Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 8, 2008

Two Women in Politics

Two separate stories in today’s Wall Street Journal inadvertently tell a a story of triumph and desperation.

An excerpt from the first:

Initially, Sen. McCain was supposed to tour a company in Columbia, Mo., with no crowd. Gov. Palin was to campaign on her own for the first time elsewhere. But after raucous crowds greeted the GOP ticket in the days following their convention, the campaign decided to keep them together through mid-week. The result: 3,000 cheering supporters inside, with another 3,000 or so unable to get in.

And the second:

Campaigning at a rally for several hundred in Kissimmee in a stronghold for her, Central Florida, Sen. Clinton also won an endorsement from a union for Sen. Obama.

Have you ever seen air come out of balloon faster?

Two separate stories in today’s Wall Street Journal inadvertently tell a a story of triumph and desperation.

An excerpt from the first:

Initially, Sen. McCain was supposed to tour a company in Columbia, Mo., with no crowd. Gov. Palin was to campaign on her own for the first time elsewhere. But after raucous crowds greeted the GOP ticket in the days following their convention, the campaign decided to keep them together through mid-week. The result: 3,000 cheering supporters inside, with another 3,000 or so unable to get in.

And the second:

Campaigning at a rally for several hundred in Kissimmee in a stronghold for her, Central Florida, Sen. Clinton also won an endorsement from a union for Sen. Obama.

Have you ever seen air come out of balloon faster?

Read Less

Biden’s Parallel Universe

Dan Senor reminds us of Joe Biden’s ill-fated partition plan for Iraq — a plan opposed by Iraqis and rejected as unworkable and unwise by just about everyone. As Abe noted yesterday, Senor concludes that none of this has slowed down Biden, who continued to tout his plan last week on Meet the Press:

On Sunday, when Mr. Biden was asked about the current progress in Iraq, he managed to take the lion’s share of the credit: “I’m encouraged because they’re doing the things I suggested . . . That’s why it is moving toward some mild possibility of a resolution.” But we should be grateful that Iraqis did not do as he suggested. Mr. Biden’s frustration with the looming Iraqi civil war in 2006 and early 2007 was understandable. The U.S. was on the verge of total defeat and Iraq was at risk of collapse. But Mr. Biden’s plan would have inflamed Iraq’s already volatile situation.

There is something increasingly bizarre about the Democrats’ effort to reinvent the past and wriggle out of the implication of their own positions. But none is stranger than insisting that a policy universally panned and never implemented is responsible for the vastly changed scene. Granted, the Democrats are in a pickle. Biden voted for the war — something Obama told us for months and months was a disqualification for the presidency — and both opposed the strategy which did prove effective.

But one wonders if they worsen their own standing and stretch their own credibility beyond the breaking point by conflating a limited issue (i.e. Iraq policy) into a greater one ( i.e. credibilty and judgment on national security more generally) when they resort to arguing the “Biden Saved Iraq” view of history. It sounds, well, delusional.  It is little wonder that voters have concluded the Democrats aren’t serious about national security.

Dan Senor reminds us of Joe Biden’s ill-fated partition plan for Iraq — a plan opposed by Iraqis and rejected as unworkable and unwise by just about everyone. As Abe noted yesterday, Senor concludes that none of this has slowed down Biden, who continued to tout his plan last week on Meet the Press:

On Sunday, when Mr. Biden was asked about the current progress in Iraq, he managed to take the lion’s share of the credit: “I’m encouraged because they’re doing the things I suggested . . . That’s why it is moving toward some mild possibility of a resolution.” But we should be grateful that Iraqis did not do as he suggested. Mr. Biden’s frustration with the looming Iraqi civil war in 2006 and early 2007 was understandable. The U.S. was on the verge of total defeat and Iraq was at risk of collapse. But Mr. Biden’s plan would have inflamed Iraq’s already volatile situation.

There is something increasingly bizarre about the Democrats’ effort to reinvent the past and wriggle out of the implication of their own positions. But none is stranger than insisting that a policy universally panned and never implemented is responsible for the vastly changed scene. Granted, the Democrats are in a pickle. Biden voted for the war — something Obama told us for months and months was a disqualification for the presidency — and both opposed the strategy which did prove effective.

But one wonders if they worsen their own standing and stretch their own credibility beyond the breaking point by conflating a limited issue (i.e. Iraq policy) into a greater one ( i.e. credibilty and judgment on national security more generally) when they resort to arguing the “Biden Saved Iraq” view of history. It sounds, well, delusional.  It is little wonder that voters have concluded the Democrats aren’t serious about national security.

Read Less

Is The Money Drying Up?

The New York Times suggests that poll numbers and Sarah Palin aren’t the Obama campaign’s only problem:

After months of record-breaking fund-raising, a new sense of urgency in Senator Barack Obama’s fund-raising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon it.Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.”

It seems that spending has continued unabated while revenues have lagged. The Times notes:

But the campaign is struggling to meet ambitious fund-raising goals it set for the campaign and the party. It collected in June and July far less from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s donors than originally projected. Moreover, Mr. McCain, unlike Mr. Obama, will have the luxury of concentrating almost entirely on campaigning instead of raising money, as Mr. Obama must do.The Obama campaign does not have to report its August fund-raising totals until next week, so it is difficult to tally what it has in the bank at this point. A spokesman said that August was its best fund-raising month yet and that the campaign’s fund-raising was on track. But the campaign finished July with slightly less cash on hand with the Democratic National Committee compared with Mr. McCain and the R.N.C. The Obama campaign has also been spending heavily, including several million more than the McCain campaign in advertising in August.

But wait, didn’t Obama himself tell us that his mastery of an expensive, employee-intensive operation is proof of his fitness for office? Just last week he was saying:

Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years.

Hmm. So it must be fair then to look at his campaign’s budgetary situation — a bloated operation with unrealistic revnue projections  — and conclude this is a fair test of his executive skills, right? At the very least, his most significant financial decision — to break his pledge on public financing — has proven to be problematic and now forces him to devote precious time to scrambling for dollars. I suspect we won’t hear quite as much bragging about his finely tuned campaign in the days and weeks ahead.

The New York Times suggests that poll numbers and Sarah Palin aren’t the Obama campaign’s only problem:

After months of record-breaking fund-raising, a new sense of urgency in Senator Barack Obama’s fund-raising team is palpable as the full weight of the campaign’s decision to bypass public financing for the general election is suddenly upon it.Pushing a fund-raiser later this month, a finance staff member sent a sharply worded note last week to Illinois members of its national finance committee, calling their recent efforts “extremely anemic.”

It seems that spending has continued unabated while revenues have lagged. The Times notes:

But the campaign is struggling to meet ambitious fund-raising goals it set for the campaign and the party. It collected in June and July far less from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s donors than originally projected. Moreover, Mr. McCain, unlike Mr. Obama, will have the luxury of concentrating almost entirely on campaigning instead of raising money, as Mr. Obama must do.The Obama campaign does not have to report its August fund-raising totals until next week, so it is difficult to tally what it has in the bank at this point. A spokesman said that August was its best fund-raising month yet and that the campaign’s fund-raising was on track. But the campaign finished July with slightly less cash on hand with the Democratic National Committee compared with Mr. McCain and the R.N.C. The Obama campaign has also been spending heavily, including several million more than the McCain campaign in advertising in August.

