Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 6, 2008

“Racial Cryptographers”

Michael Moynihan of Reason magazine does a brilliant job compiling all of the ridiculous things said over the past week about John McCain’s “Celebrity” ad and distills this message: “the liberal blogosphere has become a virtual Bletchley Park of racial cryptographers.” In his otherwise terrific column, I find one area of disagreement:

It would be wise for the Obama campaign to either discourage or leave these schizophrenic, and often scurrilous, accusations to his legion of online and media supporters. And so far, it has done just that, responding that while the “Celeb” video displayed a deep cynicism, it didn’t suggest racist intent.

It’s true that Obama and his campaign have not yet pronounced the “Celebrity” ad to be racist. But Obama has already injected racial grievance into the campaign, last week telling an audience that “Bush or McCain . . . will make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky. That’s essentially the argument they’re making.”

For all the negative attention the McCain campaign has been receiving over the past few weeks for his “childish” ad campaign, many liberals have equally, if not more so, sullied their reputations by evincing what can only be described as racial paranoia. Their all-too frequent allegations of racism on the part of McCain and his surrogates have been nothing short of shameless, a desperate attempt to legislate legitimate criticism of Barack Obama out of bounds and thus preempt future critiques.

For all those writers whose careers depend upon the notion that America remains an inherently and irredeemably racist country (with an important exception: America will be redeemable if Barack Obama is elected president), “it must be profoundly disappointing that McCain hasn’t submitted an updated ‘Southern strategy.’” Moynihan’s conclusion: “It is, therefore, vital that he is at least accused of doing so.”

Michael Moynihan of Reason magazine does a brilliant job compiling all of the ridiculous things said over the past week about John McCain’s “Celebrity” ad and distills this message: “the liberal blogosphere has become a virtual Bletchley Park of racial cryptographers.” In his otherwise terrific column, I find one area of disagreement:

It would be wise for the Obama campaign to either discourage or leave these schizophrenic, and often scurrilous, accusations to his legion of online and media supporters. And so far, it has done just that, responding that while the “Celeb” video displayed a deep cynicism, it didn’t suggest racist intent.

It’s true that Obama and his campaign have not yet pronounced the “Celebrity” ad to be racist. But Obama has already injected racial grievance into the campaign, last week telling an audience that “Bush or McCain . . . will make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other Presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky. That’s essentially the argument they’re making.”

For all the negative attention the McCain campaign has been receiving over the past few weeks for his “childish” ad campaign, many liberals have equally, if not more so, sullied their reputations by evincing what can only be described as racial paranoia. Their all-too frequent allegations of racism on the part of McCain and his surrogates have been nothing short of shameless, a desperate attempt to legislate legitimate criticism of Barack Obama out of bounds and thus preempt future critiques.

For all those writers whose careers depend upon the notion that America remains an inherently and irredeemably racist country (with an important exception: America will be redeemable if Barack Obama is elected president), “it must be profoundly disappointing that McCain hasn’t submitted an updated ‘Southern strategy.’” Moynihan’s conclusion: “It is, therefore, vital that he is at least accused of doing so.”

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Hypocrisy on Afghanistan

The Left enjoys digging into George W. Bush by saying the war in Afghanistan was a critical battle abandoned for the folly of Iraq, but when polled–absent an anti-Bush or anti-Iraq context–nearly half of the country seems not to consider Afghanistan all that important after all. A Washington Post-ABC News survey conducted in February of 2007 found that 41 percent of those asked believed the war in Afghanistan was “not worth fighting.” That number has only risen over the past year and a half. Two weeks ago, the same organizations repeated the survey, and found that 45 percent of Americans consider the Afghanistan war pointless.

Yet, when the question appears as a choice pitting Iraq against Afghanistan, the scale tips in favor of the latter. In a recent AP-Ipsos poll, when asked “Would you favor or oppose a plan to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and increase the number of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan?” 56 percent of respondents said they’d welcome the reallocation.

There are two critical implications here. First: If most Americans believe that the Afghanistan war is a crucial one, they hold the majority by a paper-thin margin. Americans get significantly more self-righteous about this point when they can use it to attack the Iraq War. If and when the day comes that support for the Afghanistan mission can no longer be contrasted with support for the Iraq one, that margin is likely to vanish. As the Iraq War winds down and the “blunder” narrative fades, enthusiasm to dig in and fight “the other war” will fade with it. This is to say nothing of the horrific déjà vu that may be engendered by the media coverage of a ramped up war in Afghanistan.

Second: Even though U.S. troops are fighting the same enemy for the same reasons in both theaters, Americans by and large do not see the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War as expressions of the same overarching struggle. The change of fortune in Iraq has had no effect on-or already managed to drive down-public support for the war in Afghanistan. After witnessing in Iraq what Charles Krauthammer rightly called “the biggest turnaround of American fortunes in war since 1864″ the number of those opposed to the Afghanistan War went up 4 points. There will be no way of parlaying the recent good fortune of Iraq into widespread hope for Afghanistan.

Whether it is John McCain or Barack Obama, the next American president is going to face formidable public resistance to continuing the fight in Afghanistan, and beyond. Any nation would be fatigued by the years of losses and reversals we’ve seen. But the degree to which the American military effort has been politicized by those opposing George W. Bush has done the country the further disservice of placing partisanship over national interest. The war about the war seems on track to further distort critical questions about national security. Whether or not such distortions hamper the actual fighting depends upon the next president’s ability to stick to the facts on the ground.

The Left enjoys digging into George W. Bush by saying the war in Afghanistan was a critical battle abandoned for the folly of Iraq, but when polled–absent an anti-Bush or anti-Iraq context–nearly half of the country seems not to consider Afghanistan all that important after all. A Washington Post-ABC News survey conducted in February of 2007 found that 41 percent of those asked believed the war in Afghanistan was “not worth fighting.” That number has only risen over the past year and a half. Two weeks ago, the same organizations repeated the survey, and found that 45 percent of Americans consider the Afghanistan war pointless.

Yet, when the question appears as a choice pitting Iraq against Afghanistan, the scale tips in favor of the latter. In a recent AP-Ipsos poll, when asked “Would you favor or oppose a plan to reduce the number of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and increase the number of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan?” 56 percent of respondents said they’d welcome the reallocation.

