Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 22, 2008

Bush Channels Obama

The Bush administration’s decision to send the No. 3 official from the State Department to Geneva to meet with representatives of Iran and other nations has been taken as confirmation of the wisdom of Barack Obama’s policy of entering into high-level negotiations with our enemies. It is no such thing. The meeting itself was a bust, and for reasons that illuminate why Obama’s prescriptions are not very promising.

According to this New York Times article, the Iranian representatives had no real interest in negotiating. They presented two pages of demands billed ungrammatically if appropriately as a “None Paper” (apparently they meant “nonpaper,” diplomatic shorthand for an unofficial negotiating position). Apparently it was so insubstantial that “Sergei Kisliak, the Russian deputy foreign minister, could not suppress a laugh when he read it.”

The other countries had offered Iran a deal. “For six weeks, Iran would not add ‘any new nuclear activity,’ refraining from the new installation of centrifuges that enrich uranium, and the United States and other powers would not seek new United Nations sanctions.” Said Secretary of State Rice: “We expected to hear an answer from the Iranians, but as has been the case so many times with the Iranians, what came through was not serious.”

Instead of making serious concessions, the Times reports, the Iranians “left the impression that they wanted to lure the parties into an open-ended, cost-free, high-level negotiating process.” Barack Obama is playing right into their hands.

The Bush administration’s decision to send the No. 3 official from the State Department to Geneva to meet with representatives of Iran and other nations has been taken as confirmation of the wisdom of Barack Obama’s policy of entering into high-level negotiations with our enemies. It is no such thing. The meeting itself was a bust, and for reasons that illuminate why Obama’s prescriptions are not very promising.

According to this New York Times article, the Iranian representatives had no real interest in negotiating. They presented two pages of demands billed ungrammatically if appropriately as a “None Paper” (apparently they meant “nonpaper,” diplomatic shorthand for an unofficial negotiating position). Apparently it was so insubstantial that “Sergei Kisliak, the Russian deputy foreign minister, could not suppress a laugh when he read it.”

The other countries had offered Iran a deal. “For six weeks, Iran would not add ‘any new nuclear activity,’ refraining from the new installation of centrifuges that enrich uranium, and the United States and other powers would not seek new United Nations sanctions.” Said Secretary of State Rice: “We expected to hear an answer from the Iranians, but as has been the case so many times with the Iranians, what came through was not serious.”

Instead of making serious concessions, the Times reports, the Iranians “left the impression that they wanted to lure the parties into an open-ended, cost-free, high-level negotiating process.” Barack Obama is playing right into their hands.

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How Is This Hypocritical, Exactly?

Over at The American Prospect, Tim Fernholz says that conservative complaints over the New York Times’ refusal to publish a draft of an op-ed by John McCain is “rank hypocrisy” because conservatives also support the revocation of the “Fairness Doctrine.” That law, repealed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and one which many liberals wish to restore, required broadcasters to provide equal time to proponents on all sides of political issues. (This piece by John Fund accurately shows why the law violated the First Amendment.)

The law’s being scrapped eventually gave rise to conservative talk radio and Fox News. And liberal attempts to combat such conservative media — like Air America — have failed. Hence their perpetual effort to reinstate an Orwellian regulation that would tell privately-owned media outlets how to operate. “It really just provides for reasonable discussion of views, but the Right demagogues the issue to raise money and keep Rush Limbaugh on the air unopposed,” Fernholz writes. (“Provide for reasonable discussion of views” is a nice euphemism for “government censorship.”)

But there’s nothing “hypocritical” about criticizing the Times’ refusal to print the McCain op-ed and simultaneously opposing the Fairness Doctrine. While Fernholz permits that “The FCC’s regulation wouldn’t affect a print newspaper,” he seems to be missing the bigger picture. There is a clear difference–one that he apprently can’t discern–between the government ordering a private media entity to cover news and opinion in a certain way and a presidential campaign complaining about what it believes to be unfair coverage. No conservatives I’ve read are saying that the government should tell the Times what to print–a fact which undermines completely Fernholz’s charges of hypocrisy.

Over at The American Prospect, Tim Fernholz says that conservative complaints over the New York Times’ refusal to publish a draft of an op-ed by John McCain is “rank hypocrisy” because conservatives also support the revocation of the “Fairness Doctrine.” That law, repealed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and one which many liberals wish to restore, required broadcasters to provide equal time to proponents on all sides of political issues. (This piece by John Fund accurately shows why the law violated the First Amendment.)

The law’s being scrapped eventually gave rise to conservative talk radio and Fox News. And liberal attempts to combat such conservative media — like Air America — have failed. Hence their perpetual effort to reinstate an Orwellian regulation that would tell privately-owned media outlets how to operate. “It really just provides for reasonable discussion of views, but the Right demagogues the issue to raise money and keep Rush Limbaugh on the air unopposed,” Fernholz writes. (“Provide for reasonable discussion of views” is a nice euphemism for “government censorship.”)

But there’s nothing “hypocritical” about criticizing the Times’ refusal to print the McCain op-ed and simultaneously opposing the Fairness Doctrine. While Fernholz permits that “The FCC’s regulation wouldn’t affect a print newspaper,” he seems to be missing the bigger picture. There is a clear difference–one that he apprently can’t discern–between the government ordering a private media entity to cover news and opinion in a certain way and a presidential campaign complaining about what it believes to be unfair coverage. No conservatives I’ve read are saying that the government should tell the Times what to print–a fact which undermines completely Fernholz’s charges of hypocrisy.

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Good News from India

The Bush administration’s foreign policy appears, on the whole, to be deeply troubled in the President’s waning days. Iraq aside, there aren’t a lot of successes to boast of. So it is all the more cheering to see a notable victory in India where the parliament has just returned a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government by a wider-than-expected margin.

That’s good news for the U.S., because the vote was widely seen as a referendum on the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, which is the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s policy to forge a strategic alliance with India. That country can serve as an important bulwark against China as well as a friend in the fight against radical Islam. There are still obstacles to completing the deal, but this was the major hurdle, and now it’s been cleared. Assuming the accord now goes through, this is likely to be one Bush initiative that any successor, Democratic or Republican, will carry through. It may even someday be remembered as one of the administration’s most important achievements.

The Bush administration’s foreign policy appears, on the whole, to be deeply troubled in the President’s waning days. Iraq aside, there aren’t a lot of successes to boast of. So it is all the more cheering to see a notable victory in India where the parliament has just returned a vote of confidence in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government by a wider-than-expected margin.

That’s good news for the U.S., because the vote was widely seen as a referendum on the U.S.-India nuclear agreement, which is the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s policy to forge a strategic alliance with India. That country can serve as an important bulwark against China as well as a friend in the fight against radical Islam. There are still obstacles to completing the deal, but this was the major hurdle, and now it’s been cleared. Assuming the accord now goes through, this is likely to be one Bush initiative that any successor, Democratic or Republican, will carry through. It may even someday be remembered as one of the administration’s most important achievements.

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Another Code Word

Jordan’s King Abdullah reportedly told Barack Obama that “even-handed” policies by the U.S. would bring about a more peaceful Middle East. Now let’s see if Winnie-the-Pooh guru Richard Danzig and the rest of the Legion of 300 can spot that one. This would be a “code word.” This has been the constant refrain from Arab states: the U.S. should be an “honest broker” and give up its special relationship with Israel, followed by all manner of prodding and pushing to resolve the Palestinian conflict (to which which they attribute all that ills the Middle East). So my question: what did Obama say in return?

