy for the paralysis of the G8 is membership reform. Most reform proposals include adding members, like China and India, so that the G8 becomes a G13 or G20, but there are already a G20, G24, G33, and G77. This week Hoagland suggested a G3 of the United States, the European Union, and Japan, yet there once was a grouping with that name (which included Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico).

There are dozens of international organizations, and adding one more-or reforming any or all of them-is not the answer. The fundamental problem is that the post-Cold War international system is breaking down. Authoritarian nations and totalitarian rogues are getting stronger and seeking to change the world and its global institutions. The answer is not so much integrating these states into multilateral organizations-the premise behind the policy of engagement-but insisting that they change themselves.

Until these nations are rendered harmless, there will be a need for only one G organization, the G1. At this crucial moment, the United States is about the only force that can keep the current international system together. The issue is whether Americans have the resolve, skill, and strength to redirect history one more time. The story of the 21st century, for better or worse, will be written in the next several years in North America.

“This is a crisis in legitimacy and world leadership,” a senior French official, referring to general discontent across the globe, told the Washington Post‘s Jim Hoagland not long ago. That’s for sure. At a time when little seems to be going right, people in nation after nation are questioning not only their leaders but also the international institutions that are supposed to underpin modern society. There is a World Bank, World Trade Organization, and World Heritage Committee, but none of them seems to function adequately. As British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in January, global institutions need to be overhauled.

Hoagland’s contribution to thinking on this issue is to “blow up the G-8 and start over.” There’s no question that the group of eight industrialized democracies, which somehow includes Russia, is not working. The member nations seem to issue an endless list of grand pronouncements but seem never to accomplish anything, as we can see from the current gathering in northern Japan.

The consensus remedy for the paralysis of the G8 is membership reform. Most reform proposals include adding members, like China and India, so that the G8 becomes a G13 or G20, but there are already a G20, G24, G33, and G77. This week Hoagland suggested a G3 of the United States, the European Union, and Japan, yet there once was a grouping with that name (which included Venezuela, Colombia, and Mexico).

There are dozens of international organizations, and adding one more-or reforming any or all of them-is not the answer. The fundamental problem is that the post-Cold War international system is breaking down. Authoritarian nations and totalitarian rogues are getting stronger and seeking to change the world and its global institutions. The answer is not so much integrating these states into multilateral organizations-the premise behind the policy of engagement-but insisting that they change themselves.

Until these nations are rendered harmless, there will be a need for only one G organization, the G1. At this crucial moment, the United States is about the only force that can keep the current international system together. The issue is whether Americans have the resolve, skill, and strength to redirect history one more time. The story of the 21st century, for better or worse, will be written in the next several years in North America.

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Re: Going To The Dogs

It was only a matter of time before the delay in getting his daughters their dog came back to bite Barack Obama. All the stats are here, but if Obama knows what’s good for him he’ll get that Bichon Frise (it’s a dog, not a dessert) or Schnauzer ASAP. And those McCain family pet names? I smell a scandal over the cat’s name — is this evidence of racial insensitivity?

It was only a matter of time before the delay in getting his daughters their dog came back to bite Barack Obama. All the stats are here, but if Obama knows what’s good for him he’ll get that Bichon Frise (it’s a dog, not a dessert) or Schnauzer ASAP. And those McCain family pet names? I smell a scandal over the cat’s name — is this evidence of racial insensitivity?

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What’s in a Cease-fire?

You could get vertigo trying to follow the Gaza cease-fire: the crossings are opened; someone fires rockets or mortars into Israel; the crossings are closed; repeat ad nauseam.

It would be nice to be able to say that only Hamas has made violating the truce a matter of common practice. But in fact Israel has done so as well (though not in the same way). Before the cease-fire, Israeli officials emphatically declared that a violation of any of its terms would mean an end to the calm. By not keeping this promise — it was a promise made to Israelis far more than to Hamas — the Olmert government has once again deepened Israel’s security predicament, and handed its enemies another example of the paralysis that has overtaken the country’s governing class.

And what about Egypt? The Egyptians have every reason to wish for this state of affairs to continue, as the faux cease-fire keeps Gaza’s restive energies focused on Israel while creating for Egypt leverage against Hamas. And so Egypt is making a fraudulent show of its mediation of the release of Gilad Shalit — something on which no actual progress is being made — by requesting that Gaza crossing points be kept open in order to encourage Hamas’s willingness to release Shalit. The obvious Israeli response is: But if we keep the crossings open despite rocket fire, what remains of Hamas’s incentive to release Shalit? No such protest from Israel was registered, and instead Ehud Barak dutifully opened the crossings. Hamas gets a trifecta: a rocket war with Israel, no retaliation from the IDF, and Shalit stays in Gaza.

It’s hard to imagine a more pathetic state of affairs.

You could get vertigo trying to follow the Gaza cease-fire: the crossings are opened; someone fires rockets or mortars into Israel; the crossings are closed; repeat ad nauseam.

It would be nice to be able to say that only Hamas has made violating the truce a matter of common practice. But in fact Israel has done so as well (though not in the same way). Before the cease-fire, Israeli officials emphatically declared that a violation of any of its terms would mean an end to the calm. By not keeping this promise — it was a promise made to Israelis far more than to Hamas — the Olmert government has once again deepened Israel’s security predicament, and handed its enemies another example of the paralysis that has overtaken the country’s governing class.

And what about Egypt? The Egyptians have every reason to wish for this state of affairs to continue, as the faux cease-fire keeps Gaza’s restive energies focused on Israel while creating for Egypt leverage against Hamas. And so Egypt is making a fraudulent show of its mediation of the release of Gilad Shalit — something on which no actual progress is being made — by requesting that Gaza crossing points be kept open in order to encourage Hamas’s willingness to release Shalit. The obvious Israeli response is: But if we keep the crossings open despite rocket fire, what remains of Hamas’s incentive to release Shalit? No such protest from Israel was registered, and instead Ehud Barak dutifully opened the crossings. Hamas gets a trifecta: a rocket war with Israel, no retaliation from the IDF, and Shalit stays in Gaza.

It’s hard to imagine a more pathetic state of affairs.

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Ouch

The RNC is up with this ad. It has multiple messages: Barack Obama was wrong on Iraq, he is changing but won’t admit it and he’s flummoxed about what to do and how to say it. The process by which Obama is shifting has proved more troublesome for him than the fact of the shift itself, which nearly all observers agree is necessary. Obama is being pummeled by the mainstream media (which is starting to sound like the harshest conservative critics).

