Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 29, 2008

Anecdotes from Professor Obama

In connection with an article coming out in tomorrow’s New York Times, reporter Jodi Kantor has uploaded materials from Professor Barack Obama’s constitutional law classes at the University of Chicago. Political junkies will find the documents interesting, and they can be accessed here. But most telling are the anecdotes recounted throughout the article. Here are a few:

The Chicago faculty is more rightward-leaning than that of other top law schools, but if teaching alongside some of the most formidable conservative minds in the country had any impact on Mr. Obama, no one can quite point to it.

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”

[. . .]

In a 1996 interview with the school newspaper, sounded suspicious of President Bill Clinton’s efforts to reach across the aisle.

“On the national level, bipartisanship usually means Democrats ignore the needs of the poor and abandon the idea that government can play a role in issues of poverty, race discrimination, sex discrimination or environmental protection,” Mr. Obama said.

[. . .]

While students appreciated Mr. Obama’s professorial reserve, colleagues sometimes wanted him to take a stand. When two fellow faculty members asked him to support a controversial antigang measure, allowing Chicago police to disperse and eventually arrest loiterers who had no clear reason to gather, Mr. Obama discussed the issue with unusual thoughtfulness, they say, but gave little sign of who should prevail — the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the measure, or the community groups that supported it out of concern about crime.

“He just observed it with a kind of interest,” said Daniel Kahan, now a professor at Yale.

Nor could his views be gleaned from law review articles or other scholarship; Mr. Obama has never published any. He was too busy, but also, Mr. Epstein believes, he was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically, as Ms. Guinier’s writings had hurt her.

“He figured out, you lay low,” Mr. Epstein said.

Conservative and liberal pundits alike will, of course, glean what they want from this article. But push aside Kantor’s fluff, and I believe one can better understand the workings of “a guy with political ambitions for his entire adult life [who] has not left a paper trail,” as Jim Geraghty wrote on The Campaign Spot.

In connection with an article coming out in tomorrow’s New York Times, reporter Jodi Kantor has uploaded materials from Professor Barack Obama’s constitutional law classes at the University of Chicago. Political junkies will find the documents interesting, and they can be accessed here. But most telling are the anecdotes recounted throughout the article. Here are a few:

The Chicago faculty is more rightward-leaning than that of other top law schools, but if teaching alongside some of the most formidable conservative minds in the country had any impact on Mr. Obama, no one can quite point to it.

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”

[. . .]

In a 1996 interview with the school newspaper, sounded suspicious of President Bill Clinton’s efforts to reach across the aisle.

“On the national level, bipartisanship usually means Democrats ignore the needs of the poor and abandon the idea that government can play a role in issues of poverty, race discrimination, sex discrimination or environmental protection,” Mr. Obama said.

[. . .]

While students appreciated Mr. Obama’s professorial reserve, colleagues sometimes wanted him to take a stand. When two fellow faculty members asked him to support a controversial antigang measure, allowing Chicago police to disperse and eventually arrest loiterers who had no clear reason to gather, Mr. Obama discussed the issue with unusual thoughtfulness, they say, but gave little sign of who should prevail — the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the measure, or the community groups that supported it out of concern about crime.

“He just observed it with a kind of interest,” said Daniel Kahan, now a professor at Yale.

Nor could his views be gleaned from law review articles or other scholarship; Mr. Obama has never published any. He was too busy, but also, Mr. Epstein believes, he was unwilling to put his name to anything that could haunt him politically, as Ms. Guinier’s writings had hurt her.

“He figured out, you lay low,” Mr. Epstein said.

Conservative and liberal pundits alike will, of course, glean what they want from this article. But push aside Kantor’s fluff, and I believe one can better understand the workings of “a guy with political ambitions for his entire adult life [who] has not left a paper trail,” as Jim Geraghty wrote on The Campaign Spot.

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Sometimes Things Have A Way Of Working Out

You were distressed that the Republicans have been captured by the net of corruption and pork barrel spending personified by the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere? Well, Ted Stevens was indicted. You were outraged that the IOC  banned the Iraqi team? Well, the IOC relented. You fumed over the Obamapalooza media love fest? Well it may not have done any good and the public is on to the media bias.

What do all these have in common? Well things have a way of catching up with people. As the Republicans learned in 2006 (some by defeat and others by investigation), you can only scam the system so long before someone blows the whistle. The IOC can only tie itself in knots for so long before there is some reaction, and it must cave to overwhelming public outrage. And you think your candidate has already won, you can take a victory lap and the press with be your ad team? The overreach gets you every time.

That is not to say these things just fortuitously happen. Prosecutors do their work, protesters rail at the IOC, and analysts and the McCain team have to do their job to expose media excess. But the root of these errors is hubris. The protagonists thought  the little people can be fooled or don’t matter or can be flim-flammed. Sometimes that’s true. But it sure is nice when it’s not.

You were distressed that the Republicans have been captured by the net of corruption and pork barrel spending personified by the Alaskan Bridge to Nowhere? Well, Ted Stevens was indicted. You were outraged that the IOC  banned the Iraqi team? Well, the IOC relented. You fumed over the Obamapalooza media love fest? Well it may not have done any good and the public is on to the media bias.

What do all these have in common? Well things have a way of catching up with people. As the Republicans learned in 2006 (some by defeat and others by investigation), you can only scam the system so long before someone blows the whistle. The IOC can only tie itself in knots for so long before there is some reaction, and it must cave to overwhelming public outrage. And you think your candidate has already won, you can take a victory lap and the press with be your ad team? The overreach gets you every time.

That is not to say these things just fortuitously happen. Prosecutors do their work, protesters rail at the IOC, and analysts and the McCain team have to do their job to expose media excess. But the root of these errors is hubris. The protagonists thought  the little people can be fooled or don’t matter or can be flim-flammed. Sometimes that’s true. But it sure is nice when it’s not.

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Taking Down Iran

“The big powers are going down,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today in Tehran at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 100-member Nonaligned Movement. “They have come to the end of their power, and the world is on the verge of entering a new, promising era.”

Is this Ahmadinejad’s prediction or his hope? In any event, he seems to be taking Abraham Lincoln’s advice that the best way to predict the future is to create it—in this case by getting others to agree that the American-led international system has already failed.

In fact, it has not, but it will if the United States continues to allow the Iranian leader to keep the initiative. Iran is one of the few nations that has the will to change the world. Soon, it will also have the capability. Up to now, Washington’s strategy has been to counter Iran by sponsoring ineffective Security Council resolutions, engaging in direct talks that have no useful purpose, and hoping that Tehran’s big-power sponsors will abandon decades of diplomacy and finally see things our way.

Things won’t get better until we change the rules of the game, and there are two ways to do that. First, we can make Russia and China start paying a price for supporting Iran. Until we do this, all diplomacy is pointless. Second, we can meet Iranian provocations with disproportionate responses. There is simply no point in allowing the theocracy to take control of events.

Ahmadinejad knows that with just a few words he can begin to take down a great power. Historically, hegemons fail quickly when they begin to falter. Yet we will not stumble unless we allow ourselves to do so. It’s about time for the United States to, once again, create the future. There is already someone out there trying to do so.

