Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 21, 2008

Prisoner Prices Soar

The logic of prisoner swaps dictates that, over time, successive swaps between states and terrorist organizations become more expensive to states.  This is because terrorist organizations typically exchange prisoners only when they can declare victory – and victory can hardly be declared if a given deal looks paltry compared to one that preceded it.  (On the other hand, when terrorist organizations lose, their captives are, ideally, liberated in the process of their defeat.)  For this reason, states engaging in prisoner swap negotiations with terrorist organizations need to keep the possibility of future prisoner negotiations firmly in mind: giving away too much might make future – and possibly more important – prisoner exchanges cost-prohibitive.

In its recent prisoner swap with Hezbollah, Israel seemingly refused to operate under this logic.  Indeed, it arguably agreed to the most lopsided prisoner swap in history, receiving two black coffins from Hezbollah in exchange for notorious murderer Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah militants, and the bodies of 200 Lebanese and Palestinian militants.  As a consequence of this strategic folly, the price for recovering Israeli captives – and particularly those that are still alive – has soared.

In this vein, Hamas has named an incredibly steep price in negotiations regarding captured IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit.  Consider the following: after Shalit was captured in June 2006, Israel arrested a number of Hamas parliamentarians and ministers, intending to use them as trade bait for negotiating Shalit’s ultimate release.  Well, according to Hamas’ most recent demands, the release of these officials will only secure Shalit’s transfer to Cairo, where his family would be able to visit him under the auspices of Egyptian security authorities.  Meanwhile, the price for finally returning Shalit to Israel is the release of two top Hamas operatives and, most notably, Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti – the most highly coveted Palestinian prisoner, who is currently serving five life sentences for his direct involvement in deadly terrorist attacks during the second Intifada.

This is a price that Israel cannot afford to pay.  Indeed, if Israel includes the popular Barghouti in a deal for Shalit, it will relinquish its most potent chip for strengthening future Palestinian leaders seriously committed to pursuing a peace agreement.  It will further exacerbate the soaring price of prisoners: with Barghouti released, what kind of package could Israel meaningfully assemble if it wanted to negotiate the release of future captives?

The logic of prisoner swaps dictates that, over time, successive swaps between states and terrorist organizations become more expensive to states.  This is because terrorist organizations typically exchange prisoners only when they can declare victory – and victory can hardly be declared if a given deal looks paltry compared to one that preceded it.  (On the other hand, when terrorist organizations lose, their captives are, ideally, liberated in the process of their defeat.)  For this reason, states engaging in prisoner swap negotiations with terrorist organizations need to keep the possibility of future prisoner negotiations firmly in mind: giving away too much might make future – and possibly more important – prisoner exchanges cost-prohibitive.

In its recent prisoner swap with Hezbollah, Israel seemingly refused to operate under this logic.  Indeed, it arguably agreed to the most lopsided prisoner swap in history, receiving two black coffins from Hezbollah in exchange for notorious murderer Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah militants, and the bodies of 200 Lebanese and Palestinian militants.  As a consequence of this strategic folly, the price for recovering Israeli captives – and particularly those that are still alive – has soared.

In this vein, Hamas has named an incredibly steep price in negotiations regarding captured IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit.  Consider the following: after Shalit was captured in June 2006, Israel arrested a number of Hamas parliamentarians and ministers, intending to use them as trade bait for negotiating Shalit’s ultimate release.  Well, according to Hamas’ most recent demands, the release of these officials will only secure Shalit’s transfer to Cairo, where his family would be able to visit him under the auspices of Egyptian security authorities.  Meanwhile, the price for finally returning Shalit to Israel is the release of two top Hamas operatives and, most notably, Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti – the most highly coveted Palestinian prisoner, who is currently serving five life sentences for his direct involvement in deadly terrorist attacks during the second Intifada.

This is a price that Israel cannot afford to pay.  Indeed, if Israel includes the popular Barghouti in a deal for Shalit, it will relinquish its most potent chip for strengthening future Palestinian leaders seriously committed to pursuing a peace agreement.  It will further exacerbate the soaring price of prisoners: with Barghouti released, what kind of package could Israel meaningfully assemble if it wanted to negotiate the release of future captives?

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Now They Want To Rewrite McCain

It’s not enough that the Grey Lady has to ignore the news and storylines which don’t favor their candidate of choice, carry a boatload of pro-Obama columns, and provide space for Barack Obama’s foreign policy announcements. Now the editors want to rewrite John McCain’s op-eds.

