Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 15, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Ron Kean, on Peter Wehner:

The argument Mr. Fukuyama makes, like many on the left, relies on reading tea leaves or crystal balls. They say things would have been better if we hadn’t gone there, as if anybody can know that.

They ignore the intelligence. Why do we pay the officers of the CIA anyway? If we don’t err on the side of caution, where should we err? If Americans were hurt or killed by WMD’s from customers of Saddam, it might have been worse.

All war is bad. Provocation is debatable. In the end, is the country free and secure or chaotic and oppressed? I think the Iraqis were given a gift. A nice one.

Ron Kean, on Peter Wehner:

The argument Mr. Fukuyama makes, like many on the left, relies on reading tea leaves or crystal balls. They say things would have been better if we hadn’t gone there, as if anybody can know that.

They ignore the intelligence. Why do we pay the officers of the CIA anyway? If we don’t err on the side of caution, where should we err? If Americans were hurt or killed by WMD’s from customers of Saddam, it might have been worse.

All war is bad. Provocation is debatable. In the end, is the country free and secure or chaotic and oppressed? I think the Iraqis were given a gift. A nice one.

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Russia’s Nuclear Threat

Today, Russia threatened to use nuclear weapons against Poland, which signed a missile defense deal with the United States yesterday. Under the arrangement, the United States will base ten interceptor missiles on Polish territory. “Poland, by deploying, is exposing itself to a strike-100 percent,” said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn. The deputy chief of staff then explained that Russian doctrine permits the use of nuclear weapons against the non-nuclear allies of nuclear states if the allies host strategic deterrence systems.

This is not the first time this year that Russia has announced it might nuke a neighbor. “It is horrible to say and even horrible to think that, in response to the deployment of such facilities in Ukrainian territory, which cannot theoretically be ruled out, Russia could target its missile systems at Ukraine,” Vladimir Putin said this February, referring to missile defense systems. Before this, Russia made similar threats against the Czech Republic, which will host missile defense radar, and Poland. Ukraine is not part of the American plan.

I don’t have the time to write a book this afternoon, so I will not analyze all that is wrong with the Kremlin’s position on the American missile defense plan for Europe. Yet there is one thing that should be said at this moment.

The United States this year has been quiet in the face of Russia’s nuclear threats, ignoring them as if they were not made. Yet Putin has taken American indulgence as a green light to issue even more menacing statements, including today’s against Poland. So before it is too late, the Bush administration should speak clearly to Moscow and affirm in public America’s policy of nuclear deterrence. Possession of the world’s most capable nuclear arsenal is no use if aggressors think we will not use it.

Putin attacked Georgia last week because he thought he could get away with it. Now, the prime minister, through his military, has put us on notice that he might use his nuclear weapons against others. We should not let him think he can do so without grave consequences. I don’t like what I’m writing any more than you do, but this, unfortunately, is the way the world is.

Today, Russia threatened to use nuclear weapons against Poland, which signed a missile defense deal with the United States yesterday. Under the arrangement, the United States will base ten interceptor missiles on Polish territory. “Poland, by deploying, is exposing itself to a strike-100 percent,” said General Anatoly Nogovitsyn. The deputy chief of staff then explained that Russian doctrine permits the use of nuclear weapons against the non-nuclear allies of nuclear states if the allies host strategic deterrence systems.

This is not the first time this year that Russia has announced it might nuke a neighbor. “It is horrible to say and even horrible to think that, in response to the deployment of such facilities in Ukrainian territory, which cannot theoretically be ruled out, Russia could target its missile systems at Ukraine,” Vladimir Putin said this February, referring to missile defense systems. Before this, Russia made similar threats against the Czech Republic, which will host missile defense radar, and Poland. Ukraine is not part of the American plan.

I don’t have the time to write a book this afternoon, so I will not analyze all that is wrong with the Kremlin’s position on the American missile defense plan for Europe. Yet there is one thing that should be said at this moment.

The United States this year has been quiet in the face of Russia’s nuclear threats, ignoring them as if they were not made. Yet Putin has taken American indulgence as a green light to issue even more menacing statements, including today’s against Poland. So before it is too late, the Bush administration should speak clearly to Moscow and affirm in public America’s policy of nuclear deterrence. Possession of the world’s most capable nuclear arsenal is no use if aggressors think we will not use it.

Putin attacked Georgia last week because he thought he could get away with it. Now, the prime minister, through his military, has put us on notice that he might use his nuclear weapons against others. We should not let him think he can do so without grave consequences. I don’t like what I’m writing any more than you do, but this, unfortunately, is the way the world is.

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The New York Times Wakes Up

Ever on top of events (well, not really), the Grey Lady finally realizes there is a good old-fashioned money and corruption scandal in the John Edwards story. Did Fred Barton give Rielle Hunter the money on his own whim? Were campaign funds used for real “services” or for hush money? Did anyone pay gift tax on the Barton-conveyed funds? Just a few of the many questions that have legal implications for all those involved. And all of this, of course, goes to the nub of the matter: the mainstream media is now racing to catch up to the National Enquirer.