There are two critical implications here. First: If most Americans believe that the Afghanistan war is a crucial one, they hold the majority by a paper-thin margin. Americans get significantly more self-righteous about this point when they can use it to attack the Iraq War. If and when the day comes that support for the Afghanistan mission can no longer be contrasted with support for the Iraq one, that margin is likely to vanish. As the Iraq War winds down and the “blunder” narrative fades, enthusiasm to dig in and fight “the other war” will fade with it. This is to say nothing of the horrific déjà vu that may be engendered by the media coverage of a ramped up war in Afghanistan.

Second: Even though U.S. troops are fighting the same enemy for the same reasons in both theaters, Americans by and large do not see the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War as expressions of the same overarching struggle. The change of fortune in Iraq has had no effect on-or already managed to drive down-public support for the war in Afghanistan. After witnessing in Iraq what Charles Krauthammer rightly called “the biggest turnaround of American fortunes in war since 1864″ the number of those opposed to the Afghanistan War went up 4 points. There will be no way of parlaying the recent good fortune of Iraq into widespread hope for Afghanistan.

Whether it is John McCain or Barack Obama, the next American president is going to face formidable public resistance to continuing the fight in Afghanistan, and beyond. Any nation would be fatigued by the years of losses and reversals we’ve seen. But the degree to which the American military effort has been politicized by those opposing George W. Bush has done the country the further disservice of placing partisanship over national interest. The war about the war seems on track to further distort critical questions about national security. Whether or not such distortions hamper the actual fighting depends upon the next president’s ability to stick to the facts on the ground.

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Commentary of the Day

Gord, on Noah Pollak:

I suppose the response of the George Kennan acolytes would be: The Strait will not be closed. We will bring the navy in and if you nuke it, we will incinerate your country. But what if the Mullahs then threaten to incinerate the Saudi, Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil fields and Israel in response to any such threat by us. Oops. I guess we will then have no Fifth Fleet, no staunch ally in the ME, and no emerging Arab democracy in Iraq, but we will have $15/gallon gas. Lester can then ride his horse to work, as long as he is responsible for cleaning up the waste. We want to be environmentally conscious after all.

Gord, on Noah Pollak:

I suppose the response of the George Kennan acolytes would be: The Strait will not be closed. We will bring the navy in and if you nuke it, we will incinerate your country. But what if the Mullahs then threaten to incinerate the Saudi, Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil fields and Israel in response to any such threat by us. Oops. I guess we will then have no Fifth Fleet, no staunch ally in the ME, and no emerging Arab democracy in Iraq, but we will have $15/gallon gas. Lester can then ride his horse to work, as long as he is responsible for cleaning up the waste. We want to be environmentally conscious after all.

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Hamdan Convicted

What do we learn from the conviction by a military tribunal of Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan ? Well, for starters, it makes the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene seem that much more ludicrous and ill-informed. Here is precisely the process which Justice Kennedy deemed “not good enough” — the result of careful compromise by elected branches which afforded plenty of due process with reasonable protection for national security.

Second, as a political matter, it does give John McCain (who supported the military tribunal process) a bit of an advantage over Barack Obama who when last we left the discussion seemed to simultaneously be in support of habeas corpus rights for Osama bin Laden (which provides access to civilian courts and perhaps the full array of Constitutional and procedural rights afforded to ordinary criminal defendants) but also Nuremberg-style trials (which wouldn’t presumably comport with the Supreme Court ruling he praised). So it’s not surprising that as of the time of this writing Obama is mum on the conviction and McCain has put out a statement including this reminder: “Unlike Senator Obama who voted against the MCA[Military Commissions Act] and favors giving Al Qaeda terrorists direct access to U.S. civilian courts to contest their detention, I recognize that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals.”

But serious questions remain in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. Will this be the last military proceeding? Will Congress step in to set some reasonable limits and rules for the trials we are likely to see? Perhaps the candidate who fancies himself as a Constitutional law guru can enlighten us on his views. At the very least he should explain what’s wrong with the Hamdan process which Justice Kennedy found so deficient.

UPDATE: Obama has weighed in, but his statement is nearly unintelligible. He says he still prefers the civilian courts (but why if the system here worked?) and blames the Bush administration (of course) for unspecified “dangerous flaws” in the system. And of course we should have caught Obama bin Laden by now (so we can try him in a civilian court?). Law professor Obama certainly would give this effort a failing grade.

What do we learn from the conviction by a military tribunal of Osama bin Laden’s driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan ? Well, for starters, it makes the Supreme Court’s decision in Boumediene seem that much more ludicrous and ill-informed. Here is precisely the process which Justice Kennedy deemed “not good enough” — the result of careful compromise by elected branches which afforded plenty of due process with reasonable protection for national security.

Second, as a political matter, it does give John McCain (who supported the military tribunal process) a bit of an advantage over Barack Obama who when last we left the discussion seemed to simultaneously be in support of habeas corpus rights for Osama bin Laden (which provides access to civilian courts and perhaps the full array of Constitutional and procedural rights afforded to ordinary criminal defendants) but also Nuremberg-style trials (which wouldn’t presumably comport with the Supreme Court ruling he praised). So it’s not surprising that as of the time of this writing Obama is mum on the conviction and McCain has put out a statement including this reminder: “Unlike Senator Obama who voted against the MCA[Military Commissions Act] and favors giving Al Qaeda terrorists direct access to U.S. civilian courts to contest their detention, I recognize that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals.”

But serious questions remain in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. Will this be the last military proceeding? Will Congress step in to set some reasonable limits and rules for the trials we are likely to see? Perhaps the candidate who fancies himself as a Constitutional law guru can enlighten us on his views. At the very least he should explain what’s wrong with the Hamdan process which Justice Kennedy found so deficient.

UPDATE: Obama has weighed in, but his statement is nearly unintelligible. He says he still prefers the civilian courts (but why if the system here worked?) and blames the Bush administration (of course) for unspecified “dangerous flaws” in the system. And of course we should have caught Obama bin Laden by now (so we can try him in a civilian court?). Law professor Obama certainly would give this effort a failing grade.

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Why Do They Like Him?