At the very least I think the free ride from the press is over. And it makes McCain’s latest ad — which explicitly contrasts his own record of sacrifice with “beautiful words” — that much more biting. If the McCain camp were firing on all cylinders the ad would have said “empty words” or ” promises with a half life of a month.” That’s a theme the MSM has leaped on, and the McCain camp would be wise to hammer that point.

The RNC is up with this ad. It has multiple messages: Barack Obama was wrong on Iraq, he is changing but won’t admit it and he’s flummoxed about what to do and how to say it. The process by which Obama is shifting has proved more troublesome for him than the fact of the shift itself, which nearly all observers agree is necessary. Obama is being pummeled by the mainstream media (which is starting to sound like the harshest conservative critics).

At the very least I think the free ride from the press is over. And it makes McCain’s latest ad — which explicitly contrasts his own record of sacrifice with “beautiful words” — that much more biting. If the McCain camp were firing on all cylinders the ad would have said “empty words” or ” promises with a half life of a month.” That’s a theme the MSM has leaped on, and the McCain camp would be wise to hammer that point.

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WANTED: IT Supervisor

Hey, CONTENTIONS readers! COMMENTARY is looking for an in-house IT supervisor. Our requirements?

A person who can:
– serve as a systems administrator in both Windows and Unix environments
– work with PHP/CF/SQL
– physically set up and manage server systems
– manage Commentary’s website in-house
– set up and manage email servers
– set up an internal network in the Commentary offices
– manage, organize, and secure Commentary office data
– perform load testing and log analysis, and other statistical and performance tests
– work with WordPress
– preferably work with Flash

SALARY IS HIGHLY COMPETITIVE. The candidate should be energetic and self-motivated. Also he/she should be excited about learning new interactive technologies as they evolve, and very good at working with others. Also must be willing to take on more responsibility as the position evolves.

Please send resumes, with references and portfolio, to applicants@commentarymagazine.com. And please tell your friends.

Thanks!

Sam Munson,
Online Editor

Hey, CONTENTIONS readers! COMMENTARY is looking for an in-house IT supervisor. Our requirements?

A person who can:
– serve as a systems administrator in both Windows and Unix environments
– work with PHP/CF/SQL
– physically set up and manage server systems
– manage Commentary’s website in-house
– set up and manage email servers
– set up an internal network in the Commentary offices
– manage, organize, and secure Commentary office data
– perform load testing and log analysis, and other statistical and performance tests
– work with WordPress
– preferably work with Flash

SALARY IS HIGHLY COMPETITIVE. The candidate should be energetic and self-motivated. Also he/she should be excited about learning new interactive technologies as they evolve, and very good at working with others. Also must be willing to take on more responsibility as the position evolves.

Please send resumes, with references and portfolio, to applicants@commentarymagazine.com. And please tell your friends.

Thanks!

Sam Munson,
Online Editor

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No “Higher Priority,” Yet No Answers

On July 2, Barack Obama sat down for an interview with Military Times. The point was to make inroads into the hearts and minds of American troops who may be skeptical of Obama’s elitist rhetoric and ill-defined war policies. “Precisely because I have not served in uniform, I am somebody who strongly believes I have to earn the trust of men and women in uniform,” he said. Fair enough.

Obama spoke about the care and service the U.S. owes its active duty fighters and veterans.

Military members and their families deserve better pay and benefits, he said, and although money might be hard to find for a generous increase, he supports increasing basic pay to keep up with inflation and private-sector salaries, and he believes housing allowances need to be increased so young service members and their families can afford adequate places to live.

He also wants to spend more to improve veterans’ health care and reduce the wait for a disability claim to be processed.

“I don’t know a higher priority than making sure that the men and women who are putting themselves in harm’s way, day in and day out, are getting decent pay and decent benefits — so that when they return home as veterans, they don’t have to wait six months to get benefits that they’ve earned, that they’re not winding up homeless on the streets, that they’re being screened for post-traumatic stress disorder, that if a spouse is widowed, the benefits are sufficiently generous,” he said. “These are just basic requirements of a grateful nation.”

You would think that for Obama, earning such trust would involve going some distance beyond the vague rhetorical pledges quoted above. And you would be wrong:

Obama said he did not want to be more specific because he did not want to make promises he might not be able to keep. “I think we can do a much better job than we’re doing right now,” he said. But, he added, “I want to be honest: We are going to be in a tight budget situation. We’re not going to be able to do everything all at once.”

That just screams trust, doesn’t it? When is someone going to nail Obama down on specific policy commitments? We are a nation at war and he is a candidate whose campaign rests on criticism of that war. Yet we have no insight into how or if he proposes to change things. We watched him float through the primary on a cloud of hope and change yet we felt certain he’d have to cough up some details in the general election. We are now four months away from November and Barack Obama is unable to outline a plan for what he describes as his highest priority. Obama told Military Times, “I think I have a better sense than he [John McCain] does of where we need to go in the future.” Well, maybe we’ll follow. But could you tell us where first?

On July 2, Barack Obama sat down for an interview with Military Times. The point was to make inroads into the hearts and minds of American troops who may be skeptical of Obama’s elitist rhetoric and ill-defined war policies. “Precisely because I have not served in uniform, I am somebody who strongly believes I have to earn the trust of men and women in uniform,” he said. Fair enough.

Obama spoke about the care and service the U.S. owes its active duty fighters and veterans.

Military members and their families deserve better pay and benefits, he said, and although money might be hard to find for a generous increase, he supports increasing basic pay to keep up with inflation and private-sector salaries, and he believes housing allowances need to be increased so young service members and their families can afford adequate places to live.

He also wants to spend more to improve veterans’ health care and reduce the wait for a disability claim to be processed.

“I don’t know a higher priority than making sure that the men and women who are putting themselves in harm’s way, day in and day out, are getting decent pay and decent benefits — so that when they return home as veterans, they don’t have to wait six months to get benefits that they’ve earned, that they’re not winding up homeless on the streets, that they’re being screened for post-traumatic stress disorder, that if a spouse is widowed, the benefits are sufficiently generous,” he said. “These are just basic requirements of a grateful nation.”

You would think that for Obama, earning such trust would involve going some distance beyond the vague rhetorical pledges quoted above. And you would be wrong:

Obama said he did not want to be more specific because he did not want to make promises he might not be able to keep. “I think we can do a much better job than we’re doing right now,” he said. But, he added, “I want to be honest: We are going to be in a tight budget situation. We’re not going to be able to do everything all at once.”

That just screams trust, doesn’t it? When is someone going to nail Obama down on specific policy commitments? We are a nation at war and he is a candidate whose campaign rests on criticism of that war. Yet we have no insight into how or if he proposes to change things. We watched him float through the primary on a cloud of hope and change yet we felt certain he’d have to cough up some details in the general election. We are now four months away from November and Barack Obama is unable to outline a plan for what he describes as his highest priority. Obama told Military Times, “I think I have a better sense than he [John McCain] does of where we need to go in the future.” Well, maybe we’ll follow. But could you tell us where first?