But wait, didn’t Obama himself tell us that his mastery of an expensive, employee-intensive operation is proof of his fitness for office? Just last week he was saying:

Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We’ve got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years.

Hmm. So it must be fair then to look at his campaign’s budgetary situation — a bloated operation with unrealistic revnue projections  — and conclude this is a fair test of his executive skills, right? At the very least, his most significant financial decision — to break his pledge on public financing — has proven to be problematic and now forces him to devote precious time to scrambling for dollars. I suspect we won’t hear quite as much bragging about his finely tuned campaign in the days and weeks ahead.

Read Less

Palin the Debater

I’m watching, as I type, the C-SPAN tape of a 2006 Alaska gubernatorial debate. Aside from needing toothpicks to prop my eyelids open because I have never in my life witnessed anything quite this tedious — and I have seen several Robert Wilson operas — I am reminded of one interesting thing about governors.

To be a governor, even to be interested in being a governor, is by definition to be a policy wonk. The job is nothing but policy. The fun of the job is policy.

That is not true of legislators at all levels. Despite the clear bias, over decades, on the part of the Washington press for senators and (to a lesser extent) House members on the matter of experience and knowledge of the workings of government, it is far easier for those officials to coast on the strength of their staff members and their flesh-pressing, fundraising talents.

But governors grapple daily with the most tedious innards of governmental action. I’ve never met one, and I’ve met several, who didn’t have an overpowering command of the details of the state budget, the peculiarities of the relation between the state and Washington, and the demands of satisfying constituents by delivering services and dealing with public-sector unions that want to deliver fewer services for more money.

This is one of the reasons why governors have done so well, in the modern era, as presidential candidates, even if they lose (four of the last five presidents have been governors). It’s not just that they can claim to have run something; it’s because, in the early going especially, they know how to impress people with their ease in dealing with policy matters.

Another reason why it is foolish to presume Palin will do worse in debate than Biden; he’s had a safe Senate seat for decades, whereas she debated in tough circumstances in 2006 and performed so well that she won as an underdog. Even as the topics are boring me senseless, I can see from this C-SPAN footage how comfortable Palin is discussing complicated issues that cut across ideological and partisan lines.

I’m watching, as I type, the C-SPAN tape of a 2006 Alaska gubernatorial debate. Aside from needing toothpicks to prop my eyelids open because I have never in my life witnessed anything quite this tedious — and I have seen several Robert Wilson operas — I am reminded of one interesting thing about governors.

To be a governor, even to be interested in being a governor, is by definition to be a policy wonk. The job is nothing but policy. The fun of the job is policy.

That is not true of legislators at all levels. Despite the clear bias, over decades, on the part of the Washington press for senators and (to a lesser extent) House members on the matter of experience and knowledge of the workings of government, it is far easier for those officials to coast on the strength of their staff members and their flesh-pressing, fundraising talents.

But governors grapple daily with the most tedious innards of governmental action. I’ve never met one, and I’ve met several, who didn’t have an overpowering command of the details of the state budget, the peculiarities of the relation between the state and Washington, and the demands of satisfying constituents by delivering services and dealing with public-sector unions that want to deliver fewer services for more money.

This is one of the reasons why governors have done so well, in the modern era, as presidential candidates, even if they lose (four of the last five presidents have been governors). It’s not just that they can claim to have run something; it’s because, in the early going especially, they know how to impress people with their ease in dealing with policy matters.

Another reason why it is foolish to presume Palin will do worse in debate than Biden; he’s had a safe Senate seat for decades, whereas she debated in tough circumstances in 2006 and performed so well that she won as an underdog. Even as the topics are boring me senseless, I can see from this C-SPAN footage how comfortable Palin is discussing complicated issues that cut across ideological and partisan lines.

Read Less

Goodfriend, a Good Man

I haven’t seen Sidney Goodfriend since 1974, when we were in the eighth grade at the Columbia Grammar School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He left, I stayed, and that was that — but I remembered him because how could you forget a name like Sidney Goodfriend?

Today, in the Washington Post, I found out what happened to Sidney Goodfriend. Turns out he has become a genuinely noble person:

 With his own money, and using his Wall Street connections, Goodfriend, 48, founded a group called American Corporate Partners, which pairs returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mentors from the corporate world. He has enlisted six companies — Campbell’s, PepsiCo, Home Depot, Verizon, General Electric and investment bank Morgan Stanley — that have each promised to offer returning vets 50 mentors, in eight cities.

The mentors pledge to spend four hours each month for a year meeting with their assigned veteran, and the meetings could take most any form: lunch, a fishing trip, a golf outing.

“These folks come back, and in their first year, they don’t know anybody, and they especially don’t know anybody in the corporate sector,” Goodfriend said. “There is no way for them to transition easily into corporate America.”

Goodfriend said the priority is helping disabled or severely wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, or the spouses or relatives of soldiers killed in action. “If you had to give preference, you’d probably give preference to those who sacrificed more,” he said…..

And what drives him? “It’s a lot more meaningful than being a banker,” he said. “I’m probably too old to enlist, so this is my way of making a contribution.”

He added, “If you said 10 years ago I’d be doing this, I would have been astonished.”

It makes me proud to think he attended my bar mitzvah.

I haven’t seen Sidney Goodfriend since 1974, when we were in the eighth grade at the Columbia Grammar School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He left, I stayed, and that was that — but I remembered him because how could you forget a name like Sidney Goodfriend?

Today, in the Washington Post, I found out what happened to Sidney Goodfriend. Turns out he has become a genuinely noble person:

 With his own money, and using his Wall Street connections, Goodfriend, 48, founded a group called American Corporate Partners, which pairs returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan with mentors from the corporate world. He has enlisted six companies — Campbell’s, PepsiCo, Home Depot, Verizon, General Electric and investment bank Morgan Stanley — that have each promised to offer returning vets 50 mentors, in eight cities.

The mentors pledge to spend four hours each month for a year meeting with their assigned veteran, and the meetings could take most any form: lunch, a fishing trip, a golf outing.

“These folks come back, and in their first year, they don’t know anybody, and they especially don’t know anybody in the corporate sector,” Goodfriend said. “There is no way for them to transition easily into corporate America.”

Goodfriend said the priority is helping disabled or severely wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, or the spouses or relatives of soldiers killed in action. “If you had to give preference, you’d probably give preference to those who sacrificed more,” he said…..

And what drives him? “It’s a lot more meaningful than being a banker,” he said. “I’m probably too old to enlist, so this is my way of making a contribution.”

He added, “If you said 10 years ago I’d be doing this, I would have been astonished.”

It makes me proud to think he attended my bar mitzvah.

Read Less

“She’s Aimee Semple McHockeyMom”

So saith Keith Olbermann, after showing footage of Sarah Palin discussing prayer and asking people to pray for the success of a pipeline project.

So saith Keith Olbermann, after showing footage of Sarah Palin discussing prayer and asking people to pray for the success of a pipeline project.