Two discrete but related stories are likely not welcome news for Barack Obama. The first is this one concerning $33,000 in illegal donations from the Palestinians in Gaza. (You may recall an earlier story about phone banking for Obama from Gaza.)

Then there is this story: Obama’s Muslim outreach advisor was forced to resign after it was discovered that he “briefly served on the board of Allied Assets Advisors Fund, a Delaware-registered trust. Its other board members at the time included Jamal Said, the imam at a fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois.” According to the report:

The eight-year-old connection between Mr. Asbahi and Mr. Said was raised last week by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, which is published by a Washington think tank and chronicles the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, a world-wide fundamentalist group based in Egypt. Other Web sites, some pro-Republican and others critical of fundamentalist Islam, also have reported on the background of Mr. Asbahi. He is a frequent speaker before several groups in the U.S. that scholars have associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

What to make of this? First, clearly there are Palestinian activists (or actual Palestinians in Gaza) who think Obama is their best bet. It is not surprising since he for years tried to ingratiate himself with Palestinian activists and had (at least before he started running for President) a longstanding relationship with Rashid Khalidi. It is a separate question whether he really is going to live up to their hopes and aspirations for a more pro-Palestinian president. Second, he tends to feed the hopes of these activists and, at the very least, create an ambiguity about his views, when he refuses to directly condemn terrorist aggression and speaks with shades of moral equivalency.

The bottom line I think is that Obama, as he has done with so many other interest groups and activists (e.g. environmentalists, good government types), has led many people (with conflicting views) concerned about the Middle East to believe he is sympathetic to their cause. When he then does things or says things to other groups which seem to contradict those assurances neither side knows what to make of him. And both wind up wondering what he believes and how decisive he will be when it eventually will come down to disappointing one side or the other. And that concern goes well beyond Palestinians and Jews.

Two discrete but related stories are likely not welcome news for Barack Obama. The first is this one concerning $33,000 in illegal donations from the Palestinians in Gaza. (You may recall an earlier story about phone banking for Obama from Gaza.)

Then there is this story: Obama’s Muslim outreach advisor was forced to resign after it was discovered that he “briefly served on the board of Allied Assets Advisors Fund, a Delaware-registered trust. Its other board members at the time included Jamal Said, the imam at a fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois.” According to the report:

The eight-year-old connection between Mr. Asbahi and Mr. Said was raised last week by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, which is published by a Washington think tank and chronicles the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, a world-wide fundamentalist group based in Egypt. Other Web sites, some pro-Republican and others critical of fundamentalist Islam, also have reported on the background of Mr. Asbahi. He is a frequent speaker before several groups in the U.S. that scholars have associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

What to make of this? First, clearly there are Palestinian activists (or actual Palestinians in Gaza) who think Obama is their best bet. It is not surprising since he for years tried to ingratiate himself with Palestinian activists and had (at least before he started running for President) a longstanding relationship with Rashid Khalidi. It is a separate question whether he really is going to live up to their hopes and aspirations for a more pro-Palestinian president. Second, he tends to feed the hopes of these activists and, at the very least, create an ambiguity about his views, when he refuses to directly condemn terrorist aggression and speaks with shades of moral equivalency.

The bottom line I think is that Obama, as he has done with so many other interest groups and activists (e.g. environmentalists, good government types), has led many people (with conflicting views) concerned about the Middle East to believe he is sympathetic to their cause. When he then does things or says things to other groups which seem to contradict those assurances neither side knows what to make of him. And both wind up wondering what he believes and how decisive he will be when it eventually will come down to disappointing one side or the other. And that concern goes well beyond Palestinians and Jews.

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Jordan Tests the Waters

You can often tell who is on the rise in the Middle East by watching which groups suddenly become recipients of attention from Arab regimes. So we see two events in quick succession: King Abdullah of Jordan called Mahmoud Abbas yesterday and told him that he is “concerned” over the resurgence of Hamas-Fatah violence, which he said will “harm the Palestinian cause and endanger efforts aimed at setting up an independent Palestinian state.” Translation: you’re not keeping a lid on things, Abu Mazen, and I’m getting worried about Hamas’s influence on my border.

And then this story:

Jordanian officials have held talks with the militant Palestinian group Hamas for the first time since authorities arrested three of its members two years ago for planning attacks in the country.

Abdullah has his finger in the breeze, gauging the exact extent to which lines of communication should be opened with Hamas, to correspond with the group’s improving prospects. King Abdullah understands that the recipients of his phone calls might soon have to be Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Meshal — not Abu Mazen.

You can often tell who is on the rise in the Middle East by watching which groups suddenly become recipients of attention from Arab regimes. So we see two events in quick succession: King Abdullah of Jordan called Mahmoud Abbas yesterday and told him that he is “concerned” over the resurgence of Hamas-Fatah violence, which he said will “harm the Palestinian cause and endanger efforts aimed at setting up an independent Palestinian state.” Translation: you’re not keeping a lid on things, Abu Mazen, and I’m getting worried about Hamas’s influence on my border.

And then this story:

Jordanian officials have held talks with the militant Palestinian group Hamas for the first time since authorities arrested three of its members two years ago for planning attacks in the country.

Abdullah has his finger in the breeze, gauging the exact extent to which lines of communication should be opened with Hamas, to correspond with the group’s improving prospects. King Abdullah understands that the recipients of his phone calls might soon have to be Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Meshal — not Abu Mazen.

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How’d This Happen?

The debate over energy is going full tilt. Somehow Barack Obama is now reduced to arguing that tire inflation is a substitute for domestic energy development. I am not sure how calling your opponent “ignorant” qualifies as “the high road,” but I do agree with this take from the Left that “Obama will lose this exchange and wind up sounding like a Dukakisian know-it-all.”

Obama does have a few problems on the subject of energy: he is flip-flopping (or maybe not) on drilling and on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), he is saddled with his recalcitrant Democratic Congressional colleagues who fled rather than vote on drilling, public opinion is overwhelmingly against him, and he has his facts wrong (at least on oil savings from inflated tires). Mainstream media outlets frown at his windfall profits tax and SPR flip-flop which are seen as ham-handed, very old school gimmicks.

