Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 24, 2008

The Greatest Spectacle of the Century

A few hours ago, the greatest spectacle of this century concluded in Beijing with the second of two truly awe-inspiring ceremonies.  “These were truly exceptional games,” proclaimed Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, as he declared that they had come to a close.  And just about everyone, whether friend or foe of the regime, can agree with John Burns of the New York Times when he writes they were “the most stunning Olympic Games of our age.”

The extravaganza cannot help but change China.  So what will be the effect of the Olympics?  The most immediate legacy will be an enhanced police state.  As veteran China-watcher Willy Lam says, “the central government has revived Mao Zedong’s “people’s warfare” concept by reinvigorating the intrusive neighborhood committees of watchers and by reemploying “similar vigilante outfits.”  Beijing has also increased the role of the People’s Liberation Army and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police in domestic security patrolling, especially in restive minority areas.   In fact, all elements of government are being mobilized to combat “splittists,” troublemakers, and hostile forces of all stripes.  For more than a half decade, President Hu Jintao has implemented increasingly severe measures, and he has now decided to increase repression even further after the tourists, athletes, and journalists go home, “taking revenge after the autumn harvest” as Lam puts it.

Of course, in this atmosphere political reform remains off the table.  In 2008, the Chinese government permits less room for speech than it did in 1988.  Almost everyone knows that China needs a freer political system, but outside tight circles of elites in Beijing, nobody is supposed to talk about liberalization.  Unfortunately, the Summer Games will make things worse, at least in the short run.  “The Olympics demonstrated the success of the current system and the Communist Party’s determination not to reform politically,” said one Chinese commentator to Reuters.  “There is no reason to change.”

The one thing we will see change is Beijing’s foreign policy.  Flush with success from a successful event, China’s leaders will continue their more assertive approach toward other nations.  The Communist Party decided to adopt more aggressive polices in the middle of 2006 after a series of internal meetings in Beijing, and the trend will become even more apparent after the Games.  Hu Jintao not only believes that the country should assert itself; unlike his predecessors, he thinks China should actively work to restructure the international system so that it will become more to Beijing’s liking.  It won’t be long before the Chinese become the main obstacle to the implementation of American policy. 

So those who said it was important for China to have a successful Olympics were dead wrong.  The West fundamentally misunderstands Communist Party leaders.  The Chinese people will pay the price.  Eventually we will too. 

A few hours ago, the greatest spectacle of this century concluded in Beijing with the second of two truly awe-inspiring ceremonies.  “These were truly exceptional games,” proclaimed Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, as he declared that they had come to a close.  And just about everyone, whether friend or foe of the regime, can agree with John Burns of the New York Times when he writes they were “the most stunning Olympic Games of our age.”

The extravaganza cannot help but change China.  So what will be the effect of the Olympics?  The most immediate legacy will be an enhanced police state.  As veteran China-watcher Willy Lam says, “the central government has revived Mao Zedong’s “people’s warfare” concept by reinvigorating the intrusive neighborhood committees of watchers and by reemploying “similar vigilante outfits.”  Beijing has also increased the role of the People’s Liberation Army and the paramilitary People’s Armed Police in domestic security patrolling, especially in restive minority areas.   In fact, all elements of government are being mobilized to combat “splittists,” troublemakers, and hostile forces of all stripes.  For more than a half decade, President Hu Jintao has implemented increasingly severe measures, and he has now decided to increase repression even further after the tourists, athletes, and journalists go home, “taking revenge after the autumn harvest” as Lam puts it.

Of course, in this atmosphere political reform remains off the table.  In 2008, the Chinese government permits less room for speech than it did in 1988.  Almost everyone knows that China needs a freer political system, but outside tight circles of elites in Beijing, nobody is supposed to talk about liberalization.  Unfortunately, the Summer Games will make things worse, at least in the short run.  “The Olympics demonstrated the success of the current system and the Communist Party’s determination not to reform politically,” said one Chinese commentator to Reuters.  “There is no reason to change.”