“The big powers are going down,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today in Tehran at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 100-member Nonaligned Movement. “They have come to the end of their power, and the world is on the verge of entering a new, promising era.”

Is this Ahmadinejad’s prediction or his hope? In any event, he seems to be taking Abraham Lincoln’s advice that the best way to predict the future is to create it—in this case by getting others to agree that the American-led international system has already failed.

In fact, it has not, but it will if the United States continues to allow the Iranian leader to keep the initiative. Iran is one of the few nations that has the will to change the world. Soon, it will also have the capability. Up to now, Washington’s strategy has been to counter Iran by sponsoring ineffective Security Council resolutions, engaging in direct talks that have no useful purpose, and hoping that Tehran’s big-power sponsors will abandon decades of diplomacy and finally see things our way.

Things won’t get better until we change the rules of the game, and there are two ways to do that. First, we can make Russia and China start paying a price for supporting Iran. Until we do this, all diplomacy is pointless. Second, we can meet Iranian provocations with disproportionate responses. There is simply no point in allowing the theocracy to take control of events.

Ahmadinejad knows that with just a few words he can begin to take down a great power. Historically, hegemons fail quickly when they begin to falter. Yet we will not stumble unless we allow ourselves to do so. It’s about time for the United States to, once again, create the future. There is already someone out there trying to do so.

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Linkage Oversell

Over at the outstanding MESH blog, Martin Kramer is keeping tabs on examples of the myth of linkage. Part of his latest entry:

What does the present surge of linkage oversell tell us? As Americans increasingly experience the Middle East up close, they learn the region’s complexities, its histories, its many fault lines. And the more they know, the less they believe in the supposed magical power of the “peace process” to help fix anything else. The “peace process” junkies can only hope that an inexperienced president, who knows too little of the world, might give them another shot if he thought it would help to solve other conflicts, where America has troops on the line.

Over at the outstanding MESH blog, Martin Kramer is keeping tabs on examples of the myth of linkage. Part of his latest entry:

What does the present surge of linkage oversell tell us? As Americans increasingly experience the Middle East up close, they learn the region’s complexities, its histories, its many fault lines. And the more they know, the less they believe in the supposed magical power of the “peace process” to help fix anything else. The “peace process” junkies can only hope that an inexperienced president, who knows too little of the world, might give them another shot if he thought it would help to solve other conflicts, where America has troops on the line.

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On Joe Klein

It is the view of Time magazine’s leading political columnist, and a former friendly acquaintance of mine, that bloggers on this site are more dangerous and threatening to the future of the world than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Our intention in highlighting the words spoken by Iran’s president, he says, is to scare his parents in Florida and thereby achieve our vicious foreign policy aims. And he does not wish to accuse us of dual loyalty, but, darn it, he just can’t help himself, as he does it three times.

I wish I were parodying him. I am not.

He says he’s not anti-Semitic but rather, anti-neoconservative. To say it is a badge of honor to stand in opposition to a person as manifestly intellectually unstable as Joe Klein has become is to understate the case. As for his use of classic anti-Semitic canards, I am happy to report that the Jewish people will long survive Joe Klein.

The question is, will Time Magazine?

It is the view of Time magazine’s leading political columnist, and a former friendly acquaintance of mine, that bloggers on this site are more dangerous and threatening to the future of the world than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Our intention in highlighting the words spoken by Iran’s president, he says, is to scare his parents in Florida and thereby achieve our vicious foreign policy aims. And he does not wish to accuse us of dual loyalty, but, darn it, he just can’t help himself, as he does it three times.

I wish I were parodying him. I am not.

He says he’s not anti-Semitic but rather, anti-neoconservative. To say it is a badge of honor to stand in opposition to a person as manifestly intellectually unstable as Joe Klein has become is to understate the case. As for his use of classic anti-Semitic canards, I am happy to report that the Jewish people will long survive Joe Klein.

The question is, will Time Magazine?

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We Know Who You Are

Ben Smith has the scoop on the pleas from Hillary Clinton supporters who want a roll call at the Convention, and the threats and rage coming back from the DNC bigwigs. The latters’ message: get on board, darn it. And we know where you live. Really. My favorite email to an aggrieved Hillary supporter is from Donna Brazille (gosh, she seems so nice on TV):

Stop the hate. Not sure if you know, but we are keeping copies of all these emails in the archives. Yes, you are not going to get away with pretending to be for Hillary. She is a leader of the Dem party.

And in case you thought the Democrats were the party of tolerance there is this one from a California delegate:

Good for you, when the fascists come in the middle of the night to take you to a concentration camp, remember how you voted. Take me off your whiner list . . .then tell them to stop calling me telling me that they are going to vote for mccain. i am would rather vote for a rabid dog than any Fascist republican like mccain. read the declaration of independence.

Well, let’s count the ironies and mega-gaffes. First, imagine a Republican official talking this way to someone in his party. The New York Times would have the headline: “GOP Civil War!” But not so much as a peep, no stories in the major newspapers or networks I can recall, about this issue in particular (the roll call) or, more generally, the stewing Hillary supporters.

Second, everyone thought Hillary was the mean one. Let’s be clear: Obama and his minions didn’t play beanbag to get where they are in Illinois politics and beyond, and they aren’t about to tolerate any flak. So let’s get over the Kumbaya version of Obama’s inclusiveness and transparency. They will stiff the press, club the opposition and take names and addresses. New politics? Yeah, right.

And finally, are these people insane? Who sends emails like that in this day and age? They think the recipients, who already hate them, aren’t going to send them around? It’s one thing to be a bully, quite another to be an obvious and dim one.

As for those Hillary Clinton supporters, they should know: you can always vote for Hillary as a write-in. And no one will keep your name on file.

Ben Smith has the scoop on the pleas from Hillary Clinton supporters who want a roll call at the Convention, and the threats and rage coming back from the DNC bigwigs. The latters’ message: get on board, darn it. And we know where you live. Really. My favorite email to an aggrieved Hillary supporter is from Donna Brazille (gosh, she seems so nice on TV):

Stop the hate. Not sure if you know, but we are keeping copies of all these emails in the archives. Yes, you are not going to get away with pretending to be for Hillary. She is a leader of the Dem party.

And in case you thought the Democrats were the party of tolerance there is this one from a California delegate:

Good for you, when the fascists come in the middle of the night to take you to a concentration camp, remember how you voted. Take me off your whiner list . . .then tell them to stop calling me telling me that they are going to vote for mccain. i am would rather vote for a rabid dog than any Fascist republican like mccain. read the declaration of independence.

Well, let’s count the ironies and mega-gaffes. First, imagine a Republican official talking this way to someone in his party. The New York Times would have the headline: “GOP Civil War!” But not so much as a peep, no stories in the major newspapers or networks I can recall, about this issue in particular (the roll call) or, more generally, the stewing Hillary supporters.