This episode is classic Obama: he was slow to recognize he had a problem, he looks alternately recalcitrant and then irresolute (as with the surge) as be bobs and weaves between his base and political reality, and he condescends to voters. And then he doesn’t have a good answer for his own voting record. But it is really a failure of common sense: why not include domestic drilling as a significant part of our energy approach? (After several weeks someone seems to have explained this to The One.)

The haphazard and delinquent effort to catch up to McCain’s energy policy blitz (which has been going on for weeks now) also tells us something else: Obama thinks he can ignore whatever McCain is doing. It is not surprising for the candidate who considers himself already President to disregard what his opponent is up to. The temptation is great to try to run out the clock and get by on pablum and pretty pictures.

But Obama does it at his peril . He is now struggling to find a way to counteract the McCain energy offensive. You have the feeling that each day will bring a new challenge/gambit from the McCain camp (What’s next? Jiffy Lube tune-ups for the entire press corps?) and the rest of the day will be spent watching Obama and his media allies trying to swat away the incoming fire. It is what happens when you take a victory lap months before the first votes are cast.

The debate over energy is going full tilt. Somehow Barack Obama is now reduced to arguing that tire inflation is a substitute for domestic energy development. I am not sure how calling your opponent “ignorant” qualifies as “the high road,” but I do agree with this take from the Left that “Obama will lose this exchange and wind up sounding like a Dukakisian know-it-all.”

Obama does have a few problems on the subject of energy: he is flip-flopping (or maybe not) on drilling and on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), he is saddled with his recalcitrant Democratic Congressional colleagues who fled rather than vote on drilling, public opinion is overwhelmingly against him, and he has his facts wrong (at least on oil savings from inflated tires). Mainstream media outlets frown at his windfall profits tax and SPR flip-flop which are seen as ham-handed, very old school gimmicks.

This episode is classic Obama: he was slow to recognize he had a problem, he looks alternately recalcitrant and then irresolute (as with the surge) as be bobs and weaves between his base and political reality, and he condescends to voters. And then he doesn’t have a good answer for his own voting record. But it is really a failure of common sense: why not include domestic drilling as a significant part of our energy approach? (After several weeks someone seems to have explained this to The One.)

The haphazard and delinquent effort to catch up to McCain’s energy policy blitz (which has been going on for weeks now) also tells us something else: Obama thinks he can ignore whatever McCain is doing. It is not surprising for the candidate who considers himself already President to disregard what his opponent is up to. The temptation is great to try to run out the clock and get by on pablum and pretty pictures.

But Obama does it at his peril . He is now struggling to find a way to counteract the McCain energy offensive. You have the feeling that each day will bring a new challenge/gambit from the McCain camp (What’s next? Jiffy Lube tune-ups for the entire press corps?) and the rest of the day will be spent watching Obama and his media allies trying to swat away the incoming fire. It is what happens when you take a victory lap months before the first votes are cast.

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Iran Sanctions Showing Promise

. . .for EU manufacturers. Here’s Reuters:

European Union exports to Iran are on the rise again after a three-year decline, despite United Nations sanctions over Tehran‘s nuclear program, figures from the EU’s statistics office Eurostat show.

Exports from the 27-nation bloc to the Islamic Republic rose to 4.47 billion euros ($6.93 billion) in the first five months of this year, up 17.8 percent compared with the same period in 2007, even as tension with Iran on the nuclear issue mounted.

The main increases were in exports of vehicles, machinery and other manufactured goods with Germany, Italy and France registering the largest increases. But sales from Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands fell.

Yet it’s the U.S. that has lost “legitimacy” in acting without complete EU cooperation. Maybe this is what Saddam was after in 2002/2003. Exaggerate your nuclear capability, get some “sanctions” going, and watch the European goods roll in.

. . .for EU manufacturers. Here’s Reuters:

European Union exports to Iran are on the rise again after a three-year decline, despite United Nations sanctions over Tehran‘s nuclear program, figures from the EU’s statistics office Eurostat show.

Exports from the 27-nation bloc to the Islamic Republic rose to 4.47 billion euros ($6.93 billion) in the first five months of this year, up 17.8 percent compared with the same period in 2007, even as tension with Iran on the nuclear issue mounted.

The main increases were in exports of vehicles, machinery and other manufactured goods with Germany, Italy and France registering the largest increases. But sales from Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands fell.

Yet it’s the U.S. that has lost “legitimacy” in acting without complete EU cooperation. Maybe this is what Saddam was after in 2002/2003. Exaggerate your nuclear capability, get some “sanctions” going, and watch the European goods roll in.

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American Chips and Syria

Following up on my tribute to Peter Rodman, Martin Kramer sent me a link to Rodman’s latest assessment of the Israeli-Syrian dialog (Kramer’s web site has a long list of useful links for those interested in reading more about Rodman).

As you’ll easily be able to detect, Rodman became much harsher with time regarding this dialogue. The words he was using are those of not just puzzlement, but also anger–which might explain the “Israelis think it’s all about them” quote I mentioned yesterday. Here is Rodman, from the 21st of May of this year:

It is easy to see how Syria gains strategically from a “peace breakthrough” with Israel. It gains in Lebanon; it breaks out of the isolation that the Gulf Arabs (and the United States) had sought to impose on it because of its unholy alliance with Iran. The Israeli strategic analysis is harder to discern.

As Rodman told Congress, he does not believe there’s a chance of pulling Syria away from its alliance with Iran. Hence:

The bottom line is that the Israelis are short-sightedly playing here with American strategic chips, undercutting an American regional strategy toward Iran-which one would have thought they had an interest in.

Rodman was right: Syria is the one gaining more from the talks. But what are exactly those “chips”? What is the “regional strategy,” that Israel should preserve by snubbing Syria?

Recent events in Lebanon might show that, whatever it was, it is now collapsing. The Israeli government is discussing today, for the second time, the “ramifications of a Lebanese cabinet policy statement giving Hezbollah the right of ‘resistance’ to ‘liberate Lebanese territories’.” The Israeli Air Force is warning that advanced anti-aircraft batteries in Lebanon may hinder its capability to continue over flights in the area. Later in the week, the Lebanese parliament is expected to approve an agenda that essentially recognizes the right of Hezbollah to remain a weapons-carrying organization, in defiance of both UN resolutions and its commitments to the U.S. government.