Can you imagine the editing process? “Good try, Mr. McCain but you left out the 100-year pledge. And why didn’t you list your age?” I can hardly wait to see what Clark Hoyt has to say about this. (By the way, leaking this is a heck of a lot more creative and effective than those three-page letters of complaint they used to crank out.)

Read the op-ed here. I can understand why the Times wouldn’t want to shake their readers’ world view with a cogently written article raising a bunch of facts the Times hasn’t really covered.

It’s not enough that the Grey Lady has to ignore the news and storylines which don’t favor their candidate of choice, carry a boatload of pro-Obama columns, and provide space for Barack Obama’s foreign policy announcements. Now the editors want to rewrite John McCain’s op-eds.

Can you imagine the editing process? “Good try, Mr. McCain but you left out the 100-year pledge. And why didn’t you list your age?” I can hardly wait to see what Clark Hoyt has to say about this. (By the way, leaking this is a heck of a lot more creative and effective than those three-page letters of complaint they used to crank out.)

Read the op-ed here. I can understand why the Times wouldn’t want to shake their readers’ world view with a cogently written article raising a bunch of facts the Times hasn’t really covered.

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Unintended Consequences

This observation by Peter got me thinking:

Obama’s record on Iraq and the surge is intellectually dishonest and reckless. We can only be glad that his plan, which would have removed all combat troops from Iraq in March 2008, was never put in place, and the defeat he would have authored has not come to pass.

If you were going to devise a method by which to convince the American people of just that — to understand the huge change in Iraq’s political and military condition and the brilliance of the surge and those who devised, executed and hung with it at great political risk — you would try to stage a huge media show there, get all the anchors to visit, make clear that the formerly reviled and ridiculed Prime Minister Maliki is now a sovereign leader and repeat that message over and over again for days on end.

At the end of that process, the poll numbers on questions about whether the surge worked, whether we are winning and can prevail and whether McCain was right to champion the surge would likely move significantly. In fact, people might be so impressed they would question a plan that might risk giving back those gains.

That certainly wasn’t the point of Barack Obama’s trip, but it may be the unintended consequence. Can you imagine a network news anchor now saying that Iraq is hopeless or there is no chance for a robust, independent functioning government? The terms of the debate have shifted dramatically and the Obama trip may be responsible to a large degree for that shift.

One can still ponder whether this indirectly helps Obama (i.e. it’s easier to turn over the country to him knowing Iraq is in better shape) or whether other aspect of the trip boost Obama’s chances (e.g. “Oh, look: the Germans will like us again!” “Wow, he can meet with foreign leaders!”) But few among the MSM will seriously argue now that McCain was wrong and Obama was right on the surge. And the trip will, I think, be seen as part of that mass public and media education effort. It is now up to the McCain team to explain why that matters and why it’s an important enough reason to vote for McCain over the man who would have strangled the surge in its sleep.

This observation by Peter got me thinking:

Obama’s record on Iraq and the surge is intellectually dishonest and reckless. We can only be glad that his plan, which would have removed all combat troops from Iraq in March 2008, was never put in place, and the defeat he would have authored has not come to pass.

If you were going to devise a method by which to convince the American people of just that — to understand the huge change in Iraq’s political and military condition and the brilliance of the surge and those who devised, executed and hung with it at great political risk — you would try to stage a huge media show there, get all the anchors to visit, make clear that the formerly reviled and ridiculed Prime Minister Maliki is now a sovereign leader and repeat that message over and over again for days on end.

At the end of that process, the poll numbers on questions about whether the surge worked, whether we are winning and can prevail and whether McCain was right to champion the surge would likely move significantly. In fact, people might be so impressed they would question a plan that might risk giving back those gains.

That certainly wasn’t the point of Barack Obama’s trip, but it may be the unintended consequence. Can you imagine a network news anchor now saying that Iraq is hopeless or there is no chance for a robust, independent functioning government? The terms of the debate have shifted dramatically and the Obama trip may be responsible to a large degree for that shift.

One can still ponder whether this indirectly helps Obama (i.e. it’s easier to turn over the country to him knowing Iraq is in better shape) or whether other aspect of the trip boost Obama’s chances (e.g. “Oh, look: the Germans will like us again!” “Wow, he can meet with foreign leaders!”) But few among the MSM will seriously argue now that McCain was wrong and Obama was right on the surge. And the trip will, I think, be seen as part of that mass public and media education effort. It is now up to the McCain team to explain why that matters and why it’s an important enough reason to vote for McCain over the man who would have strangled the surge in its sleep.