His press conference on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggests he might not quibble with Abdullah. Obama’s remarks are a tour de force of moral relativism. Not a harsh word about the murdered Israeli soldiers. But plenty of “context” and not a hint that he would disagree with Abdullah’s admonition. His remarks include gems like this:

And that’s why terrorism is so counterproductive, as well as being immoral, because it makes, I believe, the Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what’s going on beyond their borders. I think the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happen and innocent people are injured. On the other hand, I think that the Palestinians have to feel some sense of progress in terms of their economic situation, you know, whether it’s on the West Bank or Gaza, if people continually feel pressed, where they can’t get to their job or they can’t make a living, they get frustrated.

And the suggested approach? Give the Palestinians more stuff and more freedom of movement:

And so, I think what the United States can do is — is to help to create more — a greater sense of security among the Israelis, a greater sense that economic progress and increased freedom of movement is something that can be accomplished in the Palestinian territories.

Is there any recognition in the wake of the recent atrocities that Israel lack the one key ingredient to peace negotiations — a responsible part with which to negotiate? No. Is there any evidence that giving the Palestinians more stuff and more “freedom of movement” (from precisely where to where, would he suggest?) improves matters? No.

So someone might ask Obama if Abdullah’s formulation is the one he’ll be following. From every indication it appears to be exactly what he has in mind. And there is a reason why Israelis are nervous.

Jordan’s King Abdullah reportedly told Barack Obama that “even-handed” policies by the U.S. would bring about a more peaceful Middle East. Now let’s see if Winnie-the-Pooh guru Richard Danzig and the rest of the Legion of 300 can spot that one. This would be a “code word.” This has been the constant refrain from Arab states: the U.S. should be an “honest broker” and give up its special relationship with Israel, followed by all manner of prodding and pushing to resolve the Palestinian conflict (to which which they attribute all that ills the Middle East). So my question: what did Obama say in return?

His press conference on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggests he might not quibble with Abdullah. Obama’s remarks are a tour de force of moral relativism. Not a harsh word about the murdered Israeli soldiers. But plenty of “context” and not a hint that he would disagree with Abdullah’s admonition. His remarks include gems like this:

And that’s why terrorism is so counterproductive, as well as being immoral, because it makes, I believe, the Israelis want to dig in and simply think about their own security regardless of what’s going on beyond their borders. I think the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happen and innocent people are injured. On the other hand, I think that the Palestinians have to feel some sense of progress in terms of their economic situation, you know, whether it’s on the West Bank or Gaza, if people continually feel pressed, where they can’t get to their job or they can’t make a living, they get frustrated.

And the suggested approach? Give the Palestinians more stuff and more freedom of movement:

And so, I think what the United States can do is — is to help to create more — a greater sense of security among the Israelis, a greater sense that economic progress and increased freedom of movement is something that can be accomplished in the Palestinian territories.

Is there any recognition in the wake of the recent atrocities that Israel lack the one key ingredient to peace negotiations — a responsible part with which to negotiate? No. Is there any evidence that giving the Palestinians more stuff and more “freedom of movement” (from precisely where to where, would he suggest?) improves matters? No.

So someone might ask Obama if Abdullah’s formulation is the one he’ll be following. From every indication it appears to be exactly what he has in mind. And there is a reason why Israelis are nervous.

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Barrels of Snake Oil

Barack Obama in a tough interview with Katie Couric (yeah, really) gives this explanation for why the surge even in retrospect was a bad idea:

Because … it’s pretty straightforward. By us putting $10 billion to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that’s money that could have gone into Afghanistan. Those additional troops could have gone into Afghanistan. That money also could have been used to shore up a declining economic situation in the United States. That money could have been applied to having a serious energy security plan so that we were reducing our demand on oil, which is helping to fund the insurgents in many countries. So those are all factors that would be taken into consideration in my decision– to deal with a specific tactic or strategy inside of Iraq.

So aside from wanting to use the money elsewhere (a dubious proposition which apparently would support making all national security decisions based on calculus as to whether Obama would like more domestic spending) there, of course, is the utter disconnect, an avoidance of reality.

What, Senator, would have occurred without the surge? Would it have been alright for the U.S. to be badly defeated, Al Qaeda to achieve a victory, genocide to have broken out, and the leaders he met with yesterday to likely be slaughtered or forced into exile? In his fantasy world Iraq simply was an unfortunate distraction from college tuition subsidies and from a war involving the very same enemy in Afghanistan.

Again, one need not have supported the war from the onset to have realized (either in 2006 or now) that losing it would have been a disaster. And now to say, well I really wanted to do something else with the money seems frankly childish. We had a mess, we fixed it, he opposed the fix and now he wishes we hadn’t fixed the mess. This is not an advertisement for presidential leadership. (It is perhaps a McCain campaign ad.)

Barack Obama in a tough interview with Katie Couric (yeah, really) gives this explanation for why the surge even in retrospect was a bad idea:

Because … it’s pretty straightforward. By us putting $10 billion to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that’s money that could have gone into Afghanistan. Those additional troops could have gone into Afghanistan. That money also could have been used to shore up a declining economic situation in the United States. That money could have been applied to having a serious energy security plan so that we were reducing our demand on oil, which is helping to fund the insurgents in many countries. So those are all factors that would be taken into consideration in my decision– to deal with a specific tactic or strategy inside of Iraq.

So aside from wanting to use the money elsewhere (a dubious proposition which apparently would support making all national security decisions based on calculus as to whether Obama would like more domestic spending) there, of course, is the utter disconnect, an avoidance of reality.

What, Senator, would have occurred without the surge? Would it have been alright for the U.S. to be badly defeated, Al Qaeda to achieve a victory, genocide to have broken out, and the leaders he met with yesterday to likely be slaughtered or forced into exile? In his fantasy world Iraq simply was an unfortunate distraction from college tuition subsidies and from a war involving the very same enemy in Afghanistan.

Again, one need not have supported the war from the onset to have realized (either in 2006 or now) that losing it would have been a disaster. And now to say, well I really wanted to do something else with the money seems frankly childish. We had a mess, we fixed it, he opposed the fix and now he wishes we hadn’t fixed the mess. This is not an advertisement for presidential leadership. (It is perhaps a McCain campaign ad.)

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Dan Gillerman’s Parting Shot

Gillerman is stepping down after six years as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, and left on a characteristically magnificent note:

“This is most probably my last appearance before you as the representative of the state of Israel,” he said. “I would like to thank each and every one of you for the time you have spent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and our problems.” However, he later made clear that “whatever happens, whatever you discuss, whatever transpires — Israel will prevail.”

Gillerman is stepping down after six years as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, and left on a characteristically magnificent note:

“This is most probably my last appearance before you as the representative of the state of Israel,” he said. “I would like to thank each and every one of you for the time you have spent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and our problems.” However, he later made clear that “whatever happens, whatever you discuss, whatever transpires — Israel will prevail.”

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Do We Care?

John McCain (directly in a town hall setting and through surrogates) today is trying to make the point about Barack Obama’s willingness to lose a war in order to win an election. In the media call earlier today foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann argued:

What is Senator Obama’s judgment based on? He predicted the surge would increase violence. He was wrong. He voted to cut off funds for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was wrong. Now he wants to supplant his judgment for successful military commanders. . . Senator Obama will not credit generals; he will not credit the strategy that works. And he consistently demonstrates his core judgment and his inflexibility in the face of clear facts on the ground.

Can this salient point penetrate the media love fest? Well, at least he got Katie Couric’s attention. (It is an out-of-body experience to hear MSM reporters say things like the surge has been “extremely effective.”) And David Gergen is a bit queasy about negotiating at cross purposes with the current president.

Still, there is something missing from the McCain response. Perhaps he’s waiting for Obama to return from overseas, but there hasn’t yet been a full-throated and complete explanation from McCain as to what’s so bad about Obama’s position(s) on Iraq and the surge. Yes, he was “wrong,” but why is that so important? And why is it worse that Obama won’t even now say that the surge in retrospect was a good idea? What’s wrong with Obama’s jumping at every sentence uttered by a foreign power to support your political stances? Other than overly-broad phrases ( “lacks judgment” or “inexperienced”) it seems McCain’s team is missing a clear and coherent indictment of Obama’s approach to foreign policy and a contrast as to how McCain approaches the world.