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Where We Are Going

Is the race devolving into a rather ordinary liberal vs. conservative matchup on domestic policy? Possibly. Monday’s events could have occured in any presidential race in the last twenty plus years. John McCain is offering bread-and-butter conservative and market-based ideas on taxes (eliminate or lower them), trade (stick to our trade deals and expand markets), health care, and budget restraint. (Granted, McCain could use more emphasis on tax cuts and better packaging, but there is much to like for fiscal conservatives.) He claims his opponent is fixated on hiking taxes and spending gobs of money; his opponent claims McCain just wants to help the rich.

Sound familiar? Yup. The traditional conclusion would be that in tough economic times with an unpopular administration, the “out” party wins the election (e.g. 1980, 1992). So the McCain team, with limited resources but increased focus, is trying to combat that. How? In part, by making the case that Obama and his tax-hiking plans will only make things worse. Or, as Steve Forbes, put it ” devastate the American economy.”

If McCain can convince voters that he is not the do-nothing Bush clone Obama makes him out to be and that Obama’s economic ideas are retreads of the last 40 years of liberalism, he has a fighting chance. But that’s a tall order for any campaign, let alone one which is going to be badly outspent in ads.

Meanwhile, the cat is coming out of the bag — slowly, limb by limb — on Obama’s Iraq switcheroo. (Some solid advice about how to do a better job of getting himself out of his untenable position is here.) Bret Stephens notes that this would be the latest in the line of Obama strategies. (“Previous strategies include his January 2007 call for a complete withdrawal by March 2008, followed by his March 2008 call for a complete withdrawal by July 2010, or 16 months after he takes office.”) But the Washington Post is nervous that he is finding it hard to drop the “the strident and rigid posture he struck during the primary campaign” for fear of offending his leftwing base. And today he is back to talking about his sixteen-month withdrawal plan. (When he talks to a Democratic audience all references to deferring to commanders and recognizing the developments brought about by the surge disappear.)

He’s now going to let the commanders call the shots. It’s a far cry from what he said in the Philadelphia debate a few months ago when he said he’d be calling the shots and sending new orders, but that was then and this is now. As Jake Tapper observed of Obama’s newfound concern for military advice and Iraqi troop levels:

I have never heard Obama tell a crowd of Oregon liberals that he plans on consulting with David Petraeus. And as for Obama’s concern about whether or not there are enough combat-ready Iraqi troops — this is one of the major reasons why U.S. troops remain in Iraq.” Although his own advisors were warning of the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal for some time, Obama never let on publicly that he agreed with them.

As for the complete change of heart by Obama, I would concur with Jonathan Martin, who writes:

It was perhaps inevitable that he would move to the middle on this issue — and Samantha Power accidentally revealed as much during the primary — but this will be the first and best indicator as to just how hungry the Democratic base is to get back the White House. If they give him a pass on this, the central issue on which he based his candidacy and that which about the left has come to despise the Bush administration, he’s got some real running room on the way to November.

Will the same pundit crowd that cheered Obama’s wholehearted (at the time) opposition to the surge, his disregard for the advice of military commanders, and his great insight that Iraq was not worth fighting for at least give up the pretense that Obama is some brave visionary, above mere mortal politicians who flip-flop for political convenience? Unlikely. I’m sure his willful disregard for everything he said previously and the cynical use of each position he deployed to defeat Hillary Clinton has just endeared him that much more to his fans. He’s high minded and conniving all at once! It’s not hypocrisy — it’s the New Politics!

Is the race devolving into a rather ordinary liberal vs. conservative matchup on domestic policy? Possibly. Monday’s events could have occured in any presidential race in the last twenty plus years. John McCain is offering bread-and-butter conservative and market-based ideas on taxes (eliminate or lower them), trade (stick to our trade deals and expand markets), health care, and budget restraint. (Granted, McCain could use more emphasis on tax cuts and better packaging, but there is much to like for fiscal conservatives.) He claims his opponent is fixated on hiking taxes and spending gobs of money; his opponent claims McCain just wants to help the rich.

Sound familiar? Yup. The traditional conclusion would be that in tough economic times with an unpopular administration, the “out” party wins the election (e.g. 1980, 1992). So the McCain team, with limited resources but increased focus, is trying to combat that. How? In part, by making the case that Obama and his tax-hiking plans will only make things worse. Or, as Steve Forbes, put it ” devastate the American economy.”

If McCain can convince voters that he is not the do-nothing Bush clone Obama makes him out to be and that Obama’s economic ideas are retreads of the last 40 years of liberalism, he has a fighting chance. But that’s a tall order for any campaign, let alone one which is going to be badly outspent in ads.

Meanwhile, the cat is coming out of the bag — slowly, limb by limb — on Obama’s Iraq switcheroo. (Some solid advice about how to do a better job of getting himself out of his untenable position is here.) Bret Stephens notes that this would be the latest in the line of Obama strategies. (“Previous strategies include his January 2007 call for a complete withdrawal by March 2008, followed by his March 2008 call for a complete withdrawal by July 2010, or 16 months after he takes office.”) But the Washington Post is nervous that he is finding it hard to drop the “the strident and rigid posture he struck during the primary campaign” for fear of offending his leftwing base. And today he is back to talking about his sixteen-month withdrawal plan. (When he talks to a Democratic audience all references to deferring to commanders and recognizing the developments brought about by the surge disappear.)

He’s now going to let the commanders call the shots. It’s a far cry from what he said in the Philadelphia debate a few months ago when he said he’d be calling the shots and sending new orders, but that was then and this is now. As Jake Tapper observed of Obama’s newfound concern for military advice and Iraqi troop levels:

I have never heard Obama tell a crowd of Oregon liberals that he plans on consulting with David Petraeus. And as for Obama’s concern about whether or not there are enough combat-ready Iraqi troops — this is one of the major reasons why U.S. troops remain in Iraq.” Although his own advisors were warning of the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal for some time, Obama never let on publicly that he agreed with them.

As for the complete change of heart by Obama, I would concur with Jonathan Martin, who writes:

It was perhaps inevitable that he would move to the middle on this issue — and Samantha Power accidentally revealed as much during the primary — but this will be the first and best indicator as to just how hungry the Democratic base is to get back the White House. If they give him a pass on this, the central issue on which he based his candidacy and that which about the left has come to despise the Bush administration, he’s got some real running room on the way to November.