The one thing we will see change is Beijing’s foreign policy.  Flush with success from a successful event, China’s leaders will continue their more assertive approach toward other nations.  The Communist Party decided to adopt more aggressive polices in the middle of 2006 after a series of internal meetings in Beijing, and the trend will become even more apparent after the Games.  Hu Jintao not only believes that the country should assert itself; unlike his predecessors, he thinks China should actively work to restructure the international system so that it will become more to Beijing’s liking.  It won’t be long before the Chinese become the main obstacle to the implementation of American policy. 

So those who said it was important for China to have a successful Olympics were dead wrong.  The West fundamentally misunderstands Communist Party leaders.  The Chinese people will pay the price.  Eventually we will too. 

Read Less

The Hillary Fall Out

The reaction to the non-selection and the non-consideration of Hillary Clinton is the biggest story (other than the selection of Joe Biden) to come out of yesterday’s events. The reaction from Clinton fans runs from mixed to furious. If Obama had been true to his own “change” theme the result might have been easier for some to accept, but Biden is sort of Hillary without Hillary –experience, blue-collar appeal and street fighter. So why not take her after all?

Bill Kristol raises just this query and makes a delicious suggestion:

Biden and Hillary have basically comparable foreign policy “experience” (such as it is in either case). Nor is Biden clearly more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than Hillary. And they have pretty similar foreign policy views. So no advantage to Biden there. And, unlike Jack Reed, for example, Biden didn’t serve in the military. So no advantage over Hillary there. Nor does he outshine her in executive experience (unlike Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius)–neither Biden nor Hillary has any. Also, if the VP is supposed to handle the Democrats’ populist economic message: after the last few months of the primary campaign, it would be hard to say Hillary hasn’t proven herself an awfully good carrier of that message. And Hillary can perform the attacking functions of the VP nominee as well as Biden. Will the Democratic party, which is committed (to say the least) to gender equity, and which in fact has a 50 percent quota for female delegates, accept Obama’s imposition of a glass ceiling at its convention? A modest suggestion to my justifiably outraged Democratic friends: Hillary’s name should be placed in nomination not for the presidency (Obama won that more or less fair and square)–but for the vice presidency. It would be an interesting roll call vote.

And if that were not all enough, the McCain camp is rolling out a new ad rubbing some salt in the wounds and accusing Barack Obama of snubbing Hillary because she was too candid about his faults in the primary.

What to make of all this? Put the conservative pundits and the McCain ad men aside for a moment. The real Hillary supporters are mad. Obama’s decision to put forth absolutely no effort to vet her (would an hour meeting and a request for documents have killed them?), after suggesting she would be on anyone’s short list, stings.

As for the Obama opponents, in e-mail and in-person chatter there was no greater fear among Republicans than that Obama would put aside ill feelings and pick Hillary. Her 18 million voters and her female, blue collar and older voter appeal worried Republicans no end. And the surprise/excitement impact would have been considerable. The overwhelming reaction when Biden was named? “Thank goodness. It could have been Hillary.”

What can John McCain do to make the most of this? Several things, I think. First, not overplay his hand. (The new ad comes right up to the line.) Second, in much of what he does from here on out — policy, VP selection, Convention speech and debate preparation — he should keep those Hillary fans in the forefront of his thinking. An enhanced middle class tax cut plan, a blue collar-friendly VP, an emphasis on the people who “work hard and play by the rules” (a Bill Clintonism which now rings true for Hillary herself) and a focus on deeds not talk (has there ever been a more loquacious ticket in love with the sound of their own voices than Obama-Biden?) would do McCain a world of good.

And as for that Kristol suggestion, there’s got to be one brave delegate to put her name in nomination, right?

The reaction to the non-selection and the non-consideration of Hillary Clinton is the biggest story (other than the selection of Joe Biden) to come out of yesterday’s events. The reaction from Clinton fans runs from mixed to furious. If Obama had been true to his own “change” theme the result might have been easier for some to accept, but Biden is sort of Hillary without Hillary –experience, blue-collar appeal and street fighter. So why not take her after all?