Read Less

Obama With Olbermann

“There is no area in which Sarah Palin does not agree with John McCain,” says the Democratic nominee. Shocking — the vice presidential nominee agrees with the top of the ticket! Obama, for the record, is showing considerable charm and humor on the show, as when he batted away an Olbermann effort to get him to address a specific question about Palin’s readiness by saying dryly, “I’ll let you take that up with her when, I’m sure, she decides to sit down with you for an interview on your show.”

Nonetheless, this really is a first — a nominee for president making a point of engaging, again and again, with the running mate of his opponent. I can’t decipher the strategy here.

“There is no area in which Sarah Palin does not agree with John McCain,” says the Democratic nominee. Shocking — the vice presidential nominee agrees with the top of the ticket! Obama, for the record, is showing considerable charm and humor on the show, as when he batted away an Olbermann effort to get him to address a specific question about Palin’s readiness by saying dryly, “I’ll let you take that up with her when, I’m sure, she decides to sit down with you for an interview on your show.”

Nonetheless, this really is a first — a nominee for president making a point of engaging, again and again, with the running mate of his opponent. I can’t decipher the strategy here.

Read Less

Russia’s Winning

Russian has turned away international aid convoys carrying flour, pasta, and sugar to Georgian villages. Russian forces have also stopped the ambassadors of Sweden, Latvia and Estonia from going past Russian “peacekeeping” checkpoints into Georgian territory. Most worrisome, Russia has just announced plans to base anti-submarine aircraft and a nuclear warship in Venezuela “temporarily,” before the end of the year. Putin and Medvedev are ratcheting up their rogue behavior at lightning speed, while NATO and the EU are still struggling to formulate an effective response to the initial invasion of nearly a month ago. And has anyone even seen our President lately?

If you think the international community can handle things, consider this:

“We tried to do a preliminary humanitarian assessment mission. It didn’t work out today as we would have hoped, and we will make every effort to continue to conduct such missions in the future,” David Carden, who was leading the interagency mission by the World Food Program, UNICEF and the U.N. refugee agency, told The Associated Press.

Which is practically a declaration of war compared to this:

“Unfortunately they sent us back, so we will try something else,” [Wolfgang Gressman, an emergency response adviser to CARE International] told AP.

A strange and counterproductive psychology continues to prevent the U.S. from taking bold action against Russia’s move to reestablish itself as a global threat to freedom and democracy. There is a fear that if we respond decisively to Russian aggression, Russia won’t lend us much-needed support in various crises, particularly Iran’s quest to build nuclear weapons. I’ll say it again: Russia has just announced plans to base anti-submarine aircraft and a nuclear warship in Venezuela “temporarily,” before the end of the year. For doing nothing we’re already suffering the consequences we feared would come from acting. The only historical analogy to our state of denial I can think of comes, actually, from Russia. As Hitler’s troops got as close as fifteen miles away from Moscow, Stalin still refused to believe such an attack could ever really take place. Here’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried sounding like some social worker brought in by Dr. Phil to resolve a household spat:

The first order of business should not be some sort of punishment. Russia has to decide how much it wants to isolate itself from the world. We don’t want to have a bad relationship with Russia. We’ve never wanted that.

What has he been watching? Russia isn’t isolating itself from the world; it’s spreading out, putting up its feet ,and making itself at home in several hemispheres. Iran, Syria, its own neighbors, and now Venezuela: We should be so isolated. Who do we have in this match-up? Europe, who begs for our help but is too petrified to receive it.

It’s worth noting that when the first American destroyer, the USS McFaul, loaded with aid for Georgians, docked in the Black Sea port of Batumi two weeks ago, Russians whined and postured – but they didn’t turn us away. That’s American power, and we need to use it. When ships show up from the “International” this or the “World” that, you can bet Putin’s thugs will turn them around and get back to demanding food and drink of terrified Georgian civilians. It’s easy to act like a big shot when you don’t have to stand up to the U.S. Why are we making it so easy on Russia?

Russian has turned away international aid convoys carrying flour, pasta, and sugar to Georgian villages. Russian forces have also stopped the ambassadors of Sweden, Latvia and Estonia from going past Russian “peacekeeping” checkpoints into Georgian territory. Most worrisome, Russia has just announced plans to base anti-submarine aircraft and a nuclear warship in Venezuela “temporarily,” before the end of the year. Putin and Medvedev are ratcheting up their rogue behavior at lightning speed, while NATO and the EU are still struggling to formulate an effective response to the initial invasion of nearly a month ago. And has anyone even seen our President lately?

If you think the international community can handle things, consider this:

“We tried to do a preliminary humanitarian assessment mission. It didn’t work out today as we would have hoped, and we will make every effort to continue to conduct such missions in the future,” David Carden, who was leading the interagency mission by the World Food Program, UNICEF and the U.N. refugee agency, told The Associated Press.

Which is practically a declaration of war compared to this:

“Unfortunately they sent us back, so we will try something else,” [Wolfgang Gressman, an emergency response adviser to CARE International] told AP.

A strange and counterproductive psychology continues to prevent the U.S. from taking bold action against Russia’s move to reestablish itself as a global threat to freedom and democracy. There is a fear that if we respond decisively to Russian aggression, Russia won’t lend us much-needed support in various crises, particularly Iran’s quest to build nuclear weapons. I’ll say it again: Russia has just announced plans to base anti-submarine aircraft and a nuclear warship in Venezuela “temporarily,” before the end of the year. For doing nothing we’re already suffering the consequences we feared would come from acting. The only historical analogy to our state of denial I can think of comes, actually, from Russia. As Hitler’s troops got as close as fifteen miles away from Moscow, Stalin still refused to believe such an attack could ever really take place. Here’s Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried sounding like some social worker brought in by Dr. Phil to resolve a household spat:

The first order of business should not be some sort of punishment. Russia has to decide how much it wants to isolate itself from the world. We don’t want to have a bad relationship with Russia. We’ve never wanted that.

What has he been watching? Russia isn’t isolating itself from the world; it’s spreading out, putting up its feet ,and making itself at home in several hemispheres. Iran, Syria, its own neighbors, and now Venezuela: We should be so isolated. Who do we have in this match-up? Europe, who begs for our help but is too petrified to receive it.

It’s worth noting that when the first American destroyer, the USS McFaul, loaded with aid for Georgians, docked in the Black Sea port of Batumi two weeks ago, Russians whined and postured – but they didn’t turn us away. That’s American power, and we need to use it. When ships show up from the “International” this or the “World” that, you can bet Putin’s thugs will turn them around and get back to demanding food and drink of terrified Georgian civilians. It’s easy to act like a big shot when you don’t have to stand up to the U.S. Why are we making it so easy on Russia?

Read Less

Should We Be Shocked?

White women and Independents flock to the McCain-Palin ticket, according to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. Meanwhile, McCain-Palin lead in the latest CBS poll.

White women and Independents flock to the McCain-Palin ticket, according to the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. Meanwhile, McCain-Palin lead in the latest CBS poll.

Read Less

More Alike Than You Ever Imagined

Noam Scheiber has a point:

The reason Palin scares me has more to do with mechanics than demographics: Palin is such a sensation, and draws such large crowds, that anything she says–particularly attacks on Obama–immediately become part of the campaign conversation. On the other hand, both because she has a knack for delivering barbs with a smile, and because voters don’t quite see her as presidential material, McCain suffers less blowback than he would if a more traditional running mate were saying the same things. Simply put, Palin has a much bigger megaphone than traditional running mates, but gets held to a lower standard.