Will the same pundit crowd that cheered Obama’s wholehearted (at the time) opposition to the surge, his disregard for the advice of military commanders, and his great insight that Iraq was not worth fighting for at least give up the pretense that Obama is some brave visionary, above mere mortal politicians who flip-flop for political convenience? Unlikely. I’m sure his willful disregard for everything he said previously and the cynical use of each position he deployed to defeat Hillary Clinton has just endeared him that much more to his fans. He’s high minded and conniving all at once! It’s not hypocrisy — it’s the New Politics!

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If You Want More Evidence . . .

. . . that the Jews really do control Hollywood, just click here.

. . . that the Jews really do control Hollywood, just click here.

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Don’t Count on the Saudis

Some of the recent U.S. and Israeli drive for a peace settlement with the Palestinians is predicated upon the assumption that a new pragmatic coalition exists in the region–a moderate front made up of the Sunni powers plus Israel, united by the fear of Iran. This much was illustrated by Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, at the Annapolis Conference last November, when she said

This is the time for decision. Everyone must decide which side they are on, and the sides, ladies and gentlemen, have changed. They are no longer Israel on one side and the Palestinians on the other side. They are no longer the Arabs on one side and the Jews on the other side. In one camp is everyone who is sitting here in this room – Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis, and Arabs, Americans, and Europeans. And on the other side, there is Iran, with its allies and its proxies, agitating and doing mischief.

The view that Iran is a bigger threat to the Arab world than Israel is counterintuitive. But it does not necessarily translate–as some believe and advocate–into an Arab willingness to stand up to Iran alongside Israel and the U.S. Martin Kramer made that clear as early as last January, in his remarks at the Herzliyah annual conference. Now comes an op-ed in Lebanon’s Daily Star, by the Middle East Institute’s Thomas Lippman, reiterating what only the blind cannot see in the Persian Gulf:

In the simplest terms, the Saudis recognize that Iran is a major regional power, a potentially aggressive neighbor that is not going away. Iran is much more capable of making trouble for Saudi Arabia than the other way around, and therefore the kingdom’s security over time requires accommodation with Iran, however difficult it may be to manage the relationship. Americans and other foreigners may come and go, but Iran and its nearly 80 million people – almost four times the population of Saudi Arabia – will remain, a few kilometers across the Gulf.

Whoever thought that Tehran’s rise as a regional power would herd even the best of our allies in the region in Israel’s arms as a way to contain and deflect Iran’s threats forget the history and the geography of the region. FM Livni’s definition of sides ignores regional realities–where not taking sides is a sophisticated skill and the very essence of the art of survival.

Peacemaking may or may not have a chance–though if one counts the odds, it is more the latter than the former. But it is naive, if not outright folly, to count on countries like Saudi Arabia to radically change decades of foreign policy in a bid that at least in the Arab world would be highly controversial, given the yield. Aligning themselves with Western and Jewish infidels as a shield against the Shi’a would not make moderate Sunni monarchies safer. Saudi Arabia would only gain a possible showdown with Iran, whose fallout would hit Saudi shores before it even registers in Europe or the U.S. Pursue peace if you will, but don’t make Saudi help part of that strategy–it never paid, and will never now, especially in the shadow of Iran’s looming nuclear power.

Some of the recent U.S. and Israeli drive for a peace settlement with the Palestinians is predicated upon the assumption that a new pragmatic coalition exists in the region–a moderate front made up of the Sunni powers plus Israel, united by the fear of Iran. This much was illustrated by Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, at the Annapolis Conference last November, when she said

This is the time for decision. Everyone must decide which side they are on, and the sides, ladies and gentlemen, have changed. They are no longer Israel on one side and the Palestinians on the other side. They are no longer the Arabs on one side and the Jews on the other side. In one camp is everyone who is sitting here in this room – Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis, and Arabs, Americans, and Europeans. And on the other side, there is Iran, with its allies and its proxies, agitating and doing mischief.

The view that Iran is a bigger threat to the Arab world than Israel is counterintuitive. But it does not necessarily translate–as some believe and advocate–into an Arab willingness to stand up to Iran alongside Israel and the U.S. Martin Kramer made that clear as early as last January, in his remarks at the Herzliyah annual conference. Now comes an op-ed in Lebanon’s Daily Star, by the Middle East Institute’s Thomas Lippman, reiterating what only the blind cannot see in the Persian Gulf:

In the simplest terms, the Saudis recognize that Iran is a major regional power, a potentially aggressive neighbor that is not going away. Iran is much more capable of making trouble for Saudi Arabia than the other way around, and therefore the kingdom’s security over time requires accommodation with Iran, however difficult it may be to manage the relationship. Americans and other foreigners may come and go, but Iran and its nearly 80 million people – almost four times the population of Saudi Arabia – will remain, a few kilometers across the Gulf.

Whoever thought that Tehran’s rise as a regional power would herd even the best of our allies in the region in Israel’s arms as a way to contain and deflect Iran’s threats forget the history and the geography of the region. FM Livni’s definition of sides ignores regional realities–where not taking sides is a sophisticated skill and the very essence of the art of survival.

Peacemaking may or may not have a chance–though if one counts the odds, it is more the latter than the former. But it is naive, if not outright folly, to count on countries like Saudi Arabia to radically change decades of foreign policy in a bid that at least in the Arab world would be highly controversial, given the yield. Aligning themselves with Western and Jewish infidels as a shield against the Shi’a would not make moderate Sunni monarchies safer. Saudi Arabia would only gain a possible showdown with Iran, whose fallout would hit Saudi shores before it even registers in Europe or the U.S. Pursue peace if you will, but don’t make Saudi help part of that strategy–it never paid, and will never now, especially in the shadow of Iran’s looming nuclear power.

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More Advice

Rich Lowry and Dick Morris offer advice to John McCain: attack Barack Obama for lying about (or trying to flip-flop away from) his own liberal record. That’s a possibility, and an indirect way of saying he’s a fraud. And his pretending that he’s not shifting away from his liberal record adds a touch of unreality to the whole exercise. Can he really believe it? Or is does he think voters don’t know about his ultra-liberal record and can be conned? Or as Reverend Wright famously put it:

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls . . . He does what politicians do . . . He had to distance himself because he’s a politician.

But I keep going back to Obama’s own boast that he was running on superior judgment about Iraq. That judgment, you see, was the substitute, the superior alternative in fact, to experience. But if his judgment on the single biggest issue of his brief Senate career was faulty — and his judgment in assessing personnel and associates from Tony Rezko to Wright to James Johnson is also questionable — what is it that he has to offer? (Other than the the Obama girls and a football pep rally.)