Second, everyone thought Hillary was the mean one. Let’s be clear: Obama and his minions didn’t play beanbag to get where they are in Illinois politics and beyond, and they aren’t about to tolerate any flak. So let’s get over the Kumbaya version of Obama’s inclusiveness and transparency. They will stiff the press, club the opposition and take names and addresses. New politics? Yeah, right.

And finally, are these people insane? Who sends emails like that in this day and age? They think the recipients, who already hate them, aren’t going to send them around? It’s one thing to be a bully, quite another to be an obvious and dim one.

As for those Hillary Clinton supporters, they should know: you can always vote for Hillary as a write-in. And no one will keep your name on file.

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Lessons Learned

The Wall Street Journal — in its never-ending quest to warn voters of the danger and folly of universal health care shemes — goes after RomneyCare and an editorial by its namesake which appeared on the Journal’s own opinion pages. (Well no one ever accused the Journal’s editors of pulling their punches.) Aside from perhaps warning John McCain off Mitt Romney as a potential VP pick, the Journal does its best to remind us that universal health coverage is never universal and it’s very, very costly. The editors explain that more people are covered now in Massachusetts, but that’s not cause for celebration:

Most of this growth in coverage has instead come via a new state entitlement called Commonwealth Care. This provides subsidized insurance to those under 300% of the poverty level, or about $63,000 for a family of four. About 174,000 have joined this low- or no-cost program, a trend that is likely to speed up. As this public option gets overwhelmed, budget gaskets are blowing everywhere. Mr. Patrick had already bumped up this year’s spending to $869 million, $144 million over its original estimate. Liberals duly noted that these tax hikes are necessary because enrollment in Commonwealth Care is much higher than anticipated. But of course more people will have coverage if government gives it to them for free. The problem is that someone has to pay for it. Thus the extra tab of $129 million, which may need to go higher because it relies on uncertain federal funds from Medicaid.

The perverse silver lining: the state is beginning to recognize just how expensive all the state required (and politically inspired) insurance mandates may be.

So what do we learn here? That even a well-intentioned effort to vastly expand government control and regulation of health care comes at a very steep price with, at best, mixed results. McCain has a darn good alternative, a market-based plan, he could talk more about. But at the very least, he should warn voters that if RomneyCare was expensive and ineffective wait until they see ObamaCare.

The Wall Street Journal — in its never-ending quest to warn voters of the danger and folly of universal health care shemes — goes after RomneyCare and an editorial by its namesake which appeared on the Journal’s own opinion pages. (Well no one ever accused the Journal’s editors of pulling their punches.) Aside from perhaps warning John McCain off Mitt Romney as a potential VP pick, the Journal does its best to remind us that universal health coverage is never universal and it’s very, very costly. The editors explain that more people are covered now in Massachusetts, but that’s not cause for celebration:

Most of this growth in coverage has instead come via a new state entitlement called Commonwealth Care. This provides subsidized insurance to those under 300% of the poverty level, or about $63,000 for a family of four. About 174,000 have joined this low- or no-cost program, a trend that is likely to speed up. As this public option gets overwhelmed, budget gaskets are blowing everywhere. Mr. Patrick had already bumped up this year’s spending to $869 million, $144 million over its original estimate. Liberals duly noted that these tax hikes are necessary because enrollment in Commonwealth Care is much higher than anticipated. But of course more people will have coverage if government gives it to them for free. The problem is that someone has to pay for it. Thus the extra tab of $129 million, which may need to go higher because it relies on uncertain federal funds from Medicaid.

The perverse silver lining: the state is beginning to recognize just how expensive all the state required (and politically inspired) insurance mandates may be.

So what do we learn here? That even a well-intentioned effort to vastly expand government control and regulation of health care comes at a very steep price with, at best, mixed results. McCain has a darn good alternative, a market-based plan, he could talk more about. But at the very least, he should warn voters that if RomneyCare was expensive and ineffective wait until they see ObamaCare.

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Progressive Broadcasting Service: Unfair and Unbalanced

Numerous “Viewers Like You” and PBS ombudsman (who knew that such a job even existed?) Michael Getler are deeply perturbed about my July 21 appearance on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. I was appearing as an informal McCain adviser to debate an informal Obama adviser, Larry Korb, about Iraq. According to Getler (and viewers who wrote in to express their outrage to PBS), the problem was that I got too much airtime at the expense of Korb and moderator Margaret Warner. “When it was over,” he complains, “Korb and Warner had been essentially ‘walked over’ by Boot, who rather thoroughly dominated — in terms of air time (more than 3-to-1 by my calculations) — the 10-minute discussion.”

No mention of the substance—for instance the fact that I spent part of my time trying, over Korb’s interruption, to set him straight when he tried to peddle that old canard about how the decline in violence in Iraq was attributable not to the surge (which he opposed) but to, of all things, the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006 (which he supported). I eagerly await this ombudsman’s forthcoming report on the NewsHour last night which featured a discussion of Iraq by Peter Galbraith and Juan Cole—Left and Lefter. Of course, in the eyes of dedicated public television viewers, that’s no scandal. That’s fair and balanced coverage, PBS-style.

Numerous “Viewers Like You” and PBS ombudsman (who knew that such a job even existed?) Michael Getler are deeply perturbed about my July 21 appearance on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. I was appearing as an informal McCain adviser to debate an informal Obama adviser, Larry Korb, about Iraq. According to Getler (and viewers who wrote in to express their outrage to PBS), the problem was that I got too much airtime at the expense of Korb and moderator Margaret Warner. “When it was over,” he complains, “Korb and Warner had been essentially ‘walked over’ by Boot, who rather thoroughly dominated — in terms of air time (more than 3-to-1 by my calculations) — the 10-minute discussion.”

No mention of the substance—for instance the fact that I spent part of my time trying, over Korb’s interruption, to set him straight when he tried to peddle that old canard about how the decline in violence in Iraq was attributable not to the surge (which he opposed) but to, of all things, the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006 (which he supported). I eagerly await this ombudsman’s forthcoming report on the NewsHour last night which featured a discussion of Iraq by Peter Galbraith and Juan Cole—Left and Lefter. Of course, in the eyes of dedicated public television viewers, that’s no scandal. That’s fair and balanced coverage, PBS-style.

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Bush’s Remarkable Homelessness Legacy

Today in the New York Times, Rachel L. Swarns yawns through the following lede as if she were reporting on the amount of old subway tokens not yet redeemed:

The number of chronically homeless people living in the nation’s streets and shelters has dropped by about 30 percent – to 123,833 from 175,914 – between 2005 and 2007, Bush administration officials said on Tuesday.

A 30 percent drop in chronic homelessness — not bad for a period of certain financial catastrophe, is it? Not too shabby a legacy for an uncaring administration bent on global dominance at the expense of American well-being, huh? And make no mistake, this is the result of a Bush administration initiative. The “Housing First” policy was championed in 2005 by Bush appointee Philip F. Mangano, head of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. The policy allows homeless people to stay in apartments rent-free while they find work. As they get on their feet they pay rent in rising increments.

Here’s how the Times strains to describe the implementation of the policy:

But the officials attribute much of the decline to the “housing first” strategy that has been promoted by the Bush administration and Congress and increasingly adopted across the country.