All these developments lead to the conclusion that both Israel and the U.S. failed miserably in their assessment of the situation in Lebanon: Israel was the one failing during the war of 2006, and the U.S. was the one failing in the aftermath, believing that a weak Lebanese coalition can provide for a stabilizing solution for the country. Both failed because they entertained the hope of achieving something in this country with the assistance of a UN and an “international community” that never fail to disappoint. The sobering results: a stronger Hezbollah, and an emboldened Syria and Iran.

One can imagine what the Israeli ministers are hearing from the chiefs of military and intelligence in those government discussions. But envisioning the possible solutions for this crisis is trickier. Can Israel launch another war in Lebanon? Doubtful. Can the U.S. curb the Lebanese government? Hezbollah has proved much more efficient than its western detractors.

So what’s left? Some Israelis will argue that “playing with American chips”–namely, exploring the Syria-talks channel–is the only conceivable way to do something meaningful about Hezbollah. Wrong as they might be, the solutions provided thus far by the isolate-Syria camp weren’t working much better.

Following up on my tribute to Peter Rodman, Martin Kramer sent me a link to Rodman’s latest assessment of the Israeli-Syrian dialog (Kramer’s web site has a long list of useful links for those interested in reading more about Rodman).

As you’ll easily be able to detect, Rodman became much harsher with time regarding this dialogue. The words he was using are those of not just puzzlement, but also anger–which might explain the “Israelis think it’s all about them” quote I mentioned yesterday. Here is Rodman, from the 21st of May of this year:

It is easy to see how Syria gains strategically from a “peace breakthrough” with Israel. It gains in Lebanon; it breaks out of the isolation that the Gulf Arabs (and the United States) had sought to impose on it because of its unholy alliance with Iran. The Israeli strategic analysis is harder to discern.

As Rodman told Congress, he does not believe there’s a chance of pulling Syria away from its alliance with Iran. Hence:

The bottom line is that the Israelis are short-sightedly playing here with American strategic chips, undercutting an American regional strategy toward Iran-which one would have thought they had an interest in.

Rodman was right: Syria is the one gaining more from the talks. But what are exactly those “chips”? What is the “regional strategy,” that Israel should preserve by snubbing Syria?

Recent events in Lebanon might show that, whatever it was, it is now collapsing. The Israeli government is discussing today, for the second time, the “ramifications of a Lebanese cabinet policy statement giving Hezbollah the right of ‘resistance’ to ‘liberate Lebanese territories’.” The Israeli Air Force is warning that advanced anti-aircraft batteries in Lebanon may hinder its capability to continue over flights in the area. Later in the week, the Lebanese parliament is expected to approve an agenda that essentially recognizes the right of Hezbollah to remain a weapons-carrying organization, in defiance of both UN resolutions and its commitments to the U.S. government.

All these developments lead to the conclusion that both Israel and the U.S. failed miserably in their assessment of the situation in Lebanon: Israel was the one failing during the war of 2006, and the U.S. was the one failing in the aftermath, believing that a weak Lebanese coalition can provide for a stabilizing solution for the country. Both failed because they entertained the hope of achieving something in this country with the assistance of a UN and an “international community” that never fail to disappoint. The sobering results: a stronger Hezbollah, and an emboldened Syria and Iran.

One can imagine what the Israeli ministers are hearing from the chiefs of military and intelligence in those government discussions. But envisioning the possible solutions for this crisis is trickier. Can Israel launch another war in Lebanon? Doubtful. Can the U.S. curb the Lebanese government? Hezbollah has proved much more efficient than its western detractors.

So what’s left? Some Israelis will argue that “playing with American chips”–namely, exploring the Syria-talks channel–is the only conceivable way to do something meaningful about Hezbollah. Wrong as they might be, the solutions provided thus far by the isolate-Syria camp weren’t working much better.

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Asking Iraqi Soldiers

Campbell Robertson of the New York Times has adopted a novel strategy to figure out when the Iraqi armed forces will be ready to operate independently: He tried asking actual Iraqi soldiers. Their opinions have gotten lost in the debate over Senator Obama’s call for a U.S. troop withdrawal by 2010 which has won an endorsement of sorts from Prime Minister Maliki. As I’ve said before, the prime minister’s public pronouncements are not the most useful indicator of the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces. Those who are actually serving on the frontlines have a much better handle on the situation. And what do they say?

“It is 2008,” said Lt. Col. Muhammad Najim Khairi, a young officer in the Third Battalion of the Iraqi Army’s 19th Brigade. “We are too many years behind other countries. We need the coalition forces until 2015.”[..]

Because of his successful approach, he runs one of the few battalions in Diyala that does not have its own dedicated American military transition team.

But Colonel Mahmoud is more pessimistic than most about an Iraqi future without American combat troops.

“Believe me,” he said. “There will be a big disaster.”

Sitting at his headquarters, Colonel Mahmoud sees signs of the future: continuing supply problems and the involvement of Iran in Iraqi affairs. When his troops come across insurgents’ weapons caches, they sometimes find what he says are Iranian weapons that are more up to date than anything in his arsenal.

“The Iranian side will play their game,” he said with a tone of resignation, “once the coalition forces pull out.”

In other words, while the Iraqi security forces are becoming much more capable, they still have a long way to go—and a premature U.S. withdrawal could still jeopardize the great gains of the past eighteen months. That basic fact should not be lost in the euphoria over the growing gains of Iraqi and coalition forces in their battles against terrorists and extremists.

Campbell Robertson of the New York Times has adopted a novel strategy to figure out when the Iraqi armed forces will be ready to operate independently: He tried asking actual Iraqi soldiers. Their opinions have gotten lost in the debate over Senator Obama’s call for a U.S. troop withdrawal by 2010 which has won an endorsement of sorts from Prime Minister Maliki. As I’ve said before, the prime minister’s public pronouncements are not the most useful indicator of the readiness of the Iraqi Security Forces. Those who are actually serving on the frontlines have a much better handle on the situation. And what do they say?

“It is 2008,” said Lt. Col. Muhammad Najim Khairi, a young officer in the Third Battalion of the Iraqi Army’s 19th Brigade. “We are too many years behind other countries. We need the coalition forces until 2015.”[..]