Both of these are dicey and highly personal attacks. Whether McCain has the nerve to go after Obama as a fraud or as lacking decent judgment remains to be seen. But if this radio interview is any indication, McCain may be prepared to go after Obama on just these points:

Sen. Obama opposed the surge. He said it would fail. He still is saying that it would fail. Now, last Thursday or Friday, it seemed for a while there he was agreeing with the surge, then maybe he’s not. So, I’m glad he’s going to Iraq for the second time. He hasn’t been there in 900 days. I’m glad, for the first time, he’s going to sit down with General Petraeus — for the first time, a sit-down briefing, if you can believe that. And, I hope that he will reach a position. I don’t know what position, because he’s been all over the map, calling for immediate withdrawals, back in the primaries to now saying you know — so it’s hard to know. I hope that he’ll go over there and get the kind of information he needs which he hasn’t requested in the past. But, have no doubt what my position was when I called for additional troops, it was a very unpopular thing to do and many people said my campaign was dead and I said I’d much rather lose a political campaign then lose a war. He said it would fail, it has succeeded. The American people should take notice of that.

McCain didn’t quite say that Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election. But he’s getting close. It is only July, but eventually McCain will have to say why he thinks Obama is unfit to be president. And he will likely have to do it himself — or find a whole lot more ad money — to get the media’s and the public’s full attention.

Rich Lowry and Dick Morris offer advice to John McCain: attack Barack Obama for lying about (or trying to flip-flop away from) his own liberal record. That’s a possibility, and an indirect way of saying he’s a fraud. And his pretending that he’s not shifting away from his liberal record adds a touch of unreality to the whole exercise. Can he really believe it? Or is does he think voters don’t know about his ultra-liberal record and can be conned? Or as Reverend Wright famously put it:

Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls, Huffington, whoever’s doing the polls . . . He does what politicians do . . . He had to distance himself because he’s a politician.

But I keep going back to Obama’s own boast that he was running on superior judgment about Iraq. That judgment, you see, was the substitute, the superior alternative in fact, to experience. But if his judgment on the single biggest issue of his brief Senate career was faulty — and his judgment in assessing personnel and associates from Tony Rezko to Wright to James Johnson is also questionable — what is it that he has to offer? (Other than the the Obama girls and a football pep rally.)

Both of these are dicey and highly personal attacks. Whether McCain has the nerve to go after Obama as a fraud or as lacking decent judgment remains to be seen. But if this radio interview is any indication, McCain may be prepared to go after Obama on just these points:

Sen. Obama opposed the surge. He said it would fail. He still is saying that it would fail. Now, last Thursday or Friday, it seemed for a while there he was agreeing with the surge, then maybe he’s not. So, I’m glad he’s going to Iraq for the second time. He hasn’t been there in 900 days. I’m glad, for the first time, he’s going to sit down with General Petraeus — for the first time, a sit-down briefing, if you can believe that. And, I hope that he will reach a position. I don’t know what position, because he’s been all over the map, calling for immediate withdrawals, back in the primaries to now saying you know — so it’s hard to know. I hope that he’ll go over there and get the kind of information he needs which he hasn’t requested in the past. But, have no doubt what my position was when I called for additional troops, it was a very unpopular thing to do and many people said my campaign was dead and I said I’d much rather lose a political campaign then lose a war. He said it would fail, it has succeeded. The American people should take notice of that.

McCain didn’t quite say that Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election. But he’s getting close. It is only July, but eventually McCain will have to say why he thinks Obama is unfit to be president. And he will likely have to do it himself — or find a whole lot more ad money — to get the media’s and the public’s full attention.

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Obama Finds America’s Conservative Pulse

On Sunday Fred Barnes posted an analysis on the Weekly Standard website arguing that Barack Obama’s tack to the center is “quite clever.” One of the three reasons Fred put forward to substantiate his case is that Obama is “better off being attacked by John McCain as a flip-flopper than as an unrepentant liberal.”

I agree with Barnes, and simply want to underscore an important point we ought to take from it: Obama’s dizzying shifts on a range of issues — including Iraq, meeting with Iran’s Ahamdinejad, terrorist surveillance programs, free trade, abortion, guns, public financing, and the America flag lapel pin, among others — reminds us that America remains a center-right, basically conservative leaning nation.

Senator Obama has clearly made the decision that he must avoid the charge of liberalism at all costs — including if, in trying to avoid that appellation, Obama eviscerates the core early appeal of his candidacy: that he is a “new” politician whose actions would be the antithesis of triangulation and would be driven, in Obama’s words, “not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction.”

In fact, as the campaign has unfolded, we are finding that Obama is the embodiment of a calculating, poll-driven politician, perhaps rivaling even Bill Clinton (who once seemed in a category all his own) in that respect. Paul Greenberg labeled Bill Clinton “Slick Willie;” David Brooks has anointed Barack Obama “Fast Eddie.”

Barack Obama strikes me as instinctively quite liberal, and his voting record is indisputably so. But his all-consuming concern appears to be not with any issue, set of issues, or political philosophy; rather, Obama seems devoted to himself in a way and to a degree that seems rare even for a profession filled with exceedingly ambitious, hyper-confident, and self-absorbed individuals.

Is Obama embracing an effective political strategy? I think so. Given the options — unrepentant liberal v. unprincipled flip-flopper — Obama is choosing the least problematic one. It of course helps that Obama’s supporters in the media (which is another way of saying the vast majority of those in the media) are portraying his shifting positions as an example of political shrewdness and admirable political toughness instead of a lack of public character and trustworthiness.

Will Obama be hurt by the course he has adopted? Probably, though it seems highly unlikely to me that it will be enough, on its own, to derail his candidacy. But whether it does or not, we are being reminded by Obama himself, almost on a daily basis, that liberalism is a lethal political charge. Whatever group of supporters find liberalism to be appealing, a far larger group considers it to be virtually disqualifying. The fact that Obama understands this and is doing everything he can do inoculate himself against the charge of liberalism ought to be welcomed news to conservatives.

Conservatism, for whatever challenges it faces, remains the most compelling and attractive political philosophy in America.

On Sunday Fred Barnes posted an analysis on the Weekly Standard website arguing that Barack Obama’s tack to the center is “quite clever.” One of the three reasons Fred put forward to substantiate his case is that Obama is “better off being attacked by John McCain as a flip-flopper than as an unrepentant liberal.”

I agree with Barnes, and simply want to underscore an important point we ought to take from it: Obama’s dizzying shifts on a range of issues — including Iraq, meeting with Iran’s Ahamdinejad, terrorist surveillance programs, free trade, abortion, guns, public financing, and the America flag lapel pin, among others — reminds us that America remains a center-right, basically conservative leaning nation.