The latest parlor game–how much of Edwards confession was a lie?–holds some interest. At the very least, it seems that Mr. Barton has some major explaining to do. I’m sure the National Enquirer will get to the bottom of all of this. That’s who’s driving the story, right?

Ever on top of events (well, not really), the Grey Lady finally realizes there is a good old-fashioned money and corruption scandal in the John Edwards story. Did Fred Barton give Rielle Hunter the money on his own whim? Were campaign funds used for real “services” or for hush money? Did anyone pay gift tax on the Barton-conveyed funds? Just a few of the many questions that have legal implications for all those involved. And all of this, of course, goes to the nub of the matter: the mainstream media is now racing to catch up to the National Enquirer.

The latest parlor game–how much of Edwards confession was a lie?–holds some interest. At the very least, it seems that Mr. Barton has some major explaining to do. I’m sure the National Enquirer will get to the bottom of all of this. That’s who’s driving the story, right?

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Taxes and Money

John McCain has a whole lot of cash, according to Rick Davis ($27M which the campaign raised for a total of about $100m when combined with the RNC efforts). The McCain funds can be used for a very short period of time (until he receives his public financing) and he is putting them to use on ads like this one. The ad continues the celebrity theme and makes the argument that Barack Obama=higher taxes.

It is a start. But McCain will have to do better. Obama is saying that all the tax hikes will be on “rich folk,” which somehow will bring in more than enough to pay for all that spending. McCain would do better to take a different approach: Obama is lying. There isn’t enough money to be found by just going after “rich people” even to fix social security (with regard to payroll taxes) let alone pay for all the goodies in domestic spending he has in store. “He’s not being square, or dealing with the tough issues” may be the most accurate characterization of what Obama is up to, and that fits nicely with McCain’s own straight-talking theme. Oh, and all this will wreck the economy. (The latter, again, most people understand is true especially in such a weak economy.)

I think after all the years of budget deficits, tax proposals, and lock-boxes voters pretty much understand the score. And they remember they did get a break from the Bush tax cuts. They know that sooner or later the bill is going to be paid by lots of non-rich people. Granted, it’s not easy to hit an ever-shifting target, but it’s time perhaps to start doing what Obama won’t– totaling it all up, using some Ross Perot like charts, and pointing out that Obama is practicing the worst of hide-the-ball old school economics and class warfare. It might work–in part because it happens to be true.

John McCain has a whole lot of cash, according to Rick Davis ($27M which the campaign raised for a total of about $100m when combined with the RNC efforts). The McCain funds can be used for a very short period of time (until he receives his public financing) and he is putting them to use on ads like this one. The ad continues the celebrity theme and makes the argument that Barack Obama=higher taxes.

It is a start. But McCain will have to do better. Obama is saying that all the tax hikes will be on “rich folk,” which somehow will bring in more than enough to pay for all that spending. McCain would do better to take a different approach: Obama is lying. There isn’t enough money to be found by just going after “rich people” even to fix social security (with regard to payroll taxes) let alone pay for all the goodies in domestic spending he has in store. “He’s not being square, or dealing with the tough issues” may be the most accurate characterization of what Obama is up to, and that fits nicely with McCain’s own straight-talking theme. Oh, and all this will wreck the economy. (The latter, again, most people understand is true especially in such a weak economy.)

I think after all the years of budget deficits, tax proposals, and lock-boxes voters pretty much understand the score. And they remember they did get a break from the Bush tax cuts. They know that sooner or later the bill is going to be paid by lots of non-rich people. Granted, it’s not easy to hit an ever-shifting target, but it’s time perhaps to start doing what Obama won’t– totaling it all up, using some Ross Perot like charts, and pointing out that Obama is practicing the worst of hide-the-ball old school economics and class warfare. It might work–in part because it happens to be true.

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Fukuyama’s Wrong

Francis Fukuyama has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue that while virtually all the trend lines in Iraq have been moving in a positive direction for the past year, the war was still a grave mistake.

Let’s examine some of the arguments Fukuyama makes to support his case.

1. Fukuyama writes, “By invading Iraq in the manner it did, the U.S. exacerbated all of the threats it faced prior to 2003. Recruitment into terrorist cells shot up all over the world.”

That was true for a time–but it’s not true any more. Professor Fukuyama writes as if we’re still in 2006 instead of 2008. Among the most important developments of this decade is the worldwide Muslim uprising against al Qaeda and militant Islam, which I have documented here, here, and here.

Al Qaeda is not only battered and on the run, due in large measure to our success in the arena (Iraq) they chose to be the central battleground in the war against global jihadism, but Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are significantly less popular in the Arab world than they were in 2002–which was prior to the Iraq war.

The Anbar Awakening has spread not only to other parts of Iraq, but more broadly to the Arab Middle East. In May, CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Washington Post that al Qaeda is essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world. While cautioning that al Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said OBL is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. And as the Times of London wrote in July, driving al Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country (in Mosul) is “the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.”