Bill Kristol raises just this query and makes a delicious suggestion:

Biden and Hillary have basically comparable foreign policy “experience” (such as it is in either case). Nor is Biden clearly more knowledgeable in foreign affairs than Hillary. And they have pretty similar foreign policy views. So no advantage to Biden there. And, unlike Jack Reed, for example, Biden didn’t serve in the military. So no advantage over Hillary there. Nor does he outshine her in executive experience (unlike Evan Bayh or Tim Kaine or Kathleen Sebelius)–neither Biden nor Hillary has any. Also, if the VP is supposed to handle the Democrats’ populist economic message: after the last few months of the primary campaign, it would be hard to say Hillary hasn’t proven herself an awfully good carrier of that message. And Hillary can perform the attacking functions of the VP nominee as well as Biden. Will the Democratic party, which is committed (to say the least) to gender equity, and which in fact has a 50 percent quota for female delegates, accept Obama’s imposition of a glass ceiling at its convention? A modest suggestion to my justifiably outraged Democratic friends: Hillary’s name should be placed in nomination not for the presidency (Obama won that more or less fair and square)–but for the vice presidency. It would be an interesting roll call vote.

And if that were not all enough, the McCain camp is rolling out a new ad rubbing some salt in the wounds and accusing Barack Obama of snubbing Hillary because she was too candid about his faults in the primary.

What to make of all this? Put the conservative pundits and the McCain ad men aside for a moment. The real Hillary supporters are mad. Obama’s decision to put forth absolutely no effort to vet her (would an hour meeting and a request for documents have killed them?), after suggesting she would be on anyone’s short list, stings.

As for the Obama opponents, in e-mail and in-person chatter there was no greater fear among Republicans than that Obama would put aside ill feelings and pick Hillary. Her 18 million voters and her female, blue collar and older voter appeal worried Republicans no end. And the surprise/excitement impact would have been considerable. The overwhelming reaction when Biden was named? “Thank goodness. It could have been Hillary.”

What can John McCain do to make the most of this? Several things, I think. First, not overplay his hand. (The new ad comes right up to the line.) Second, in much of what he does from here on out — policy, VP selection, Convention speech and debate preparation — he should keep those Hillary fans in the forefront of his thinking. An enhanced middle class tax cut plan, a blue collar-friendly VP, an emphasis on the people who “work hard and play by the rules” (a Bill Clintonism which now rings true for Hillary herself) and a focus on deeds not talk (has there ever been a more loquacious ticket in love with the sound of their own voices than Obama-Biden?) would do McCain a world of good.

And as for that Kristol suggestion, there’s got to be one brave delegate to put her name in nomination, right?

Read Less

The Unknown Unknowns of Egypt

If you’re an Egyptian policy maker, are you worried about future US assistance to the country?

The Washington Institute for Middle East Policy’s J. Scott Carpenter says yes:

The Mubarak regime’s resolute failure to live up to its human rights obligations will give ammunition to members of the next Congress eager to send a strong message to Cairo. As a result, future U.S. administrations will find it difficult, if not impossible, to justify economic assistance to Egypt, let alone to increase it. The White House, instead, will have to fight off multiple efforts to condition Egypt’s military assistance. Waivers similar to those Rice announced this spring will increase, embarrassing both Egypt and a White House forced, however reluctantly, to stand with its “strategic partner.”

I see Carpenter’s point, but am not yet convinced (I’m also not convinced that punishing Egypt is a good idea. Israel’s policy makers tend to be softer than the Americans on this issue). True — Egyptians were making it harder for the US to ignore their consistent abuse of human rights and constant failure to assist such goals as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. And it’s also true that the Congress was making noises of displeasure for quite a while now, and is angry at Egypt’s excuses and (sometimes) lies. However, threatening is different than acting, and the Egyptians can pull some tricks — in Iraq, in Gaza and in other places — that will make it harder for the US to choose confrontation with this sleepy Arab lion.

But maybe Carpenter does have a point. Reading through Many Middle-East-related quotes of the newly appointed VP nominee, Joe Biden, I’ve noticed his tendency to compliment President Bush whenever the administration shows some sturdiness with Egypt.

Biden remembers that picking a fight with Egypt is not something that should be done lightly:

After all, we need China to help roll back North Korea’s nuclear program. We need Russia’s help to assure the destruction of those loose nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of the wrong people, and to prevent Iran from going fully nuclear. We need Pakistan’s help to root out al Qaeda and the remainder of the Taliban. We need Egypt’s help on the Mideast peace process and in Iraq.