And if McCain thinks the criticisms go deeper than even national security expertise and judgment — to fundamental character, intellectual honesty and even a dangerously inflated ego — he needs to spell it out. I don’t think people, even ones amenable to McCain’s message, are necessarily going to figure it out on their own. If this election is about whether Obama can clear the bar with swing voters, then McCain needs to explain why this trip reveals that Obama doesn’t meet the minimal test of presidential leadership.

Favoring a course of action in retrospect which would have resulted in a humiliating defeat for the U.S. and an unprecedented victory for Al Qaeda seems like it should be a self-evident disqualifier for the presidency. But that is not the case. Many voters who have heard enough about Iraq for a lifetime aren’t going to connect the dots if McCain and his team don’t do it for them.

John McCain (directly in a town hall setting and through surrogates) today is trying to make the point about Barack Obama’s willingness to lose a war in order to win an election. In the media call earlier today foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann argued:

What is Senator Obama’s judgment based on? He predicted the surge would increase violence. He was wrong. He voted to cut off funds for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was wrong. Now he wants to supplant his judgment for successful military commanders. . . Senator Obama will not credit generals; he will not credit the strategy that works. And he consistently demonstrates his core judgment and his inflexibility in the face of clear facts on the ground.

Can this salient point penetrate the media love fest? Well, at least he got Katie Couric’s attention. (It is an out-of-body experience to hear MSM reporters say things like the surge has been “extremely effective.”) And David Gergen is a bit queasy about negotiating at cross purposes with the current president.

Still, there is something missing from the McCain response. Perhaps he’s waiting for Obama to return from overseas, but there hasn’t yet been a full-throated and complete explanation from McCain as to what’s so bad about Obama’s position(s) on Iraq and the surge. Yes, he was “wrong,” but why is that so important? And why is it worse that Obama won’t even now say that the surge in retrospect was a good idea? What’s wrong with Obama’s jumping at every sentence uttered by a foreign power to support your political stances? Other than overly-broad phrases ( “lacks judgment” or “inexperienced”) it seems McCain’s team is missing a clear and coherent indictment of Obama’s approach to foreign policy and a contrast as to how McCain approaches the world.

And if McCain thinks the criticisms go deeper than even national security expertise and judgment — to fundamental character, intellectual honesty and even a dangerously inflated ego — he needs to spell it out. I don’t think people, even ones amenable to McCain’s message, are necessarily going to figure it out on their own. If this election is about whether Obama can clear the bar with swing voters, then McCain needs to explain why this trip reveals that Obama doesn’t meet the minimal test of presidential leadership.

Favoring a course of action in retrospect which would have resulted in a humiliating defeat for the U.S. and an unprecedented victory for Al Qaeda seems like it should be a self-evident disqualifier for the presidency. But that is not the case. Many voters who have heard enough about Iraq for a lifetime aren’t going to connect the dots if McCain and his team don’t do it for them.

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Go Obama?

Oliver Kamm directs our attention to this important column in Britain’s Independent newspaper by John Rentoul, previewing Obama’s upcoming trip to London. Rentoul, a supporter of the Iraq war and a robust role for American leadership in the world, comes out for an Obama victory. But he does so for very interesting reasons:

There was a moment last month – it was when Susan Sarandon, the actress, said she might emigrate to Italy or Canada if McCain won – when it seemed essential to the sanity of America that Obama should lose.

But, no, it is more important that the daydream should be broken. The idea that there is some kind of clean, different, painless, perfect alternative to politics as usual is a distraction from taking difficult, compromised decisions in an imperfect world. If Obama lost, too many people around the world could continue to believe that if only America got out of whatever it is in, everything would be better.

I think McCain is right about Iraq – that the surge has been a success, and that eventual troop withdrawal should depend on that success continuing. But I think it is more important, for America and the world, that Obama should be the one who learns the truth of this the hard way.

In office, he would be forced to use his eloquence and his global popularity to make the case for what is left of the coalition to see its responsibilities to the Iraqis through. Many of his supporters, especially outside the US, would see it as a betrayal. I think it would be a necessary one, by which he could at last heal the suspicion of American power that provides so many around the world with easy excuses.

If there are right reasons to support Obama, this seems to be the most compelling: to prove delusional that segment of the American (and global) Left which seeks a neutering of American power. There could be no greater defeat for such ideas than for a politician of Obama’s convictions to become president and then essentially follow the same foreign policy as the Bush administration. To agree with Rentoul, however, one must assume that Obama doesn’t really mean what he says on the campaign trail (there’s certainly been enough evidence over the past few weeks to make that case) or that, once in office, many of his illusions about the world will change dramatically as he’s confronted with the challenges facing this country. Rentoul makes an interesting case, and it’s one that is not easily dismissed. I’m sure it will, whatever its merits, have Obama’s supporters in a frenzy in no time.

Oliver Kamm directs our attention to this important column in Britain’s Independent newspaper by John Rentoul, previewing Obama’s upcoming trip to London. Rentoul, a supporter of the Iraq war and a robust role for American leadership in the world, comes out for an Obama victory. But he does so for very interesting reasons:

There was a moment last month – it was when Susan Sarandon, the actress, said she might emigrate to Italy or Canada if McCain won – when it seemed essential to the sanity of America that Obama should lose.

But, no, it is more important that the daydream should be broken. The idea that there is some kind of clean, different, painless, perfect alternative to politics as usual is a distraction from taking difficult, compromised decisions in an imperfect world. If Obama lost, too many people around the world could continue to believe that if only America got out of whatever it is in, everything would be better.

I think McCain is right about Iraq – that the surge has been a success, and that eventual troop withdrawal should depend on that success continuing. But I think it is more important, for America and the world, that Obama should be the one who learns the truth of this the hard way.

In office, he would be forced to use his eloquence and his global popularity to make the case for what is left of the coalition to see its responsibilities to the Iraqis through. Many of his supporters, especially outside the US, would see it as a betrayal. I think it would be a necessary one, by which he could at last heal the suspicion of American power that provides so many around the world with easy excuses.

If there are right reasons to support Obama, this seems to be the most compelling: to prove delusional that segment of the American (and global) Left which seeks a neutering of American power. There could be no greater defeat for such ideas than for a politician of Obama’s convictions to become president and then essentially follow the same foreign policy as the Bush administration. To agree with Rentoul, however, one must assume that Obama doesn’t really mean what he says on the campaign trail (there’s certainly been enough evidence over the past few weeks to make that case) or that, once in office, many of his illusions about the world will change dramatically as he’s confronted with the challenges facing this country. Rentoul makes an interesting case, and it’s one that is not easily dismissed. I’m sure it will, whatever its merits, have Obama’s supporters in a frenzy in no time.

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This Is Called Snake Oil

Jim Geraghty points out an odd Obama moment in his press conference in Jordan:

In terms of, my conversations with General Petraeus, there’s no doubt that General Petraeus does not want a timetable. I think he has said that publicly. And he is, and as I said, in his role, he wants maximum flexibility to be able to do what he believes needs to be done inside of Iraq. But keep in mind, for example, one of General Petraeus’s responsibilities is not to think about how could we be using some of that $10 billion a month to shore up a U.S. economy that is really hurting right now? If I’m President of the United States, that is part of my responsibility.

So Barack Obama is suggesting he wants to apply $10 billion a month to shore up the U.S. economy. Interesting. The gross domestic product of the United States was nearly $14 trillion last year. That means the economy generates about $1.2 trillion per month. Obama’s $10 billion savings from Iraq wouldn’t even constitute one percent of the U.S. economy. That’s really going to help a lot.