Because of his successful approach, he runs one of the few battalions in Diyala that does not have its own dedicated American military transition team.

But Colonel Mahmoud is more pessimistic than most about an Iraqi future without American combat troops.

“Believe me,” he said. “There will be a big disaster.”

Sitting at his headquarters, Colonel Mahmoud sees signs of the future: continuing supply problems and the involvement of Iran in Iraqi affairs. When his troops come across insurgents’ weapons caches, they sometimes find what he says are Iranian weapons that are more up to date than anything in his arsenal.

“The Iranian side will play their game,” he said with a tone of resignation, “once the coalition forces pull out.”

In other words, while the Iraqi security forces are becoming much more capable, they still have a long way to go—and a premature U.S. withdrawal could still jeopardize the great gains of the past eighteen months. That basic fact should not be lost in the euphoria over the growing gains of Iraqi and coalition forces in their battles against terrorists and extremists.

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Where Is He on Drilling Today?

When the McCain camp put out a statement “defending” Barack Obama against charges that he was flip-fliopping on offshore drilling and insisting that Obama really hadn’t changed his mind, I thought those crazy kids at camp McCain were just making trouble. But apparently they were right.

So Obama would allow drilling as part of an energy package even though he is opposed to it? I think that compelling and principled stance is where we are. It seems Obama and his vaunted team have made utter hash of the issue.

So why is it a mystery that Obama isn’t running away with the race? Clarence Page joins a list of other liberal pundits in searching for the reason why that the Obama juggernaut doesn’t look so great. Is it that tricky Karl Rove apprentice Steve Schmidt? Is it racism? But sometimes the answer is right in front of the pundits’ noses. How about this: whenever Obama gets into an in-depth policy debate (e.g. Iraq, energy), he loses and looks like a novice because he defends indefensible positions contrived for a primary race, lies outright, tries to wriggle out of past positions, doesn’t expect to be grilled on facts, and adheres to positions at odds with those held by critical swing voters.

Nah. Can’t be it. Must be all those befuddled “low information” voters.

When the McCain camp put out a statement “defending” Barack Obama against charges that he was flip-fliopping on offshore drilling and insisting that Obama really hadn’t changed his mind, I thought those crazy kids at camp McCain were just making trouble. But apparently they were right.

So Obama would allow drilling as part of an energy package even though he is opposed to it? I think that compelling and principled stance is where we are. It seems Obama and his vaunted team have made utter hash of the issue.

So why is it a mystery that Obama isn’t running away with the race? Clarence Page joins a list of other liberal pundits in searching for the reason why that the Obama juggernaut doesn’t look so great. Is it that tricky Karl Rove apprentice Steve Schmidt? Is it racism? But sometimes the answer is right in front of the pundits’ noses. How about this: whenever Obama gets into an in-depth policy debate (e.g. Iraq, energy), he loses and looks like a novice because he defends indefensible positions contrived for a primary race, lies outright, tries to wriggle out of past positions, doesn’t expect to be grilled on facts, and adheres to positions at odds with those held by critical swing voters.

Nah. Can’t be it. Must be all those befuddled “low information” voters.

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He’s Had Worse Advisors

Has anyone noticed that Paris Hilton’s satirical “energy policy” is virtually identical to Barack Obama’s actual plan? In her viral video spoof, she says,

Okay, so here’s my energy policy. Barack wants to focus on new technologies to cut foreign oil dependency and McCain wants off shore drilling. Well, why don’t we do a hybrid of both candidates’ ideas. We can do limited off shore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which will create new jobs and energy independence.

In the time it took Paris to get that video out, Obama had already changed his policy–to hers. Here’s what the Democratic nominee had to say last Friday:

My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices. If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.

Obama added that the compromise, “would repeal tax breaks for oil companies so that we can invest billions in fuel-efficient cars, help our automakers re-tool, and make a genuine commitment to renewable sources of energy like wind power, solar power, and the next generation of clean, affordable biofuels.”

She calls the plan a “hybrid;” he calls it a “compromise.” But in any event, Obama can’t be happy that his new energy policy is hard to tell apart from the fake one offered up by tabloid socialite. I think this celebrity ad thing has come full circle

Has anyone noticed that Paris Hilton’s satirical “energy policy” is virtually identical to Barack Obama’s actual plan? In her viral video spoof, she says,

Okay, so here’s my energy policy. Barack wants to focus on new technologies to cut foreign oil dependency and McCain wants off shore drilling. Well, why don’t we do a hybrid of both candidates’ ideas. We can do limited off shore drilling with strict environmental oversight while creating tax incentives to get Detroit making hybrid and electric cars. That way the offshore drilling carries us until the new technologies kick in, which will create new jobs and energy independence.

In the time it took Paris to get that video out, Obama had already changed his policy–to hers. Here’s what the Democratic nominee had to say last Friday:

My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices. If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well-thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.

Obama added that the compromise, “would repeal tax breaks for oil companies so that we can invest billions in fuel-efficient cars, help our automakers re-tool, and make a genuine commitment to renewable sources of energy like wind power, solar power, and the next generation of clean, affordable biofuels.”

She calls the plan a “hybrid;” he calls it a “compromise.” But in any event, Obama can’t be happy that his new energy policy is hard to tell apart from the fake one offered up by tabloid socialite. I think this celebrity ad thing has come full circle

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Are Georgia Voters Sending Obama A Message?

Politicians grabbing Barack Obama’s coattails should take note: In the Georgia democratic Senatorial primary runoff held yesterday, Jim Martin defeated Vernon Jones by 60% to 40%. Martin will now face the Republican senior Senator from Georgia, Saxby Chambliss, in November’s election. This doesn’t seem to bode well for Obama’s presidential quest. Jones’s campaign hoped to emulate Obama’s impressive primary victory in Georgia (he defeated Senator Hillary Clinton in Georgia, 66.4% to 31.1%), but now he’s failed to even make it to November’s ballot.

In fact, Jones distributed campaign paraphernalia consisting of a picture of himself and Obama, with the words “Yes We Can!” prominently scrawled underneath the photographs. Also, Jones sent a mass email meant to smear his opponent Martin:

My campaign has uncovered evidence that my opponent, Jim Martin, did not want Senator Barack Obama to be President of the United States and that Jim Martin voted against Barack Obama in the February 2008 Presidential Primary election in Georgia. [Emphasis not my own.]