Conservatives have been saying the same thing about Barack Obama for two years. (Except he doesn’t really ever smile.)

Noam Scheiber has a point:

The reason Palin scares me has more to do with mechanics than demographics: Palin is such a sensation, and draws such large crowds, that anything she says–particularly attacks on Obama–immediately become part of the campaign conversation. On the other hand, both because she has a knack for delivering barbs with a smile, and because voters don’t quite see her as presidential material, McCain suffers less blowback than he would if a more traditional running mate were saying the same things. Simply put, Palin has a much bigger megaphone than traditional running mates, but gets held to a lower standard.

Conservatives have been saying the same thing about Barack Obama for two years. (Except he doesn’t really ever smile.)

Read Less

Gloria Steinem, Sexist

In her column last week decrying Sarah Palin as the enemy of all that is true and good, Gloria Steinem writes:

It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.

What a sexist, demeaning analogy. I expect a full apology, addressed to all wymyn, pronto. A little fact-checking could have helped Steinem as well. She writes the following:

[Palin] believes that creationism should be taught in public schools

This just isn’t true.

In her column last week decrying Sarah Palin as the enemy of all that is true and good, Gloria Steinem writes:

It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.

What a sexist, demeaning analogy. I expect a full apology, addressed to all wymyn, pronto. A little fact-checking could have helped Steinem as well. She writes the following:

[Palin] believes that creationism should be taught in public schools

This just isn’t true.

Read Less

Re: The Most Revealing

John, we’re plainly in the midst of a Left-wing mental health crisis. Between the polls and demise of the demented duo at MSNBC there probably is a run on Prozac. It is a good thing the Left blogosphere isn’t in charge of anything that requires calm under pressure and a modicum of coping skills. They, like very excited conservatives, should take few deep breaths. If this holds up over the next week or so, then everyone can freak.

John, we’re plainly in the midst of a Left-wing mental health crisis. Between the polls and demise of the demented duo at MSNBC there probably is a run on Prozac. It is a good thing the Left blogosphere isn’t in charge of anything that requires calm under pressure and a modicum of coping skills. They, like very excited conservatives, should take few deep breaths. If this holds up over the next week or so, then everyone can freak.

Read Less

The Most Revealing Anti-Palin Piece Yet

Well, well, well. Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at the New Republic, has figured it all out — the appeal of Sarah Palin and all. In what may be the most revealing piece of writing to come out of liberal circles since the Palin pick, she published a blog item today in which she discerns from a conversation with a friend at least as hostile to Palin and conservatism as she is that the Republican party just doesn’t trust people who don’t have dozens of children out of wedlock:

These days, a stable nuclear family consisting of two parents with only one or two kids–once considered the traditional ideal–is now often regarded as elitist or blue-stateish. In order to be truly authentic and win the respect of conservatives…, people need to have experienced some of the more colorful “complexities” of family life, by either getting themselves knocked up at an early age or winding up with what many people might consider “too many” kids.

First, when exactly was having “only one or two kids once considered the traditional ideal”? Whose tradition would that be — a tradition that, were it upheld, would cause a society to depopulate itself entirely in four generations? Perhaps Cottle is thinking of post-World-War II Italy? Or Post-Communist Russia?

Second, I am grateful to Cottle for pointing out that it takes getting “knocked up at an early age” to “win the respect of conservatives” Now I know how to win the respect of conservatives, something that has eluded me for decades. But just so I can be sure this is the case, I would be very interested to have Michelle Cottle name a single “conservative” for whom this is true. And someone running an excommunicated pseudo-Mormon cult doesn’t count.

Cottle isn’t done yet:

 To be sure, this theory needs some tinkering. Most notably, if you’re a poor black teen and find yourself a young mother, conservative commentators and politicos are unlikely to defend you as simply having made “a mistake”; you are, in those cases, more typically decried as the product of a morally bankrupt culture. But there is something to this idea as it is applied to working- or middle-class white folks, and my guess is that there are a couple of factors at play.

No more irony now from me. The teenage mother living in an underclass ghetto isn’t “decried as the product of a morally bankrupt culture” by those concerned about her fate and the fate of her child. It is the “morally bankrupt culture” that is decried, not the mother — the culture that offers her so little hope and so little sense that there are immense benefits to thinking about life in the longer term. Nor is this sense limited to the “poor black teen” of Cottle’s fantasy. The Palin family itself, upon announcing the pregnancy of Bristol, said in their statement that the news of her pregnancy “would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned….As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support. Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.”

This was no rah-rah, our-daughter-is-pregnant statement. It is the opposite: a sober acknowledgement of the challenges posed by it, the responsibilities that will have to be shouldered, and the difficulties Bristol and Levi will face.

Cottle keeps digging the hole deeper:

Somewhere along the way, limiting the number of children one produces produces came to be seen as selfish–a calculated decision yuppy parents make to ensure they and their offspring maintain a certain standard of lifestyle. And be honest, doesn’t having just one or two kids seem suspiciously European? I mean, America is all about size: big cars, big homes, big hamburgers, big families…

Selfish? Obviously, whether a couple is being selfish when it “limits the number of children one produces” is entirely a product of the reasons why they choose to “limit” — but in years of discussions of these matters on the Right, I have never heard it said that someone was “selfish” for determining that having one or two children was all he or she could handle. Perhaps Michelle Cottle has heard others speak differently on these matters.

Somehow, I doubt it.

And thus does the Sarah Palin pick continue to lead liberals into a moral and intellectual thicket from which they emerge covered in nothing but painful brambles, more confused for having attempted to spell out what it is that is bothering them so much.

Well, well, well. Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at the New Republic, has figured it all out — the appeal of Sarah Palin and all. In what may be the most revealing piece of writing to come out of liberal circles since the Palin pick, she published a blog item today in which she discerns from a conversation with a friend at least as hostile to Palin and conservatism as she is that the Republican party just doesn’t trust people who don’t have dozens of children out of wedlock:

These days, a stable nuclear family consisting of two parents with only one or two kids–once considered the traditional ideal–is now often regarded as elitist or blue-stateish. In order to be truly authentic and win the respect of conservatives…, people need to have experienced some of the more colorful “complexities” of family life, by either getting themselves knocked up at an early age or winding up with what many people might consider “too many” kids.

First, when exactly was having “only one or two kids once considered the traditional ideal”? Whose tradition would that be — a tradition that, were it upheld, would cause a society to depopulate itself entirely in four generations? Perhaps Cottle is thinking of post-World-War II Italy? Or Post-Communist Russia?

Second, I am grateful to Cottle for pointing out that it takes getting “knocked up at an early age” to “win the respect of conservatives” Now I know how to win the respect of conservatives, something that has eluded me for decades. But just so I can be sure this is the case, I would be very interested to have Michelle Cottle name a single “conservative” for whom this is true. And someone running an excommunicated pseudo-Mormon cult doesn’t count.