No matter how unwieldy the result, Swarns can’t let Bush have the credit for introducing the program. Here again:

Mr. Culhane said that Congress and the Bush administration has pushed local communities to focus on finding solutions . . .

Anyway, sorry I forgot the script. Never mind 50,000 fewer chronicly homeless Americans. The country is in ruins, on the verge of collapse due to the increasing gap between single mothers working two jobs and Bush’s rich oil friends. This is our time; this is our moment. Hope, change and all that jazz.

Today in the New York Times, Rachel L. Swarns yawns through the following lede as if she were reporting on the amount of old subway tokens not yet redeemed:

The number of chronically homeless people living in the nation’s streets and shelters has dropped by about 30 percent – to 123,833 from 175,914 – between 2005 and 2007, Bush administration officials said on Tuesday.

A 30 percent drop in chronic homelessness — not bad for a period of certain financial catastrophe, is it? Not too shabby a legacy for an uncaring administration bent on global dominance at the expense of American well-being, huh? And make no mistake, this is the result of a Bush administration initiative. The “Housing First” policy was championed in 2005 by Bush appointee Philip F. Mangano, head of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. The policy allows homeless people to stay in apartments rent-free while they find work. As they get on their feet they pay rent in rising increments.

Here’s how the Times strains to describe the implementation of the policy:

But the officials attribute much of the decline to the “housing first” strategy that has been promoted by the Bush administration and Congress and increasingly adopted across the country.

No matter how unwieldy the result, Swarns can’t let Bush have the credit for introducing the program. Here again:

Mr. Culhane said that Congress and the Bush administration has pushed local communities to focus on finding solutions . . .

Anyway, sorry I forgot the script. Never mind 50,000 fewer chronicly homeless Americans. The country is in ruins, on the verge of collapse due to the increasing gap between single mothers working two jobs and Bush’s rich oil friends. This is our time; this is our moment. Hope, change and all that jazz.

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Approaching Normalcy

General David Petraeus tells USA Today that overall violence in Iraq is declining toward “normal” levels. “If you could reduce these sensational attacks further, I think you are almost approaching a level of normal or latent violence,” Petraeus said on Monday. “The fact that the levels of violence have come down so significantly and stayed down now for some two-and-a-half months … indicates there is a degree of durability.”

According to the story, there have been six U.S. combat deaths so far in July. The lowest monthly number was eight in May 2003, slightly more than a month after the invasion. Daily attacks during the past two months have averaged about 25 to 30, down from about 160 to 170 a little more than a year ago, Petraeus said. In addition, of course, Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped. Iraqi security forces have also been growing in numbers and effectiveness as threats from al-Qaeda and Shiite militias have decreased, Petraeus said. About 70% of Iraq’s combat battalions are leading operations in their areas.

“There is a degree of momentum across the board,” according to Petraeus.

At the same time, Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, have continually and rightly insisted that progress is fragile and reversible, and that al Qaeda is still lethal. We saw that again on Monday, when suicide attacks in Iraq reportedly killed more than 50 Iraqis. “Al-Qaeda, although significantly degraded … still can strap a suicide vest on an individual and push him or her into a crowd of Iraqis,” Petraeus said. Female suicide vest bombers, who were responsible for Monday’s attacks, are particularly difficult to prevent, especially in that culture. And so Max is right to warn against the wild mood swings of those like Joe Klein, who once believed the Iraq war couldn’t be won and now argues it cannot, at this point, be lost.

He and those who share his views are wrong on both counts.

In fact, the war was winnable even at its low point, just as we can undo the enormous progress we’ve made. We have in place a formula for success in Iraq; now our task as a nation is to demonstrate the necessary resolve to see the war through to a successful outcome – something that is finally within reach.

General David Petraeus tells USA Today that overall violence in Iraq is declining toward “normal” levels. “If you could reduce these sensational attacks further, I think you are almost approaching a level of normal or latent violence,” Petraeus said on Monday. “The fact that the levels of violence have come down so significantly and stayed down now for some two-and-a-half months … indicates there is a degree of durability.”

According to the story, there have been six U.S. combat deaths so far in July. The lowest monthly number was eight in May 2003, slightly more than a month after the invasion. Daily attacks during the past two months have averaged about 25 to 30, down from about 160 to 170 a little more than a year ago, Petraeus said. In addition, of course, Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped. Iraqi security forces have also been growing in numbers and effectiveness as threats from al-Qaeda and Shiite militias have decreased, Petraeus said. About 70% of Iraq’s combat battalions are leading operations in their areas.

“There is a degree of momentum across the board,” according to Petraeus.

At the same time, Petraeus, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, have continually and rightly insisted that progress is fragile and reversible, and that al Qaeda is still lethal. We saw that again on Monday, when suicide attacks in Iraq reportedly killed more than 50 Iraqis. “Al-Qaeda, although significantly degraded … still can strap a suicide vest on an individual and push him or her into a crowd of Iraqis,” Petraeus said. Female suicide vest bombers, who were responsible for Monday’s attacks, are particularly difficult to prevent, especially in that culture. And so Max is right to warn against the wild mood swings of those like Joe Klein, who once believed the Iraq war couldn’t be won and now argues it cannot, at this point, be lost.

He and those who share his views are wrong on both counts.

In fact, the war was winnable even at its low point, just as we can undo the enormous progress we’ve made. We have in place a formula for success in Iraq; now our task as a nation is to demonstrate the necessary resolve to see the war through to a successful outcome – something that is finally within reach.

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Oh, Those Radical Kids

In February, a Gallup poll of 50,000 Muslims from around the world made headlines by revealing that only 7 percent of those surveyed were radical. How interesting then to contrast those findings with the London’s Center for Social Cohesion’s recent study of young British Muslims that found nearly one third of British Muslim students “support killing in the name of religion.” What’s more, “60 percent of active members of campus Islamic societies said such killings can be justified.”

A jump from 7 percent worldwide to 60 percent among British campus organizations is very telling. As enthusiasm for radical Islam wanes among Asia’s youth, the spirit of jihad will pose its most formidable challenge in the Muslim enclaves of the West. In the Muslim Middle East, young people have front row seats for the various disasters engendered by radical regimes: the confiscation of personal property, the denial of basic freedoms, the torture and death of loved ones. Moreover, with Iraq as an infant democracy, they also see a better regional alternative. In Europe, young Muslims are radicalized in cushy ghettos where they benefit from no-questions-asked, cradle-to-grave Western welfare and are free to dream of exotic wars and restored caliphates.

This detail from the study was actually encouraging:

Some 79 percent of Muslim students polled said they respected Jews.

Frankly, that seems like a higher number than you’d find in the non-Muslim population – including Jews.

In February, a Gallup poll of 50,000 Muslims from around the world made headlines by revealing that only 7 percent of those surveyed were radical. How interesting then to contrast those findings with the London’s Center for Social Cohesion’s recent study of young British Muslims that found nearly one third of British Muslim students “support killing in the name of religion.” What’s more, “60 percent of active members of campus Islamic societies said such killings can be justified.”