The fact that Fukuyama fails to acknowledge any of this–surely he cannot be ignorant of what has happened–is itself quite telling.

2. Fukuyama writes, “Iran has emerged as the dominant regional power in the Persian Gulf once the U.S. removed its major rival from the scene and put its Shiite clients into power in Baghdad.”

This is another example of Fukuyama having failed to catch up to events on the ground. As Professor Vali Nasr wrote recently, “America has the advantage while Iran is on its heels.”

Iran now faces on its east and west democratically elected, pro-American governments. Both the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are weak and imperfect–but both are light years better for America than what preceded them. And the claim that Prime Minister Maliki is simply a “Shiite client” of Iran is counterfactual. Maliki’s strong military actions against the Mahdi Army and the “special groups,” both backed by Iran, subvert the Fukuyama argument.

3. Fukuyama writes:

The Bush administration this week rebuked Russia for its disproportionate military intervention in Georgia; many rightly suspect Moscow’s real goal is regime change of the pro-Western, democratic government in Tbilisi. But who set the most recent precedent for a big power intervening to change a regime it didn’t like, without the sanction of the U.N. Security Council or any other legitimating international body?

The inability to distinguish between the circumstances of our liberation of Iraq and Russia’s invasion of Georgia is a sign of intellectual unseriousness. It ignores the dozen years Iraq flaunted 16 U.N. resolutions, the unanimous passage of U.N. Resolution 1441, the coalition assembled by America v. the unilateral action by Russia, and the nature of the two regimes (which Fukuyama only briefly alludes to).

4. Fukuyama writes, “Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he was right in supporting the surge and that Democrat Barack Obama was wrong in opposing it. On this tactical issue I grant that Sen. McCain was right.”

For Fukuyama to almost dismissively refer to the surge as a “tactical issue” is, I think, evidence of his lack of understanding as to what is happening in Iraq. The surge was a strategic change of enormous consequence; it not only led to more troops being sent to Iraq but, much more importantly, it changed our mission to a population-centric one. Our entire approach to Iraq was fundamentally different post-surge from what it was pre-surge. You simply do not alter the outcome of a war like Iraq, which we are in the process of achieving, simply by making a tactical change.

5. According to Fukuyama,

While everyone is better off without Saddam Hussein around, the cost was hugely disproportionate. If you don’t believe this, ask yourself whether Congress would ever have voted to authorize the war in 2002 if it knew there was no WMD, or that there would be trillion-dollar budget outlays, or that there would be 30,000 dead and wounded after five years of bitter struggle.

But of course if, in the early months of 1864, people from the North were asked if the Civil War was worth it, many of them would have said no. At that point, after all, the losses were enormous–equivalent to around 6 million American deaths today. The carnage was enormous and the people of both the Union and the Confederacy were weary. But the North prevailed, and today Lincoln ranks as our greatest president.

The merits of war, including the Iraq war, depends on its final outcome. That has yet to unfold in Iraq. But if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, it’s clear that a decent outcome, and even an outright victory, is within reach. And if five years from now we have achieved victory in Iraq, then the war will have been worth it–and Fukuyama, who once declared we had reached the end of history, will be proved wrong yet again.

Francis Fukuyama has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to argue that while virtually all the trend lines in Iraq have been moving in a positive direction for the past year, the war was still a grave mistake.

Let’s examine some of the arguments Fukuyama makes to support his case.

1. Fukuyama writes, “By invading Iraq in the manner it did, the U.S. exacerbated all of the threats it faced prior to 2003. Recruitment into terrorist cells shot up all over the world.”

That was true for a time–but it’s not true any more. Professor Fukuyama writes as if we’re still in 2006 instead of 2008. Among the most important developments of this decade is the worldwide Muslim uprising against al Qaeda and militant Islam, which I have documented here, here, and here.

Al Qaeda is not only battered and on the run, due in large measure to our success in the arena (Iraq) they chose to be the central battleground in the war against global jihadism, but Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are significantly less popular in the Arab world than they were in 2002–which was prior to the Iraq war.

The Anbar Awakening has spread not only to other parts of Iraq, but more broadly to the Arab Middle East. In May, CIA Director Michael Hayden told the Washington Post that al Qaeda is essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and on the defensive throughout much of the rest of the world. While cautioning that al Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said OBL is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. And as the Times of London wrote in July, driving al Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the country (in Mosul) is “the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of the war on terror.”

The fact that Fukuyama fails to acknowledge any of this–surely he cannot be ignorant of what has happened–is itself quite telling.

2. Fukuyama writes, “Iran has emerged as the dominant regional power in the Persian Gulf once the U.S. removed its major rival from the scene and put its Shiite clients into power in Baghdad.”

This is another example of Fukuyama having failed to catch up to events on the ground. As Professor Vali Nasr wrote recently, “America has the advantage while Iran is on its heels.”