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The Luck of the Kenya-ish

Successful politicians aren’t just good at what they do; they’re lucky. Good things happen to them, magically. They stage events and the sun shines. They make mistakes and there’s a bigger piece of news on the same day that ensures the gaffe doesn’t become a major story.  But in the annals of candidate luck, there has scarcely been a more fortuitous one than the gift handed to Barack Obama by Nouri al-Maliki in his interview with Der Spiegel. Clearly, Maliki didn’t intend to throw an incendiary device into the middle of the American presidential race by seeming to endorse Obama’s 16-month withdrawal plan; if he had, he would have spoken more clearly. But whether he meant he would like to have American troops out in 16 months or he needed them out in 16 months or that it would be nice if they were gone in 16 months if that were possible — none of that matters. Obama can fairly claim to have staked out a position acceptable to the legitimate government of Iraq. And with that, McCain’s job of convincing the American people that Obama is a novice who cannot be trusted to hold power just become far more difficult.

Successful politicians aren’t just good at what they do; they’re lucky. Good things happen to them, magically. They stage events and the sun shines. They make mistakes and there’s a bigger piece of news on the same day that ensures the gaffe doesn’t become a major story.  But in the annals of candidate luck, there has scarcely been a more fortuitous one than the gift handed to Barack Obama by Nouri al-Maliki in his interview with Der Spiegel. Clearly, Maliki didn’t intend to throw an incendiary device into the middle of the American presidential race by seeming to endorse Obama’s 16-month withdrawal plan; if he had, he would have spoken more clearly. But whether he meant he would like to have American troops out in 16 months or he needed them out in 16 months or that it would be nice if they were gone in 16 months if that were possible — none of that matters. Obama can fairly claim to have staked out a position acceptable to the legitimate government of Iraq. And with that, McCain’s job of convincing the American people that Obama is a novice who cannot be trusted to hold power just become far more difficult.

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Iraq Battle

Barack Obama is getting through Iraq with the secrecy and stealth of a Navy seal. No cameras inside the meetings, no pressers with Maliki, and no room for gaffes. The McCain team is continuing to bat down the Maliki timetable comment (pick your version). (The campaign’s media call is here.) At some point the voters may find it unseemly that Maliki is mucking around in our electoral politics and, worse, that Obama seems to be encouraging it.

Meanwhile, the McCain camp has decided to cede no ground this week. Given Obama’s cocoon (who knew it would get tighter overseas?) he was the one dominating the morning shows. He laid out in very vivid and personal terms his attacks on Obama’s judgment, imperiousness to input and willingness to use the faltering war to win the nomination.

Obama has meetings with Ambassador Crocker and General Petraues. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in those get- togethers?

Barack Obama is getting through Iraq with the secrecy and stealth of a Navy seal. No cameras inside the meetings, no pressers with Maliki, and no room for gaffes. The McCain team is continuing to bat down the Maliki timetable comment (pick your version). (The campaign’s media call is here.) At some point the voters may find it unseemly that Maliki is mucking around in our electoral politics and, worse, that Obama seems to be encouraging it.

Meanwhile, the McCain camp has decided to cede no ground this week. Given Obama’s cocoon (who knew it would get tighter overseas?) he was the one dominating the morning shows. He laid out in very vivid and personal terms his attacks on Obama’s judgment, imperiousness to input and willingness to use the faltering war to win the nomination.

Obama has meetings with Ambassador Crocker and General Petraues. Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall in those get- togethers?

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The Un-Reagan

This latest take on the “there’s no there, there” Barack Obama theory comes from Robert Tracinski, who writes:

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that all there has ever been to Barack Obama is symbolism and grandiloquent speeches. There is the symbolism of him as the (potential) first black president. And there is his ability to give portentous speeches in high-flown Harvard rhetoric, perfectly pitched to sound thoughtful to college-educated liberals–without actually saying anything.

I am not alone in subscribing to the notion that Obama hasn’t contributed much in his years in public service other than being there, weaving somewhat embellished accounts of his deeds, and inducing mass adulation.

That, in part, may be why the flip-flopping meme hit so hard: reporters — and maybe voters — suddenly started to ask what he really was about and what he stood for. Despite assurances from his apologists that he was only about the most vague propositions (“dumb-avoidance“), most of the MSM and his supporters didn’t buy that. He must be about something more than a fortune cookie platitude, right? (“Oh, golly, Hillary Clinton was right,” no doubt flashed in the minds of the more intellectually honest.) It is unnerving to think we might select a president about whom so little is known and whose worldview is so nebulous.