This is nothing more than snake oil. Obama surely knows transferring $10 billion from Iraq to domestic programs isn’t going to help the economy, and in any case, under his own plan, that money wouldn’t begin flowing to the suffering people of the United States until 2010 — at which point, it is devoutly to be hoped, the economy will have at least begun to right itself. But as we know, he speaks, and no one at these press conferences ever challenges him. Scandalous.

Jim Geraghty points out an odd Obama moment in his press conference in Jordan:

In terms of, my conversations with General Petraeus, there’s no doubt that General Petraeus does not want a timetable. I think he has said that publicly. And he is, and as I said, in his role, he wants maximum flexibility to be able to do what he believes needs to be done inside of Iraq. But keep in mind, for example, one of General Petraeus’s responsibilities is not to think about how could we be using some of that $10 billion a month to shore up a U.S. economy that is really hurting right now? If I’m President of the United States, that is part of my responsibility.

So Barack Obama is suggesting he wants to apply $10 billion a month to shore up the U.S. economy. Interesting. The gross domestic product of the United States was nearly $14 trillion last year. That means the economy generates about $1.2 trillion per month. Obama’s $10 billion savings from Iraq wouldn’t even constitute one percent of the U.S. economy. That’s really going to help a lot.

This is nothing more than snake oil. Obama surely knows transferring $10 billion from Iraq to domestic programs isn’t going to help the economy, and in any case, under his own plan, that money wouldn’t begin flowing to the suffering people of the United States until 2010 — at which point, it is devoutly to be hoped, the economy will have at least begun to right itself. But as we know, he speaks, and no one at these press conferences ever challenges him. Scandalous.

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Maybe She Can Put Her Finger On It Now

Let’s think for a moment about the undecided voters and the “soft Democrats.” So we have to think how they view Barack Obama. They don’t think, like conservatives, that he’s a left-wing kook or a craven liar. Nor are they, like the MSM,  in a drugged state of Obama-phoria. They are, I think, like this lady who doesn’t get him, doesn’t relate to him, and doesn’t know what he stands for. Maybe the Obama-mania makes her nervous or she frets that he has so little experience. But she’s just not smitten and she can’t relate to Obama.

So how does this overseas trip play with her? She sees some pictures and hears that Iraq would like us out along the same timeframe Obama is proposing. But then he comes out and says he wouldn’t have supported the surge even though it worked and he isn’t following General Petraeus’ advice. And then this week she’s going to see a million Germans screaming and hollering for their superstar.

At the end of this trip is she more or less comfortable with Obama? Does he seem like he’s on her side who will respresent her country and values or does he seem more remote and more off-putting than before? We’ll find out. I have my hunch.

Let’s think for a moment about the undecided voters and the “soft Democrats.” So we have to think how they view Barack Obama. They don’t think, like conservatives, that he’s a left-wing kook or a craven liar. Nor are they, like the MSM,  in a drugged state of Obama-phoria. They are, I think, like this lady who doesn’t get him, doesn’t relate to him, and doesn’t know what he stands for. Maybe the Obama-mania makes her nervous or she frets that he has so little experience. But she’s just not smitten and she can’t relate to Obama.

So how does this overseas trip play with her? She sees some pictures and hears that Iraq would like us out along the same timeframe Obama is proposing. But then he comes out and says he wouldn’t have supported the surge even though it worked and he isn’t following General Petraeus’ advice. And then this week she’s going to see a million Germans screaming and hollering for their superstar.

At the end of this trip is she more or less comfortable with Obama? Does he seem like he’s on her side who will respresent her country and values or does he seem more remote and more off-putting than before? We’ll find out. I have my hunch.

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The Cuban Bomber Crisis

Yesterday, Izvestia reported that a Russian air force official threatened to move nuclear-capable bombers to Cuba. “While they are deploying the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, our strategic bombers will already be landing in Cuba,” the anonymous source told the Russian newspaper. Another report indicates that Moscow is thinking of actually establishing a base on Cuba’s misnamed Freedom Island.

More bluff from the Kremlin? “It’s very silly psychological warfare,” says Alexander Golts, a military analyst quoted this morning in the Washington Post. Yes, and if it were the only ill-advised comment from Moscow, we could perhaps ignore it. Yet the unsourced threat is only the latest in a series from the Russians over missile defense. At some point, the United States needs to do something to stop them from making irresponsible comments before the situation gets out of hand.

Of course, President Bush does not have the time to take on the Kremlin, because that would be asking him to interrupt his ongoing efforts to appease the Chinese, talk to the Iranians, and supply the North Koreans with assistance. So, on the assumption that the White House needs assistance in responding to the increasingly adversarial Russians, I offer this draft statement to the President for his consideration:

It has come to my attention that the Russian government is thinking of basing nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba. It is now apparent that my indulgent policies toward Moscow are not working. Therefore, I have ordered Ambassador Beyrle and most of his staff to return to Washington and stay here until I receive official word, delivered in a public manner, that Russia has no intention of moving those planes to anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

And I have a personal message to the Russian leader, whoever that person may be at this moment: I’m tired of having to listen to my State Department and may start basing my policies toward you on a more sensible basis.

Yesterday, Izvestia reported that a Russian air force official threatened to move nuclear-capable bombers to Cuba. “While they are deploying the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, our strategic bombers will already be landing in Cuba,” the anonymous source told the Russian newspaper. Another report indicates that Moscow is thinking of actually establishing a base on Cuba’s misnamed Freedom Island.

More bluff from the Kremlin? “It’s very silly psychological warfare,” says Alexander Golts, a military analyst quoted this morning in the Washington Post. Yes, and if it were the only ill-advised comment from Moscow, we could perhaps ignore it. Yet the unsourced threat is only the latest in a series from the Russians over missile defense. At some point, the United States needs to do something to stop them from making irresponsible comments before the situation gets out of hand.

Of course, President Bush does not have the time to take on the Kremlin, because that would be asking him to interrupt his ongoing efforts to appease the Chinese, talk to the Iranians, and supply the North Koreans with assistance. So, on the assumption that the White House needs assistance in responding to the increasingly adversarial Russians, I offer this draft statement to the President for his consideration:

It has come to my attention that the Russian government is thinking of basing nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba. It is now apparent that my indulgent policies toward Moscow are not working. Therefore, I have ordered Ambassador Beyrle and most of his staff to return to Washington and stay here until I receive official word, delivered in a public manner, that Russia has no intention of moving those planes to anywhere in the Western Hemisphere.

And I have a personal message to the Russian leader, whoever that person may be at this moment: I’m tired of having to listen to my State Department and may start basing my policies toward you on a more sensible basis.

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Does Not Compute

One thing seems increasingly odd in Barack Obama’s Iraq positioning. He is terribly concerned and delighted to latch on the the Iraqi leaders pronouncements on the surge. Every glimmer of agreement is seized upon and held up as a prize. But he didn’t, and now reveals he still, doesn’t care about their country. Left up to him, he would have let them sink into the abyss of chaos and genocide. So why do their views matter at all?

If Iraq is a distraction, he shouldn’t care whether their leaders agree with him or not. He certainly didn’t care about their views when Maliki and others were supportive of the surge. Aside from the impropriety of engaging the Iraqis in our electoral politics (“See, Maliki is on my side, not McCain’s!”) he seems to have an odd view of exactly which countries’ views are determinative. Will he also fall into line with Israel’s views on Iran and Europe’s view on NATO force levels? And if they vocally disagree with his worldview, are we to discount it because, after all, other countries don’t call our tune and determine our self-interest? It is a recipe for disaster to go down the road of claiming wisdom based on the latest utterance from foreign leaders. But we certainly are getting an idea of what an Obama administration would be like.