Iran now faces on its east and west democratically elected, pro-American governments. Both the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are weak and imperfect–but both are light years better for America than what preceded them. And the claim that Prime Minister Maliki is simply a “Shiite client” of Iran is counterfactual. Maliki’s strong military actions against the Mahdi Army and the “special groups,” both backed by Iran, subvert the Fukuyama argument.

3. Fukuyama writes:

The Bush administration this week rebuked Russia for its disproportionate military intervention in Georgia; many rightly suspect Moscow’s real goal is regime change of the pro-Western, democratic government in Tbilisi. But who set the most recent precedent for a big power intervening to change a regime it didn’t like, without the sanction of the U.N. Security Council or any other legitimating international body?

The inability to distinguish between the circumstances of our liberation of Iraq and Russia’s invasion of Georgia is a sign of intellectual unseriousness. It ignores the dozen years Iraq flaunted 16 U.N. resolutions, the unanimous passage of U.N. Resolution 1441, the coalition assembled by America v. the unilateral action by Russia, and the nature of the two regimes (which Fukuyama only briefly alludes to).

4. Fukuyama writes, “Republican presidential candidate John McCain says he was right in supporting the surge and that Democrat Barack Obama was wrong in opposing it. On this tactical issue I grant that Sen. McCain was right.”

For Fukuyama to almost dismissively refer to the surge as a “tactical issue” is, I think, evidence of his lack of understanding as to what is happening in Iraq. The surge was a strategic change of enormous consequence; it not only led to more troops being sent to Iraq but, much more importantly, it changed our mission to a population-centric one. Our entire approach to Iraq was fundamentally different post-surge from what it was pre-surge. You simply do not alter the outcome of a war like Iraq, which we are in the process of achieving, simply by making a tactical change.

5. According to Fukuyama,

While everyone is better off without Saddam Hussein around, the cost was hugely disproportionate. If you don’t believe this, ask yourself whether Congress would ever have voted to authorize the war in 2002 if it knew there was no WMD, or that there would be trillion-dollar budget outlays, or that there would be 30,000 dead and wounded after five years of bitter struggle.

But of course if, in the early months of 1864, people from the North were asked if the Civil War was worth it, many of them would have said no. At that point, after all, the losses were enormous–equivalent to around 6 million American deaths today. The carnage was enormous and the people of both the Union and the Confederacy were weary. But the North prevailed, and today Lincoln ranks as our greatest president.

The merits of war, including the Iraq war, depends on its final outcome. That has yet to unfold in Iraq. But if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, it’s clear that a decent outcome, and even an outright victory, is within reach. And if five years from now we have achieved victory in Iraq, then the war will have been worth it–and Fukuyama, who once declared we had reached the end of history, will be proved wrong yet again.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

No speaking spot? The judge spares the Democrats.

Yeah, really, who needs someone to stand up for democracy, freedom, and the downtrodden? So passé.

They really don’t get it: wealth and elitism are two different things.

You mean all those “Republicans in disarray” stories were made up? (“In fact, John McCain’s share of the Democratic vote has typically–and surprisingly–been larger than Obama’s share of the Republican vote. In other words, it’s not that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scared the Obamacan masses off, as some pundits have theorized–it’s that they never existed (in any unprecedented way) to begin with.”) Not like we hadn’t figured that out a while ago.

It is hard to hit a moving target — Obama’s position on taxes. Aside from the wisdom of raising taxes on anyone in a recession, does anyone think this is Obama’s last, best and final position on taxes? Still, I agree that John McCain’s own plan could use some sprucing up.

So are Joe Biden and Evan Bayh now out as VP picks? Or perhaps the Obama camp is just throwing a head fake. But if we are down to Tim Kaine, is that a sign that the Obama team has given up on shoring up their national security credentials?

Lo and behold: the FEC didn’t buy Howard Dean’s argument that John McCain violated campaign finance rules.

The last refuge of the Left: the dual loyalty canard. But Georgia? (h/t Instapundit)

When a pundit/self-proclaimed polling analyst observing Obama’s poll numbers says something like “it’s a little bit perplexing to see movement like this without any obvious proximate cause,” you have to wonder whether he’s been in a cave all week. Georgia? Obama in hiding? McCain sounding eloquent? I wonder how obvious a cause must be to register with the Obamaphiles.

Adrift all of a sudden? What happened to the “objectively miraculous” fortnight? Between the fortnight and “adrift” there was the Russian invasion, but . . . wait. . . McCain was supposed to be horrible on that front, according to the Obama fans. It is a puzzlement.

Given the events in Georgia I suspect other former Soviet bloc countries will be lining up for this deal. I wonder what the Obama camp thinks of this–just provoking Russia?

No speaking spot? The judge spares the Democrats.

Yeah, really, who needs someone to stand up for democracy, freedom, and the downtrodden? So passé.

They really don’t get it: wealth and elitism are two different things.