That is also why the comparison and attempt to grab on to Reagan-esque rhetoric and imagery is so silly. Yes, Reagan was inspiring and uplifting, but he was inspiring and uplifting because of what he said and the ideas he espoused. He would no more utter gibberish like “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” than declare Communism to be just an alternative political system. There was perhaps no president in our lifetimes who had so painstakingly developed and explained his philosphy of government than Reagan. He was the un-Obama.

So it is one thing not to have accomplished much. It is quite another not to have a fixed philosophy or world view other than the celebration of your own ability to inspire. Perhaps we should start believing Obama when he says he’s not liberal or conservative. Maybe he’s not anything in particular.

This latest take on the “there’s no there, there” Barack Obama theory comes from Robert Tracinski, who writes:

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that all there has ever been to Barack Obama is symbolism and grandiloquent speeches. There is the symbolism of him as the (potential) first black president. And there is his ability to give portentous speeches in high-flown Harvard rhetoric, perfectly pitched to sound thoughtful to college-educated liberals–without actually saying anything.

I am not alone in subscribing to the notion that Obama hasn’t contributed much in his years in public service other than being there, weaving somewhat embellished accounts of his deeds, and inducing mass adulation.

That, in part, may be why the flip-flopping meme hit so hard: reporters — and maybe voters — suddenly started to ask what he really was about and what he stood for. Despite assurances from his apologists that he was only about the most vague propositions (“dumb-avoidance“), most of the MSM and his supporters didn’t buy that. He must be about something more than a fortune cookie platitude, right? (“Oh, golly, Hillary Clinton was right,” no doubt flashed in the minds of the more intellectually honest.) It is unnerving to think we might select a president about whom so little is known and whose worldview is so nebulous.

That is also why the comparison and attempt to grab on to Reagan-esque rhetoric and imagery is so silly. Yes, Reagan was inspiring and uplifting, but he was inspiring and uplifting because of what he said and the ideas he espoused. He would no more utter gibberish like “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” than declare Communism to be just an alternative political system. There was perhaps no president in our lifetimes who had so painstakingly developed and explained his philosphy of government than Reagan. He was the un-Obama.

So it is one thing not to have accomplished much. It is quite another not to have a fixed philosophy or world view other than the celebration of your own ability to inspire. Perhaps we should start believing Obama when he says he’s not liberal or conservative. Maybe he’s not anything in particular.

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Maliki Feints

What is Prime Minister Maliki up to with his seeming endorsement of Obama’s 16 month withdrawal timetable, followed by a quick backtrack by his spokesman, and then another reversal of sorts today? The most persuasive answer I’ve seen comes in this Associated Press analysis by Robert Reid. In good AP style, his first few paragraphs sum up his thesis:

The Iraqi prime minister’s seeming endorsement of Barack Obama‘s troop withdrawal plan is part of Baghdad’s strategy to play U.S. politics for the best deal possible over America’s military mission.

The goal is not necessarily to push out the Americans quickly, but instead give Iraqis a major voice in how long U.S. troops stay and what they will do while still there.

It also is designed to refurbish the nationalist credentials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his political survival to the steadfast support of President Bush. Now, an increasingly confident Iraqi government seems to be undermining long-standing White House policies on Iraq.

In other words, Maliki is not really trying to push U.S. troops out by mid-2010, as Senator Obama proposes. He is playing politics-Iraqi politics. The fact that it’s having an impact on U.S. politics is probably an unintended byproduct from Maliki’s viewpoint.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive, click here.

What is Prime Minister Maliki up to with his seeming endorsement of Obama’s 16 month withdrawal timetable, followed by a quick backtrack by his spokesman, and then another reversal of sorts today? The most persuasive answer I’ve seen comes in this Associated Press analysis by Robert Reid. In good AP style, his first few paragraphs sum up his thesis:

The Iraqi prime minister’s seeming endorsement of Barack Obama‘s troop withdrawal plan is part of Baghdad’s strategy to play U.S. politics for the best deal possible over America’s military mission.

The goal is not necessarily to push out the Americans quickly, but instead give Iraqis a major voice in how long U.S. troops stay and what they will do while still there.

It also is designed to refurbish the nationalist credentials of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who owes his political survival to the steadfast support of President Bush. Now, an increasingly confident Iraqi government seems to be undermining long-standing White House policies on Iraq.

In other words, Maliki is not really trying to push U.S. troops out by mid-2010, as Senator Obama proposes. He is playing politics-Iraqi politics. The fact that it’s having an impact on U.S. politics is probably an unintended byproduct from Maliki’s viewpoint.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive, click here.

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Dr. Evil

Michigan State University may become the latest educational institution to revoke an honorary degree from Robert Mugabe. “You look at Dr. Mugabe’s actions over the last few decades and ask, ‘Are those consistent with the ideals and principles that Michigan State University espouses?’” says an MSU official.