One thing seems increasingly odd in Barack Obama’s Iraq positioning. He is terribly concerned and delighted to latch on the the Iraqi leaders pronouncements on the surge. Every glimmer of agreement is seized upon and held up as a prize. But he didn’t, and now reveals he still, doesn’t care about their country. Left up to him, he would have let them sink into the abyss of chaos and genocide. So why do their views matter at all?

If Iraq is a distraction, he shouldn’t care whether their leaders agree with him or not. He certainly didn’t care about their views when Maliki and others were supportive of the surge. Aside from the impropriety of engaging the Iraqis in our electoral politics (“See, Maliki is on my side, not McCain’s!”) he seems to have an odd view of exactly which countries’ views are determinative. Will he also fall into line with Israel’s views on Iran and Europe’s view on NATO force levels? And if they vocally disagree with his worldview, are we to discount it because, after all, other countries don’t call our tune and determine our self-interest? It is a recipe for disaster to go down the road of claiming wisdom based on the latest utterance from foreign leaders. But we certainly are getting an idea of what an Obama administration would be like.

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U.S. Foreign Policy in Freefall

The terminal months of the Bush administration will likely go down in history as a time when the State Department was permitted to set about repudiating virtually every principle to which the administration it serves has been dedicated. The Bush administration summarily dropped its central precondition — an enrichment freeze — for negotiations with Iran. A few weeks ago, there was a similar cave-in to North Korea, which prompted John Bolton to throw in the towel on the Bush administration: “Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.”

The Secretary of State appears intent on broadcasting a display of abject capitulation in small ways as well. Last month, Rice showed up in Beirut to celebrate the formation of a new Lebanese government — a government which is largely the product of Hezbollah’s violence and extortion, and which has been broken to the saddle of Hezbollah’s supremacy in Lebanon. Under these circumstances, a tone falling significantly short of earnest enthusiasm would have been appropriate. Not for Rice:

“Congratulations,” Ms. Rice said as she shook hands with President Michel Suleiman, the former army chief who took office last month, filling a post that had been vacant for six months. “We are all just very supportive of your presidency and your government.” … “this was an agreement that I think served the interests of the Lebanese people. And since it serves the interests of the Lebanese people, it serves the interests of the United States.”

The Secretary of State just re-defined the American interest as one which glowingly approves of the political and military ascendancy of an Iranian terrorist army in Lebanon, just so long as a polite photo-op is possible after the carnage. This was a sly ex post facto effort to diminish the conspicuousness of the Bush administration’s failure to so much as lift a finger on behalf of its ally, Lebanon, during Hezbollah’s putsch this May. All’s well that ends well, right?

And then there is Israel. We learn today from Haaretz that U.S.-Israel relations are being strained by the State Department’s busy-body routine on behalf of all manner of Palestinian complaints, such as Hanan Ashrawi’s daughter’s desire to receive special treatment from the Israeli government over her residency paperwork (Ashrawi’s whining to Rice apparently caused David Welch, the assistant secretary of state, to snap to attention and harass Israeli officials).

And finally we arrive at the “Annapolis process,” that producer of so many traffic jams in Jerusalem, and little else. The last gasp of Annapolis appears set to be a scathing indictment from James Jones, the retired U.S. Army general, on Israel’s policies in the West Bank:

Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. . . .

According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy’s conclusions about Israel are scathing. Israelis who met with Jones on his most recent visit here a few weeks ago, including Israel Defense Forces officers, said their impression was that the report would be “very harsh, and make Israel look very bad.”

Jones is apparently critical of Israel on two key issues. One is its fairly broad definition of its security interests in the West Bank under any final-status agreement. The other is its attitude toward the PA security services.

Ah, so the American general doesn’t like the security posture that the Israeli military has determined it must assume in order to protect Israeli lives. And he doesn’t like it that the IDF doesn’t take seriously the Palestinian Authority security services, which are dangerously incompetent, but which the United States has been deeply involved in training. Question for General Jones: Would you put the PA security services in charge of protecting American lives from Hamas?

The State Department has been allowed to slip completely off its leash and the whole gang is pursuing its two most favorite pastimes: obsessing over the Palestinians, and making concessions to America’s enemies. Only six more months to go.

The terminal months of the Bush administration will likely go down in history as a time when the State Department was permitted to set about repudiating virtually every principle to which the administration it serves has been dedicated. The Bush administration summarily dropped its central precondition — an enrichment freeze — for negotiations with Iran. A few weeks ago, there was a similar cave-in to North Korea, which prompted John Bolton to throw in the towel on the Bush administration: “Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.”

The Secretary of State appears intent on broadcasting a display of abject capitulation in small ways as well. Last month, Rice showed up in Beirut to celebrate the formation of a new Lebanese government — a government which is largely the product of Hezbollah’s violence and extortion, and which has been broken to the saddle of Hezbollah’s supremacy in Lebanon. Under these circumstances, a tone falling significantly short of earnest enthusiasm would have been appropriate. Not for Rice:

“Congratulations,” Ms. Rice said as she shook hands with President Michel Suleiman, the former army chief who took office last month, filling a post that had been vacant for six months. “We are all just very supportive of your presidency and your government.” … “this was an agreement that I think served the interests of the Lebanese people. And since it serves the interests of the Lebanese people, it serves the interests of the United States.”

The Secretary of State just re-defined the American interest as one which glowingly approves of the political and military ascendancy of an Iranian terrorist army in Lebanon, just so long as a polite photo-op is possible after the carnage. This was a sly ex post facto effort to diminish the conspicuousness of the Bush administration’s failure to so much as lift a finger on behalf of its ally, Lebanon, during Hezbollah’s putsch this May. All’s well that ends well, right?

And then there is Israel. We learn today from Haaretz that U.S.-Israel relations are being strained by the State Department’s busy-body routine on behalf of all manner of Palestinian complaints, such as Hanan Ashrawi’s daughter’s desire to receive special treatment from the Israeli government over her residency paperwork (Ashrawi’s whining to Rice apparently caused David Welch, the assistant secretary of state, to snap to attention and harass Israeli officials).

And finally we arrive at the “Annapolis process,” that producer of so many traffic jams in Jerusalem, and little else. The last gasp of Annapolis appears set to be a scathing indictment from James Jones, the retired U.S. Army general, on Israel’s policies in the West Bank:

Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. . . .

According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy’s conclusions about Israel are scathing. Israelis who met with Jones on his most recent visit here a few weeks ago, including Israel Defense Forces officers, said their impression was that the report would be “very harsh, and make Israel look very bad.”

Jones is apparently critical of Israel on two key issues. One is its fairly broad definition of its security interests in the West Bank under any final-status agreement. The other is its attitude toward the PA security services.

Ah, so the American general doesn’t like the security posture that the Israeli military has determined it must assume in order to protect Israeli lives. And he doesn’t like it that the IDF doesn’t take seriously the Palestinian Authority security services, which are dangerously incompetent, but which the United States has been deeply involved in training. Question for General Jones: Would you put the PA security services in charge of protecting American lives from Hamas?

The State Department has been allowed to slip completely off its leash and the whole gang is pursuing its two most favorite pastimes: obsessing over the Palestinians, and making concessions to America’s enemies. Only six more months to go.

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Re: The Difference

John, the danger for Barack Obama is that the average voter, unlike the elites, doesn’t root for America to lose. They may in retrospect think the war’s benefits did not outweigh the costs and losses. But the notion that we should reject victory and prefer military defeat and diplomatic ruin is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Obama’s disdain for success may cheer the editors of the New York Times and professors at Harvard. But in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the heartland, it is going to sound like Obama is rooting for our defeat–and voters there won’t like it. For that very reason, I expect him to “walk back” his comments in some nebulous and incomprehensible fashion.