You mean all those “Republicans in disarray” stories were made up? (“In fact, John McCain’s share of the Democratic vote has typically–and surprisingly–been larger than Obama’s share of the Republican vote. In other words, it’s not that the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scared the Obamacan masses off, as some pundits have theorized–it’s that they never existed (in any unprecedented way) to begin with.”) Not like we hadn’t figured that out a while ago.

It is hard to hit a moving target — Obama’s position on taxes. Aside from the wisdom of raising taxes on anyone in a recession, does anyone think this is Obama’s last, best and final position on taxes? Still, I agree that John McCain’s own plan could use some sprucing up.

So are Joe Biden and Evan Bayh now out as VP picks? Or perhaps the Obama camp is just throwing a head fake. But if we are down to Tim Kaine, is that a sign that the Obama team has given up on shoring up their national security credentials?

Lo and behold: the FEC didn’t buy Howard Dean’s argument that John McCain violated campaign finance rules.

The last refuge of the Left: the dual loyalty canard. But Georgia? (h/t Instapundit)

When a pundit/self-proclaimed polling analyst observing Obama’s poll numbers says something like “it’s a little bit perplexing to see movement like this without any obvious proximate cause,” you have to wonder whether he’s been in a cave all week. Georgia? Obama in hiding? McCain sounding eloquent? I wonder how obvious a cause must be to register with the Obamaphiles.

Adrift all of a sudden? What happened to the “objectively miraculous” fortnight? Between the fortnight and “adrift” there was the Russian invasion, but . . . wait. . . McCain was supposed to be horrible on that front, according to the Obama fans. It is a puzzlement.

Given the events in Georgia I suspect other former Soviet bloc countries will be lining up for this deal. I wonder what the Obama camp thinks of this–just provoking Russia?

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Re: The Argument For Lieberman

John, there are two divergent reactions to the potential for a Joe Lieberman VP pick. The first one is the expected cries of outrage from social conservatives, attempting to warn and threaten McCain from selecting a pro-choice candidate (either Lieberman or Tom Ridge). The other is the view that McCain has done such a credible job of gathering in the base and exposing Obama’s faults that the base won’t much care if Lieberman is the pick. The latter view is explained here. The reporter notes that conservative now see:

Obama as an arrogant and elitist radical – and his supporters as members of a mindless, celebrity-worshiping cult. That they still aren’t very fond of McCain really doesn’t matter; it’s more than enough (for them) that he isn’t Obama.

But Rich Lowry is the one to sketch out the terms of a deal:

To placate Republicans and maximize the political impact of his selection, Lieberman would have to join the ticket as part of a McCain pledge to serve just one term. Both McCain and Lieberman would promise not to run for president in 2012, removing any possibility of Lieberman becoming a successor or putting his imprint on the Republican Party. Their administration would be above electoral politics, a high-minded exercise in competent governance and bipartisan compromise. To assuage Republican fears of a Harrison/Tyler scenario, Lieberman would have to pledge, if he were to ascend to the presidency, to appoint constitutionalist judges and honor McCain’s domestic priorities.

Lowry views the potential for such a ticket as an act of desperation, a roll of the dice to get McCain into the White House.

I think there is something to all of these views, and the potential to re-ignite a battle with social conservatives is great. But Lieberman, like McCain, is in some sense the exception to most politicians currently in circulation. He is calm and thoughtful, defiant and indifferent to much of public opinion and able to translate complicated national security problems into easily understood rhetoric. And, as John points out, McCain respects him greatly.

The choice might create more problems than it’s worth, isn’t politically safe or very smart in some regards, and would shake up the GOP. Sounds like just the thing McCain would do.

John, there are two divergent reactions to the potential for a Joe Lieberman VP pick. The first one is the expected cries of outrage from social conservatives, attempting to warn and threaten McCain from selecting a pro-choice candidate (either Lieberman or Tom Ridge). The other is the view that McCain has done such a credible job of gathering in the base and exposing Obama’s faults that the base won’t much care if Lieberman is the pick. The latter view is explained here. The reporter notes that conservative now see:

Obama as an arrogant and elitist radical – and his supporters as members of a mindless, celebrity-worshiping cult. That they still aren’t very fond of McCain really doesn’t matter; it’s more than enough (for them) that he isn’t Obama.

But Rich Lowry is the one to sketch out the terms of a deal:

To placate Republicans and maximize the political impact of his selection, Lieberman would have to join the ticket as part of a McCain pledge to serve just one term. Both McCain and Lieberman would promise not to run for president in 2012, removing any possibility of Lieberman becoming a successor or putting his imprint on the Republican Party. Their administration would be above electoral politics, a high-minded exercise in competent governance and bipartisan compromise. To assuage Republican fears of a Harrison/Tyler scenario, Lieberman would have to pledge, if he were to ascend to the presidency, to appoint constitutionalist judges and honor McCain’s domestic priorities.

Lowry views the potential for such a ticket as an act of desperation, a roll of the dice to get McCain into the White House.

I think there is something to all of these views, and the potential to re-ignite a battle with social conservatives is great. But Lieberman, like McCain, is in some sense the exception to most politicians currently in circulation. He is calm and thoughtful, defiant and indifferent to much of public opinion and able to translate complicated national security problems into easily understood rhetoric. And, as John points out, McCain respects him greatly.