Cottle isn’t done yet:

 To be sure, this theory needs some tinkering. Most notably, if you’re a poor black teen and find yourself a young mother, conservative commentators and politicos are unlikely to defend you as simply having made “a mistake”; you are, in those cases, more typically decried as the product of a morally bankrupt culture. But there is something to this idea as it is applied to working- or middle-class white folks, and my guess is that there are a couple of factors at play.

No more irony now from me. The teenage mother living in an underclass ghetto isn’t “decried as the product of a morally bankrupt culture” by those concerned about her fate and the fate of her child. It is the “morally bankrupt culture” that is decried, not the mother — the culture that offers her so little hope and so little sense that there are immense benefits to thinking about life in the longer term. Nor is this sense limited to the “poor black teen” of Cottle’s fantasy. The Palin family itself, upon announcing the pregnancy of Bristol, said in their statement that the news of her pregnancy “would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned….As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support. Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.”

This was no rah-rah, our-daughter-is-pregnant statement. It is the opposite: a sober acknowledgement of the challenges posed by it, the responsibilities that will have to be shouldered, and the difficulties Bristol and Levi will face.

Cottle keeps digging the hole deeper:

Somewhere along the way, limiting the number of children one produces produces came to be seen as selfish–a calculated decision yuppy parents make to ensure they and their offspring maintain a certain standard of lifestyle. And be honest, doesn’t having just one or two kids seem suspiciously European? I mean, America is all about size: big cars, big homes, big hamburgers, big families…

Selfish? Obviously, whether a couple is being selfish when it “limits the number of children one produces” is entirely a product of the reasons why they choose to “limit” — but in years of discussions of these matters on the Right, I have never heard it said that someone was “selfish” for determining that having one or two children was all he or she could handle. Perhaps Michelle Cottle has heard others speak differently on these matters.

Somehow, I doubt it.

And thus does the Sarah Palin pick continue to lead liberals into a moral and intellectual thicket from which they emerge covered in nothing but painful brambles, more confused for having attempted to spell out what it is that is bothering them so much.

Read Less

Annals of Community Organizing

Barack Obama’s supporters believe they’ve come up with a devastating reply to all the mockery of Obama’s community-organizer shtick. It goes like this:

Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor.

So now Jesus is a revered figure at the Daily Kos? And do Obama’s supporters really think that what Obama needs now is even more messianic branding? Carry on, I suppose.

Barack Obama’s supporters believe they’ve come up with a devastating reply to all the mockery of Obama’s community-organizer shtick. It goes like this:

Jesus was a community organizer and Pontius Pilate was a governor.

So now Jesus is a revered figure at the Daily Kos? And do Obama’s supporters really think that what Obama needs now is even more messianic branding? Carry on, I suppose.

Read Less

Bush on Nukes

Yesterday, Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration’s record on the proliferation of nuclear weapons “is very strong.” In response to a reporter’s question while in Morocco, she had this to say: “We have left this situation, or this issue, in far better shape than we found it.”

Is that a fact? It is true the United States killed what was left of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, but, as we subsequently learned, the effort had been abandoned before American troops crossed into Iraq in 2003. The invasion, it seems, did persuade Muammar Qaddafi to give up his half-hearted nuke program. So score Libya as a success. And the White House gets high marks for establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict dangerous cargoes in the air and on the high seas and for continuing the Nunn-Lugar program to secure Russia’s nuclear materials. Finally, Bush is entitled to credit for conceiving and taking steps to implement the civilian nuclear deal with India, which subjects some of that nation’s facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection.

The secretary of state also thinks the United States did a good job in breaking up the nuclear black market ring run by the notorious Dr. A. Q. Khan. Yes, the ring was uncovered during President Bush’s tenure, but elements of the gang may still be operating at a reduced level of activity. Worse, by accepting every empty promise from Pervez Musharraf, then running Pakistan, Bush let Beijing off the hook. The Chinese used the Pakistanis to proliferate their bombs, and Dubya did almost nothing to stop them. The Bush administration has not imposed one significant sanction on China for continuing to disseminate information, know how, and technology that may one day be used to kill Americans by the hundreds of thousands.

Rice also thinks she’s entitled to praise on Iran and North Korea. On the Islamic Republic, she points to “an international coalition” that has produced three United Nations Security Council resolutions. Accepting lowest-common-denominator solutions that have no hope of working is now considered an accomplishment? And while Iran enriches uranium, its neighbors-Egypt, Jordan, and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council-are, with Russia’s help, starting or restarting nuclear programs of their own.

On the world’s other nuclear crisis, the secretary of state said “the management of the North Korean problem is in the hands of those who have the right sets of incentives and disincentives to get to the proper outcome.” Excuse me, but Kim Jong Il’s criminal state, during the Bush administration, detonated a nuclear device while its only formal ally, China, cheered it on from the sidelines. Pyongyang has already dishonored every agreement produced by the Beijing-sponsored six-party talks. The multilateral process is falling apart as Kim’s negotiators tell us they are restarting their reactor in Yongbyon. This is Rice’s definition of “success”?

Finally, let’s end in Georgia. President Bush’s feckless diplomacy is convincing Ukrainians that their nation must develop nuclear weapons as a defense against Russia. Even today, one month to the day after Putin’s invasion began, Mr. Bush still has not found his voice on Moscow’s aggression.

Yesterday, Secretary Rice referred to “the extraordinary number of events that have taken place on this President’s watch.” She’s right, but most of them have been adverse. The Bush administration is not responsible for every unfavorable global trend, of course, but her assessment of accomplishment is grossly inflated. Neither she nor her boss has learned the most important lesson of the past eight years: cooperation with the great-power sponsors of nuclear rogues will never solve the world’s proliferation problems.

Yesterday, Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration’s record on the proliferation of nuclear weapons “is very strong.” In response to a reporter’s question while in Morocco, she had this to say: “We have left this situation, or this issue, in far better shape than we found it.”

Is that a fact? It is true the United States killed what was left of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, but, as we subsequently learned, the effort had been abandoned before American troops crossed into Iraq in 2003. The invasion, it seems, did persuade Muammar Qaddafi to give up his half-hearted nuke program. So score Libya as a success. And the White House gets high marks for establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict dangerous cargoes in the air and on the high seas and for continuing the Nunn-Lugar program to secure Russia’s nuclear materials. Finally, Bush is entitled to credit for conceiving and taking steps to implement the civilian nuclear deal with India, which subjects some of that nation’s facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection.

The secretary of state also thinks the United States did a good job in breaking up the nuclear black market ring run by the notorious Dr. A. Q. Khan. Yes, the ring was uncovered during President Bush’s tenure, but elements of the gang may still be operating at a reduced level of activity. Worse, by accepting every empty promise from Pervez Musharraf, then running Pakistan, Bush let Beijing off the hook. The Chinese used the Pakistanis to proliferate their bombs, and Dubya did almost nothing to stop them. The Bush administration has not imposed one significant sanction on China for continuing to disseminate information, know how, and technology that may one day be used to kill Americans by the hundreds of thousands.

Rice also thinks she’s entitled to praise on Iran and North Korea. On the Islamic Republic, she points to “an international coalition” that has produced three United Nations Security Council resolutions. Accepting lowest-common-denominator solutions that have no hope of working is now considered an accomplishment? And while Iran enriches uranium, its neighbors-Egypt, Jordan, and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council-are, with Russia’s help, starting or restarting nuclear programs of their own.