But this doesn’t prevent him from preaching for some tough love:

In Egypt, Secretary Rice cancelled a planned visit to Cairo because of the detention of political leader Ayman Nour. And President Bush restated during his European trip: “the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.”

This sent an unmistakable signal to President Mubarak and at the very time Egypt is doing some heavy lifting for us in the Middle East peace process and in offering to train Iraqi security forces. Yes, Egypt may have been just as concerned about Congress cutting aid and about increasingly bold anti-Mubarak protests. But the administration did the right thing, and I believe it made a difference.

Why is all this so important?

Because – paraphrasing the Rumsfeldian witticism – there are the problems we know we’ll have to deal with (Iraq), and those we know that we don’t know how to deal with (Iran). But with President Mubarak getting older, and the ensuing power-struggle, Egypt might be the next administration’s problem it doesn’t know that it doesn’t know how to deal with.

If you’re an Egyptian policy maker, are you worried about future US assistance to the country?

The Washington Institute for Middle East Policy’s J. Scott Carpenter says yes:

The Mubarak regime’s resolute failure to live up to its human rights obligations will give ammunition to members of the next Congress eager to send a strong message to Cairo. As a result, future U.S. administrations will find it difficult, if not impossible, to justify economic assistance to Egypt, let alone to increase it. The White House, instead, will have to fight off multiple efforts to condition Egypt’s military assistance. Waivers similar to those Rice announced this spring will increase, embarrassing both Egypt and a White House forced, however reluctantly, to stand with its “strategic partner.”

I see Carpenter’s point, but am not yet convinced (I’m also not convinced that punishing Egypt is a good idea. Israel’s policy makers tend to be softer than the Americans on this issue). True — Egyptians were making it harder for the US to ignore their consistent abuse of human rights and constant failure to assist such goals as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. And it’s also true that the Congress was making noises of displeasure for quite a while now, and is angry at Egypt’s excuses and (sometimes) lies. However, threatening is different than acting, and the Egyptians can pull some tricks — in Iraq, in Gaza and in other places — that will make it harder for the US to choose confrontation with this sleepy Arab lion.

But maybe Carpenter does have a point. Reading through Many Middle-East-related quotes of the newly appointed VP nominee, Joe Biden, I’ve noticed his tendency to compliment President Bush whenever the administration shows some sturdiness with Egypt.

Biden remembers that picking a fight with Egypt is not something that should be done lightly:

After all, we need China to help roll back North Korea’s nuclear program. We need Russia’s help to assure the destruction of those loose nuclear weapons that could fall into the hands of the wrong people, and to prevent Iran from going fully nuclear. We need Pakistan’s help to root out al Qaeda and the remainder of the Taliban. We need Egypt’s help on the Mideast peace process and in Iraq.

But this doesn’t prevent him from preaching for some tough love:

In Egypt, Secretary Rice cancelled a planned visit to Cairo because of the detention of political leader Ayman Nour. And President Bush restated during his European trip: “the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.”

This sent an unmistakable signal to President Mubarak and at the very time Egypt is doing some heavy lifting for us in the Middle East peace process and in offering to train Iraqi security forces. Yes, Egypt may have been just as concerned about Congress cutting aid and about increasingly bold anti-Mubarak protests. But the administration did the right thing, and I believe it made a difference.

Why is all this so important?

Because – paraphrasing the Rumsfeldian witticism – there are the problems we know we’ll have to deal with (Iraq), and those we know that we don’t know how to deal with (Iran). But with President Mubarak getting older, and the ensuing power-struggle, Egypt might be the next administration’s problem it doesn’t know that it doesn’t know how to deal with.

Read Less

Not What He Advertised

John, you are right that Barack Obama isn’t going to get a transfusion of support in Pennsylvania or among blue collar voters by virtue of Joe Biden. To be honest, there are millions of voters who don’t know very much about him, will never see him on the stump and only vaguely remember he was an early dropout in the Democratic primary. Only in the politically-obsessed world in which we all operate is Biden an entirely familiar face.