Senator Obama has clearly made the decision that he must avoid the charge of liberalism at all costs — including if, in trying to avoid that appellation, Obama eviscerates the core early appeal of his candidacy: that he is a “new” politician whose actions would be the antithesis of triangulation and would be driven, in Obama’s words, “not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction.”

In fact, as the campaign has unfolded, we are finding that Obama is the embodiment of a calculating, poll-driven politician, perhaps rivaling even Bill Clinton (who once seemed in a category all his own) in that respect. Paul Greenberg labeled Bill Clinton “Slick Willie;” David Brooks has anointed Barack Obama “Fast Eddie.”

Barack Obama strikes me as instinctively quite liberal, and his voting record is indisputably so. But his all-consuming concern appears to be not with any issue, set of issues, or political philosophy; rather, Obama seems devoted to himself in a way and to a degree that seems rare even for a profession filled with exceedingly ambitious, hyper-confident, and self-absorbed individuals.

Is Obama embracing an effective political strategy? I think so. Given the options — unrepentant liberal v. unprincipled flip-flopper — Obama is choosing the least problematic one. It of course helps that Obama’s supporters in the media (which is another way of saying the vast majority of those in the media) are portraying his shifting positions as an example of political shrewdness and admirable political toughness instead of a lack of public character and trustworthiness.

Will Obama be hurt by the course he has adopted? Probably, though it seems highly unlikely to me that it will be enough, on its own, to derail his candidacy. But whether it does or not, we are being reminded by Obama himself, almost on a daily basis, that liberalism is a lethal political charge. Whatever group of supporters find liberalism to be appealing, a far larger group considers it to be virtually disqualifying. The fact that Obama understands this and is doing everything he can do inoculate himself against the charge of liberalism ought to be welcomed news to conservatives.

Conservatism, for whatever challenges it faces, remains the most compelling and attractive political philosophy in America.

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Will Someone Please Buy John Kerry a Dictionary

This past Sunday on Face the Nation, Senator John Kerry sought to poke holes in the whole “maverick” myth of John McCain:

Sen. KERRY: John McCain has changed in profound and fundamental ways that I find, personally, really surprising and, frankly, upsetting. He is not the John McCain as the senator who defined himself, quote, “as a maverick,” though questionable. . . .

Only seconds later, Kerry attempts to prove his point:

Sen. KERRY: I mean, Bob, you’re smart, you’ve talked to these people in Washington. There are very few people who walk around and say, ‘Going into Iraq was the right thing to do and we should’ve done it. I’d do it again if I had the chance.’ John McCain does. John McCain believes this was the right decision.

The definition of maverick, from websters.com:

a lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates.

Now, what was it you were saying, Senator Kerry?

This past Sunday on Face the Nation, Senator John Kerry sought to poke holes in the whole “maverick” myth of John McCain:

Sen. KERRY: John McCain has changed in profound and fundamental ways that I find, personally, really surprising and, frankly, upsetting. He is not the John McCain as the senator who defined himself, quote, “as a maverick,” though questionable. . . .

Only seconds later, Kerry attempts to prove his point:

Sen. KERRY: I mean, Bob, you’re smart, you’ve talked to these people in Washington. There are very few people who walk around and say, ‘Going into Iraq was the right thing to do and we should’ve done it. I’d do it again if I had the chance.’ John McCain does. John McCain believes this was the right decision.

The definition of maverick, from websters.com:

a lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates.

Now, what was it you were saying, Senator Kerry?

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Chutzpah

The Iranian president, who presides over a regime which is not just at war with the West but has been at war with its own people for three decades, summoned great reserves of moral courage during a visit to Malaysia in order to sound like an ordinary American leftist. He said that

“the next [American] government would need at least 30 years in order to compensate, renovate and innovate the damages done by Mr. Bush.”

The Iranian leader urged Washington to heal its image by “relying on (the) basis of justice, humanitarian acts and respect for human beings.”

The Soviet Union and its client regimes were experts at wielding a florid lexicon of human-rights talk in order to deflect attention from their systematic denial of human rights. The Iranians are becoming well-practiced at something similar.

The Iranian president, who presides over a regime which is not just at war with the West but has been at war with its own people for three decades, summoned great reserves of moral courage during a visit to Malaysia in order to sound like an ordinary American leftist. He said that

“the next [American] government would need at least 30 years in order to compensate, renovate and innovate the damages done by Mr. Bush.”

The Iranian leader urged Washington to heal its image by “relying on (the) basis of justice, humanitarian acts and respect for human beings.”

The Soviet Union and its client regimes were experts at wielding a florid lexicon of human-rights talk in order to deflect attention from their systematic denial of human rights. The Iranians are becoming well-practiced at something similar.

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Maybe They Shouldn’t Want to Win

The increasingly worrisome economic climate — with the possibility of the need for a bailout of two federally-backed mortgage holders that would make all other bailouts in history seem like a few scattered pennies — leaves both presidential candidates flat-footed in response. John McCain touts a plan to balance the budget in four years, which is, quite simply, preposterous. Unless the recession ends very, very quickly and growth skyrockets instantly, there will be no means aside from a magic spell to balance the federal budget in four years, and especially not if McCain wants to hold true to his extremely expensive promise to increase the size of the armed forces. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is touting his proposed tax increases on those who make more than $250,000 a year, which will do nothing to help the economy pull itself together, and which may have the result of limiting economic growth in some small but measurable way.

It is possible that whoever wins in November will take office with Iraq basically on the way to a positive resolution — note that Gen. Jack Keane, the author of the surge and a very careful and judicious man, is now saying for the first time that the gains there are “irreversible” — but with everything else looking very bleak. The national impact of falling home values, the inflationary effect of of oil prices, the growing threat from Iran….not a pretty picture. It seems clear John McCain will not know what to do about all this, and will dedicate his efforts to a meaningless war against government spending at the one moment in time (a recession) when even conservative economists acknowledge public-sector spending can serve as a bit of lubrication for an economic machine that is sparking and sputtering.

Doubtless Obama and his friends believe that the public will rally to his side and lay the blame for these woes on Bush and the Republicans. The problem he will face is that there’s not that much reason to believe the public will give him any running room. Look at what happened to the Democratic Congress after it was brought back to power in a landslide in 2006. Not more than four months had passed until Congressional approval ratings had sunk lower than George Bush’s, even though they were fighting against Bush; in the most recent Gallup poll, Congress had an approval rating of 11 percent, the lowest for any public institution ever recorded by Gallup.

This suggests to me that no matter which of these two men becomes president on January 21, 2009, he will find himself in a deep pit almost from the get-go (rather like Gordon Brown after he followed Tony Blair).