Such deliberations are part of a familiar pattern of latter-day discussion about the Zimbabwean tyrant, which goes something like this: Mugabe was a good leader gone bad, a heroic “liberation” hero corrupted by power. This is a comforting argument, especially to those who championed him at the time (like, presumably, the MSU officials who awarded him the doctorate in the first place). But it ignores the crucial fact that Mugabe was an authoritarian from the beginning.

This closing comment from a “Peace and Justice Studies” professor–surprise, surprise–is even more outrageous.

Steve Sharra is a visiting professor of philosophy and adviser to the Peace and Justice Studies Program. He’s also a native of Malawi and has relatives in Zimbabwe.

Sharra called Mugabe “a monster,” but he also said that withdrawing his degree is less important than starting a discussion about what’s happening in Zimbabwe, about the legacies of colonialism, about the continuing role that rich countries play in determining the conditions in poor ones.

He said, too, that there’s a double standard in play.

“I don’t think it’s Mugabe only who is responsible only for killing people and inflicting violence,” he said.

“The current wars we have around the world today are the responsibility of a number of Western leaders and you don’t hear many people talking about condemning them.”

Never mind the ignorance evidenced by the statement that “you don’t hear many people talking about condemning [Western leaders]” (does Sharra live in a cave?). How can one compare the “wars” of which Sharra speaks — presumably Afghanistan and Iraq — to the violence Robert Mugabe has inflicted upon his own people? The “Western” presence in both countries is approved by United Nations mandates. And while one can, of course, criticize the decision to go to war in both instances or the tactical and strategic conduct of the wars, the motives behind those military operations are on a completely different moral plane than the rape of Zimbabwe committed by the ZANU-PF gang. Moral equivalence, anyone?

Michigan State University may become the latest educational institution to revoke an honorary degree from Robert Mugabe. “You look at Dr. Mugabe’s actions over the last few decades and ask, ‘Are those consistent with the ideals and principles that Michigan State University espouses?’” says an MSU official.

Such deliberations are part of a familiar pattern of latter-day discussion about the Zimbabwean tyrant, which goes something like this: Mugabe was a good leader gone bad, a heroic “liberation” hero corrupted by power. This is a comforting argument, especially to those who championed him at the time (like, presumably, the MSU officials who awarded him the doctorate in the first place). But it ignores the crucial fact that Mugabe was an authoritarian from the beginning.

This closing comment from a “Peace and Justice Studies” professor–surprise, surprise–is even more outrageous.

Steve Sharra is a visiting professor of philosophy and adviser to the Peace and Justice Studies Program. He’s also a native of Malawi and has relatives in Zimbabwe.

Sharra called Mugabe “a monster,” but he also said that withdrawing his degree is less important than starting a discussion about what’s happening in Zimbabwe, about the legacies of colonialism, about the continuing role that rich countries play in determining the conditions in poor ones.

He said, too, that there’s a double standard in play.

“I don’t think it’s Mugabe only who is responsible only for killing people and inflicting violence,” he said.

“The current wars we have around the world today are the responsibility of a number of Western leaders and you don’t hear many people talking about condemning them.”

Never mind the ignorance evidenced by the statement that “you don’t hear many people talking about condemning [Western leaders]” (does Sharra live in a cave?). How can one compare the “wars” of which Sharra speaks — presumably Afghanistan and Iraq — to the violence Robert Mugabe has inflicted upon his own people? The “Western” presence in both countries is approved by United Nations mandates. And while one can, of course, criticize the decision to go to war in both instances or the tactical and strategic conduct of the wars, the motives behind those military operations are on a completely different moral plane than the rape of Zimbabwe committed by the ZANU-PF gang. Moral equivalence, anyone?

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Three Hundred All Asleep At The Wheel?

Neither Winnie-the-Pooh fan Richard Danzig or the other 299 foreign policy advisors to the Great Man spotted this coming:

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign said today that his speech in Berlin on the future of trans-Atlantic relations will be delivered in front of a Prussian war monument, rather than the Brandenburg Gate. The announcement triggered criticism in Germany that the Victory Column, or Siegessaeule, was an inappropriate landmark for the Thursday speech, since the 226-foot column honors Prussian triumphs over Denmark, Austria and France.The Siegessaeule, built in 1873, stood in front of Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag, until the late 1930s, when Adolf Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, moved it to its current location in the middle of the Tiergarten park. Since German reunification, the column has become known as the central location for Berlin residents to party.