On the world’s other nuclear crisis, the secretary of state said “the management of the North Korean problem is in the hands of those who have the right sets of incentives and disincentives to get to the proper outcome.” Excuse me, but Kim Jong Il’s criminal state, during the Bush administration, detonated a nuclear device while its only formal ally, China, cheered it on from the sidelines. Pyongyang has already dishonored every agreement produced by the Beijing-sponsored six-party talks. The multilateral process is falling apart as Kim’s negotiators tell us they are restarting their reactor in Yongbyon. This is Rice’s definition of “success”?

Finally, let’s end in Georgia. President Bush’s feckless diplomacy is convincing Ukrainians that their nation must develop nuclear weapons as a defense against Russia. Even today, one month to the day after Putin’s invasion began, Mr. Bush still has not found his voice on Moscow’s aggression.

Yesterday, Secretary Rice referred to “the extraordinary number of events that have taken place on this President’s watch.” She’s right, but most of them have been adverse. The Bush administration is not responsible for every unfavorable global trend, of course, but her assessment of accomplishment is grossly inflated. Neither she nor her boss has learned the most important lesson of the past eight years: cooperation with the great-power sponsors of nuclear rogues will never solve the world’s proliferation problems.

Read Less

Biden Takes Credit for Iraq Success

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw asked Joe Biden if the troop surge in Iraq had made possible the increased security and reconciliation we now see in that country. Here is Biden’s answer:

SEN. BIDEN: No. The surge helped make that–what made is possible in Anbar province is they did what I’d suggested two and a half years ago: gave local control. They turned over and they said to the Sunnis in Anbar province, “We promise you, don’t worry, you’re not going to have any Shia in here. There’s going to be no national forces in here. We’re going to train your forces to help you fight al-Qaeda.” And that you–what you had was the awakening. The awakening was not an awakening by us, it was an awakening of the Sunnis in Anbar province willing to fight.

So according to Joe Biden, the troop surge played a bit part in the turnaround of the Iraq War. The real catalyst? Joe Biden (with some help from the Sunnis). Let’s revisit Biden’s war plan and give the great military sage his due, shall we?

On May 1, 2006 Biden and Leslie H. Gelb wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq,” in which the authors proposed to

establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

Three segregated regions with their own laws? Sure, that sounds exactly like what we see in Iraq today. It’s not as if success in Iraq has come from Sunnis turning on Sunnis in al Qaeda, Shias turning on Shias in the Mahdi Army, and Kurds keeping Kurdish PKK terrorists in line. You’re right, Senator. We haven’t witnessed the Petraeus plan in action; it’s the Biden plan. To think, some people still believe Iraq is one whole country with some Sunni neighborhoods, some Shi’ite neighborhoods, and some mixed neighborhoods, and that security forces are increasingly mixed affairs with both Sunnis and Shias fighting Sunnis and Shias, and that one set of laws apply to all citizens. Like Barack Obama recently said, “They must think you’re stupid.” But not me. I know we owe it all to Joe Biden. Thanks, Senator!

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw asked Joe Biden if the troop surge in Iraq had made possible the increased security and reconciliation we now see in that country. Here is Biden’s answer:

SEN. BIDEN: No. The surge helped make that–what made is possible in Anbar province is they did what I’d suggested two and a half years ago: gave local control. They turned over and they said to the Sunnis in Anbar province, “We promise you, don’t worry, you’re not going to have any Shia in here. There’s going to be no national forces in here. We’re going to train your forces to help you fight al-Qaeda.” And that you–what you had was the awakening. The awakening was not an awakening by us, it was an awakening of the Sunnis in Anbar province willing to fight.

So according to Joe Biden, the troop surge played a bit part in the turnaround of the Iraq War. The real catalyst? Joe Biden (with some help from the Sunnis). Let’s revisit Biden’s war plan and give the great military sage his due, shall we?

On May 1, 2006 Biden and Leslie H. Gelb wrote an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq,” in which the authors proposed to

establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

Three segregated regions with their own laws? Sure, that sounds exactly like what we see in Iraq today. It’s not as if success in Iraq has come from Sunnis turning on Sunnis in al Qaeda, Shias turning on Shias in the Mahdi Army, and Kurds keeping Kurdish PKK terrorists in line. You’re right, Senator. We haven’t witnessed the Petraeus plan in action; it’s the Biden plan. To think, some people still believe Iraq is one whole country with some Sunni neighborhoods, some Shi’ite neighborhoods, and some mixed neighborhoods, and that security forces are increasingly mixed affairs with both Sunnis and Shias fighting Sunnis and Shias, and that one set of laws apply to all citizens. Like Barack Obama recently said, “They must think you’re stupid.” But not me. I know we owe it all to Joe Biden. Thanks, Senator!

Read Less

Vetted After All?

This take by Byron York on Sarah Palin’s performance in the 2006 debate for Governor gives some insight into the record which the McCain camp presumably examined. Does she have expertise in key policy areas? Yes. Is she a skilled debater? Yes. Is she an extremist on social issues like contraception which might offend swing voters? Apparently not.

Did the media know any of this? No, and they assumed the opposite was true. The McCain camp–the ones portrayed as desperate and disorganized–seemed to have had their facts straight after all. Whether Palin can withstand the enormous pressure she is now under remains to be seen.

Now, legitimate issues remain as to whether she can demonstrate familiarity with key national security issues. (By the way, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had no more expertise in this realm–would he have faced the same inquiry?) In this regard she is helped by the fact that her VP opponent was not only wrong on the surge but spectacularly wrong on his partition plan. (Whatever her shortcomings, she can always say “I was smart enough to agree with the advice of General Petraeus and to recognize the success of the surge after the fact.”)

But the meme that the McCain camp didn’t know what they were doing should now be replaced by the meme that the MSM had no clue what they were talking about. With each passing day that conclusion becomes more clear.

This take by Byron York on Sarah Palin’s performance in the 2006 debate for Governor gives some insight into the record which the McCain camp presumably examined. Does she have expertise in key policy areas? Yes. Is she a skilled debater? Yes. Is she an extremist on social issues like contraception which might offend swing voters? Apparently not.

Did the media know any of this? No, and they assumed the opposite was true. The McCain camp–the ones portrayed as desperate and disorganized–seemed to have had their facts straight after all. Whether Palin can withstand the enormous pressure she is now under remains to be seen.

Now, legitimate issues remain as to whether she can demonstrate familiarity with key national security issues. (By the way, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had no more expertise in this realm–would he have faced the same inquiry?) In this regard she is helped by the fact that her VP opponent was not only wrong on the surge but spectacularly wrong on his partition plan. (Whatever her shortcomings, she can always say “I was smart enough to agree with the advice of General Petraeus and to recognize the success of the surge after the fact.”)

But the meme that the McCain camp didn’t know what they were doing should now be replaced by the meme that the MSM had no clue what they were talking about. With each passing day that conclusion becomes more clear.