The choice might create more problems than it’s worth, isn’t politically safe or very smart in some regards, and would shake up the GOP. Sounds like just the thing McCain would do.

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The Obama Smears

There has been a lot of attention given in the last few days to Jerome Corsi’s new book, The Obama Nation, which will debut at #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. It seems pretty clear, I think, that conservatives should not hitch their hopes to it.

Corsi himself, based on press accounts, is a leading advocate of the North American Union conspiracy. The NAU, for those who believe in it, is, according to a Boston Globe story, “a supranational organization that will soon fuse Canada, the United States, and Mexico into a single economic and political unit.” In an interview, Corsi said he believes in the existence of the NAU because, according to Corsi, President Bush was not securing the Southern border.

According to reports, Corsi has suggested that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian, called John Kerry “anti-Christian, anti-American” and called Pope John Paul II “senile,” and said pedophilia “is OK with the Pope as long as it isn’t reported by the liberal press.”

As for the book: it seems to be riddled with factual errors–some relatively minor (like asserting that Obama does not mention the birth of his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, in Dreams from My Father; Obama does mention her), and some significant (suggesting that Obama favors withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; he wants to do the opposite). But more problematic, I think, is Corsi’s claim that Obama has “extensive connections to Islam” and his suggestion that Obama is a recent drug user. Those claims are, from everything I can tell, unsubstantiated. (When challenged to produce the evidence, Corsi counters with the “prove you’re not beating your wife” defense.)

For example, Obama, who in his book admitted using drugs in his youth, says he hasn’t used any since he was 20 years old. Corsi, in an interview, said Obama’s words can’t be trusted because “self-reporting, by people who have used drugs, as to when they stopped is inherently unreliable.” And Corsi’s effort to tie Obama to the Muslim faith–claims based on questionable sources, reaching back to Obama’s youth in Indonesia–is especially troubling, since the subtext here is attaching Obama to militant Islam and suggesting that he’s somehow alien to America and its values (when in fact his candidacy is a confirmation of the viability of those values).

Corsi’s approach to politics is both destructive and self-destructive. If Senator Obama loses, he should lose on the merits: his record in public life and his political philosophy. And while it’s legitimate to take into account Obama’s past associations with people like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright–especially for someone like Obama, about whom relatively little is known–it wrong and reckless to throw out unsubstantiated charges and smears against Senator Obama.

Conservatism has been an intellectual home to people like Burke and Buckley. The GOP is the party that gave us Lincoln and Reagan. It seems to me that its leaders ought to make it clear that they find what Dr. Corsi is doing to be both wrong and repellent. To have their movement and their party associated with such a figure would be a terrible thing and it will only help the cause of those who hold both the GOP and the conservative movement in contempt.

There has been a lot of attention given in the last few days to Jerome Corsi’s new book, The Obama Nation, which will debut at #1 on the New York Times best-seller list. It seems pretty clear, I think, that conservatives should not hitch their hopes to it.

Corsi himself, based on press accounts, is a leading advocate of the North American Union conspiracy. The NAU, for those who believe in it, is, according to a Boston Globe story, “a supranational organization that will soon fuse Canada, the United States, and Mexico into a single economic and political unit.” In an interview, Corsi said he believes in the existence of the NAU because, according to Corsi, President Bush was not securing the Southern border.

According to reports, Corsi has suggested that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a lesbian, called John Kerry “anti-Christian, anti-American” and called Pope John Paul II “senile,” and said pedophilia “is OK with the Pope as long as it isn’t reported by the liberal press.”

As for the book: it seems to be riddled with factual errors–some relatively minor (like asserting that Obama does not mention the birth of his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, in Dreams from My Father; Obama does mention her), and some significant (suggesting that Obama favors withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; he wants to do the opposite). But more problematic, I think, is Corsi’s claim that Obama has “extensive connections to Islam” and his suggestion that Obama is a recent drug user. Those claims are, from everything I can tell, unsubstantiated. (When challenged to produce the evidence, Corsi counters with the “prove you’re not beating your wife” defense.)

For example, Obama, who in his book admitted using drugs in his youth, says he hasn’t used any since he was 20 years old. Corsi, in an interview, said Obama’s words can’t be trusted because “self-reporting, by people who have used drugs, as to when they stopped is inherently unreliable.” And Corsi’s effort to tie Obama to the Muslim faith–claims based on questionable sources, reaching back to Obama’s youth in Indonesia–is especially troubling, since the subtext here is attaching Obama to militant Islam and suggesting that he’s somehow alien to America and its values (when in fact his candidacy is a confirmation of the viability of those values).

Corsi’s approach to politics is both destructive and self-destructive. If Senator Obama loses, he should lose on the merits: his record in public life and his political philosophy. And while it’s legitimate to take into account Obama’s past associations with people like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright–especially for someone like Obama, about whom relatively little is known–it wrong and reckless to throw out unsubstantiated charges and smears against Senator Obama.