A jump from 7 percent worldwide to 60 percent among British campus organizations is very telling. As enthusiasm for radical Islam wanes among Asia’s youth, the spirit of jihad will pose its most formidable challenge in the Muslim enclaves of the West. In the Muslim Middle East, young people have front row seats for the various disasters engendered by radical regimes: the confiscation of personal property, the denial of basic freedoms, the torture and death of loved ones. Moreover, with Iraq as an infant democracy, they also see a better regional alternative. In Europe, young Muslims are radicalized in cushy ghettos where they benefit from no-questions-asked, cradle-to-grave Western welfare and are free to dream of exotic wars and restored caliphates.

This detail from the study was actually encouraging:

Some 79 percent of Muslim students polled said they respected Jews.

Frankly, that seems like a higher number than you’d find in the non-Muslim population – including Jews.

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$500B Is A Big Number

News of the near $500B deficit gap will restoke the argument over whether voters care about fiscal discipline and restraining the size of giovernment. Republicans have done such a perfectly horrid job on this front they can hardly claim the high ground, but John McCain is a different story. If he can get voters’ attention, there are a few points he should make.

First, Barack Obama’s spending/tax plans are not the portrait fiscal responsibility. His advisors don’t really even pretend otherwise. For one thing, he won’t tell us what rates he has in mind for corporate and capital gains taxes. But more important are his enormous spending plans — $65B (and who believes it would be just $65B?) for health care, $10B for energy schemes, and an estimated total of perhaps a trillion in new spending. And cuts? Not really. Oh, he is going to reduce spending by ending the war in Iraq. ( In 16 months. Or whenever. And by not increasing spending in Afghanistan?) It is bad, embarrassing really, and McCain should pull out the Ross Perot charts to explain why.

Second, massive spending, as we learned the hard way, is intimately tied with base corruption. Earmarks and the corruption scandals of the last few years exist in part because the overall size of the budget and spending is so frightfully large. What’s a $20M bridge in a $300B transportation bill? McCain can frame the issue as one of fiscal sanity and integrity. And Obama — who got his share of earmarks including a $1M for his wife’s employer — isn’t in a great position.

Finally, it really does go to an overall level of honesty and forthrightness with voters. It’s not New Politics to cook the books, hide the spending, tell the middle class someone else will pay the bill and then scream that the deficit has ballooned and we’re held hostage to foreigners investing in the U.S. If you don’t care about deficits fine, but then tell the voters why all that spending is worth taking money from the private sector (in borrowing or taxes).

Sure, it’s boring and tedious and some voters would rather hear other things. But McCain loves this stuff and he should make the most of it. And to boot, it gives him, as we saw in this Bush-bashing comment yesterday, an opportunity to separate himself both from an unpopular president and an even less popular Congress. That’s not a bad place to be.

News of the near $500B deficit gap will restoke the argument over whether voters care about fiscal discipline and restraining the size of giovernment. Republicans have done such a perfectly horrid job on this front they can hardly claim the high ground, but John McCain is a different story. If he can get voters’ attention, there are a few points he should make.

First, Barack Obama’s spending/tax plans are not the portrait fiscal responsibility. His advisors don’t really even pretend otherwise. For one thing, he won’t tell us what rates he has in mind for corporate and capital gains taxes. But more important are his enormous spending plans — $65B (and who believes it would be just $65B?) for health care, $10B for energy schemes, and an estimated total of perhaps a trillion in new spending. And cuts? Not really. Oh, he is going to reduce spending by ending the war in Iraq. ( In 16 months. Or whenever. And by not increasing spending in Afghanistan?) It is bad, embarrassing really, and McCain should pull out the Ross Perot charts to explain why.

Second, massive spending, as we learned the hard way, is intimately tied with base corruption. Earmarks and the corruption scandals of the last few years exist in part because the overall size of the budget and spending is so frightfully large. What’s a $20M bridge in a $300B transportation bill? McCain can frame the issue as one of fiscal sanity and integrity. And Obama — who got his share of earmarks including a $1M for his wife’s employer — isn’t in a great position.

Finally, it really does go to an overall level of honesty and forthrightness with voters. It’s not New Politics to cook the books, hide the spending, tell the middle class someone else will pay the bill and then scream that the deficit has ballooned and we’re held hostage to foreigners investing in the U.S. If you don’t care about deficits fine, but then tell the voters why all that spending is worth taking money from the private sector (in borrowing or taxes).

Sure, it’s boring and tedious and some voters would rather hear other things. But McCain loves this stuff and he should make the most of it. And to boot, it gives him, as we saw in this Bush-bashing comment yesterday, an opportunity to separate himself both from an unpopular president and an even less popular Congress. That’s not a bad place to be.

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Reinventing China’s Past

China watcher Orville Schell shows us the danger of China watching in his July 26 Newsweek essay, “China’s Agony of Defeat.”

After describing China’s “100 years of national humiliation”—the Chinese feel shamed by foreign invasions at the end of the Qing dynasty—as well as other tragic events in the country’s recent history, Schell gives us general advice on how to deal with today’s angry populace and their touchy rulers. “While honest criticisms should not be muted just because Chinese leaders find them grating, we foreigners should be mindful of this complex psychological landscape,” he writes, channeling Kissinger. “Despite the fact that China has gotten closer than ever to escaping from this past, it’s important to understand that its leaders and people are still susceptible to older ways of responding to the world around them. Now is not the time to provoke them further and impede their progress toward a new, more equal and self-assured sense of nationhood.”

So is China’s angry outlook really our fault? Almost all Chinese, whether living inside the People’s Republic or not, carry with them some sense of historical grievance. For instance, after listening most of my life to stories told by my father, relatives, and friends about the wartime Japanese, I do.

Yet the Chinese government, especially after Mao’s death, has taught the nation’s young a history of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. And that is why anti-foreigner sentiment is far stronger among China’s Chinese than among Chinese growing up elsewhere—and why it is stronger among China’s youth than its older generations, who have greater justification for nursing grievance.

The solution, therefore, is not for foreigners to cower in the presence of angry Chinese. On the contrary, we should tell them to get over it. There is no point to legitimizing Beijing’s largely fabricated version of historical events. And we only deceive ourselves when we believe that the Chinese will develop a more “self-assured sense of nationhood” while their government continues to lie about their past.

China watcher Orville Schell shows us the danger of China watching in his July 26 Newsweek essay, “China’s Agony of Defeat.”

After describing China’s “100 years of national humiliation”—the Chinese feel shamed by foreign invasions at the end of the Qing dynasty—as well as other tragic events in the country’s recent history, Schell gives us general advice on how to deal with today’s angry populace and their touchy rulers. “While honest criticisms should not be muted just because Chinese leaders find them grating, we foreigners should be mindful of this complex psychological landscape,” he writes, channeling Kissinger. “Despite the fact that China has gotten closer than ever to escaping from this past, it’s important to understand that its leaders and people are still susceptible to older ways of responding to the world around them. Now is not the time to provoke them further and impede their progress toward a new, more equal and self-assured sense of nationhood.”