Read Less

Re: Re: The Meaning of the Bounce

Jen, John, I’m not so sure the reasons for the recent reversals of fortune are so discreet as a couple of speeches. Much larger factors are likely in play right now. The big one, I think, is that Obama has a liberalism problem. His economic plan, for example, proposes tax increases during an economic slowdown, forcing him into a no-win rhetorical dilemma. He can’t campaign proudly on wanting to raise taxes, because raising taxes is unpopular. And he can’t claim that he doesn’t want to raise taxes, because doing so would be blatantly dishonest. So, he is left hemming and stammering, looking last of all like a leader, and certainly not like a bold reformer (part two of Obama’s appearance on O’Reilly tonight will illustrate this quite graphically).

On a litany of other issues, Obama has been forced to either flip his position or skulk toward McCain. All of those flip-flops had their origins in the same problem, namely that Obama is very, very liberal and cannot run forthrightly on his beliefs. So he answers a question about abortion by saying the issue is “above my pay grade,” when what he really meant was, I’m afraid of the political fallout if I say what I actually think. Obama faces a simple and intractable problem: his political views are too far outside the mainstream for him to win, and it is too late to try to credibly re-orient himself. If he had a record of political moderation to run on, he would be able to deflect this problem by pointing to past achievements. But he has no such record.

In 2004 there was a funny bumper sticker that I thought indicated a certain political maturity on the part of the Democrats, however opportunistic. It went something like, “Dated Dean, Married Kerry.” This time the Democrats married Dean.

Jen, John, I’m not so sure the reasons for the recent reversals of fortune are so discreet as a couple of speeches. Much larger factors are likely in play right now. The big one, I think, is that Obama has a liberalism problem. His economic plan, for example, proposes tax increases during an economic slowdown, forcing him into a no-win rhetorical dilemma. He can’t campaign proudly on wanting to raise taxes, because raising taxes is unpopular. And he can’t claim that he doesn’t want to raise taxes, because doing so would be blatantly dishonest. So, he is left hemming and stammering, looking last of all like a leader, and certainly not like a bold reformer (part two of Obama’s appearance on O’Reilly tonight will illustrate this quite graphically).

On a litany of other issues, Obama has been forced to either flip his position or skulk toward McCain. All of those flip-flops had their origins in the same problem, namely that Obama is very, very liberal and cannot run forthrightly on his beliefs. So he answers a question about abortion by saying the issue is “above my pay grade,” when what he really meant was, I’m afraid of the political fallout if I say what I actually think. Obama faces a simple and intractable problem: his political views are too far outside the mainstream for him to win, and it is too late to try to credibly re-orient himself. If he had a record of political moderation to run on, he would be able to deflect this problem by pointing to past achievements. But he has no such record.

In 2004 there was a funny bumper sticker that I thought indicated a certain political maturity on the part of the Democrats, however opportunistic. It went something like, “Dated Dean, Married Kerry.” This time the Democrats married Dean.

Read Less

More on Woodward

Bob Woodward can be an impressive reporter, but as a military analyst he leaves something to be desired. Today’s excerpt in the Washington Post from his new book, The War Within, focuses on why violence fell in Iraq since 2006.

Woodward boldly rejects the “conventional wisdom” in Washington which supposedly attributed the decline entirely to the surge. He writes that “the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge. These factors either have not been reported publicly or have received less attention than the influx of troops.”

Actually, no one claims that the surge was solely responsible for all the security gains of the past 18 months. But Woodward misses the point–which is that the surge catalyzed precisely those trends which he breathlessly cites as evidence that the surge was not so important after all.

The first of these factors:

Beginning in the late spring of 2007, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies launched a series of top-secret operations that enabled them to locate, target and kill key individuals in groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency and renegade Shia militias, or so-called special groups. The operations incorporated some of the most highly classified techniques and information in the U.S. government. . . . [A] number of authoritative sources say the covert activities had a far-reaching effect on the violence and were very possibly the biggest factor in reducing it.

Far be it for me to quarrel with “authoritative sources” or to take anything away from the Joint Special Operations Command which was responsible for for taking down so many bad guys. . . . But ask yourself this question: Why did JSOC’s efforts suddenly become so much more successful starting in the late spring of 2007? Might it possibly be because of the surge, which put large numbers of U.S. troops into neighborhoods where they could provide sufficient security to make more Iraqis willing to come forward and provide invaluable intelligence on Al Qaeda and Special Groups terrorists? The special operators had been working in Iraq since 2003 and it was not until the arrival of more regular troops that violence became to fall dramatically. If we had stuck mainly to a commando-focused campaign-as so many, including the Democratic leadership, wanted to do-the odds of success would have been no greater than they were in 2006, notwithstanding all of the “highly classified techniques” incorporated by JSOC.

Woodward goes on: “A second important factor in the lessening of violence was the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and signed up with U.S. forces.” True, the Awakening was important, and there is no doubt it began prior to the surge-in September 2006, to be precise. But there had been tribal tensions with Al Qaeda before and the terrorists had managed to repress all opposition. It was only the arrival of more American troops that gave the Awakening a chance to succeed. If you want to see what would have likely happened absent the American influx, read this article from the New York Times Magazine about Pakistan’s frontier areas. Writes reporter Dexter Filkins:

The rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has come at the expense of the maliks [tribal elders], who have been systematically murdered and marginalized in a campaign to destroy the old order. In South Waziristan, where Mehsud presides, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have killed more than 150 maliks since 2005, all but destroying the tribal system. And there are continual reminders of what happens to the survivors who do not understand this – who, for example, attempt to talk with Pakistan’s civilian government and assert their authority. In June, Mehsud’s men gunned down 28 tribal leaders who had formed a “peace committee” in South Waziristan. Their bodies were dumped on the side of a road. “This shows what happens when the tribal elders try to challenge Baitullah Mehsud,” Jan said.

Finally, Woodward, writes, “A third significant break came Aug. 29 [2007], when militant Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his powerful Mahdi Army to suspend operations, including attacks against U.S. troops.” It’s true that Sadr’s decision to pull back his forces, confirmed in the wake of battles with the Iraqi army in Basra and Sadr City this year, has contributed to the overall reduction in violence. But this wasn’t due to any change of heart on the part of Moqtada. It was due to the fact that his forces took a beating from Iraqi and American troops. The increase in size and the growing competence of the Iraqi Security Forces were vitally important but so too was the increase in the size of the American force and the change in how it was employed.

In short, the surge had more to do with the success we’re seeing in Iraq than Woodward is prepared to admit. As no less an authority than Barack Obama has just said: “I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated . . . it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

Bob Woodward can be an impressive reporter, but as a military analyst he leaves something to be desired. Today’s excerpt in the Washington Post from his new book, The War Within, focuses on why violence fell in Iraq since 2006.

Woodward boldly rejects the “conventional wisdom” in Washington which supposedly attributed the decline entirely to the surge. He writes that “the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge. These factors either have not been reported publicly or have received less attention than the influx of troops.”

Actually, no one claims that the surge was solely responsible for all the security gains of the past 18 months. But Woodward misses the point–which is that the surge catalyzed precisely those trends which he breathlessly cites as evidence that the surge was not so important after all.

The first of these factors:

Beginning in the late spring of 2007, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies launched a series of top-secret operations that enabled them to locate, target and kill key individuals in groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Sunni insurgency and renegade Shia militias, or so-called special groups. The operations incorporated some of the most highly classified techniques and information in the U.S. government. . . . [A] number of authoritative sources say the covert activities had a far-reaching effect on the violence and were very possibly the biggest factor in reducing it.