Conservatism has been an intellectual home to people like Burke and Buckley. The GOP is the party that gave us Lincoln and Reagan. It seems to me that its leaders ought to make it clear that they find what Dr. Corsi is doing to be both wrong and repellent. To have their movement and their party associated with such a figure would be a terrible thing and it will only help the cause of those who hold both the GOP and the conservative movement in contempt.

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The Haircut?

I trust, or rather I hope, that Peggy Noonan is kidding or waxing poetic when she suggests that Tim Kaine’s everyman (read: cheap) haircut is reason to select him as VP. She seems enamored of the notion of an ordinary, bland ,and non-threatening character a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Worse, I fear that the Obama camp might agree.

The Obama camp, as seen in their frenzied overrreaction to the first spate of anti-Obama books seems consumed by the notion that Americans might think their candidate too exotic or too elitist for the presidency. (They might be better advised to start worrying about his policy positions and abysmal national security judgment.) Hence, they might latch on to Kaine, whose most defining characteristic is, as Noonan suggests, his entirely non-threatening and unexceptional demeanor as a way of inoculating the Democratic ticket against this line of attack.

Let’s hope not. The VP matters, not only because he might be President, but because the role has grown into that of a significant policy advisor in recent administrations. Competence, achievement, experience and leadership, we hope, would rank higher as criteria than “doesn’t scare people.”

So if Kaine (who, as I can attest based on a few years of utterly undistinguished Kaine governance, does not posses great quantities of any of those important things) is the pick, it will tell us much about what is on Obama’s mind. It would also give us an exceptionally underwhelming running mate. Let’s hope that mediocrity is not what Obama is seeking, Noonan was just teasing, and Obama is concerned with finding someone who really can fill in the gaps in his own profile. It’s bad enough the top of the Democratic ticket is distinguished by a lack of accomplishment and experience. We hardly need a VP with the same deficits.

I trust, or rather I hope, that Peggy Noonan is kidding or waxing poetic when she suggests that Tim Kaine’s everyman (read: cheap) haircut is reason to select him as VP. She seems enamored of the notion of an ordinary, bland ,and non-threatening character a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Worse, I fear that the Obama camp might agree.

The Obama camp, as seen in their frenzied overrreaction to the first spate of anti-Obama books seems consumed by the notion that Americans might think their candidate too exotic or too elitist for the presidency. (They might be better advised to start worrying about his policy positions and abysmal national security judgment.) Hence, they might latch on to Kaine, whose most defining characteristic is, as Noonan suggests, his entirely non-threatening and unexceptional demeanor as a way of inoculating the Democratic ticket against this line of attack.

Let’s hope not. The VP matters, not only because he might be President, but because the role has grown into that of a significant policy advisor in recent administrations. Competence, achievement, experience and leadership, we hope, would rank higher as criteria than “doesn’t scare people.”

So if Kaine (who, as I can attest based on a few years of utterly undistinguished Kaine governance, does not posses great quantities of any of those important things) is the pick, it will tell us much about what is on Obama’s mind. It would also give us an exceptionally underwhelming running mate. Let’s hope that mediocrity is not what Obama is seeking, Noonan was just teasing, and Obama is concerned with finding someone who really can fill in the gaps in his own profile. It’s bad enough the top of the Democratic ticket is distinguished by a lack of accomplishment and experience. We hardly need a VP with the same deficits.

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Let the Debate Begin

Sari Nusseibeh–president of Al-Quds University, and a moderate, soft-spoken Palestinian thinker–is apparently rethinking the “two state solution.” Or so he says in an interview with Akiva Eldar:

I still favor a two-state solution and will continue to do so, but to the extent that you discover it’s not practical anymore or that it’s not going to happen, you start to think about what the alternatives are. I think that the feeling is there are two courses taking place that are opposed to one another. On one hand, there is what people are saying and thinking, on both sides. There is the sense that we are running out of time, that if we want a two-state solution, we need to implement it quickly.

But on the other hand, if we are looking at what is happening on the ground, in Israel and the occupied territories, you see things happening in the opposite direction, as if they are not connected to reality. Thought is running in one direction, reality in the other.

Nusseibe’s new formula for co-existence is the one with which Palestinians have been threatening Israel for quite a while now: the one-state solution. As David Hazony noted here two days ago, “top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei threatened that if Israel does not accede to all the Palestinian demands regarding borders and refugees, then ‘we might demand Israeli citizenship.'”

I think Hazony was dead wrong when he said that “Such a change of heart on the part of the Palestinians would devastate their international standing,” but he was right in predicting that “There is probably nothing that could more successfully unite the Israeli public against the Palestinians than the demand for a binational state.” Israelis will oppose it for many good reasons, among them the lesson of reality: for states to be stable, political coherence is needed. If you want to know what happens to states in which there’s no clear majority–and in which populations with no shared vision are trying to live together, a large chunk of them committed to terrorism–look at Lebanon.