He also used this line of attack in a debate, “You say you support Barack Obama, but you voted against him.” In the first round of the primary election, Jones’s strategy of cozying up to the presumptive democratic presidential candidate paid off. Although he wasn’t able to win the race outright, he came out with the most votes (over 40%) and looked poised for victory

What explains Jones’s sudden decline? Again, it’s difficult to tell, but it makes sense to look at the most recent developments in the campaign of Jones’s political inspiration. It might have been Obama’s grand tour, or it could have been Obama’s (former) opposition to drilling off-shore, or maybe it was Obama’s adoption of whatever-policy-is-popular strategy, or it might have been any one of his many policy changes. These are, after all, issues important to Georgians.

With Obama’s humongous primary victory in Georgia, and with former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr in the presidential race (likely to take many more votes from McCain than Obama), the Obama campaign likes its chances in the Peach state. But I imagine Obama will take a hard look at this race to see what went wrong. Politics has changed even since the primary. A different Obama than the one that faced Clinton has emerged, and his campaign will now have to readjust its strategy.

Politicians grabbing Barack Obama’s coattails should take note: In the Georgia democratic Senatorial primary runoff held yesterday, Jim Martin defeated Vernon Jones by 60% to 40%. Martin will now face the Republican senior Senator from Georgia, Saxby Chambliss, in November’s election. This doesn’t seem to bode well for Obama’s presidential quest. Jones’s campaign hoped to emulate Obama’s impressive primary victory in Georgia (he defeated Senator Hillary Clinton in Georgia, 66.4% to 31.1%), but now he’s failed to even make it to November’s ballot.

In fact, Jones distributed campaign paraphernalia consisting of a picture of himself and Obama, with the words “Yes We Can!” prominently scrawled underneath the photographs. Also, Jones sent a mass email meant to smear his opponent Martin:

My campaign has uncovered evidence that my opponent, Jim Martin, did not want Senator Barack Obama to be President of the United States and that Jim Martin voted against Barack Obama in the February 2008 Presidential Primary election in Georgia. [Emphasis not my own.]

He also used this line of attack in a debate, “You say you support Barack Obama, but you voted against him.” In the first round of the primary election, Jones’s strategy of cozying up to the presumptive democratic presidential candidate paid off. Although he wasn’t able to win the race outright, he came out with the most votes (over 40%) and looked poised for victory

What explains Jones’s sudden decline? Again, it’s difficult to tell, but it makes sense to look at the most recent developments in the campaign of Jones’s political inspiration. It might have been Obama’s grand tour, or it could have been Obama’s (former) opposition to drilling off-shore, or maybe it was Obama’s adoption of whatever-policy-is-popular strategy, or it might have been any one of his many policy changes. These are, after all, issues important to Georgians.

With Obama’s humongous primary victory in Georgia, and with former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr in the presidential race (likely to take many more votes from McCain than Obama), the Obama campaign likes its chances in the Peach state. But I imagine Obama will take a hard look at this race to see what went wrong. Politics has changed even since the primary. A different Obama than the one that faced Clinton has emerged, and his campaign will now have to readjust its strategy.

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Thou Shalt Not Challenge

This interview with Barack Obama is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is one of the few times you see an interviewer ask questions of Obama in the same tone and formulation that John McCain gets day in and day out. Obama doesn’t like it, clearly, and chastises the questioner for acting as John McCain’s “proxy.” (Spend an hour with McCain, Senator, and you’ll see hundreds of reporters vying to provide that service to you.) Obama is not known for a thick skin, as you will recall from the Philadelphia debate. (Which, come to think of it, was the last time he was challenged so rigorously.) So we add to the Thou Shalt Not’s: don’t ask normal, tough press questions when addressing The One.

Second, notice his formulation that “the American people aren’t interested” in the tit-for-tat. To what was he referring? His own vote in favor of the Bush-Cheney bill. It really is a glaring problem in his whole New Politics formulation and his answer is weak (I tried to strip out the bad stuff) since he ultimately voted yes and has criticized McCain for doing the bidding of Bush/Cheney and the oil companies. It is easy to understand why he hopes the American people are uninterested. So add to the Thou Shalt Not’s: don’t question Obama’s own previous actions. Only his words (the latest version and not last week’s) can be discussed.

The real question for those debates in the fall is whether any of the moderators have the nerve to treat Obama the way he was in Philadelphia and the way he was in this interview: with the same skepticism, vigor and aggressiveness any candidate would receive. I’m betting “no.” But I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.

This interview with Barack Obama is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is one of the few times you see an interviewer ask questions of Obama in the same tone and formulation that John McCain gets day in and day out. Obama doesn’t like it, clearly, and chastises the questioner for acting as John McCain’s “proxy.” (Spend an hour with McCain, Senator, and you’ll see hundreds of reporters vying to provide that service to you.) Obama is not known for a thick skin, as you will recall from the Philadelphia debate. (Which, come to think of it, was the last time he was challenged so rigorously.) So we add to the Thou Shalt Not’s: don’t ask normal, tough press questions when addressing The One.

Second, notice his formulation that “the American people aren’t interested” in the tit-for-tat. To what was he referring? His own vote in favor of the Bush-Cheney bill. It really is a glaring problem in his whole New Politics formulation and his answer is weak (I tried to strip out the bad stuff) since he ultimately voted yes and has criticized McCain for doing the bidding of Bush/Cheney and the oil companies. It is easy to understand why he hopes the American people are uninterested. So add to the Thou Shalt Not’s: don’t question Obama’s own previous actions. Only his words (the latest version and not last week’s) can be discussed.

The real question for those debates in the fall is whether any of the moderators have the nerve to treat Obama the way he was in Philadelphia and the way he was in this interview: with the same skepticism, vigor and aggressiveness any candidate would receive. I’m betting “no.” But I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.

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Is Iran a Threat?

Andrew Sullivan said the other day what a lot of war-weary people must be thinking: “The world and the West can live, after all, with a deterred and contained nuclear Iran.” Jeffrey Goldberg offered a measured counter-argument, but I’d like to put the issue a little more bluntly.