Far be it for me to quarrel with “authoritative sources” or to take anything away from the Joint Special Operations Command which was responsible for for taking down so many bad guys. . . . But ask yourself this question: Why did JSOC’s efforts suddenly become so much more successful starting in the late spring of 2007? Might it possibly be because of the surge, which put large numbers of U.S. troops into neighborhoods where they could provide sufficient security to make more Iraqis willing to come forward and provide invaluable intelligence on Al Qaeda and Special Groups terrorists? The special operators had been working in Iraq since 2003 and it was not until the arrival of more regular troops that violence became to fall dramatically. If we had stuck mainly to a commando-focused campaign-as so many, including the Democratic leadership, wanted to do-the odds of success would have been no greater than they were in 2006, notwithstanding all of the “highly classified techniques” incorporated by JSOC.

Woodward goes on: “A second important factor in the lessening of violence was the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and signed up with U.S. forces.” True, the Awakening was important, and there is no doubt it began prior to the surge-in September 2006, to be precise. But there had been tribal tensions with Al Qaeda before and the terrorists had managed to repress all opposition. It was only the arrival of more American troops that gave the Awakening a chance to succeed. If you want to see what would have likely happened absent the American influx, read this article from the New York Times Magazine about Pakistan’s frontier areas. Writes reporter Dexter Filkins:

The rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda has come at the expense of the maliks [tribal elders], who have been systematically murdered and marginalized in a campaign to destroy the old order. In South Waziristan, where Mehsud presides, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have killed more than 150 maliks since 2005, all but destroying the tribal system. And there are continual reminders of what happens to the survivors who do not understand this – who, for example, attempt to talk with Pakistan’s civilian government and assert their authority. In June, Mehsud’s men gunned down 28 tribal leaders who had formed a “peace committee” in South Waziristan. Their bodies were dumped on the side of a road. “This shows what happens when the tribal elders try to challenge Baitullah Mehsud,” Jan said.

Finally, Woodward, writes, “A third significant break came Aug. 29 [2007], when militant Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his powerful Mahdi Army to suspend operations, including attacks against U.S. troops.” It’s true that Sadr’s decision to pull back his forces, confirmed in the wake of battles with the Iraqi army in Basra and Sadr City this year, has contributed to the overall reduction in violence. But this wasn’t due to any change of heart on the part of Moqtada. It was due to the fact that his forces took a beating from Iraqi and American troops. The increase in size and the growing competence of the Iraqi Security Forces were vitally important but so too was the increase in the size of the American force and the change in how it was employed.

In short, the surge had more to do with the success we’re seeing in Iraq than Woodward is prepared to admit. As no less an authority than Barack Obama has just said: “I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated . . . it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

Read Less

Wisdom From Across the Pond

Sometimes the best observers of American politics are non-Americans. That’s certainly the case with the following two analyses of what primarily plagues the Democrats today: their elitism. Democrats would do well to listen to Nick Cohen, a British writer for the Observer with strong leftist bona fides:

Journalists who believe in women’s equality should not spread sexual smears about a candidate, or snigger at her teenage daughter’s pregnancy, or declare that a mother with a young family cannot hold down a responsible job for the pragmatic reason that they will look like gross hypocrites if they do. Before Palin, we saw hypocrisy of the right when shock jocks who had spent years denouncing feminism came over all politically correct when Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky.
In Britain, the most snobbish attacks on Margaret Thatcher did not come from aristocrats but from the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who opined that Thatcherism was the ‘anarchism of the lower middle classes’ and the liberal Jonathan Miller, who deplored her ‘odious suburban gentility’. More recently, George Osborne, of the supposedly compassionate Conservative party, revealed himself to be a playground bully when he derided Gordon Brown for being ‘faintly autistic’.

Cohen is joined by his fellow Englisman Clive Crook, who writes in the Financial Times that:

Democrats regard their policies as self-evidently in the interests of the US working and middle classes. Yet those wide segments of US society keep helping to elect Republican presidents. How is one to account for this? Are those people idiots? Frankly, yes – or so many liberals are driven to conclude. Either that or bigots, clinging to guns, God and white supremacy; or else pathetic dupes, ever at the disposal of Republican strategists. If they only had the brains to vote in their interests, Democrats think, the party would never be out of power. But again and again, the Republicans tell their lies, and those stupid damned voters buy it.

It is an attitude that a good part of the US media share. The country has conservative media (Fox News, talk radio) as well as liberal media (most of the rest). Curiously, whereas the conservative media know they are conservative, much of the liberal media believe themselves to be neutral.

We’ve already seen the first result of liberal sneering at Sarah Palin: heightened interest in this political unknown, which led to a whopping 40 million viewers of her wildly successful convention speech. Democrats seemed to have learned a quick lesson from this trial by fire and will likely lay off the cultural condescension for at least a few days. But expect them to return to their What’s the Matter With Kansas-style rationalizing in no time.

Sometimes the best observers of American politics are non-Americans. That’s certainly the case with the following two analyses of what primarily plagues the Democrats today: their elitism. Democrats would do well to listen to Nick Cohen, a British writer for the Observer with strong leftist bona fides:

Journalists who believe in women’s equality should not spread sexual smears about a candidate, or snigger at her teenage daughter’s pregnancy, or declare that a mother with a young family cannot hold down a responsible job for the pragmatic reason that they will look like gross hypocrites if they do. Before Palin, we saw hypocrisy of the right when shock jocks who had spent years denouncing feminism came over all politically correct when Bill Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky.
In Britain, the most snobbish attacks on Margaret Thatcher did not come from aristocrats but from the communist historian Eric Hobsbawm, who opined that Thatcherism was the ‘anarchism of the lower middle classes’ and the liberal Jonathan Miller, who deplored her ‘odious suburban gentility’. More recently, George Osborne, of the supposedly compassionate Conservative party, revealed himself to be a playground bully when he derided Gordon Brown for being ‘faintly autistic’.

Cohen is joined by his fellow Englisman Clive Crook, who writes in the Financial Times that:

Democrats regard their policies as self-evidently in the interests of the US working and middle classes. Yet those wide segments of US society keep helping to elect Republican presidents. How is one to account for this? Are those people idiots? Frankly, yes – or so many liberals are driven to conclude. Either that or bigots, clinging to guns, God and white supremacy; or else pathetic dupes, ever at the disposal of Republican strategists. If they only had the brains to vote in their interests, Democrats think, the party would never be out of power. But again and again, the Republicans tell their lies, and those stupid damned voters buy it.

It is an attitude that a good part of the US media share. The country has conservative media (Fox News, talk radio) as well as liberal media (most of the rest). Curiously, whereas the conservative media know they are conservative, much of the liberal media believe themselves to be neutral.

We’ve already seen the first result of liberal sneering at Sarah Palin: heightened interest in this political unknown, which led to a whopping 40 million viewers of her wildly successful convention speech. Democrats seemed to have learned a quick lesson from this trial by fire and will likely lay off the cultural condescension for at least a few days. But expect them to return to their What’s the Matter With Kansas-style rationalizing in no time.

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.