Moreover, Biden is not all that pristine on the money front. Byron York reminds us that the Senator from MBNA isn’t exactly averse to lobbyists and their money. And just to add a little spice it turns out that Fred Baron, none other than John Edwards’ money man/girlfriend’s financial angel is a large Biden supporter. (The National Enquirer will no doubt fill in the gaps when the mainstream media yawns and asks no more questions about that.) You have to love this quote from Baron: “Joe Biden and I see eye to eye on the way this country should be run.” You’d pay money to watch Biden respond to that. (Especially because it’s Biden – the explanation could be several side-splitting paragraphs long.)

All of this goes to what Biden is not — help in the blue collar, populist battle Obama is trying to wage against John McCain. But even more interesting is the media’s recognition that Biden spells problems in other areas for Obama that are at the core of his present difficulties. Two of Politico‘s pundits list several, including this one which will come as a downer to The Chosen One’s groupies:

He’s a lot more conventional than advertised. Obama has promised a different and more consensus-oriented brand of politics but more often than not has done what most politicians do: switched positions to soothe voters, dodged the unpredictability of town hall meetings and gone for the jugular when he sees it. The Biden pick — the most important choice Obama has made to date in his public career — was safe and traditional. Two male career politicians from the Senate is hardly transformational.

So Biden’s selection aggravated the problem with Obama’s base (e.g. the whole New Politics meme is dying a slow and obvious death). That’s bad enough. But then Obama’s overriding worrying — he’s not passing Hillary’s 3 a.m. test — was highlighted for the entire punditocracy. The Politico duo explain:

He’s insecure about security. The Georgia-Russia crisis amplified Obama’s shortcomings on national security — both his own experience and the perceptions of voters about his own readiness for command. McCain is making that his calling card, and polls show it’s working. Biden offers Obama instant help: He knows this stuff and is more than willing to flaunt it.

Well in addition to providing the instant help, Biden, of course, makes plain that Obama is frantically in need of instant help.

The bottom line: Biden’s supposed benefits are ephemeral and his liabilities in magnifying Obama’s problems are very real. Perhaps that’s why they waited until 3 a.m. on Saturday to announce the pick. Only one more day to fend off that troubling reality before the Convention starts.

John, you are right that Barack Obama isn’t going to get a transfusion of support in Pennsylvania or among blue collar voters by virtue of Joe Biden. To be honest, there are millions of voters who don’t know very much about him, will never see him on the stump and only vaguely remember he was an early dropout in the Democratic primary. Only in the politically-obsessed world in which we all operate is Biden an entirely familiar face.

Moreover, Biden is not all that pristine on the money front. Byron York reminds us that the Senator from MBNA isn’t exactly averse to lobbyists and their money. And just to add a little spice it turns out that Fred Baron, none other than John Edwards’ money man/girlfriend’s financial angel is a large Biden supporter. (The National Enquirer will no doubt fill in the gaps when the mainstream media yawns and asks no more questions about that.) You have to love this quote from Baron: “Joe Biden and I see eye to eye on the way this country should be run.” You’d pay money to watch Biden respond to that. (Especially because it’s Biden – the explanation could be several side-splitting paragraphs long.)

All of this goes to what Biden is not — help in the blue collar, populist battle Obama is trying to wage against John McCain. But even more interesting is the media’s recognition that Biden spells problems in other areas for Obama that are at the core of his present difficulties. Two of Politico‘s pundits list several, including this one which will come as a downer to The Chosen One’s groupies:

He’s a lot more conventional than advertised. Obama has promised a different and more consensus-oriented brand of politics but more often than not has done what most politicians do: switched positions to soothe voters, dodged the unpredictability of town hall meetings and gone for the jugular when he sees it. The Biden pick — the most important choice Obama has made to date in his public career — was safe and traditional. Two male career politicians from the Senate is hardly transformational.

So Biden’s selection aggravated the problem with Obama’s base (e.g. the whole New Politics meme is dying a slow and obvious death). That’s bad enough. But then Obama’s overriding worrying — he’s not passing Hillary’s 3 a.m. test — was highlighted for the entire punditocracy. The Politico duo explain:

He’s insecure about security. The Georgia-Russia crisis amplified Obama’s shortcomings on national security — both his own experience and the perceptions of voters about his own readiness for command. McCain is making that his calling card, and polls show it’s working. Biden offers Obama instant help: He knows this stuff and is more than willing to flaunt it.