John, the danger for Barack Obama is that the average voter, unlike the elites, doesn’t root for America to lose. They may in retrospect think the war’s benefits did not outweigh the costs and losses. But the notion that we should reject victory and prefer military defeat and diplomatic ruin is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. Obama’s disdain for success may cheer the editors of the New York Times and professors at Harvard. But in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the rest of the heartland, it is going to sound like Obama is rooting for our defeat–and voters there won’t like it. For that very reason, I expect him to “walk back” his comments in some nebulous and incomprehensible fashion.

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Another Bulldozer Attack

Another bulldozer has struck at a busy intersection in Jerusalem. The driver, an Arab-Israeli from East Jerusalem, went on a rampage slamming cars and pedestrians, injuring 16, before he was gunned down by a citizen and a border policeman. I drove through that intersection yesterday, not far from the King David Hotel where diplomats and wealthy tourists congregate.

It is always the second hit that causes the harshest response. In June 2006, the soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas, but it was only when Hizbollah repeated the trick a few weeks later, kidnapping Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, that Israel unleashed its army on southern Lebanon. The first hit, one figures, might just be a one-off. The second represents a new strategic reality.

Israel will respond now to tractor terror because it has to. When the problem was coming from terror organizations across the border, the answer was war. But now it looks like copycat terror coming from individual Arabs who no longer need bomb belts to do their work. This time, the answer will likely come in the form of much harsher restrictions on access to heavy equipment. A lot of people will either be out of work or need to go through careful security checks. Construction in Jerusalem may be temporarily halted. The biggest victim, as with other terror, will be the population that produces these monsters and encourages them, and in so doing positions itself as an enemy of the society that pays for its infrastructure, schools, and welfare.

Israel will be painted as the racist oppressor, yet again, for the simple reason that it does not have the luxury of putting PR before personal security. But the Arab community in Israel needs to take some responsibility for its own bad apples. They can start by dumping their current political leadership and electing officials who support Israel and the country’s efforts to live a safe life. Any new clarifications on Jerusalem, Barack?

Another bulldozer has struck at a busy intersection in Jerusalem. The driver, an Arab-Israeli from East Jerusalem, went on a rampage slamming cars and pedestrians, injuring 16, before he was gunned down by a citizen and a border policeman. I drove through that intersection yesterday, not far from the King David Hotel where diplomats and wealthy tourists congregate.

It is always the second hit that causes the harshest response. In June 2006, the soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas, but it was only when Hizbollah repeated the trick a few weeks later, kidnapping Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, that Israel unleashed its army on southern Lebanon. The first hit, one figures, might just be a one-off. The second represents a new strategic reality.

Israel will respond now to tractor terror because it has to. When the problem was coming from terror organizations across the border, the answer was war. But now it looks like copycat terror coming from individual Arabs who no longer need bomb belts to do their work. This time, the answer will likely come in the form of much harsher restrictions on access to heavy equipment. A lot of people will either be out of work or need to go through careful security checks. Construction in Jerusalem may be temporarily halted. The biggest victim, as with other terror, will be the population that produces these monsters and encourages them, and in so doing positions itself as an enemy of the society that pays for its infrastructure, schools, and welfare.

Israel will be painted as the racist oppressor, yet again, for the simple reason that it does not have the luxury of putting PR before personal security. But the Arab community in Israel needs to take some responsibility for its own bad apples. They can start by dumping their current political leadership and electing officials who support Israel and the country’s efforts to live a safe life. Any new clarifications on Jerusalem, Barack?

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Wasn’t Equality The Point?

You will be hard pressed to read a drearier tale of woe about the fate of women, and specifically unemployed women, than in this account. (Wait, isn’t unemployment around 5.5%? Actually the rate for women is only 4.7%.) The basis of the beef: women are leaving the workforce “on a par with men.” What?! On a par with men, no better and no worse? The outrage of it! Is this what the women’s movement was all about–to have economic performance and employment on a par with men? Oh, it was. I thought.

Here is the nub of it all:

The women, in sum, are for the first time withdrawing from work with the same uniformity as men in their prime working years.

And on it goes. The examples are equally puzzling. There is the woman who left the workforce and is now home schooling her kids. Hmm. Is this a good or bad thing? (Unclear, but she sure does sound like the gas tax holiday would be a winner with her.) Then there is the woman who left work, moved closer to her sister, got part-time work and is volunteering with the hope of a paying job. Are these really the best horror stories they could come up with?

Still, with unemployment for women below 5% I suppose you have to think up an angle that combines the savagery of the George W. Bush economy with the subjugation of women. Lacking decent facts to tell that story they came up with this one: the unfairness of equality. Listen, there are lots of economic stories to be told, and one wonders why, in an economy supposedly as bad as the Great Depression, the New York Times would have to go to such great lengths to inflate something as innocuous as this into a front page story. Don’t they have better things to do, like rewrite Republicans’ op-eds?

You will be hard pressed to read a drearier tale of woe about the fate of women, and specifically unemployed women, than in this account. (Wait, isn’t unemployment around 5.5%? Actually the rate for women is only 4.7%.) The basis of the beef: women are leaving the workforce “on a par with men.” What?! On a par with men, no better and no worse? The outrage of it! Is this what the women’s movement was all about–to have economic performance and employment on a par with men? Oh, it was. I thought.

Here is the nub of it all:

The women, in sum, are for the first time withdrawing from work with the same uniformity as men in their prime working years.

And on it goes. The examples are equally puzzling. There is the woman who left the workforce and is now home schooling her kids. Hmm. Is this a good or bad thing? (Unclear, but she sure does sound like the gas tax holiday would be a winner with her.) Then there is the woman who left work, moved closer to her sister, got part-time work and is volunteering with the hope of a paying job. Are these really the best horror stories they could come up with?

Still, with unemployment for women below 5% I suppose you have to think up an angle that combines the savagery of the George W. Bush economy with the subjugation of women. Lacking decent facts to tell that story they came up with this one: the unfairness of equality. Listen, there are lots of economic stories to be told, and one wonders why, in an economy supposedly as bad as the Great Depression, the New York Times would have to go to such great lengths to inflate something as innocuous as this into a front page story. Don’t they have better things to do, like rewrite Republicans’ op-eds?

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The Difference Between Politics and Substance

Pete and Jen, you’re both right that Obama’s preposterous position — that the surge has worked and that he was right to oppose it in the first place — ought to induce cringes in everyone who hears it. The problem is that in taking this view, Obama is a perfect reflection of the vast majority of America’s thinking and chattering classes, who are in a reinforcing, Rube Goldberg, thought-loop that goes like this:

The war was for WMD, and there were no WMD, and the administration lied, and was incompetent, and didn’t force the Iraqis to step up to the plate, and relied too much on the Iraqi military rather than on our own, and provoked a civil war, and drew Al Qaeda into Iraq, and refuses to fight Al Qaeda, and got too many Americans killed, and had too few troops, and have too many troops, and decided on a ruinous surge, and created a puppet in Maliki, and must listen to Maliki when he says we should get out, and we can get out because things are better, but the surge was still wrong, because the war was for WMD, and there were no WMD…

You want to know why Obama will pay little price for the absurdity of his position? Because he is the front man of all front men —  he is giving cover to the American intellectual aristocracy. They agree with him because they cannot accept that there is a very simple argument for them to adopt: The war was wrong, but it will be a very good thing if we win. And they can’t because, deep down, they don’t think it will be a good thing for us to win. They don’t think the war is being fought by “us.” It’s being fought by Bush, and the best way for Bush to be punished is for Iraq to end in disaster.