The increasingly worrisome economic climate — with the possibility of the need for a bailout of two federally-backed mortgage holders that would make all other bailouts in history seem like a few scattered pennies — leaves both presidential candidates flat-footed in response. John McCain touts a plan to balance the budget in four years, which is, quite simply, preposterous. Unless the recession ends very, very quickly and growth skyrockets instantly, there will be no means aside from a magic spell to balance the federal budget in four years, and especially not if McCain wants to hold true to his extremely expensive promise to increase the size of the armed forces. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is touting his proposed tax increases on those who make more than $250,000 a year, which will do nothing to help the economy pull itself together, and which may have the result of limiting economic growth in some small but measurable way.

It is possible that whoever wins in November will take office with Iraq basically on the way to a positive resolution — note that Gen. Jack Keane, the author of the surge and a very careful and judicious man, is now saying for the first time that the gains there are “irreversible” — but with everything else looking very bleak. The national impact of falling home values, the inflationary effect of of oil prices, the growing threat from Iran….not a pretty picture. It seems clear John McCain will not know what to do about all this, and will dedicate his efforts to a meaningless war against government spending at the one moment in time (a recession) when even conservative economists acknowledge public-sector spending can serve as a bit of lubrication for an economic machine that is sparking and sputtering.

Doubtless Obama and his friends believe that the public will rally to his side and lay the blame for these woes on Bush and the Republicans. The problem he will face is that there’s not that much reason to believe the public will give him any running room. Look at what happened to the Democratic Congress after it was brought back to power in a landslide in 2006. Not more than four months had passed until Congressional approval ratings had sunk lower than George Bush’s, even though they were fighting against Bush; in the most recent Gallup poll, Congress had an approval rating of 11 percent, the lowest for any public institution ever recorded by Gallup.

This suggests to me that no matter which of these two men becomes president on January 21, 2009, he will find himself in a deep pit almost from the get-go (rather like Gordon Brown after he followed Tony Blair).

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Flotsam and Jetsam

You gotta love the New York Times chiding itself for dragging the ghost of Karl Rove into a McCain camp dissension story even though he is “not directly involved” in the campaign. (“You thought we were going to write a story about the internal dynamics of a presidential campaign without mentioning Mr. Rove?”)

And like the Saturday Night Live joke that “Franco is still dead,” the action in Mosul still remains a secret among the mainstream media.

You mean Barack Obama’s spending isn’t paid for by just jacking up taxes on the rich? (Read the whole thing and give Leon Panetta points for honesty.) And if he was going to pay for it by ending the war in Iraq and now isn’t going to end the war in Iraq will he trim some billions off his spending? Didn’t think so.

Bob Herbert explains why Barack Obama’s flip-flops are different than those of most politicians:

Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader — more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most.You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of “is” is.This is why so many of Senator Obama’s strongest supporters are uneasy, upset, dismayed and even angry at the candidate who is now emerging in the bright light of summer. . But Senator Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He’s lurching right when it suits him, and he’s zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.

Howard Wolfson joins Fox and lets on that its viewers are more important since they include more independents who might be subject to persuasion. Seems the demonization of Fox may be coming to an end.

The Washington Post editors think Obama got scared by his liberal base about shifting on Iraq. (It’s hard to recall a presidential nominee so intimidated by his own supposedly infatuated base.)

And it’s reassuring when a member of the liberal punditocracy can identify an “idiot” at the UN. It would be better if elected Democrats did. Come to think of it, why don’t they?

You gotta love the New York Times chiding itself for dragging the ghost of Karl Rove into a McCain camp dissension story even though he is “not directly involved” in the campaign. (“You thought we were going to write a story about the internal dynamics of a presidential campaign without mentioning Mr. Rove?”)

And like the Saturday Night Live joke that “Franco is still dead,” the action in Mosul still remains a secret among the mainstream media.

You mean Barack Obama’s spending isn’t paid for by just jacking up taxes on the rich? (Read the whole thing and give Leon Panetta points for honesty.) And if he was going to pay for it by ending the war in Iraq and now isn’t going to end the war in Iraq will he trim some billions off his spending? Didn’t think so.

Bob Herbert explains why Barack Obama’s flip-flops are different than those of most politicians:

Barack Obama went out of his way to create the impression that he was a new kind of political leader — more honest, less cynical and less relentlessly calculating than most.You would be able to listen to him without worrying about what the meaning of “is” is.This is why so many of Senator Obama’s strongest supporters are uneasy, upset, dismayed and even angry at the candidate who is now emerging in the bright light of summer. . But Senator Obama is not just tacking gently toward the center. He’s lurching right when it suits him, and he’s zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash.

Howard Wolfson joins Fox and lets on that its viewers are more important since they include more independents who might be subject to persuasion. Seems the demonization of Fox may be coming to an end.

The Washington Post editors think Obama got scared by his liberal base about shifting on Iraq. (It’s hard to recall a presidential nominee so intimidated by his own supposedly infatuated base.)

And it’s reassuring when a member of the liberal punditocracy can identify an “idiot” at the UN. It would be better if elected Democrats did. Come to think of it, why don’t they?

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Nor Any Drop to Drink

As though Israel did not have enough to worry about, it now faces a major water crisis. For years experts have been warning that the increase in population and decrease in rainfall will combine to push water levels way down, and now it’s been announced that by year’s end, and maybe even by the end of the summer, the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main source of usable water, will for the first time dip down to the “black line,” below which water can no longer be pumped without causing irreversible ecological damage. The other main source of water for the country, the underground aquifers, are in even worse shape. The head of the water authority called it “the worst crisis since records started being kept 80 years ago.”

A number of solutions have been proposed over the years. Importing water from Turkey is one option, but it creates a strategic dependence on a Muslim country whose future relations with Israel might not be as good as they are today. Conservation is another, but there’s only so much you can conserve before you start hurting your economy–whether it be through raising water prices for domestic use, which disproportionately hurts the poor, or by raising prices for farmers, which also hurts the poor through increased food prices. The real answer is and will always be desalination, a process that is today expensive but can be made much cheaper in the long run through a serious investment in R&D–something Israelis are especially good at. If successful, Israel can solve its water issues and even begin exporting water to a deeply thirsty region.

The bottom line is that this crisis should never have happened: The signs have been there for years, and successive governments have failed to do much to prevent it. Maybe it’s unfair to dump this on Olmert’s record as well, yet it is hard to avoid the fact that this is happening on his watch — two full years after he entered office. When your head is in the sand for too long, you start to get thirsty.