Really, if you are going to argue to the world what a dunce George W. Bush has been, it is better not to be a dunce yourself. (The notion that he might take advantage of the location to extol the virtue of “victory” is as delightful as it is remote.)

And worse still for Obama, there are reports that European governments are not as enamored of the Agent of Change as are the teaming masses. In Germany “there is unease with the Illinois senator’s cult-like following and skepticism about whether he can live up to the hype.” Really? Says one European think-tank guru: “”We know what McCain stands for, we know who we are dealing with . . . Obama stands for change, he is an energetic, self-made man, and that is heart-warming, but we need to know more about his policies.” Well, we can relate to that sentiment.

Neither Winnie-the-Pooh fan Richard Danzig or the other 299 foreign policy advisors to the Great Man spotted this coming:

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign said today that his speech in Berlin on the future of trans-Atlantic relations will be delivered in front of a Prussian war monument, rather than the Brandenburg Gate. The announcement triggered criticism in Germany that the Victory Column, or Siegessaeule, was an inappropriate landmark for the Thursday speech, since the 226-foot column honors Prussian triumphs over Denmark, Austria and France.The Siegessaeule, built in 1873, stood in front of Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag, until the late 1930s, when Adolf Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, moved it to its current location in the middle of the Tiergarten park. Since German reunification, the column has become known as the central location for Berlin residents to party.

Really, if you are going to argue to the world what a dunce George W. Bush has been, it is better not to be a dunce yourself. (The notion that he might take advantage of the location to extol the virtue of “victory” is as delightful as it is remote.)

And worse still for Obama, there are reports that European governments are not as enamored of the Agent of Change as are the teaming masses. In Germany “there is unease with the Illinois senator’s cult-like following and skepticism about whether he can live up to the hype.” Really? Says one European think-tank guru: “”We know what McCain stands for, we know who we are dealing with . . . Obama stands for change, he is an energetic, self-made man, and that is heart-warming, but we need to know more about his policies.” Well, we can relate to that sentiment.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not only has the MSM lost their minds on Lebanon, but so has the Bush administration.

In AOL’s unscientific poll, 60% agree with Phil Gramm’s “whiner” comment. Sometimes campaigns need to give voters more credit.

The wonders of human ingenuity. And imported from the U.S., no less.

If you thought Ruth Bader Ginsburg was extreme in her Gumby view of the Constituion (stretch and bend it anyway you like) you haven’t seen anything yet.

If the mainstream media did its job (reporting facts) and the Fed did its job (watching the money supply) rather than running around trying to save every failing financial institution and cushion those responsible from the impact of their bad decisions, we might all be better off.

Look on the bright side of this cultural phenomenon: it makes Wall-E seem downright cheery.

Ego? Nah. (And what’s with the whispering interviewer? Is that how one talks in the Great Man’s presence?)

Education seems like it should be a bigger issue than it is. Could McCain do on education what he did on energy ( i.e. paint Obama as Dr. No)?

It is not just Obama who can’t find his moral compass on Samir Kuntar.

Mickey Kaus reminds us that Chuck Hagel is horribly misguided and John McCain is too nice.

Is Pennsylvania is really in play? Put it on the list with Arkansas of states which would have been safely blue if Hillary Clinton had gotten the nomination.

No wonder he didn’t invite the European press along: “Yet the global coming of the Obamessiah is manna for critics who claim the Illinois senator has embarked on a humourless cult of personality. ”

This is a good argument. Call it “spin,” but asking what Iraq would have looked like this week without the surge seems like the central issue on this topic.

Understandable that Al Gore wouldn’t want to serve in the White House. Too cramped.

How’d you like to run a marathon in that? And why was it they got the Olympic games, again? (Al Gore should try organizing some environmental protests there –that’d be interesting to watch.)

“Sunni Bloc Rejoins Iraqi Government, Amid Reconciliation Hopes.” Doesn’t that seem to warrant better than page 12, especially when Obama is claiming he needs to threaten the Iraqis with withdrawal to promote political progress? Come to think of it, that explains why it’s on page 12.

Not only has the MSM lost their minds on Lebanon, but so has the Bush administration.

In AOL’s unscientific poll, 60% agree with Phil Gramm’s “whiner” comment. Sometimes campaigns need to give voters more credit.

The wonders of human ingenuity. And imported from the U.S., no less.

If you thought Ruth Bader Ginsburg was extreme in her Gumby view of the Constituion (stretch and bend it anyway you like) you haven’t seen anything yet.

If the mainstream media did its job (reporting facts) and the Fed did its job (watching the money supply) rather than running around trying to save every failing financial institution and cushion those responsible from the impact of their bad decisions, we might all be better off.