Pete and Jen, you’re both right that Obama’s preposterous position — that the surge has worked and that he was right to oppose it in the first place — ought to induce cringes in everyone who hears it. The problem is that in taking this view, Obama is a perfect reflection of the vast majority of America’s thinking and chattering classes, who are in a reinforcing, Rube Goldberg, thought-loop that goes like this:

The war was for WMD, and there were no WMD, and the administration lied, and was incompetent, and didn’t force the Iraqis to step up to the plate, and relied too much on the Iraqi military rather than on our own, and provoked a civil war, and drew Al Qaeda into Iraq, and refuses to fight Al Qaeda, and got too many Americans killed, and had too few troops, and have too many troops, and decided on a ruinous surge, and created a puppet in Maliki, and must listen to Maliki when he says we should get out, and we can get out because things are better, but the surge was still wrong, because the war was for WMD, and there were no WMD…

You want to know why Obama will pay little price for the absurdity of his position? Because he is the front man of all front men —  he is giving cover to the American intellectual aristocracy. They agree with him because they cannot accept that there is a very simple argument for them to adopt: The war was wrong, but it will be a very good thing if we win. And they can’t because, deep down, they don’t think it will be a good thing for us to win. They don’t think the war is being fought by “us.” It’s being fought by Bush, and the best way for Bush to be punished is for Iraq to end in disaster.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

John McCain made Barack Obama look more stylish? In a way.

Like husband, like wife – kept it light and keep the tough questions away.

Imagine if Dick Cheney did this.

Apparently Barack Obama didn’t even raise his withdrawal plan with Maliki? Hmm. Didn’t want to test the reaction or just limited to talking about the weather?

Well, if this is true (“But the Iraqis stopped short of actual timetables or endorsement of Obama’s pledge to withdraw American troops within 16 months if he wins the presidency”), then he really didn’t get support for his plan, as the AP suggests.

Ouch: “After a visit to Afghanistan this weekend, Obama said on Sunday that he wanted to focus U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the threat is higher. ‘I think one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job [in Afghanistan]. … We got distracted by Iraq,’ he said. The question now is whether he’ll stick to that statement following his new drive-by assessment of Iraq.” Sounds like someone in the MSM passed on the Kool Aid.

An interesting point: “Obama’s disturbing attitude toward Colombia reveals how an Obama administration might worry Israel and other embattled American strategic allies.” The little guys don’t always get the most consideration when there is an entire world out there to woo.

A consensus forms in Israel that when diplomacy fails you have to do what you need to do. That’s a hypothetical you really do want to force each U.S. presidential candidate to answer. How would they react? John Bolton was right: we need to think this through.

Pundits argue about just why and how much Obama’s craven flip-flopping will harm him. What is the matter with everyone — he didn’t change a bit!

As we learn from MSM outlets, General Petraeus thinks Obama’s withdrawal idea is a bunch of hooey. I wonder who has more credibility with the American people? And who the heck knows what is going on in these meetings since Obama is keeping prying eyes at bay.

The conventional wisdom is “Obama was right on the war [oppose] and McCain was right on the surge [favor].” But wait: now Obama doesn’t agree with conventional wisdom on the surge. How’s that going to work out?

John McCain made Barack Obama look more stylish? In a way.

Like husband, like wife – kept it light and keep the tough questions away.

Imagine if Dick Cheney did this.

Apparently Barack Obama didn’t even raise his withdrawal plan with Maliki? Hmm. Didn’t want to test the reaction or just limited to talking about the weather?

Well, if this is true (“But the Iraqis stopped short of actual timetables or endorsement of Obama’s pledge to withdraw American troops within 16 months if he wins the presidency”), then he really didn’t get support for his plan, as the AP suggests.

Ouch: “After a visit to Afghanistan this weekend, Obama said on Sunday that he wanted to focus U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the threat is higher. ‘I think one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job [in Afghanistan]. … We got distracted by Iraq,’ he said. The question now is whether he’ll stick to that statement following his new drive-by assessment of Iraq.” Sounds like someone in the MSM passed on the Kool Aid.

An interesting point: “Obama’s disturbing attitude toward Colombia reveals how an Obama administration might worry Israel and other embattled American strategic allies.” The little guys don’t always get the most consideration when there is an entire world out there to woo.

A consensus forms in Israel that when diplomacy fails you have to do what you need to do. That’s a hypothetical you really do want to force each U.S. presidential candidate to answer. How would they react? John Bolton was right: we need to think this through.

Pundits argue about just why and how much Obama’s craven flip-flopping will harm him. What is the matter with everyone — he didn’t change a bit!

As we learn from MSM outlets, General Petraeus thinks Obama’s withdrawal idea is a bunch of hooey. I wonder who has more credibility with the American people? And who the heck knows what is going on in these meetings since Obama is keeping prying eyes at bay.

The conventional wisdom is “Obama was right on the war [oppose] and McCain was right on the surge [favor].” But wait: now Obama doesn’t agree with conventional wisdom on the surge. How’s that going to work out?

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Kadima Gets Nasty

The slow decline of Ehud Olmert’s political career just turned uglier. Yesterday the central committee of Olmert’s Kadima party voted to set primaries for mid-September, an internal election that will almost certainly see Olmert’s replacement as both party leader and Prime Minister, even if there are no national elections. One Kadmia MK referred to him as “a corpse that has has already started to stink and needs to be removed as soon as possible.”

Olmert, for his part, will not go down quietly. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, in a closed meeting he referred to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, one of the leading candidates to replace him, as a “backstabbing liar,” who is the least qualified of the candidates, and who, he a lleges, gave false testimony to the Winograd Commission that investigated the 2006 Lebanon war.

Sources close to Olmert say that he is holding off before announcing he will not run, that he wants to “wait until the last possible moment to announce that he is not running in order to minimize the time that he would be considered a lame duck.” But one has to ask: With such awful blood between the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, with a super-serious criminal investigation coming to dominate his schedule, with his own party barely surviving repeated no-confidence motions in the Knesset, and with the looming threats of a re-arming Hizbullah, a nuclearizing Iran, and a possible economic slowdown — aren’t we already there? Isn’t it time?

The slow decline of Ehud Olmert’s political career just turned uglier. Yesterday the central committee of Olmert’s Kadima party voted to set primaries for mid-September, an internal election that will almost certainly see Olmert’s replacement as both party leader and Prime Minister, even if there are no national elections. One Kadmia MK referred to him as “a corpse that has has already started to stink and needs to be removed as soon as possible.”

Olmert, for his part, will not go down quietly. According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, in a closed meeting he referred to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, one of the leading candidates to replace him, as a “backstabbing liar,” who is the least qualified of the candidates, and who, he a lleges, gave false testimony to the Winograd Commission that investigated the 2006 Lebanon war.

Sources close to Olmert say that he is holding off before announcing he will not run, that he wants to “wait until the last possible moment to announce that he is not running in order to minimize the time that he would be considered a lame duck.” But one has to ask: With such awful blood between the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, with a super-serious criminal investigation coming to dominate his schedule, with his own party barely surviving repeated no-confidence motions in the Knesset, and with the looming threats of a re-arming Hizbullah, a nuclearizing Iran, and a possible economic slowdown — aren’t we already there? Isn’t it time?

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Re: Obama’s “No”

Peter, I agree. Whatever gains Barack Obama made by fuzzying up the difference between his timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troop and an acceptable framework from the point of our military experts and the Iraqis may have been forfeited in an extraordinary interview with Terry Moran of ABC. Obama now has two major problems: he has admitted that he still wouldn’t have supported the surge which indisputably has worked AND he let on that he doesn’t much care what General Petraeus has to say.