So is China’s angry outlook really our fault? Almost all Chinese, whether living inside the People’s Republic or not, carry with them some sense of historical grievance. For instance, after listening most of my life to stories told by my father, relatives, and friends about the wartime Japanese, I do.

Yet the Chinese government, especially after Mao’s death, has taught the nation’s young a history of half-truths, distortions, and outright lies. And that is why anti-foreigner sentiment is far stronger among China’s Chinese than among Chinese growing up elsewhere—and why it is stronger among China’s youth than its older generations, who have greater justification for nursing grievance.

The solution, therefore, is not for foreigners to cower in the presence of angry Chinese. On the contrary, we should tell them to get over it. There is no point to legitimizing Beijing’s largely fabricated version of historical events. And we only deceive ourselves when we believe that the Chinese will develop a more “self-assured sense of nationhood” while their government continues to lie about their past.

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Please Do

In a piece filled with perfectly awful analysis and advice Glenn Greenwald says that the problem with Congress is that is was too accommodating of the evil agenda of George W. Bush. FISA passage is at the top of the list. If they hadn’t passed that bill, allowing terrorism surveillance to continue and had cut off funding for the war, they wouldn’t have poll numbers in the teens.

He offers no factual support for this, of course, and indeed polling showed that while the decision to go to war remains unpopular voters did not and still don’t favor a cut off of funds. And Greenwald assumes, again without data, that the public like Barack Obama is stewing that the surge worked — and now taking its wrath out on Congress. His solution? Punish the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, target them for defeat and run them out of town on a rail.

To that I say: oh please do. Let’s see them run Nancy Pelosi clones in the South, anti-gun advocates in Colorado and ultra-liberals in Pennsylvania and Ohio. (See, sometimes you forget that conservatives are not alone in their desire to so purify the party that they would winnow it down to a phone-booth size contingent of true believers.)

But, alas, I do not see any sign that the Democrats are following Greenwald’s advice. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Rahm Emanuel figured out that a party — at least one which seeks majority status — must be broad-based and willing to run people who can win in disparate parts of the country.

So on second thought, forget all the criticism. Go for it, Democrats! Throw the Blue Dogs out, vote to cut off funding for the surge and repeal FISA while you’re at it. And don’t you listen to those poll numbers about off-shore drilling either. It’s just a scheme by Fox news to get you to destroy the environment.

In a piece filled with perfectly awful analysis and advice Glenn Greenwald says that the problem with Congress is that is was too accommodating of the evil agenda of George W. Bush. FISA passage is at the top of the list. If they hadn’t passed that bill, allowing terrorism surveillance to continue and had cut off funding for the war, they wouldn’t have poll numbers in the teens.

He offers no factual support for this, of course, and indeed polling showed that while the decision to go to war remains unpopular voters did not and still don’t favor a cut off of funds. And Greenwald assumes, again without data, that the public like Barack Obama is stewing that the surge worked — and now taking its wrath out on Congress. His solution? Punish the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, target them for defeat and run them out of town on a rail.

To that I say: oh please do. Let’s see them run Nancy Pelosi clones in the South, anti-gun advocates in Colorado and ultra-liberals in Pennsylvania and Ohio. (See, sometimes you forget that conservatives are not alone in their desire to so purify the party that they would winnow it down to a phone-booth size contingent of true believers.)

But, alas, I do not see any sign that the Democrats are following Greenwald’s advice. Unfortunately for the Republicans, Rahm Emanuel figured out that a party — at least one which seeks majority status — must be broad-based and willing to run people who can win in disparate parts of the country.

So on second thought, forget all the criticism. Go for it, Democrats! Throw the Blue Dogs out, vote to cut off funding for the surge and repeal FISA while you’re at it. And don’t you listen to those poll numbers about off-shore drilling either. It’s just a scheme by Fox news to get you to destroy the environment.

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Coburn’s Political Virtue

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) makes the Senate less efficient, and that’s his political virtue. By clogging the Congressional legislative schedule, Coburn has put into practice a Thoreauian theory of governance: “That government is best which governs least.”

“Mr. Coburn has continued down his singular path, driving Democrats and some Republicans to distraction with his prolific use of the ‘hold’–the ability of a single senator to object to moving ahead on a measure without a debate,” writes Carl Hulse in the New York Times. The article, which mainly focuses on the so called “Tomnibus” (a largesse bill sponsored by the Democratic majority, laden with legislation previously disavowed by Coburn, and primarily created to circumvent Coburn’s stubbornness), should come as no surprise to those who remember columnist George Will’s profile of the Senator over two years ago:

“I’m not liked very well,” he says serenely, “but I’m like the gopher that’s going to keep on digging until someone spears me or traps me. I’m going to keep on digging the tunnel under spending.” Because, he says, large deficits reverse the American tradition of making sacrifices for the benefit of rising generations: “I’m an American long before I’m a Republican, and I’m a granddad before I’m either one of them.”

“If I don’t get reelected? Great. The Republic will live on.” Meanwhile, his mission is the soul of simplicity: “stopping bad things.” For five more years — 11 at the most — Coburn will be the Senate’s stoplight.

To be sure, Coburn has his flaws. But in the 110th Congress, very few senators so effectively make the Senate run so inefficiently.

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) makes the Senate less efficient, and that’s his political virtue. By clogging the Congressional legislative schedule, Coburn has put into practice a Thoreauian theory of governance: “That government is best which governs least.”

“Mr. Coburn has continued down his singular path, driving Democrats and some Republicans to distraction with his prolific use of the ‘hold’–the ability of a single senator to object to moving ahead on a measure without a debate,” writes Carl Hulse in the New York Times. The article, which mainly focuses on the so called “Tomnibus” (a largesse bill sponsored by the Democratic majority, laden with legislation previously disavowed by Coburn, and primarily created to circumvent Coburn’s stubbornness), should come as no surprise to those who remember columnist George Will’s profile of the Senator over two years ago:

“I’m not liked very well,” he says serenely, “but I’m like the gopher that’s going to keep on digging until someone spears me or traps me. I’m going to keep on digging the tunnel under spending.” Because, he says, large deficits reverse the American tradition of making sacrifices for the benefit of rising generations: “I’m an American long before I’m a Republican, and I’m a granddad before I’m either one of them.”

“If I don’t get reelected? Great. The Republic will live on.” Meanwhile, his mission is the soul of simplicity: “stopping bad things.” For five more years — 11 at the most — Coburn will be the Senate’s stoplight.

To be sure, Coburn has his flaws. But in the 110th Congress, very few senators so effectively make the Senate run so inefficiently.

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This Is What McCain Should Be Talking About

Armchair political quarterbacks are arguing about the right focus for John McCain’s campaign . The best example of what he should be doing — explaining what his opponent is offering on the economy — comes from Michael Boskin ,who kicks off a must-read column with this:

What if I told you that a prominent global political figure in recent months has proposed: abrogating key features of his government’s contracts with energy companies; unilaterally renegotiating his country’s international economic treaties; dramatically raising marginal tax rates on the “rich” to levels not seen in his country in three decades (which would make them among the highest in the world); and changing his country’s social insurance system into explicit welfare by severing the link between taxes and benefits?