Well in addition to providing the instant help, Biden, of course, makes plain that Obama is frantically in need of instant help.

The bottom line: Biden’s supposed benefits are ephemeral and his liabilities in magnifying Obama’s problems are very real. Perhaps that’s why they waited until 3 a.m. on Saturday to announce the pick. Only one more day to fend off that troubling reality before the Convention starts.

Read Less

Gates v. Rice

There’s much to be said about Jim Hoagland’s article in today’s Washington Post — a stinging indictment of Condi Rice’s way of handling the Georgia crisis. It paints her as someone losing control, and leaving things up to Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

Bush is the first president to appoint two Cabinet members who hold doctorates in Soviet studies. The other Kremlin expert is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a relative latecomer to the administration who appears to have eclipsed Rice as a steadying, strategic influence on Russian policy

Essentially, the Russians were those choosing Gates over Rice — not a good sign for anyone concerned with the U.S.’s status in the world:

Gates was also on the phone to his Russian and Georgian counterparts urging restraint, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was ducking calls from Rice.

Hoagland’s sources tell him that Rice was becoming too emotional with the Russians. Would they say such thing in such a way had she been a male Secretary and not a female? I really don’t know – nor do I disagree with Hoaglad’s assessment of Rice as an uninspiring Secretary. I’m sorry if this sounds like  annoyingly liberal-minded whining, but I’m sure this description of her will be seen by some as an example of a chauvinistic way of diminishing a women’s status:

Even admirers have become concerned that Rice sees this crisis in intensely personal terms that could blur her policy judgments.

And the most irritating part of this Rice-bashing, is the reason for it all: She was more blatant in blaming the Russians and demanding their withdrawal than Gates. So maybe it’s the Defense Secretary that needs to see the crisis in more personal terms?

There’s much to be said about Jim Hoagland’s article in today’s Washington Post — a stinging indictment of Condi Rice’s way of handling the Georgia crisis. It paints her as someone losing control, and leaving things up to Defense Secretary Bob Gates:

Bush is the first president to appoint two Cabinet members who hold doctorates in Soviet studies. The other Kremlin expert is Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a relative latecomer to the administration who appears to have eclipsed Rice as a steadying, strategic influence on Russian policy

Essentially, the Russians were those choosing Gates over Rice — not a good sign for anyone concerned with the U.S.’s status in the world:

Gates was also on the phone to his Russian and Georgian counterparts urging restraint, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was ducking calls from Rice.

Hoagland’s sources tell him that Rice was becoming too emotional with the Russians. Would they say such thing in such a way had she been a male Secretary and not a female? I really don’t know – nor do I disagree with Hoaglad’s assessment of Rice as an uninspiring Secretary. I’m sorry if this sounds like  annoyingly liberal-minded whining, but I’m sure this description of her will be seen by some as an example of a chauvinistic way of diminishing a women’s status:

Even admirers have become concerned that Rice sees this crisis in intensely personal terms that could blur her policy judgments.

And the most irritating part of this Rice-bashing, is the reason for it all: She was more blatant in blaming the Russians and demanding their withdrawal than Gates. So maybe it’s the Defense Secretary that needs to see the crisis in more personal terms?

Read Less

Well That’s Not Comforting

The Washington Post editors seem to like the Joe Biden pick, but they make two points which, whether intentionally or not, make clear that there are some very choppy seas ahead for the Democratic ticket.

First, the Post hits a triple: reminding us of Barack Obama’s non-existent national security bona fides, Biden’s support for the Iraq war and his lame partition idea. In other words, something to disturb everyone on all ends of the political spectrum. They write:

Mr. Biden’s expertise may reassure those who worry about Mr. Obama’s thin résumé in world affairs. We haven’t always agreed with his judgment, such as his advocacy of de facto partition of Iraq when the war was going badly. Mr. Biden stuck to that plan long after it was convincingly debunked as impractical by U.S. military commanders and Iraqi political leaders, and, like Mr. Obama, he wrongly bet against last year’s troop surge. But he is a committed internationalist, and he has used his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to promote intelligent U.S. engagement. The hearings he held before the Iraq war, which he supported, pointed both to the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and the daunting challenges that would follow military action.