Look on the bright side of this cultural phenomenon: it makes Wall-E seem downright cheery.

Ego? Nah. (And what’s with the whispering interviewer? Is that how one talks in the Great Man’s presence?)

Education seems like it should be a bigger issue than it is. Could McCain do on education what he did on energy ( i.e. paint Obama as Dr. No)?

It is not just Obama who can’t find his moral compass on Samir Kuntar.

Mickey Kaus reminds us that Chuck Hagel is horribly misguided and John McCain is too nice.

Is Pennsylvania is really in play? Put it on the list with Arkansas of states which would have been safely blue if Hillary Clinton had gotten the nomination.

No wonder he didn’t invite the European press along: “Yet the global coming of the Obamessiah is manna for critics who claim the Illinois senator has embarked on a humourless cult of personality. ”

This is a good argument. Call it “spin,” but asking what Iraq would have looked like this week without the surge seems like the central issue on this topic.

Understandable that Al Gore wouldn’t want to serve in the White House. Too cramped.

How’d you like to run a marathon in that? And why was it they got the Olympic games, again? (Al Gore should try organizing some environmental protests there –that’d be interesting to watch.)

“Sunni Bloc Rejoins Iraqi Government, Amid Reconciliation Hopes.” Doesn’t that seem to warrant better than page 12, especially when Obama is claiming he needs to threaten the Iraqis with withdrawal to promote political progress? Come to think of it, that explains why it’s on page 12.

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Time For Facts

The Democrats have argued for years that Ronald Reagan and then George W. Bush “gave tax cuts to the rich.” Around that has grown a whole host of beliefs: our tax code has become regressive, the middle class isn’t enjoying the benefits of a growth economy, and we need greater “tax fairness.” One problem: none of this corresponds with reality. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Well, the latest IRS data have arrived on who paid what share of income taxes in 2006, and it’s going to be hard for the rich to pay any more than they already do. The data show that the 2003 Bush tax cuts caused what may be the biggest increase in tax payments by the rich in American history. The nearby chart shows that the top 1% of taxpayers, those who earn above $388,806, paid 40% of all income taxes in 2006, the highest share in at least 40 years. The top 10% in income, those earning more than $108,904, paid 71%. Barack Obama says he’s going to cut taxes for those at the bottom, but that’s also going to be a challenge because Americans with an income below the median paid a record low 2.9% of all income taxes, while the top 50% paid 97.1%. Perhaps he thinks half the country should pay all the taxes to support the other half. Aha, we are told: The rich paid more taxes because they made a greater share of the money. That is true. The top 1% earned 22% of all reported income. But they also paid a share of taxes not far from double their share of income. In other words, the tax code is already steeply progressive.

Coupled with America’s remarkable income mobility, there is little left of the cartoon image Barack Obama paints of the tax landscape. And it’s not all that appealing when put in stark terms to voters who don’t like the emphasis on income redistribution.

So what to do about this if you are John McCain? It takes a Herculean effort to disabuse voters of the “rich getting away with murder” narrative and will bring howls of derision from the Obama camp that will make the Phil Gramm episode seem like a walk in the park. But McCain is the straight-talker, after all. And it is incumbent on him to explain not just why further income distribution is unneeded and ill-advised, but why the search for every more tax dollars to pay for trillions of new domestic spending is a a recipe for disaster.

It might be time to pull out those Ross Perot charts, level with the American people, and then come up with his own tax policy. There is no shortage of ideas and it would be one way to differentiate himself from the current administration. That doesn’t mean adopting Obama’s tax perspective, but it does mean crafting a pro-growth and pro-family tax plan that doesn’t rest on incorrect assumptions about the economy. He seized the high ground on energy policy. Maybe by leveling with voters he can do the same on tax policy.

The Democrats have argued for years that Ronald Reagan and then George W. Bush “gave tax cuts to the rich.” Around that has grown a whole host of beliefs: our tax code has become regressive, the middle class isn’t enjoying the benefits of a growth economy, and we need greater “tax fairness.” One problem: none of this corresponds with reality. The Wall Street Journal editors explain:

Well, the latest IRS data have arrived on who paid what share of income taxes in 2006, and it’s going to be hard for the rich to pay any more than they already do. The data show that the 2003 Bush tax cuts caused what may be the biggest increase in tax payments by the rich in American history. The nearby chart shows that the top 1% of taxpayers, those who earn above $388,806, paid 40% of all income taxes in 2006, the highest share in at least 40 years. The top 10% in income, those earning more than $108,904, paid 71%. Barack Obama says he’s going to cut taxes for those at the bottom, but that’s also going to be a challenge because Americans with an income below the median paid a record low 2.9% of all income taxes, while the top 50% paid 97.1%. Perhaps he thinks half the country should pay all the taxes to support the other half. Aha, we are told: The rich paid more taxes because they made a greater share of the money. That is true. The top 1% earned 22% of all reported income. But they also paid a share of taxes not far from double their share of income. In other words, the tax code is already steeply progressive.