Consider this illustrative exchange: the commander of the IRGC two days ago threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil supply passes. Here is the U.S. position:

Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff said during a press conference [in June] at the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain: “No one will close the Strait of Hormuz. They are not going to close it because they will not be allowed to.”

What will Vice Admiral Cosgriff be able to say when Iran has nuclear weapons?

Andrew Sullivan said the other day what a lot of war-weary people must be thinking: “The world and the West can live, after all, with a deterred and contained nuclear Iran.” Jeffrey Goldberg offered a measured counter-argument, but I’d like to put the issue a little more bluntly.

Consider this illustrative exchange: the commander of the IRGC two days ago threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil supply passes. Here is the U.S. position:

Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff said during a press conference [in June] at the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Manama, Bahrain: “No one will close the Strait of Hormuz. They are not going to close it because they will not be allowed to.”

What will Vice Admiral Cosgriff be able to say when Iran has nuclear weapons?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

This take from Andrew Sullivan seems fair: “So the choice becomes an all-Democratic government, headed by a senator whose newness is still one of the most striking things about him – or an old war horse who ticked off all the right Republicans at one point or other and who was more right about the sruge[sic] than Obama. Obama’s hopes for a landslide therefore rest on the chance that economic distress will now do to the public mood what Iraq once did – and make bold change seem necessary.”

But to be entirely frank it’s not just “newness” which is Obama’s problem and Obama’s chances of winning on the economy also depend on his migrating away from nearly everything he said in the primary (e.g. protectionism and tax hikes on labor, capital, and estates).

Bundlers and big dollar voters? Shocked, just shocked it’s not the little people who are keeping Obama afloat. But it does sound like they are having lots of fun. ( A “champagne room!” exclaims one. But poor fools didn’t get the “conditions-based” withdrawal plan and think Obama’s ending the Iraq war. Wait until they find out there’s no money for universal health care.)

Not enough political diversity there for Dana Millbank, eh?

Mickey Kaus on John Edwards: “Is he a great executive? No. A brilliant policy expert? No. An accomplished diplomat? No. He’s an ex-Senator with one undistinguished term in office who rose in life on the basis of his singular ability to use tearjerking stories to move juries and win large verdicts.” But the real nominee doesn’t even have the jury verdicts or a completed term, right?

We all agree on one thing: there’s no more New Politics.

The small business exemption from mandatory health insurance coverage isn’t the only thing on which Obama is “fuzzy.” What are his proposed corporate tax and capital gains rates? How much does his domestic agenda cost? His advisors do a lot of mumbling when pressed for answers.

Masks for cyclists. Scolding by the IOC– it’s just “mist,” they intone. Yeah. One wonders if the IOC ever went to China before awarding the games.

Are you enjoying the post-racial election in which “skinny” is a code word for “race”? ( When we get done the only permitted vocabulary will be “change” and “moment.”)

The self-delusion seems to be waning: U.S. negotiators finally realize Iran said “no.”

No, this isn’t a parody of Obama : “I’ve got truth on my side! I fear no man when I’ve got truth on my side!” But it could be in the next McCain ad. (Can you imagine if George W. Bush said something like that?)

Who’s he calling “ignorant“? Facts are, well, facts. Not everything is like a memoir, which you can make up as you go along.

And despite the sarcasm, even Democrats know Obama is talking nonsense.

The mainstream media noticed the problem with Obama’s energy attacks: “Obama himself voted for a 2005 energy bill backed by Bush that included billions in subsidies for oil and natural gas production, a measure Cheney played a major role in developing. McCain opposed the bill on grounds it included billions in unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry.” Why did he vote for it?

This take from Andrew Sullivan seems fair: “So the choice becomes an all-Democratic government, headed by a senator whose newness is still one of the most striking things about him – or an old war horse who ticked off all the right Republicans at one point or other and who was more right about the sruge[sic] than Obama. Obama’s hopes for a landslide therefore rest on the chance that economic distress will now do to the public mood what Iraq once did – and make bold change seem necessary.”

But to be entirely frank it’s not just “newness” which is Obama’s problem and Obama’s chances of winning on the economy also depend on his migrating away from nearly everything he said in the primary (e.g. protectionism and tax hikes on labor, capital, and estates).

Bundlers and big dollar voters? Shocked, just shocked it’s not the little people who are keeping Obama afloat. But it does sound like they are having lots of fun. ( A “champagne room!” exclaims one. But poor fools didn’t get the “conditions-based” withdrawal plan and think Obama’s ending the Iraq war. Wait until they find out there’s no money for universal health care.)

Not enough political diversity there for Dana Millbank, eh?

Mickey Kaus on John Edwards: “Is he a great executive? No. A brilliant policy expert? No. An accomplished diplomat? No. He’s an ex-Senator with one undistinguished term in office who rose in life on the basis of his singular ability to use tearjerking stories to move juries and win large verdicts.” But the real nominee doesn’t even have the jury verdicts or a completed term, right?

We all agree on one thing: there’s no more New Politics.

The small business exemption from mandatory health insurance coverage isn’t the only thing on which Obama is “fuzzy.” What are his proposed corporate tax and capital gains rates? How much does his domestic agenda cost? His advisors do a lot of mumbling when pressed for answers.

Masks for cyclists. Scolding by the IOC– it’s just “mist,” they intone. Yeah. One wonders if the IOC ever went to China before awarding the games.

Are you enjoying the post-racial election in which “skinny” is a code word for “race”? ( When we get done the only permitted vocabulary will be “change” and “moment.”)

The self-delusion seems to be waning: U.S. negotiators finally realize Iran said “no.”

No, this isn’t a parody of Obama : “I’ve got truth on my side! I fear no man when I’ve got truth on my side!” But it could be in the next McCain ad. (Can you imagine if George W. Bush said something like that?)

Who’s he calling “ignorant“? Facts are, well, facts. Not everything is like a memoir, which you can make up as you go along.

And despite the sarcasm, even Democrats know Obama is talking nonsense.

The mainstream media noticed the problem with Obama’s energy attacks: “Obama himself voted for a 2005 energy bill backed by Bush that included billions in subsidies for oil and natural gas production, a measure Cheney played a major role in developing. McCain opposed the bill on grounds it included billions in unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry.” Why did he vote for it?

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