The conclusion seems to be that the guy with no experience just selected someone with awful judgment. But then it gets worse. The Post editors share a doozy of a story about The Mouth:

With a knack for self-defeating and insensitive verbosity, Mr. Biden at times has been his own worst enemy. It has been said that, having been lampooned for this filibustering, he became more disciplined. Perhaps, but we saw a glimpse of the old Biden when he met with The Post’s editorial board during his short-lived presidential campaign. Asked about failing schools, Mr. Biden seemed to suggest that one reason so many of the District’s schools fail is the city’s large minority population and contrasted D.C. schools with those in Iowa. “There’s less than 1 percent of the population in Iowa that is African American,” Mr. Biden said. “There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.” The Biden campaign quickly issued a statement asserting that the candidate was referring to socioeconomic status, not racial differences. The lesson we took was not to think that Mr. Biden is a racist — we don’t — but to worry about his tendency to speak too much before he thinks enough.

Yikes. One wonders if the Obama team knew that little tale — and all the others sure to come out.

In an odd way the Biden pick has been liberating for the MSM. Not until Biden’s selection did so many pundits come out and say, “Gosh Obama’s really drowning on the national security front.” Biden has a way of loosening lips. Unfortunately they are usually his own.

The Washington Post editors seem to like the Joe Biden pick, but they make two points which, whether intentionally or not, make clear that there are some very choppy seas ahead for the Democratic ticket.

First, the Post hits a triple: reminding us of Barack Obama’s non-existent national security bona fides, Biden’s support for the Iraq war and his lame partition idea. In other words, something to disturb everyone on all ends of the political spectrum. They write:

Mr. Biden’s expertise may reassure those who worry about Mr. Obama’s thin résumé in world affairs. We haven’t always agreed with his judgment, such as his advocacy of de facto partition of Iraq when the war was going badly. Mr. Biden stuck to that plan long after it was convincingly debunked as impractical by U.S. military commanders and Iraqi political leaders, and, like Mr. Obama, he wrongly bet against last year’s troop surge. But he is a committed internationalist, and he has used his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to promote intelligent U.S. engagement. The hearings he held before the Iraq war, which he supported, pointed both to the danger posed by Saddam Hussein and the daunting challenges that would follow military action.

The conclusion seems to be that the guy with no experience just selected someone with awful judgment. But then it gets worse. The Post editors share a doozy of a story about The Mouth:

With a knack for self-defeating and insensitive verbosity, Mr. Biden at times has been his own worst enemy. It has been said that, having been lampooned for this filibustering, he became more disciplined. Perhaps, but we saw a glimpse of the old Biden when he met with The Post’s editorial board during his short-lived presidential campaign. Asked about failing schools, Mr. Biden seemed to suggest that one reason so many of the District’s schools fail is the city’s large minority population and contrasted D.C. schools with those in Iowa. “There’s less than 1 percent of the population in Iowa that is African American,” Mr. Biden said. “There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.” The Biden campaign quickly issued a statement asserting that the candidate was referring to socioeconomic status, not racial differences. The lesson we took was not to think that Mr. Biden is a racist — we don’t — but to worry about his tendency to speak too much before he thinks enough.

Yikes. One wonders if the Obama team knew that little tale — and all the others sure to come out.

In an odd way the Biden pick has been liberating for the MSM. Not until Biden’s selection did so many pundits come out and say, “Gosh Obama’s really drowning on the national security front.” Biden has a way of loosening lips. Unfortunately they are usually his own.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Michael Barone points out the mainstream media’s willingness to play along with Barack Obama’s narrative. But it isn’t so easy: “Obama backers dismiss attempts to undermine his narrative as distractions or as racism, beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse. Most of the mainstream media tend to agree. [ Bill] Ayers is no more likely to appear at the convention than the disgraced John Edwards. But other media have a voice. Obama will probably get a nice bounce out of his convention. But it’s not clear whether his narrative can be sustained in the weeks and months ahead. ”

The timing of the 3 a.m. text message, even if inadvertent, ranks up there with the dumbest and most arrogant moves of the campaign. Almost as bad not choosing Hillary Clinton as VP.