On the first, there was this exchange:

Moran: “‘[T]he surge of U.S. troops, combined with ordinary Iraqis’ rejection of both al Qaeda and Shiite extremists have transformed the country. Attacks are down more than 80% nationwide. U.S. combat casualties have plummeted, five this month so far, compared with 78 last July, and Baghdad has a pulse again.’ If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you — would you support the surge?” Obama: “No, because — keep in mind that -” Moran: “You wouldn’t?” Obama: “Well, no, keep — these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult . Hindsight is 20/20. I think what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate, because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.” Moran: “And so, when pressed, Barack Obama says he still would have opposed the surge.”

On his disagreement and disregard for Petraeus’ viewpoint:

ABC’s Terry Moran: “And then we sat down with [Barack Obama] to talk about what has become an open disagreement between military commanders here and Obama, over his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a 16-month timetable. Did General Petraeus talk about military concerns about your timetable?”
Barack Obama: “You know, I would characterize the concerns differently. I don’t think that they’re deep concerns about the notion of a pullout per se. There are deep concerns about, from their perspective, a timetable that doesn’t take into account what they anticipate might be some sort of changing conditions. And this is what I mean when I say we play different roles. My job is to think about the national security interests as a whole, and to have to weigh and balance risks, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. Their job is just to get the job done here. And I completely understand that.”

Moran: “But the difference is real. Commanders here want withdrawals to be based on conditions on the ground. Obama emphasizes his timetable, but he insists he would remain flexible. I’m going to try to pin you down on this ”

Obama: “Here let me say this, though, Terry, because, you know, what I will refuse to do, and I think that, you know ”

Moran: “How do you know what I’m going to ask?”

Obama: “Well, then if I don’t get it right, then you can ask it again.”

Moran: “All right.”

Obama: “Is to get boxed in into what I consider two false choices, which is either I have a rigid timeline of such and such a date, come hell or high water, we’ve gotten our combat troops out, and I am blind to anything that happens in the intervening six months or 16 months. Or, alternatively, I am completely deferring to whatever the commanders on the ground says, which is what George Bush says he’s doing, in which case I’m not doing my job as commander-in-chief.”

Where to begin? As to the first point, Obama appears to be so stubborn or so attached to his netroot followers that even now, after seeing Iraq for himself, after all available evidence points to the success of the surge (e.g. the rescue of the potential for victory from certain chaos and defeat, the rebuilding of Iraqi society, the damage inflicted on Al Qaeda) he still would have opposed it. But why? Are failure, chaos, and defeat so desirable? It is incomprehensible. And one wonders if Lee Hamilton agrees. (And even more oddly Obama concedes that there has been progress there so he has dropped the fiction that the surge’s gains are illusory.) He has in essence said, “I wish we hadn’t won.” (Or “I wish we weren’t winning.”)

As to the second, his entire demeanor comes across as unbridled arrogance, but his answer is somewhat unintelligible frankly. Is his timeframe fixed or not-fixed? You really can’t be in favor of both. The successful commander of our U.S. forces in Iraq and the architect of our potential victory has told him his plan is unworkable and/or dangerous. His response? A muddle, but he sure isn’t deferring to the military experts. Does he have one of his own gurus who will attest to the lack of danger which Petraeus believes would exist in sticking to a time-certain schedule? Or maybe the facts really are irrelevant.

How will all this play? It depends if the American people, after learning of the surge’s great success and the brilliance of our commander there, find it troubling that the candidate with no national security experience would throw it all away and disregard knowledgeable advice. It is peculiar in the extreme to have a nominee who when presented with potential victory says ” I wouldn’t have tried to win.” One can imagine that a victory he would not himself have pursued himself (and is apparently sorry we did) is one he has little interest in securing. Hence, his light regard for the advice of Petraeus.

The McCain camp must be celebrating. They have finally gotten lucky.

Peter, I agree. Whatever gains Barack Obama made by fuzzying up the difference between his timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troop and an acceptable framework from the point of our military experts and the Iraqis may have been forfeited in an extraordinary interview with Terry Moran of ABC. Obama now has two major problems: he has admitted that he still wouldn’t have supported the surge which indisputably has worked AND he let on that he doesn’t much care what General Petraeus has to say.

On the first, there was this exchange:

Moran: “‘[T]he surge of U.S. troops, combined with ordinary Iraqis’ rejection of both al Qaeda and Shiite extremists have transformed the country. Attacks are down more than 80% nationwide. U.S. combat casualties have plummeted, five this month so far, compared with 78 last July, and Baghdad has a pulse again.’ If you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now, would you — would you support the surge?” Obama: “No, because — keep in mind that -” Moran: “You wouldn’t?” Obama: “Well, no, keep — these kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult . Hindsight is 20/20. I think what I am absolutely convinced of is that at that time, we had to change the political debate, because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with.” Moran: “And so, when pressed, Barack Obama says he still would have opposed the surge.”

On his disagreement and disregard for Petraeus’ viewpoint:

ABC’s Terry Moran: “And then we sat down with [Barack Obama] to talk about what has become an open disagreement between military commanders here and Obama, over his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a 16-month timetable. Did General Petraeus talk about military concerns about your timetable?”
Barack Obama: “You know, I would characterize the concerns differently. I don’t think that they’re deep concerns about the notion of a pullout per se. There are deep concerns about, from their perspective, a timetable that doesn’t take into account what they anticipate might be some sort of changing conditions. And this is what I mean when I say we play different roles. My job is to think about the national security interests as a whole, and to have to weigh and balance risks, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. Their job is just to get the job done here. And I completely understand that.”

Moran: “But the difference is real. Commanders here want withdrawals to be based on conditions on the ground. Obama emphasizes his timetable, but he insists he would remain flexible. I’m going to try to pin you down on this ”

Obama: “Here let me say this, though, Terry, because, you know, what I will refuse to do, and I think that, you know ”

Moran: “How do you know what I’m going to ask?”

Obama: “Well, then if I don’t get it right, then you can ask it again.”

Moran: “All right.”

Obama: “Is to get boxed in into what I consider two false choices, which is either I have a rigid timeline of such and such a date, come hell or high water, we’ve gotten our combat troops out, and I am blind to anything that happens in the intervening six months or 16 months. Or, alternatively, I am completely deferring to whatever the commanders on the ground says, which is what George Bush says he’s doing, in which case I’m not doing my job as commander-in-chief.”

Where to begin? As to the first point, Obama appears to be so stubborn or so attached to his netroot followers that even now, after seeing Iraq for himself, after all available evidence points to the success of the surge (e.g. the rescue of the potential for victory from certain chaos and defeat, the rebuilding of Iraqi society, the damage inflicted on Al Qaeda) he still would have opposed it. But why? Are failure, chaos, and defeat so desirable? It is incomprehensible. And one wonders if Lee Hamilton agrees. (And even more oddly Obama concedes that there has been progress there so he has dropped the fiction that the surge’s gains are illusory.) He has in essence said, “I wish we hadn’t won.” (Or “I wish we weren’t winning.”)

As to the second, his entire demeanor comes across as unbridled arrogance, but his answer is somewhat unintelligible frankly. Is his timeframe fixed or not-fixed? You really can’t be in favor of both. The successful commander of our U.S. forces in Iraq and the architect of our potential victory has told him his plan is unworkable and/or dangerous. His response? A muddle, but he sure isn’t deferring to the military experts. Does he have one of his own gurus who will attest to the lack of danger which Petraeus believes would exist in sticking to a time-certain schedule? Or maybe the facts really are irrelevant.

How will all this play? It depends if the American people, after learning of the surge’s great success and the brilliance of our commander there, find it troubling that the candidate with no national security experience would throw it all away and disregard knowledgeable advice. It is peculiar in the extreme to have a nominee who when presented with potential victory says ” I wouldn’t have tried to win.” One can imagine that a victory he would not himself have pursued himself (and is apparently sorry we did) is one he has little interest in securing. Hence, his light regard for the advice of Petraeus.

The McCain camp must be celebrating. They have finally gotten lucky.

Read Less




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