But the question for now about the Palestinians’ recent statements is this: are they just ventilating frustrations, trying to put pressure on Israel by pointing to the one-state-solution–or is it really the beginning a serious discussion?

Nusseibeh tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, serious analysis:

It is time maybe to rethink, to bring Fatah around to a new idea, the old-new idea, of one state. 

But on the other, tactical threat: 

That’s an ultimatum. Unless a major breakthrough happens by the end of this year, in my opinion we should start trying to strive for equality. 

Nusseibeh lays out the way this will be done:

“We can fight for equal rights, rights of existence, return and equality, and we could take it slowly over the years and there could be a peaceful movement – like in South Africa,” he notes. “I think one should maybe begin on the Palestinian side, to begin a debate, to reengage in the idea of one state.”

One can easily dismiss him as semi-delusional. Saying first that events on the ground are “not connected to reality” but then suggesting with a straight face that the Palestinians will have a “peaceful movement” raises the question of how well Nusseibeh himself is connected to reality.

However, Nusseibeh should not be dismissed, because what he says represents a growing tendency among Palestinians to try and overcome their failures by imposing this new and exciting formula of Israeli-citizenship-for-all. In the meantime, Israel, at least rhetorically, is sticking with the “old” idea–but it’s time to recognize that’s an idea that will not be viable if the other side sincerely decides to obstruct it. It’s time for Israel to rethink whether the old formula is still viable. It should be done to be used as an “ultimatum” (for the Palestinian Authority to get its act together)–but also as a serious “debate.” After all, If Palestinians are on the way to changing their goal, and presenting the world with a new vision for their future, Israel shouldn’t be lagging behind and leaving them the stage without preparing its own new goals.

Sari Nusseibeh–president of Al-Quds University, and a moderate, soft-spoken Palestinian thinker–is apparently rethinking the “two state solution.” Or so he says in an interview with Akiva Eldar:

I still favor a two-state solution and will continue to do so, but to the extent that you discover it’s not practical anymore or that it’s not going to happen, you start to think about what the alternatives are. I think that the feeling is there are two courses taking place that are opposed to one another. On one hand, there is what people are saying and thinking, on both sides. There is the sense that we are running out of time, that if we want a two-state solution, we need to implement it quickly.

But on the other hand, if we are looking at what is happening on the ground, in Israel and the occupied territories, you see things happening in the opposite direction, as if they are not connected to reality. Thought is running in one direction, reality in the other.

Nusseibe’s new formula for co-existence is the one with which Palestinians have been threatening Israel for quite a while now: the one-state solution. As David Hazony noted here two days ago, “top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei threatened that if Israel does not accede to all the Palestinian demands regarding borders and refugees, then ‘we might demand Israeli citizenship.'”

I think Hazony was dead wrong when he said that “Such a change of heart on the part of the Palestinians would devastate their international standing,” but he was right in predicting that “There is probably nothing that could more successfully unite the Israeli public against the Palestinians than the demand for a binational state.” Israelis will oppose it for many good reasons, among them the lesson of reality: for states to be stable, political coherence is needed. If you want to know what happens to states in which there’s no clear majority–and in which populations with no shared vision are trying to live together, a large chunk of them committed to terrorism–look at Lebanon.

But the question for now about the Palestinians’ recent statements is this: are they just ventilating frustrations, trying to put pressure on Israel by pointing to the one-state-solution–or is it really the beginning a serious discussion?

Nusseibeh tries to have it both ways. On the one hand, serious analysis:

It is time maybe to rethink, to bring Fatah around to a new idea, the old-new idea, of one state. 

But on the other, tactical threat: 

That’s an ultimatum. Unless a major breakthrough happens by the end of this year, in my opinion we should start trying to strive for equality. 

Nusseibeh lays out the way this will be done:

“We can fight for equal rights, rights of existence, return and equality, and we could take it slowly over the years and there could be a peaceful movement – like in South Africa,” he notes. “I think one should maybe begin on the Palestinian side, to begin a debate, to reengage in the idea of one state.”

One can easily dismiss him as semi-delusional. Saying first that events on the ground are “not connected to reality” but then suggesting with a straight face that the Palestinians will have a “peaceful movement” raises the question of how well Nusseibeh himself is connected to reality.

However, Nusseibeh should not be dismissed, because what he says represents a growing tendency among Palestinians to try and overcome their failures by imposing this new and exciting formula of Israeli-citizenship-for-all. In the meantime, Israel, at least rhetorically, is sticking with the “old” idea–but it’s time to recognize that’s an idea that will not be viable if the other side sincerely decides to obstruct it. It’s time for Israel to rethink whether the old formula is still viable. It should be done to be used as an “ultimatum” (for the Palestinian Authority to get its act together)–but also as a serious “debate.” After all, If Palestinians are on the way to changing their goal, and presenting the world with a new vision for their future, Israel shouldn’t be lagging behind and leaving them the stage without preparing its own new goals.

Read Less




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