Coupled with America’s remarkable income mobility, there is little left of the cartoon image Barack Obama paints of the tax landscape. And it’s not all that appealing when put in stark terms to voters who don’t like the emphasis on income redistribution.

So what to do about this if you are John McCain? It takes a Herculean effort to disabuse voters of the “rich getting away with murder” narrative and will bring howls of derision from the Obama camp that will make the Phil Gramm episode seem like a walk in the park. But McCain is the straight-talker, after all. And it is incumbent on him to explain not just why further income distribution is unneeded and ill-advised, but why the search for every more tax dollars to pay for trillions of new domestic spending is a a recipe for disaster.

It might be time to pull out those Ross Perot charts, level with the American people, and then come up with his own tax policy. There is no shortage of ideas and it would be one way to differentiate himself from the current administration. That doesn’t mean adopting Obama’s tax perspective, but it does mean crafting a pro-growth and pro-family tax plan that doesn’t rest on incorrect assumptions about the economy. He seized the high ground on energy policy. Maybe by leveling with voters he can do the same on tax policy.

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Why He Almost Didn’t Make It, But Might Now

This New York Times piece is likely music to the McCain teams’ ears, but nails on the chalkboard to some in the conservative base who still are coming to grips with John McCain as the party’s leader. There is probably no paragraph which sums it up better:

To partisans on either side, Mr. McCain’s path could be puzzling, even infuriating. On the defining issue of the Iraq war, he hammered both sides: the White House for its execution of the conflict and the Democrats for their opposition. On immigration, he joined the Democrats and the White House to battle his own party. And to the Republican leaders, he was a serial turncoat on other domestic matters, marching at the head of a Democratic column into fights over tax cuts, campaign finance restrictions, Alaskan oil drilling, access to generic drugs, gun-show sales, pollution caps, the 9/11 commission and the use of torture.

The ins and outs, the battles, the hurt feelings and the LBJ analogy are all there. Love him or hate him, he’s made a mark, he’s done things, he’s tried to put his beliefs into practice and he didn’t place party loyalty above country when it came to a failing war effort. Certainly, the quirky, ad hoc ideology is not what movement conservatives wanted. But it’s who they’ve got, and that very profile may be the only shot the GOP has to retain the White House.

Other than dropping the article from airplanes all over the country, the McCain camp would do well to figure out how to explain the essence of the piece to those key swing voters–hopefully without infuriating the Right in his own party too badly. But the contrast in effort, vigor, accomplishment and results between him and his opponent is vast. He better be able to make that clear to voters who can easily be swayed by someone bemoaning how “Washington is where good ideas go to die.”

This New York Times piece is likely music to the McCain teams’ ears, but nails on the chalkboard to some in the conservative base who still are coming to grips with John McCain as the party’s leader. There is probably no paragraph which sums it up better:

To partisans on either side, Mr. McCain’s path could be puzzling, even infuriating. On the defining issue of the Iraq war, he hammered both sides: the White House for its execution of the conflict and the Democrats for their opposition. On immigration, he joined the Democrats and the White House to battle his own party. And to the Republican leaders, he was a serial turncoat on other domestic matters, marching at the head of a Democratic column into fights over tax cuts, campaign finance restrictions, Alaskan oil drilling, access to generic drugs, gun-show sales, pollution caps, the 9/11 commission and the use of torture.

The ins and outs, the battles, the hurt feelings and the LBJ analogy are all there. Love him or hate him, he’s made a mark, he’s done things, he’s tried to put his beliefs into practice and he didn’t place party loyalty above country when it came to a failing war effort. Certainly, the quirky, ad hoc ideology is not what movement conservatives wanted. But it’s who they’ve got, and that very profile may be the only shot the GOP has to retain the White House.

Other than dropping the article from airplanes all over the country, the McCain camp would do well to figure out how to explain the essence of the piece to those key swing voters–hopefully without infuriating the Right in his own party too badly. But the contrast in effort, vigor, accomplishment and results between him and his opponent is vast. He better be able to make that clear to voters who can easily be swayed by someone bemoaning how “Washington is where good ideas go to die.”

Read Less




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