Isn’t it odd that the Biden pick would be “reassuring” to the Left because it “shows that Obama recognizes his own weaknesses” and it reminds them that ” Obama will have to retool his message for the fall”? Mere mortals might conclude it highlights the flaws in the top of the ticket and suggests the entire “change” theme has been a fraud and a political dead-end.

Morton Kondrake asks if Obama is a liberal on economics given the mix of huge spending plans, Big Labor-pleasing pledges and pro-market talk. The answer I think is “yes,” just not an honest one.

Grown-ups not infected by Obama-mania might not think it’s a big deal, but does the text message fumble disappoint The One’s devoted flock? One take: “[T]his is like finding out from your neighbor instead of your sister that she’s engaged—not how you want or expect the news to be delivered.” This is how these people think, and the dozens of disappointments, policy flip-flops, and negative ads all serve to reduce him to the level of a mere mortal, which is bad news when you need to pump the youth vote.

If Biden is supposed to be the national security brain for Obama shouldn’t the Left be concerned about his vote for the Iraq war and everyone be concerned about the horrid partition idea?

Gotta be racism if Obama loses? (Maybe voters just agreed with Biden’s assessment that the presidency is no place for on the job training.)

I actually think the Biden pick tips the balance in favor of Sam’s Club Republican Tim Pawlenty for VP and away from Mitt Romney. One wealthy Republican per ticket is probably enough.

Michael Barone points out the mainstream media’s willingness to play along with Barack Obama’s narrative. But it isn’t so easy: “Obama backers dismiss attempts to undermine his narrative as distractions or as racism, beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse. Most of the mainstream media tend to agree. [ Bill] Ayers is no more likely to appear at the convention than the disgraced John Edwards. But other media have a voice. Obama will probably get a nice bounce out of his convention. But it’s not clear whether his narrative can be sustained in the weeks and months ahead. ”

The timing of the 3 a.m. text message, even if inadvertent, ranks up there with the dumbest and most arrogant moves of the campaign. Almost as bad not choosing Hillary Clinton as VP.

Isn’t it odd that the Biden pick would be “reassuring” to the Left because it “shows that Obama recognizes his own weaknesses” and it reminds them that ” Obama will have to retool his message for the fall”? Mere mortals might conclude it highlights the flaws in the top of the ticket and suggests the entire “change” theme has been a fraud and a political dead-end.

Morton Kondrake asks if Obama is a liberal on economics given the mix of huge spending plans, Big Labor-pleasing pledges and pro-market talk. The answer I think is “yes,” just not an honest one.

Grown-ups not infected by Obama-mania might not think it’s a big deal, but does the text message fumble disappoint The One’s devoted flock? One take: “[T]his is like finding out from your neighbor instead of your sister that she’s engaged—not how you want or expect the news to be delivered.” This is how these people think, and the dozens of disappointments, policy flip-flops, and negative ads all serve to reduce him to the level of a mere mortal, which is bad news when you need to pump the youth vote.

If Biden is supposed to be the national security brain for Obama shouldn’t the Left be concerned about his vote for the Iraq war and everyone be concerned about the horrid partition idea?

Gotta be racism if Obama loses? (Maybe voters just agreed with Biden’s assessment that the presidency is no place for on the job training.)

I actually think the Biden pick tips the balance in favor of Sam’s Club Republican Tim Pawlenty for VP and away from Mitt Romney. One wealthy Republican per ticket is probably enough.

Read Less

Commentary of the Day

MagicalPat, on John Podhoretz:

Biden is an expert on Pennsylvania even though he left there when he was 10, and Obama is an expert on foreign affairs even though he left Indonesia when he was 10.

Perhaps this should be their slogan:

Everything we needed to know about life we learned in the fourth grade.

MagicalPat, on John Podhoretz:

Biden is an expert on Pennsylvania even though he left there when he was 10, and Obama is an expert on foreign affairs even though he left Indonesia when he was 10.

Perhaps this should be their slogan:

Everything we needed to know about life we learned in the fourth grade.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.