Aside from some pithy jibes about Barack Obama’s economic literacy, he has some salient facts: Obama’s tax increases would effectively raise the marginal rate to 62.8% — a “reduction of one-third in the after-tax wage.” Boskin’s stats on free trade are equally compelling.

So far the entire economic debate has consisted of “McCain embraced Bush’s tax cuts.” But the discussion has yet to address what the alternative is, or to remind voters, that they will eventually have to pay for Obama’s massive domestic spending. McCain would do well to spruce up his own package and offer the “McCain tax cut plan.” But he could at least start with a Boskin-like dissection of Obama’s plans. They are quite a bit more frightening frankly than his national security views (at least the latest ones).

Armchair political quarterbacks are arguing about the right focus for John McCain’s campaign . The best example of what he should be doing — explaining what his opponent is offering on the economy — comes from Michael Boskin ,who kicks off a must-read column with this:

What if I told you that a prominent global political figure in recent months has proposed: abrogating key features of his government’s contracts with energy companies; unilaterally renegotiating his country’s international economic treaties; dramatically raising marginal tax rates on the “rich” to levels not seen in his country in three decades (which would make them among the highest in the world); and changing his country’s social insurance system into explicit welfare by severing the link between taxes and benefits?

Aside from some pithy jibes about Barack Obama’s economic literacy, he has some salient facts: Obama’s tax increases would effectively raise the marginal rate to 62.8% — a “reduction of one-third in the after-tax wage.” Boskin’s stats on free trade are equally compelling.

So far the entire economic debate has consisted of “McCain embraced Bush’s tax cuts.” But the discussion has yet to address what the alternative is, or to remind voters, that they will eventually have to pay for Obama’s massive domestic spending. McCain would do well to spruce up his own package and offer the “McCain tax cut plan.” But he could at least start with a Boskin-like dissection of Obama’s plans. They are quite a bit more frightening frankly than his national security views (at least the latest ones).

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Pick your favorite poll. But remember Hillary Clinton was once ahead of Barack Obama by 25 points. Until she wasn’t.

I have no idea if Governor Tim Kaine is Obama’s pick. But as a Virginia resident, I don’t get the appeal. He’s not accomplished much of anything and he has no foreign policy experience. Ah, now I get it.

A classic: Obama’s hotshot economic advisors –oh, and Big Labor in the person of SEIU’s Anna Burger. Between Robert Rubin (no relation) and her I wonder who wins the free trade argument.

Newt Gingrich spots the winning issue for Republicans. The highlight is his description of the foreign-language impaired Obama: “the personification of his own embarrassment.”

And if this is John McCain’s pick, it wouldn’t be so bad.

I concur with Terry Eastland and with Linda. ( And given that 24 hours has passed since the original This Week interview with no “clarification” I’m increasingly confident and pleased that John McCain meant what he said.)

Sometimes it really is better to be in the minority. And it will be interesting to see what type of reception congressmen and senators get when they return home with no energy bill. Do I hear 8%?

Right now this is the best issue McCain has. If he ever gets around to explaining what Obama’s tax and spending policies mean, that will be even better. (Unless Obama puts off tax increases. Then he really might be giving us the third Bush term.)

This is really shameful. Do you think he could have managed one question about Ahmadinejad’s desire to wipe out Israel or his Holocaust denial? Or Iran’s support for terrorists? What was the deal here –treat him as if he were the Prime Minister of Spain? No question on the mass executions? Makes you appreciate Lee Bollinger.

“Overstayed his welcome,” according to the New York Times. The translation from mega-spin: “Yikes, what was he thinking?!”

He had me nodding in agreement until he got to 200,000 Germans cheering a candidate who claims world “citizenship” and is going to shy away from “hard power.” Why should this make me happy?

From a smart Democratic strategist (and longtime advisor to Joe Lieberman) : “[The economy] is the driving issue, but it’s not going to decide this campaign. It’s going to be about trust. . .The election within the election is a referendum on Obama.” Which is why McCain has a shot.

Pick your favorite poll. But remember Hillary Clinton was once ahead of Barack Obama by 25 points. Until she wasn’t.

I have no idea if Governor Tim Kaine is Obama’s pick. But as a Virginia resident, I don’t get the appeal. He’s not accomplished much of anything and he has no foreign policy experience. Ah, now I get it.

A classic: Obama’s hotshot economic advisors –oh, and Big Labor in the person of SEIU’s Anna Burger. Between Robert Rubin (no relation) and her I wonder who wins the free trade argument.

Newt Gingrich spots the winning issue for Republicans. The highlight is his description of the foreign-language impaired Obama: “the personification of his own embarrassment.”

And if this is John McCain’s pick, it wouldn’t be so bad.

I concur with Terry Eastland and with Linda. ( And given that 24 hours has passed since the original This Week interview with no “clarification” I’m increasingly confident and pleased that John McCain meant what he said.)

Sometimes it really is better to be in the minority. And it will be interesting to see what type of reception congressmen and senators get when they return home with no energy bill. Do I hear 8%?

Right now this is the best issue McCain has. If he ever gets around to explaining what Obama’s tax and spending policies mean, that will be even better. (Unless Obama puts off tax increases. Then he really might be giving us the third Bush term.)

This is really shameful. Do you think he could have managed one question about Ahmadinejad’s desire to wipe out Israel or his Holocaust denial? Or Iran’s support for terrorists? What was the deal here –treat him as if he were the Prime Minister of Spain? No question on the mass executions? Makes you appreciate Lee Bollinger.

“Overstayed his welcome,” according to the New York Times. The translation from mega-spin: “Yikes, what was he thinking?!”

He had me nodding in agreement until he got to 200,000 Germans cheering a candidate who claims world “citizenship” and is going to shy away from “hard power.” Why should this make me happy?

From a smart Democratic strategist (and longtime advisor to Joe Lieberman) : “[The economy] is the driving issue, but it’s not going to decide this campaign. It’s going to be about trust. . .The election within the election is a referendum on Obama.” Which is why McCain has a shot.

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The International Olympic Committee Slaps America in the Face

As Gordon mentioned last week (and as my friend and Yale Law student Aaron Zelinsky pointed out), the International Olympic Committee has banned the Iraqi Olympic team from competing in the upcoming summer games in Beijing. The Committee took this action, ostensibly, under a section of its charter which permits punishment when “any governmental or other body causes the activity of the [National Olympic Committee] or the making or expression of its will to be hampered.” According to the IOC, the Iraqi government interfered with its own Olympic committee by allowing ethnic sectarianism to get in the way of sportsmanship.

Today in the Wall Street Journal , former United Nations official Michael Soussan joins Zelinsky in demanding that the Iraqis be permitted to play. That the IOC is substantiating its ban on the Iraqi government’s alleged meddling with the composition of its Olympic Committee due to tribal loyalties is “an interesting accusation — given that the previous chief of Iraq’s Olympic effort was Uday Hussein, the son of Iraq’s former dictator.” The IOC never had a problem with the Iraqi Olympic team when it was under the thumb of Saddam Hussein, why the sudden concern for internal Iraqi politics? While we’re at it, why is the IOC focusing on Iraq at all, given all of the other dictatorships which will be represented at the Games? Does the IOC really believe that political and tribal loyalties didn’t play a role in the composition of their teams?