As though Israel did not have enough to worry about, it now faces a major water crisis. For years experts have been warning that the increase in population and decrease in rainfall will combine to push water levels way down, and now it’s been announced that by year’s end, and maybe even by the end of the summer, the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main source of usable water, will for the first time dip down to the “black line,” below which water can no longer be pumped without causing irreversible ecological damage. The other main source of water for the country, the underground aquifers, are in even worse shape. The head of the water authority called it “the worst crisis since records started being kept 80 years ago.”

A number of solutions have been proposed over the years. Importing water from Turkey is one option, but it creates a strategic dependence on a Muslim country whose future relations with Israel might not be as good as they are today. Conservation is another, but there’s only so much you can conserve before you start hurting your economy–whether it be through raising water prices for domestic use, which disproportionately hurts the poor, or by raising prices for farmers, which also hurts the poor through increased food prices. The real answer is and will always be desalination, a process that is today expensive but can be made much cheaper in the long run through a serious investment in R&D–something Israelis are especially good at. If successful, Israel can solve its water issues and even begin exporting water to a deeply thirsty region.

The bottom line is that this crisis should never have happened: The signs have been there for years, and successive governments have failed to do much to prevent it. Maybe it’s unfair to dump this on Olmert’s record as well, yet it is hard to avoid the fact that this is happening on his watch — two full years after he entered office. When your head is in the sand for too long, you start to get thirsty.

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Chavez’s Jewish Problem, Continued

The story of Venezuela’s strongman Hugo Chavez and the increasingly ominous conduct of his supporters and government toward the country’s small Jewish community is told in detail in Travis Pantin’s fine article for COMMENTARY, which you can read here. Today there is more evidence. The Department of the Treasury has designated a senior Venezuelan diplomat as a “supporter” — or ideological agent — of Hizbollah. Here are the details:

Ghazi Nasr al Din is a Venezuela-based Hizballah supporter who has utilized his position as a Venezuelan diplomat and the president of a Caracas-based Shi’a Islamic Center to provide financial support to Hizballah. Nasr al Din served until recently as Charge d’ Affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, Syria, and was subsequently appointed the Director of Political Aspects at the Venezuelan Embassy in Lebanon.

Nasr al Din has counseled Hizballah donors on fundraising efforts and has provided donors with specific information on bank accounts where the donors’ deposits would go directly to Hizballah.

Ghazi Nasr al Din has met with senior Hizballah officials in Lebanon to discuss operational issues, as well as facilitated the travel of Hizballah members to and from Venezuela. In late January 2006, Nasr al Din facilitated the travel of two Hizballah representatives to the Lebanese Parliament to Caracas to solicit donations for Hizballah and to announce the opening of a Hizballah-sponsored community center and office in Venezuela. The previous year, Nasr al Din arranged the travel of Hizballah members to attend a training course in Iran.

More here.

The story of Venezuela’s strongman Hugo Chavez and the increasingly ominous conduct of his supporters and government toward the country’s small Jewish community is told in detail in Travis Pantin’s fine article for COMMENTARY, which you can read here. Today there is more evidence. The Department of the Treasury has designated a senior Venezuelan diplomat as a “supporter” — or ideological agent — of Hizbollah. Here are the details:

Ghazi Nasr al Din is a Venezuela-based Hizballah supporter who has utilized his position as a Venezuelan diplomat and the president of a Caracas-based Shi’a Islamic Center to provide financial support to Hizballah. Nasr al Din served until recently as Charge d’ Affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Damascus, Syria, and was subsequently appointed the Director of Political Aspects at the Venezuelan Embassy in Lebanon.

Nasr al Din has counseled Hizballah donors on fundraising efforts and has provided donors with specific information on bank accounts where the donors’ deposits would go directly to Hizballah.

Ghazi Nasr al Din has met with senior Hizballah officials in Lebanon to discuss operational issues, as well as facilitated the travel of Hizballah members to and from Venezuela. In late January 2006, Nasr al Din facilitated the travel of two Hizballah representatives to the Lebanese Parliament to Caracas to solicit donations for Hizballah and to announce the opening of a Hizballah-sponsored community center and office in Venezuela. The previous year, Nasr al Din arranged the travel of Hizballah members to attend a training course in Iran.

More here.

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Audacity Of Presumption

In between designing a new seal and redecorating the White House, the Obama campaign got the idea they would send their man to the Brandenburg Gate to give an address in the footsteps of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. It turns out that German officials may not been keen on allowing their historic spot to be used as a prop for Obamamania. (Can you imagine the swooning Obama Frauleins?) We learn from this report:

“The Brandenburg Gate is the most famous and history-rich site in Germany,” the Chancellery source said. In the past, the location has only been used on very special occasions for political speeches by world leaders. And it has been reserved for use only by elected American presidents, not candidates. The decision on whether the Democrat can speak at the location ultimately lies with the Berlin state government,” Der Spiegel reported.

Harrumph. You know, back when Obama was only a Senator, he reminded us that foreign trips were generally a waste of time. (“I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then–you go.”) And really, since he “already passed those [foreign policy] tests” and his opponent has not, he really shouldn’t have to prove his foreign policy bona fides with a summer abroad after graduation–er, nomination.

Better that he spend his time posing for his presidential portrait, pondering his placement on Mt. Rushmore and getting that basketball court put in the White House. (Or in his downtime he can brush up on the military chain of command.)

In between designing a new seal and redecorating the White House, the Obama campaign got the idea they would send their man to the Brandenburg Gate to give an address in the footsteps of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. It turns out that German officials may not been keen on allowing their historic spot to be used as a prop for Obamamania. (Can you imagine the swooning Obama Frauleins?) We learn from this report:

“The Brandenburg Gate is the most famous and history-rich site in Germany,” the Chancellery source said. In the past, the location has only been used on very special occasions for political speeches by world leaders. And it has been reserved for use only by elected American presidents, not candidates. The decision on whether the Democrat can speak at the location ultimately lies with the Berlin state government,” Der Spiegel reported.

Harrumph. You know, back when Obama was only a Senator, he reminded us that foreign trips were generally a waste of time. (“I know what those trips are like! I’ve been on them. You go from the airport to the embassy. There’s a group of children who do native dance. You meet with the CIA station chief and the embassy and they give you a briefing. You go take a tour of a plant that [with] the assistance of USAID has started something. And then–you go.”) And really, since he “already passed those [foreign policy] tests” and his opponent has not, he really shouldn’t have to prove his foreign policy bona fides with a summer abroad after graduation–er, nomination.

Better that he spend his time posing for his presidential portrait, pondering his placement on Mt. Rushmore and getting that basketball court put in the White House. (Or in his downtime he can brush up on the military chain of command.)

Read Less




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