Of course, the IOC is the last institution one ought trust with discerning countries’ human rights records. From 1980 until 2001, it was headed by a former high official in Francoist Spain, Juan Antonio Samaranch, under whose watch massive corruption occurred. This was but the most infamous example of a long string of base behavior exhibited by the IOC and its officials. The IOC’s decision to ban the Iraqi team from competing isn’t just a slap in the face to that country’s heroic athletes — but to the United States as well.

As Gordon mentioned last week (and as my friend and Yale Law student Aaron Zelinsky pointed out), the International Olympic Committee has banned the Iraqi Olympic team from competing in the upcoming summer games in Beijing. The Committee took this action, ostensibly, under a section of its charter which permits punishment when “any governmental or other body causes the activity of the [National Olympic Committee] or the making or expression of its will to be hampered.” According to the IOC, the Iraqi government interfered with its own Olympic committee by allowing ethnic sectarianism to get in the way of sportsmanship.

Today in the Wall Street Journal , former United Nations official Michael Soussan joins Zelinsky in demanding that the Iraqis be permitted to play. That the IOC is substantiating its ban on the Iraqi government’s alleged meddling with the composition of its Olympic Committee due to tribal loyalties is “an interesting accusation — given that the previous chief of Iraq’s Olympic effort was Uday Hussein, the son of Iraq’s former dictator.” The IOC never had a problem with the Iraqi Olympic team when it was under the thumb of Saddam Hussein, why the sudden concern for internal Iraqi politics? While we’re at it, why is the IOC focusing on Iraq at all, given all of the other dictatorships which will be represented at the Games? Does the IOC really believe that political and tribal loyalties didn’t play a role in the composition of their teams?

Of course, the IOC is the last institution one ought trust with discerning countries’ human rights records. From 1980 until 2001, it was headed by a former high official in Francoist Spain, Juan Antonio Samaranch, under whose watch massive corruption occurred. This was but the most infamous example of a long string of base behavior exhibited by the IOC and its officials. The IOC’s decision to ban the Iraqi team from competing isn’t just a slap in the face to that country’s heroic athletes — but to the United States as well.

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You Don’t Say!

Richard Cohen, who apparently has been covering the presidential race for over a year, has made a troubling discovery: Barack Obama hasn’t accomplished anything. Ignoring the “experience doesn’t matter” mind-rays from the Obama media control operation, Cohen then frets that Obama’s one example of political courage wasn’t so courageous:

Obama argues that he himself stuck to the biggest gun of all: opposition to the war. He took that position back when the war was enormously popular, the president who initiated it was even more popular, and critics of both were slandered as unpatriotic. But at the time, Obama was a mere Illinois state senator, representing the (very) liberal Hyde Park area of Chicago. He either voiced his conscience or his district’s leanings or (lucky fella) both. We will never know. And we will never know, either, how Obama might have conducted himself had he served in Congress as long as McCain has. Possibly he would have earned a reputation for furious, maybe even sanctimonious, integrity of the sort that often drove McCain’s colleagues to dark thoughts of senatorcide, but the record — scant as it is — suggests otherwise. Obama is not noted for sticking to a position or a person once it (or he) becomes a political liability. (Names available upon request.)

Next he discovers the pander factor:

But Obama has shown that in this area, youth is no handicap. He has been for and against gun control, against and for the recent domestic surveillance legislation and, in almost a single day, for a united Jerusalem under Israeli control and then, when apprised of U.S. policy and Palestinian chagrin, against it. He is an accomplished pol — a statement of both admiration and a bit of regret.

I suppose Cohen did not get the Obama directive: he has not–absolutely not–reversed himself on anything. ( Except the money thing, but the Republicans made him do that.) And after all that Cohen concludes: “I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I’m still not sure, though, what’s in it.”

I must say, I doubled checked the date on Cohen’s column to make sure it wasn’t from February. I mean, is this now only coming to light? I nevertheless applaud the candor and the reminder that Obama has no public accomplishments, no fixed views and no personal loyalty. It’s both stunning and gratifying to think that there are people coming to terms with the realization that the Democrats have nominated someone less qualified than any candidate in history (who is even close?) and personally suspect on a number of fronts.

But one wonders what people, even politically astute ones, have been watching and hearing for the last eighteen months. No wonder Hillary Clinton didn’t make it: there are apparently lots of people who have been in a political stupor. Goodness only knows what is causing one, and perhaps others, to snap out of it. But McCain better hope there is more of that political coma antidote to go around.

Richard Cohen, who apparently has been covering the presidential race for over a year, has made a troubling discovery: Barack Obama hasn’t accomplished anything. Ignoring the “experience doesn’t matter” mind-rays from the Obama media control operation, Cohen then frets that Obama’s one example of political courage wasn’t so courageous:

Obama argues that he himself stuck to the biggest gun of all: opposition to the war. He took that position back when the war was enormously popular, the president who initiated it was even more popular, and critics of both were slandered as unpatriotic. But at the time, Obama was a mere Illinois state senator, representing the (very) liberal Hyde Park area of Chicago. He either voiced his conscience or his district’s leanings or (lucky fella) both. We will never know. And we will never know, either, how Obama might have conducted himself had he served in Congress as long as McCain has. Possibly he would have earned a reputation for furious, maybe even sanctimonious, integrity of the sort that often drove McCain’s colleagues to dark thoughts of senatorcide, but the record — scant as it is — suggests otherwise. Obama is not noted for sticking to a position or a person once it (or he) becomes a political liability. (Names available upon request.)

Next he discovers the pander factor:

But Obama has shown that in this area, youth is no handicap. He has been for and against gun control, against and for the recent domestic surveillance legislation and, in almost a single day, for a united Jerusalem under Israeli control and then, when apprised of U.S. policy and Palestinian chagrin, against it. He is an accomplished pol — a statement of both admiration and a bit of regret.

I suppose Cohen did not get the Obama directive: he has not–absolutely not–reversed himself on anything. ( Except the money thing, but the Republicans made him do that.) And after all that Cohen concludes: “I know that Barack Obama is a near-perfect political package. I’m still not sure, though, what’s in it.”

I must say, I doubled checked the date on Cohen’s column to make sure it wasn’t from February. I mean, is this now only coming to light? I nevertheless applaud the candor and the reminder that Obama has no public accomplishments, no fixed views and no personal loyalty. It’s both stunning and gratifying to think that there are people coming to terms with the realization that the Democrats have nominated someone less qualified than any candidate in history (who is even close?) and personally suspect on a number of fronts.

But one wonders what people, even politically astute ones, have been watching and hearing for the last eighteen months. No wonder Hillary Clinton didn’t make it: there are apparently lots of people who have been in a political stupor. Goodness only knows what is causing one, and perhaps others, to snap out of it. But McCain better hope there is more of that political coma antidote to go around.

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